Interview: C.J. Henderson
by Cathy Green
Review by Cathy Green
SFRevu *Interview ISBN/ITEM#: INTCJHenderson
Date: 26 July 2010
Links: Review: Brooklyn Knight / Wikipedia's Entry on C.J. Henderson / Author's Website /
Henderson: Brian Thompson, a freelance editor and producer I'd known and worked with for years came up with the idea of setting a story around a curator at the Brooklyn Museum and I went with it.
SFRevu: As a native New Yorker (now in exile), it was nice to see the Brooklyn Museum play such a large role. Despite being a world-class museum with a fabulous collection, it seems to get treated as a red-headed stepchild also-ran to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Henderson: I agree. I live in Brooklyn, and all the Brooklyn locations in the book are real. The Japanese restaurant, Iron Sushi, is in Manhattan, but it's real. So's the Italian restaurant, which is in my neighborhood As far as the Brooklyn Museum is concerned, most people don't know that it has one of the largest collections in the United States. The museum was originally intended to be four times its current size but it got cut back due to politics. So they've got ten thousand years of recorded human history and the ability to display at best one fourth the collection. Who knows what hidden treasures and mysterious objects are in the museum's storage areas.
SFRevu: Will there be a series of Piers Knight books?
Henderson: Yes, I'm already under contract with Tor for a second Piers Knight book, which is actually already paid for and approved. So even if I get hit by a bus, there will be second book. I've already got ideas for around 6-8 future books in my head. If Tor doesn't pick up the series after the contract ends, I've already had offers from some of the other publishers I work with for the series.
SFRevu: I really enjoyed the banter between Piers and Brigit. It was reminiscent of 1930s/1940s screwball comedies. Is Brigit going to be a running character or will there be a succession of interns in future books?
Henderson: Yes. As originally conceived by the late Brian Thompson, we were going to write the book and then sell it as the start of a film series with Piers Knight as the only running character. But once he died, film wasn't a real possibility anymore and a lot of the plot got rewritten. So Brigit is back in the second book, but when we start up again her internship is over, since internships do come to an end. So there's a new intern, a guy, and Piers is a bit snappy with him because he misses Bridget and he doesn't like change. He's a bit like Sheldon Cooper from Big Bang Theory in that respect. Things really get going in the next book as Piers reveals that dragons are real and the world changes irrevocably as there are more magical incursions, and then by the third book I want to make it a whole new ball game. I really like the Bridget character and based her in part on a friend of my daughter's that I think of as practically being one of my own kids.
Some people might think of Bridget as a bit of a shrinking violet because of how she reacts to some of the events in Brooklyn Knight, but I don't see the character that way at all. I hate it when you have books set in the real world where everyone's aware of the supernatural and is really blase about it. I think if people were confronted with unstoppable Lovecraftian horrors they'd shit themselves and be absolutely frozen with horror. So I think it's reasonable that when on her first day in New York she's confronted by criminals who blow themselves to bloody bits that she's entitled to be a bit shocked and upset. Here's a gal right out of college and all of a sudden she's confronted by ghosts, fire monsters, and the walking dead. It's not weak that she's upset, it's a normal human reaction. I really like the character, having based her in part on my daughter and in part on my daughter's friend Leah, who was, in fact, at the time I started the book (and, wild coincidence, unknown to me) an intern at the Brooklyn Museum.
SFRevu: You have a number of other series involving detectives and the supernatural. Any chance of a crossover?
Henderson: Unfortunately not at this time. Tor's been absolutely great to work with, but given that I've got different series with different publishers, it would make the rights issues a bit complicated. Maybe sometime in the future. It's too bad because Blakely and Boles would be a natural cross-over.
SFRevu: While you do not give a detailed description of the A'ademir, they do seem to fall into the Lovecraftian category of existing in such a different way from us that they wreck havoc through not really noticing us as opposed to being actively evil and out to destroy us.
