Author Interview: C.J. Henderson

C.J. began weaving tales when he was very young as his family moved about the Midwest before settling in Bridgeville, Pennsylvania. He submitted his first story for publication sometime around 1973 to no success; however, the second piece succeeded and he’s been churning out work ever since.

 Always seeking an opportunity to express his ideas, C.J. works across several genres. He has written nearly 60 novels and appeared in innumerable anthologies, collections, and magazines. C.J. has seen his work turned into comics and audio books. Besides genre pieces, he branched out to writing movie reviews and non-fiction pieces such as The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction Movies.

C.J. Lives in Brooklyn, New York. He’s married to fashion designer Grace Tin Lo. They have a daughter, Erica, and two cats, Tyco and Tiger.

For more information about C.J. and his writing, please visit him at his website: The London Agency www.cjhenderson.com

ESP: Many of your works feature detectives of the hard-boiled and/or supernatural variety. What draws you to this genre?

I started writing hardboiled detective fiction early on because the voice required for this kind of work was the closest to my own. I’m a pretty hardboiled guy. I grew up in a no-nonsense household that was completely dominated by a Depression-era mentality. I’m a firm believer in the idea that you get what you pay for, that the world is writ in black and white, that you have to take responsibility for your actions, et cetera. Supernatural or not, it just comes naturally to me.

ESP: Lovecraftian elements infuse the Teddy London books. When did you discover The Old Gent and what is it about his writings that you find so appealing?

I was 14 when my mother gave me a coverless paperback collection of HPL stories. They froze my brain because, as you might guess, back in the early 60s when I was 14 there was nothing else like them to read. What I found appealing was that they made me think. I like doing that.

ESP: In The Sleep that Rescues, Teddy London and crew face a menace that may destroy reality itself. What can you tell us about this book?

Like all my fiction, the important story is what happens between the characters more than the “big menace.” This volume is overwhelmingly important to understanding the relationship between London and Lisa.

ESP: Why did you choose to place The Sleep that Rescues between books two and three in the Teddy London series?

It’s the relationship thing again. A lot of readers weren’t getting what it is that keeps London and Lisa together. Also, I’d always wanted to throw another female into the mix, a darker character to try and steal London away, to see if it were possible for his eye to be turned from Lisa. The only place that could happen if it were to happen at all would be at this point.

ESP: There has been a great escalation of Teddy London’s personal powers since the inception of the series. Do you worry that having to top his abilities from previous works might make him too powerful?

Not in the least. Some readers wonder why London doesn’t just snap his fingers and set things right? These are the immature readers. Yes, London can tap into the power of a god. Absolutely. But, can’t we all just pick up a gun and solve our problems? Need money, get a gun, rob a bank? Tired of the neighbors, get a gun. Power does not equal the right to use it. Also, the more times he uses such power, the more used to using it he will get. He knows this, and he recognizes the indifference that sets in when beings do so.

London is in love. He wants to stay in love. Thus he doesn’t use his abilities any more than he has to. And, as we see in The Sleep That Rescues, having powers and knowing how to use them competently don’t always go hand in hand.

ESP: You have a very strong character in Joan “The Pirate Queen” de Molina. Do you foresee a spin-off series for her?

Series … I don’t know. But, I do plan on using her in stories, with others or on her own.

ESP: Teddy uses a dimension called the “dreamplane” to access his powers and travel to other locales. This dimension seems to combine bits of Lovecraft’s Dreamlands and Lumley’s Mobius Continuum. What can you tell us about it?

Well, don’t know from Lumley, but yes, it is tied into the Dreamlands. The dreamplane is where we all go when we sleep. Most of us just use it to manufacture dreams. Some few can actually walk it, however. These are the folks who die in their sleep because they died in their dream. Then, there are the very few who can walk the dreamplane, and know they are doing so. They are the ones like London, or Lai Wan, who can manipulate the fabric of time and space.

This is the area between realities from where all gods, demons, wizards, et cetera, draw their power. The power available is unlimited. One simply has to be in sync with the universe to make use of it.

ESP: You’ve speculated that Lai Wan, the psychometrist from the Teddy London series, is your favorite character of your own creation. Could you explain why?

She’s very near to my heart. She has suffered great pain and overcome it, only to be handed more pain on top of that. She could live comfortably, but to do so she has to cut herself off from human contact. She has great abilities to help (or to hurt, actually), but to do so costs her greatly. She is, in many ways, the most powerful, most giving, most human character I have ever created. I love her dearly. I feel sorry for her for the amount of crap life has handed her, but I admire her for always being able to overcome.

ESP: Are you working on more London fiction? Where do you see his adventures taking him?

There are seven London novels that have seen print. There is one completed novel waiting to see print. I envision a total of twelve London novels minimum. There are several more important moments in his life I’d like to depict. There is a definite end to the series, though, and I hope I get to write all the books. If there ever are twelve, that will be all of them.

ESP: What is a typical day like for C.J. Henderson?

Stuffing my face, procrastinating over doing anything more strenuous, napping to rest up from the stuffing and procrastinating …

Everyone thinks I write 24/7 because of the amount of work I produce, but really I feel as if I hardly ever work. Considering all that, I’m not actually sure when I get the writing done. During drunken stupors, I guess.

ESP: You are known for your extensive convention schedule. Could you share with us the funniest/oddest thing you’ve experienced at a con?

I was behind my table at one of Jeff Mach’s terrific Wicked Faire events. A performer (NYC’s living institution, Captain Zorak) was singing and playing guitar on stage when a woman began to heckle him. He started heckling her back, and then, the two got into a wrestling match which ended with him hog-tying her, then standing on her back while he finished his number. Now, yes, of course, it was all staged. But, none of us knew that for most of the performance. It was great fun.

