Interview with Charity Bishop

Published 2014-07-28.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
I do! It was an overly melodramatic short mystery about an attractive feline who asked a consulting feline detective to investigate events surrounding the disappearance of a "dirty dog." Not only did I write it, I fully illustrated it and put it into book form, with a front and back cover made out of thicker paper than the inside pages. I continued writing the "Adventures of Puff and Tom" for quite some time, until I graduated to more "serious" things (those being equally immature mysteries revolving around a stable, and several horse-owners, as I went through my "Saddle Club" phase in my preteen years).
What is your writing process?
Typically, I come up with a "scathingly brilliant idea" that involves a time period and a major plot twist and leap right into it. I tend to let the story build on its own through the first draft, taking it in different directions if my writing stalls or feels too stilted. Often, a theme is building without my conscious awareness that only becomes more evident toward the end; if I really like that undercurrent, I will in my second and third drafts polish it up a bit. I never plan the book straight through, because knowing exactly what happens in each chapter tends to stall my creativity; part of the fun for me is the process of discovery and invention, and I've often found that what seemed like a good idea when I started writing isn't plausible toward the end; often, better ideas come along as the story evolves.
How do you approach cover design?
I try to think of something outside the box and attention-grabbing. I've gravitated toward silhouettes because they are eye-catching and often dramatic. You can express a sense of wonder, mystery, and the sinister without having to go into too much detail or having vivid backgrounds detract from the overall look. It usually takes me a week or so, to play around with different ideas and concepts, until I hit on the right one.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
Limiting myself to only five is hard, but I'll do my best:

"Small Gods," by Terry Pratchett: I love all the Discworld books for their insane sense of humor, but he also has a remarkable talent for intelligent conversation in the guise of wit and sarcasm. In this book, a young monk is stuck escorting around a turtle god who has shrunk from a once-impressive size due to people forgetting he exists. Amid the total chaos that ensues, Pratchett asks hard questions about faith, personal beliefs, and pokes fun at "religion" in general while shedding interesting insights into faith itself. ("Mort" comes in a close second, and "Hogfather" is screaming fun at the rear.)

"Phantom," by Susan Kay: This was the book that started it all for me. It was the moment I transitioned between YA literature to reading "grown up" books, and took a particular interest in stories of anti-heroes. Kay's gorgeous, exquisite writing breathed new life into my appreciation for literature, while her story ripped out my heart and stomped it into a grisly mess. It's a hard book to read, because it is so intense, but I love every instant of its intensity, every sorrow, and every beat of its heart.

"Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban," by J.K. Rowling: Though I love all the Harry Potter novels, this one is my favorite because it allows me to spend a great deal of time with my favorite of her characters -- Remus Lupin. The shabby but kind-hearted (SPOILER, for the five people on the planet who don't know) werewolf opens up education to the trio in a way that no teacher before or since did, and kept me up reading half the night several days in a row. I love the subtleties of the humor, but also the profound depth and kindness of Lupin. The ending always tugs on my heartstrings.

"The Screwtape Letters," by C.S. Lewis: Tolkien once told Lewis he ought not to write such things, but to leave them to the clergy, and Lewis answered back that when the clergy started writing it, he would cease. Cheekily, he inscribes this book to his friend Tolkien! It's an ingenious exploration of the many ways "devils" lure us away from faith and the things of God. The truth is sometimes so brutal that it makes me cringe, but it's all presented in a clever, humorous, and downright sinister fashion.

"Dealing With Dragons," by Patricia C. Wrede: I didn't realize zany fantasy fiction existed prior to running across these books, lovingly sent to me by a penpal one year for Christmas. The princess chooses to move in with the dragon, so she can polish treasure all day, and runs off knights who try to rescue her. There's also a witch with a doorway that revolves into different rooms, a great many cats, and a bunch of nosy wizards clomping about. It's the best movie Hollywood never discovered.
What do you read for pleasure?
I bounce between fiction and nonfiction. I'm not much for straight up historical fiction anymore, although I used to devour it; I most enjoy stories with a bit of magic and symbolism in them, or what you might call "speculative fiction" -- vampires, werewolves, and ghosts, oh my! Victorian London is always more fun with werewolves involved!

