Author Interview: Christine Feehan
with Norelle Done
Storytelling is all about sharing the reality of a story and its characters - complete with their motivations, reactions, and mistakes. Crafting those personalities realistically can be quite the task, according to New York Times bestselling author Christine Feehan. “I try to know my characters from the time they were born, and know what motivates them. They are three-dimensional and real to me, which allows me to know why they react the way they do.”
Feehan has had over 40 novels and short stories published, and each of her four paranormal romance series has reached number one on the New York Times Bestseller list. She has also won numerous Paranormal Excellence Awards in Romantic Literature and other renowned awards and honors for her books.
With so many stories in print, does Feehan struggle with creating a new story? Not really - she says, “My greatest challenge is having the time to write all the stories that crowd in my head!” There are never enough hours in the day, because for her, “It is important to me to turn in a story that I am proud of, and life can get in the way and it gets hard to stay on the schedule.”
Despite her success, Christine Feehan didn’t hope for fame from her writing; “I wrote mainly for myself, not to get published. [In the beginning,] the hardest part was giving up my stories ... they are very personal and that was hard to let go of. I am very private ... so it was a struggle to become a public figure,” she said.
Christine may like her privacy, but she must keep writing - whatever it takes. “I will always write whether I publish or not; it’s a part of who I am. I can’t imagine not writing - it just wouldn’t happen,” she says. Feehan is also a voracious reader, and is intrigued by the craft of storytelling. On her FreshFiction author biography, she notes: “The ability to create pictures and emotions with words is such a miracle to me. I read everything, I mean everything: all kinds of books, even encyclopedias. I am fascinated by the written word and I love storytellers. It is a great privilege to be counted one myself.”
Although she has been writing daily “since I could pick up a pen,” Christine Feehan did not begin submitting her work to publishers until after she retired from teaching martial arts. She and her husband have eleven children, and when her son Calvert died at age 25 in a motorcycle accident, she began writing stories about the fictional Carpathians, which became the “Dark Series”.
The Carpathians are beings that live off of the blood of humans, but they don’t kill for their nourishment. They can live for thousands of years, but after time males begin to lose hope and emotion and will turn into the vampires of legend if they do not find their lifemate. The trouble is that female Carpathians are rare, and don’t live long past birth. A lifemate will return emotion and color to the male, and save him from his options of suicide or evil.
The Carpathians helped Christine to work through the grief of losing her son. “I used to tell him stories of dragons and heroes all the time, and when he died I felt as if I was walking through my life rather than experiencing it. When I turned to my writing to get me through it, the Carpathians were born. They experienced the lack of emotion and color as I felt I was doing, and they felt sorrow at the loss of their children as I was. The paranormal element was for him, for his love of the stories I told him,” Feehan said.
Her first novel, Dark Prince, was published in 1999 when “a friend told me to send my books in, and I told her it wasn’t that easy, but I sent the manuscript anyway in order to get her to stop bugging me. They bought my book and my friend still laughs at me to this day.” Dark Prince is about to be re-released in its full form as an author’s cut, with 100 additional pages that were removed in the original publication.
Having books published for over a decade has not lessened the appeal of the story for Christine. Asked about her favorites, she says that Dark Slayer practically wrote itself - it was almost magical. The other was Waterbound, which features an autistic heroine. “Doing the research and portraying her was important because I wanted to do justice for her,” Feehan said. “It was a book from the heart.”
The characters define Feehan’s stories - each individual’s struggles, reactions, and choices form a distinct personality that makes them very real for Christine and, she hopes, for her readers. “Once I create my characters, I try very hard to have them react to situations as they really would ... They take on a life of their own. Sometimes I throw difficult situations at them in the hopes that I'll get a certain reaction and when they don't do what I want, I complain bitterly to my husband and he laughs at me,” Feehan writes on her website. “Still, it is important to me to have them be real, not perfect people, so they make mistakes we lesser mortals might make.”
Norelle Done is a Seattle freelance writer and editor who loves to curl up on a rainy day with a good book. She regularly meets authors and writers around Seattle to share their writing experiences, struggles, and successes on her website, SeattleWrote.blogspot.com.