The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Charles D Blanchard

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The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Charles D Blanchard

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Summary: Luke thought that Kingdom's End by Charles D Blanchard was an adventurous take on a political thriller. It features rats but offers some facinating insights into the world of us humans. Luke had quite a few questions for the author when he popped in to Bookbag Towers to chat to us.
Date: 15 January 2017
Interviewer: Luke Marlowe
Reviewed by Luke Marlowe

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Luke thought that Kingdom's End by Charles D Blanchard was an adventurous take on a political thriller. It features rats but offers some facinating insights into the world of us humans. Luke had quite a few questions for the author when he popped in to Bookbag Towers to chat to us.

  • Bookbag: Rats! They're not the most popular of creatures - so what drove you to feature them so heavily in your novel?

Charles D Blanchard: I have always enjoyed fiction where animals are the protagonists, and are given human characteristics allowing them to think, feel and express themselves. Classic works like Animal Farm by George Orwell, Charlotte’s Web, and the works of Richard Adams are prime examples of this art. I had read Adams’ Watership Down when I was younger and again many years later. Upon the second reading it was as if discovering a new world for the first time. I appreciated the structure of the narrative from the different viewpoints of the characters and how they related to each other.

One day while waiting for the subway train in New York I saw three or four rats congregating alongside in the middle of the tracks. Their heads came together like in a huddle. I thought to myself, what are they communicating about? Do they understand one another? What is their life like? Is it a struggle to find food? From that moment I thought about a narrative from the rats’ viewpoint and began doing an outline.

  • BB: The rats are hugely likeable, and humanised enough that the reader can relate and follow their story easily. However, you never loose sight of the fact that these are wild, unpredictable creatures - and I think it produces a fascinating viewpoint. Was this something that took a lot of work?

CDB: The novel took about four years to complete. There was a tremendous amount of research on rodent behavior and how they survive in an urban landscape. The character development came through as the writing progressed and I began to see each character individually by placing them in dramatic situations that allowed them to grow while enhancing the story. I also had to make certain that I did not repeat myself by one character the same characteristics as another. They had to be as individualistic as people are.

  • BB: There's a grubby glory to the Crown Jewel - and the crumbling machinery and endless corridors that compile it seem the perfect place to base a community of rats. Why did you choose to set the events of Kingdom's End here, and was it based on anywhere you know?

CDB: The primary location of the colony had to be a majestic place where the rodents could thrive for years without interference from the outside world. And since I love going to see films I thought of the older movie palaces built in the 1920s as the setting. I visited the Loews Kings and the Loews Jersey City to get a sense of their architecture and grandeur. And it was amazing while touring these places to see the enormity of it all, and to marvel at the beautiful decor that made these places so very special to see films in those bygone days. I really do feel like I am in another time when being there.

I studied the blueprints and obtained many vintage photos of movie palaces, especially the Loews Kings in Brooklyn, which at the time of my initial research was still abandoned and left to rot before finally being restored to all its glory. They do live shows and occasional film screenings there now.

  • BB: The rats are given distinct and diverse personalities, yet the humans we encounter remain nameless throughout. Why was this?

CDB: I purposely wanted to concentrate on the rodents as the primary characters and they all have names . Since I wanted to write a fable of this sort I was looking within myself for characters that could populate the story and be fully developed or at least as fully developed as I could make them without overdoing it since there are so many characters in Kingdom’s End.

Because of my approach, I thought it best not to introduce names of the human counterparts they interact with as the humans are secondary here, yet essential to show how rats and humans behave to each other. Once I started to create a character that inspired me in some way, I had the ability to go on with the story. It’s not enough to be inspired by an idea. It’s really the characters that are important and from there I was able to create scenes that have a dramatic impact on those characters.

  • BB: The politics throughout the book are intriguing - did you base them on any historical situations you were familiar with?

CDB: The book touches on themes that will always be prevalent. The main theme is survival, not only from the humans, but from other animals. There is the yearning for freedom to explore despite the dangers all around. The fight for justice even when the odds are against you. The feeling of being betrayed when all you ever tried to do was to be good in life. The book captures a hostile world as seen through the eyes of rodents who have no choice but to live in it as best they can. There is treachery and deceit as power corrupts those that have it to the point that they are oblivious to the harm they cause others. There is injustice and prejudice as rats view mice as inferior and treat them as such. There is violence and death and also courage and hope as the rats face obstacles with determination to overcome them.

  • BB: Fate plays a big part in Kingdom's End. Is this something you think holds power over all of us, not just rats?

CDB: Yes. It is circumstances that affect everybody’s life whether animal or human. When these situations play out for good or bad, there is always a reaction to it. How to cope with the struggles of life is something that everyone will face at one time or another. Incorporating that into a fictional narrative invites an emotional involvement on the part of the reader if the writing is any good. I would hope that the reader of Kingdom’s End will have experienced a well told story and feel a sense of optimism that even after a tragic occurrence there can be a positive outcome.

  • BB: The cover is beautiful - incredibly appropriate for the book. Where did you find it?

CDB: Thank you for the compliment. My search for the right cover art was not easy. There are simply not that many renderings of rodents that would be dramatic enough for a book of this sort. I had always loved the illustrations of Gustave Dore, particularly his many biblical renderings, among them his depiction of the life of Jesus, the visual artistry in the Creation scenes, especially the Deluge are so vivid. Even Cecil B. DeMille was inspired by Dore’s renderings of Moses and the parting of the Red Sea when he set out to make his two versions of The Ten Commandments. When I discovered Dore’s illustration of The Council Held By The Rats, I knew my search was over. It is sumptuous in the use of light and shadow, and displays all of the visual intensity that I could have hoped for. I licensed the image from Bridgeman Images in New York, and the rest is history.

  • BB: Thank you for telling us about the book, Charles - it's fascinating and we hope that the book is as successful as it deserves to be.

You can read more about Charles D Blanchard here.

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