Non-fiction wise, I read whatever catches my fancy, but it usually revolves around someone I find interesting... other writers, historical figures, actors, and so on. I enjoy biographical works written in novel form, like the "Call the Midwife" series by Jennifer Worth. I devoured those in three days and then spent three more sulking that I'd read them so fast.
Describe your desk
It sits pressed against a wall, lovingly supporting Tesla -- my black and silver computer, which hasn't given me any troubles since I named it. Above the desk is a narrow shelf upon which sits a framed piece of art depicting a leopard on the leash of a lovely French woman whose back is toward the audience. To the right of this portrait sits a painted leopard statue, and on the far left is a small trunk in which I keep such vitally important things as Pottermore Potion instructions.

My desk generally has a stack of papers, scribbled over with random notes and post-it-notes sticking out at odd angles, with such things as "Someone who can walk between worlds??" and "Dream Seer or Caster?" on them. Every now and again, a list turns up half-crossed off with everything I meant to do this week and didn't. The desk itself is an eggshell blue, and the wall above it a shade of pale gold. I have a sinister-looking mousepad where a big-eyed angel with dark wings sits holding a black cat in a scarecrow-laden field at twilight. What can I say? I enjoy the shock people get when they notice it.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up fifty yards from where I live now, in the country on a ranch, not far from a small creek. I spent many years playing down there, and imagining all sorts of childhood adventures, ranging from Robin Hood to dragons and fairies. I was quite a bold child, didn't really care what anyone thought of my make-believe, and that has translated over into a lot of my heroines. Most of them are very outspoken and eager to embrace whatever life throws at them.

You would think living on the prairie would inspire me to write prairie fiction, but it never took. I would try, but inevitably the pioneers would dig up some old Indian cemetery by accident and be haunted by the ghost of a dead warrior. Real life is stranger than fiction, but my life's total dullness has caused me to improvise.
When did you first start writing?
I was eleven years old, and it was a rainy afternoon in mid-October. It had suddenly dawned on me that people write books. They don't just write themselves (well... outside the libraries in my fantasy novels, they don't), which meant I could do it too. It helped that my parents had recently started up a magazine, which gave me somewhere to print my stuff and tugged me into the industry full-time. Critiquing our writers' writing helped me develop my own and in the twenty years since, I've had a lot of experience not only in writing many different things but also in being comfortable having other people read what I write.
What's the story behind your latest book?
When I was writing my last book, "The Secret in Belfast," a character introduced herself to me and hinted that she need her own book. She was only present for one chapter, in a minor capacity that shed light on the greater establishment that my hero worked in, but as I continued writing that story, hers built in the back of my mind.

Alana is a Giftsnatcher, able to remove other gifted people's magical abilities and either keep it, or gift it to someone else. An elaborate plot began forming in my mind that rapidly grew into more and more ideas -- Victorian Scotland was her place of origin, so that she could meet and interact with Dr. Joseph Bell, the inspiration for Sherlock Holmes; then the mystery began to take shape revolving around a family curse and tattered magic, and I immediately knew that it would have to involve the "real" identity of Jack the Ripper. I was excited also to explore different characters from my other books in this one, and to see them through a new pair of eyes.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
Three things:

1. I am too secular for Christian publishers, and too religious for secular publishers.

I deal in some very dark and controversial topics that I suspect most major Christian publishing houses would be uncomfortable with (forced marriages, family curses, blood spells, dark magic, and supernatural gifts such as telepathy and the power of influence); but most of my stories have profoundly spiritual undercurrents and debates about God, which I refuse to tone down, which might make a secular publishing house equally uncomfortable.

2. I did not want to get locked into writing a specific kind of book.

If you are fortunate enough to sell one book to a publishing house that becomes fairly popular, you sign a contract to produce more books on those same terms. I don't want to spend the rest of my life writing about just one set of characters, or one particular time period, or even one kind of book. I do things for awhile, I take an interest in particular topics and themes, and then I move on from it. I wanted the freedom to do that, as an author.

3. I am happy with quicker turnaround.

I tend to work hard on a project and then move past it. By the time my readers are reading my latest book, I'm halfway through writing the next one. It would kill me to wait six months to a year for my "publishing slot" with a big publishing house. I like to finish things, share them, talk about them with my readers, and move on to the next project. Indie publishing allows me to do that.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
The joy of discovery.