ESP: There is an art to self-promotion that every writer should learn. Do you have any tips to share?

The most important thing I believe is that writers should remember that the product you’re selling isn’t any individual book … it’s yourself. You the artist is what you are promoting. You’re selling what it is you have to offer, either as an entertainer, a guru, an avenue of escape, whathaveyou. First, figure out what it is you actually have to offer, and then offer that … not just individual book titles.

ESP: After writing nearly 60 books, plus various short stories, reviews, etc, how do you keep coming back to the writing with fresh ideas? Do you ever worry that there might be a time when you run out of things to say?

Yes. I always think (and this goes back twenty years) that I don’t have anything else to say, but somehow new things come. How I do it, I don’t know. Sometimes I think a thing I’ve written has nothing new to offer, and then the readers tell me otherwise. I try not to question things like this because when I do, I usually end up losing the ability simply because I’ve come to understand how I do it.

ESP: You’ve written a collection of humorous short stories called: But Seriously, Folks: the Off-Kilter Comedy of CJ Henderson. Could you tell us a funny joke?

Three women are at their club, in the locker room, getting ready to go out for a round of golf. Suddenly, a naked man with a bag over his head runs through the locker room waving his arms and shouting. The first woman stares, then says in a relieved voice;

“Well, thank goodness that wasn’t my husband.” The second woman breaks off staring, adding:

“I know, I’m so glad that wasn’t my boyfriend.” To which the third woman adds;

“Oh please, that wasn’t even a member of this club.”

ESP: Where would you point a first-time C.J. Henderson reader seeking the best example of who you are as a writer?

Well, for pure hardboiled, What You Pay For, the short stories of my PI Jack Hagee, available from Marietta. For horror, Degrees of Fear, a best of collection put out by Dark Regions. But, for novels, and for my personal favorite, that would be the first Teddy London novel, The Things That Are Not There still available from Elder Signs Press.

ESP: How much would you say you draw from real life experiences when creating plots, characters and locations in your work?

Close to 100% I’m either a really lazy writer, or one who firmly believes in the old adage, “write what you know.”

ESP: Please explain the creative process that goes into co-writing a project.

The only way I will co-write these days is to have the other writer write something, and then I go in and do the second draft. I urge my partners not to try very hard, because I’m probably going to change everything anyway. What I want from a co-writer is a good solid skeleton on which to hang meat. Not everyone has sufficient ego to be able to tolerate working with me.

ESP: You’ve written for several comics, including Kolchak the Night Stalker.  How is the process different from writing books?

Comics are much more formalized. If you’re going to do a good job you have to work with an outline. Novels you can just write until you’re done. Comics need careful pacing, and thus must be looked at in a much more technical fashion.

ESP: Of the various outlets you’ve utilized to tell your tales (novels, anthologies, magazines, comics, audio, etc), which do enjoy working with the most and why?

I’m asked this question a lot, and all I can say is, honestly, whatever I’m doing at the time is usually what I like best. I just enjoy story-telling, and probably I’m happiest when I’m actually doing a reading for an audience.

ESP: You’ve worked with William Shatner a great deal, first in novels and most recently in a series of comic books. What can you tell us about this team-up?

Shatner is the greatest guy in the world. He is easy to work with, filled with great ideas, he has an ear for dialogue that is second to no one but me (he said modestly). He is generous to a fault. He cares about projects. He doesn’t just slap his name on stuff. He’d be easier to work with if he did, because the writer could have their way on everything. No way with Bill. He knows what he wants, he knows how to explain what he’s asking for, he knows what the public wants. I’ve worked with other people in film, some in politics, et cetera. Because of confidentiality agreements, I can’t name any names, but it doesn’t matter … no one compares to Shatner. He’s the greatest.

ESP: Congratulations on your contract with Tor/Forge. How did that come about and could you give us a hint about that that project?

A wonderful editor/packager by the name of Brian Thomson thought my work was great and spent years finding outlets for me. He set up the deal, edited the first book, and then tragically he died far too young. We knew he was ill, but it was a complete and devastating surprise when it happened.

Brian sold Tor a two book deal for me for which I shall be grateful unto the end of my days. Brooklyn Knight, the first book in the series, introduces the world to Piers Knight, a curator at the Brooklyn Museum. He’s no Harry Potter when it comes to casting spells, but he is sitting on 10,000 years of human history. Somewhere in his museum are samples of every magical shield or weapon ever made by any culture. When things go wrong, he’s got the goods.

The thing about Knight is, he’s much more like us. He doesn’t want to get involved in adventures. He’d much rather just do his job. But … sometimes … duty calls, and well, you know …

ESP: Thank you for your time C.J. Is there anything you’d like to add?

Well, all you folks who slogged your way through all of this, if you’d like some samples, just head over to www.cjhenderson.com. There are always free short stories there to read. Try some, and then tell me what you think. And, if you want to pick up an autographed copy of something, why … imagine my surprise … there’s a store right there to handle all your reading needs.

Pardon my blatant commercialism, folks, but it’s 2010 in America, and if you’ve ever thought it would be easy to support a family as an entertainer, all I can say is, try it sometime. It looks sweet from the outside, but brother, what it really boils down to is being willing to dance like a monkey for a nickel.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m a good dancer, and I like money, but sometimes you just wish they’d stick a couple new records in the juke box.

Thanks for reading all the way to the end.

yer pal;

CJ

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