An Interview with Paul Crampton, Author of The Dream Messiah

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I’m very pleased to welcome Paul Crampton to Linda’s Book Bag today to tell me about his writing and his novel The Dream Messiah in particular. The Dream Messiah was published in December 2015 and is available for purchase in e-book and paperback here.

The Dream Messiah

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Two completely unrelated young Londoners – Hamila Rashid, a black, ex-Somalian refugee living in the UK – and Tony Hammond-Jones, a white, middle-class bishop’s son from rural Hertfordshire – begin having recurring dreams featuring each other. When they finally manage to meet, they slowly realise that they share a destiny that has the potential to change the world forever.

An Interview with Paul Crampton

Hi Paul. Thank you so much for agreeing to answer some questions on my blog about your writing and The Dream Messiah in particular.   

Firstly, please could you tell me a little about yourself?

Hello Linda: I was born in Canterbury, in 1957, and have lived and worked in the city for most of my life. I’m divorced and earn my living, such as it is, as a full-time writer of fiction and non-fiction. I have a little orchard, attached to my garden, where I love to go and sit, and forget about my woes. I also love music, classical mainly, but also jazz, prog-rock and English folk.

When did you first realise you were going to be a writer?

I became a writer of fiction in 2002, having tried to find an artistic outlet that felt right for most of my life. I have tried learning an instrument, writing poetry and painting pictures. And, although I enjoy all of these things when other people are producing them, I wasn’t any good myself. And then, when I started to write fiction, it felt as if I’d finally found my outlet. I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised, because I enjoyed it at school.

Which aspects of your writing do you find easiest and most difficult?

The easiest aspect for me is coming up with ideas. When I’m in the right frame of mind, they come thick and fast. For example, in 2014, I wrote a manuscript entitled ‘111 Creative Writing Ideas’. I’ve not done anything with it yet! I also love writing dialog and building up character profiles. The most difficult thing I find is getting started; those troublesome early chapters. However, once I get past that, I can fly!

One thing I should mention, at this stage, is that I have a mental health condition whereby I experience a lot of anxiety and, to a lesser extent, depression. This both helps and hinders the creative writing process, depending on where the pendulum has settled at the time. For example, for most of 2015, I couldn’t write a word, but this year, I can’t stop!

(I think writing can be a cathartic experience for many Paul. I can only write poetry when I’m depressed!)

What are your writing routines and where do you do most of your writing?

When the mood is right, I write every day, on the dining room table, because I only feel I’m truly happy during that process. I am also a morning person, and try to work solidly from 9:00 am to 1:00 or 2:00 pm.

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I know you’ve written several non-fiction books about your home town of Canterbury and the area, so what led you to turn to fiction too from 2002, resulting in The Dream Messiah?

As I mentioned above, I’d been searching for a creative outlet for years. And then, in 2002, I had a dream that, effectively, was the plot for an entire novel. In the morning, I could remember every detail, and wrote it down. This, eventually, became my first novel: Ronnie Darwin Was My Uncle.

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You have a profound message in The Dream Messiah. Without spoiling the plot, what was your purpose in writing it?

The idea for that particular novel came out of my reaction to 9/11. I must confess I knew little about Islam, and couldn’t believe that such carnage was being carried out in its name. So I began to research Islam and discovered, to my surprise at the time, a religion of peace, love and tolerance. In fact, Islam has much more in common with Christianity and Judaism than it has differences. And I felt I wanted to say something about those things they had in common, rather than the hate message that was being perpetuated in some areas of the popular media.

How far do you think authors need a social conscience when writing?

I think it probably matters very little. I think it’s far more important to be true to the book you are writing at the time. Then again, no one can help pouring much of themselves, and their values, into whatever they are writing, even on a subconscious level. I suppose my characters tend to be deep thinking, complex, and anxious; the poor sods. I can also write ruthless characters too, because I came across many of those during my near 30 years of salaried work for BT. And, at the end of the day, most of us can draw on the dark side we all have lurking in there amongst all that grey matter.

You’ve mentioned Ronnie Darwin Was My Uncle, but is there a dream that you have had that has stayed with you and affected your life?

Well, apart from Ronnie Darwin and The Dream Messiah itself (part of which was another dream I had), I recently dreamt about a vast, dusty book shop, situated in an old house, with many rooms all full of old-looking books. One could wander from one to the other along rickety corridors. The proprietor was an old man straight out of Dickens. Crucially though, in each room, were wax work models of the authors whose books were featured therein.  And, if you went into any particular room, and thought hard about the authors in question, they came alive and talked about their lives to you.

(That sounds like a book in the making to me Paul!)

How did you go about creating Tony and Hamila in The Dream Messiah? Did you create whole character profiles, for example, or did they emerge organically as you wrote?

Hamila was the nicest, most pleasurable character I have ever written. I suppose, if I’m honest, I wrote her as an ideal life partner for me. Tony is partly me, inevitably, and then again so is his friend: the troubled soul, Daniel, who had committed suicide before the book begins. I think a lot about character profiles before I start, but these remain open to tweaking, if the plot demands it. Unusually though, they govern the plot.

If you could choose to be a character from The Dream Messiah, who would you be and why?

I suppose as they are, in some ways, idealised characters (otherwise God wouldn’t have chosen them), they are not really like me, although Tony is, in some ways. Therefore I would have to be him, especially as he becomes involved with Hamila!

If The Dream Messiah became a film, who would you like to play Hamila and Tony?  

Hamila is easy. Her visual appearance has always been based on the Welsh actress, Jose D’Arby. Tony is harder, but, I suppose, someone like Ralph Little? I have put pictures of how I see my characters on the Facebook page dedicated to The Dream Messiah.

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(Readers can visit that Facebook page by clicking here)

If you had 15 words to persuade a reader that The Dream Messiah should be their next read, what would you say?

Two young Londoners have dreams, featuring each other, that suggest they share an important destiny.

And finally, what are you working on at the moment?

I am working on a trilogy of religious conspiracy novels called: The Canterbury Apocalypse. This has been eight years in the making and, for the first time, joins together my fiction and non fiction writing. I have already started a Facebook page here dedicated to this concept.

Good luck with that Paul and thank you so much for your time in answering my questions.

My pleasure!

About Paul Crampton

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Paul Crampton was born in Canterbury in 1957, and has lived and worked in the city for most of his life. His love for Canterbury, and its wide and varied history, has led to the publication of over 15 books on the subject to date. He has also written histories of Whitstable and Folkestone.

Paul started writing fiction in 2002, and has had several novels puiblished. The Dream Messiah is the first of these to reach a wide audience.

You can follow Paul on Twitter and visit The Dream Messiah Facebook page.

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