I never start out knowing everything about my story or even the characters, so watching their lives unfold gives me great delight. They are forever surprising me with their insights, their experiences, and their secrets. In a way, I am not writing them; they are writing themselves, and inviting me to observe. They become as dear to me as friends.
What are you working on next?
I am currently writing a book about a wannabe nun forced into attending an assassins' school! Her faith is constantly mocked, tested, and bullied at every turn, and her stubbornness has attracted the attention of the school's most elusive, mysterious, and sinister occupant. It's teeming with ghosts, near-death experiences, and a secret that threatens to undermine everything. It's wicked fun.
Who are your favorite authors?
My favorite authors are J.K. Rowling (because her "Harry Potter" books are pure joy to read), Terry Pratchett (because no one else can make me laugh so hard I stop breathing), and C.S. Lewis, for creating Aslan and giving me many hours of both deep, profound, and lighthearted amusement.
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Books by This Author

The Secret in the Tower
Series: The Tudor Throne. Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 90,400. Language: English. Published: December 30, 2019. Categories: Fiction » Historical » United Kingdom, Fiction » Women's fiction » General
Ambitious young Thomas More unravels a sinister conspiracy in the heart of Tudor England which threatens the livelihood of the widowed Katharine of Aragon.
The King's Players
Series: The Tudor Throne. Price: $5.99 USD. Words: 90,400. Language: American English. Published: July 1, 2019. Categories: Fiction » Historical » United Kingdom
An artisan, a dressmaker, and a theatrical troupe become pawns in King Henry's ruthless tactics to keep his throne.
The Welsh Gambit
Series: The Tudor Throne. Price: $5.99 USD. Words: 94,060. Language: English. Published: September 1, 2018. Categories: Fiction » Historical » United Kingdom
Sir Thomas Lovell, ruthless enforcer of King Henry VII, pursues a potential traitor into the Welsh Marches, where superstition, murder, and high treason play out against the colorful summer tournament.
The Usurper's Throne
Series: The Tudor Throne. Price: $5.99 USD. Words: 94,790. Language: American English. Published: August 27, 2018. Categories: Fiction » Historical » United Kingdom
Henry VII faces traitors on all sides, but hopes to thwart his enemy, the Duke of Suffolk, and keep his tenuous hold on his throne. As his ruthless enforcer, Sir Thomas Lovell, closes in upon his enemies, Henry's last hope lies in his children, and in a dynastic marriage to unite two kingdoms...
Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 87,780. Language: English. Published: June 30, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Historical
What if you knew when someone was about to die… and could do nothing to stop it? Elspeth does not know what she is, until she arrives at Ravenswolde. Fresh from a nunnery, with only her faith as a comfort, she is thrust into a world full of murderous intentions and unseen adversaries...
The Giftsnatcher
Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 79,960. Language: English. Published: July 28, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Historical, Fiction » Christian » Fantasy
Everyone believes Alana is a witch, but she’s a Giftsnatcher: able to steal magical abilities from others, and gift them to a new host… for a price. But when her abilities backfire, leaving her with no choice but to unravel a daring mystery full of illusions, family curses, evil spells, and blood magic, she finds herself face to face with the truth behind the Ripper murders.
Watching The Lord of the Rings With God
Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 86,720. Language: English. Published: July 23, 2014. Categories: Nonfiction » Religion & Spirituality » Christian Church / General, Nonfiction » Entertainment » Entertainment industry
“Watching ‘The Lord of the Rings’ With God” will open your eyes to the symbolism, allegorical aspects, and subtle wonders of Middle-earth in a way you never expected… as you watch the franchise with God at your side.
The Secret in Belfast
Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 79,300. Language: English. Published: July 23, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Historical, Fiction » Christian » Fantasy
Belfast, 1911. Thomas Andrews and Lord Pirrie are swept up into a mystical, magical series of events revolving around a robbery without anything missing, a mysterious child with a sadistic gift, and a secret hidden for decades threatens to overshadow the success of the shipyard, all leading up to the tragic downfall of the Titanic.
I, Claudia
Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 71,010. Language: English. Published: July 23, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Historical » Ancient, Fiction » Christian » Historical
The story of Claudia Procula, wife of Pontius Pilate, from her childhood in Rome to the turbulent aftermath of his removal as the Judean governor.
Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 80,830. Language: English. Published: July 23, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Historical, Fiction » Christian » Fantasy
Seventeen-year-old Evangeline is about to discover what is different about her. She has had suspicions all along, but it is not until an aunt she never knew about turns up that her life tumbles into an adventure. Now, she is in the northern wood… a place where nothing is as it seems, where the ancient house of Dragonspire shifts its rooms around, and an unknown evil lurks nearby.