Henderson: Yes, they are a sort of elder gods. We don't actually get to see them in the novel, because I think it is scarier when you do not know exactly what you're dealing with. And I think the concept of an "excess of joy" - concentrated human spirit - as what repulses them, sets up an interesting confrontation at the end. By the way, the geography of Green Wood Cemetery as described in the climax of Brooklyn Knight is entirely accurate.
In future books I want to up the ante, bring in dragons and shapeshifters and have Piers realize that the stars are aligning and this shift will cause doorways between realms to open and things will get worse before they get better. Piers Knight is an academic, he's not Mr. Daring-Do, so it certainly rocks his world as all sorts of Lovecraftian horrors start appearing and he has to figure out how to get rid of them. I might even bring in some vampires, but my vampires, not sparkly ones, like the ones I've used before, such as in the Teddy London novel The Stench of Fresh Air.
SFRevu: Brigit and Piers have great chemistry. They banter like Nick and Nora Charles or other leads from comedies of the 1930s and 1940s, but they do seem a bit old fashioned. I thought the effect was rather like what might have happened if Hammer Studios had hired Ernest Lubitsch to direct one of their films. Were you going for that sort of thing when you created the characters?
Henderson: (laughing) Well, I am a bit of an old fashioned guy, but actually I tend to make it up as I go along. I just liked them both and was having fun having two brand new characters to play with. The characters tend to take on a life of their own and I never have any idea where it's going. I especially enjoyed the banter over food, such as the egg scene with the "cackle fruit."
SFRevu: Your website lists a large number of jobs you've held, but for the past 20 years you've been supporting yourself full time as a writer. What's a day in the writing life of C.J. Henderson like?
Henderson: I get up at 9:30 a.m. when my mother-in-law's home health aid comes in the morning, but then I go back to sleep. I have a tendency to go to bed at 3 or 4am "oh look, it's sunrise, time for bed." Eventually I get up and do the shopping and cleaning, etc. Unless you're making Stephen King money, as a writer you take out your own garbage, go to the post office, etc. I find I write better at night. During the day it's just too busy. I find it easier to write at night. I can typically write at least one thousand words before I need to take a break. Writing's my job and everyone hates their boss, which is a bit awkward when you're your own boss, but I make myself sit down and write and it flows and that's just what I do. I've written around 70 books, 250 short stories, hundreds of comics and thousands of articles and I've said a lot of what I NEEDED to say but I keep going because this is what I do.
SFRevu: Have you written under names other than C.J. Henderson?
Henderson: No, with one exception very earlier in my career when the first Teddy London book was coming out at the same time as the first book in another series and the publisher thought readers might find that confusing and expect the books to be in the same series so Teddy London came out under the name Robert Morgan. Otherwise I've always written under my own name.
SFRevu: For those of our readers unfamiliar with your work, what would you recommend they read?
Henderson: Go for the Teddy London series. It's got romance, action, great characters and in the past 20 years in addition to the novels, I've written around 70 short stories in the series, so if you like the series, there's a lot of material there. If you liked the original Kolchack: The Night Stalker movies and television series, you should try my Kolchack novel. I had a ball writing it and it's one of my more popular books. I did a bit of stage acting, and when I do readings of the Kolchak book, I have a great time doing Kolchak and Vincenzo's voices. I also recommend To Battle Beyond for those who like pulp adventure stories. It's got blimps, ninjas, and cthulu. How can you go wrong with that combination? And, in case it's not obvious, Brooklyn Knight is high on that list for me as well.
SFRevu: What C.J. Henderson books do we have to look forward to in the near future?
Henderson: The novels of my original hardboiled private eye, Jack Hagee, are coming back into print starting in November. The second Knight book, Central Park Knight will be out in January. Steam-Powered Love: Tales of the Pelgimbly Institute for the Advanced Sciences (and the Chaos It Caused) will be in February. I'm also doing a trilogy of Spider novels for Moonstone, and a trilogy of zombie novels for Elder Signs Press. And, of course, there's more, but I don't want to drive your audience crazy. For those who want to follow the CJH news, they can just go to www.cjhenderson.com. Free short stories to read and all the usual reckless self-promotion for which the internet is famous.
SFRevu: Thank you for speaking with us.