Interview: C.M.T. Stibbe

The Bookie Monster interviews CMT Stibbe, author of Chasing Pharaohs. Thanks, Claire, for such inspired responses. You are truly a breath of fresh air.

CMT Stibbe was born in London, England. Her father was Headmaster of the King Edward School in Norwich and her mother was an SRN at the Great Ormond Street Hospital in London. Claire and her twin brother, Mark, were adopted and brought up in the unspoiled countryside of Bradfield College, Berkshire. 

As a child, Claire loved the works of William Shakespeare and spent many happy hours watching the actors rehearse in the Greek theater at Bradfield College. Charlie Lepper, Director of Producer of the plays at the time, instilled in Claire a love of reading and drama. This motivated her to begin writing stories from the age of nine. Her father P.G. Stibbe, author of Return Via Rangoon, also instilled the importance of reading and spent many happy hours with his three children reading The Lord of the Rings during the school holidays.

After Claire graduated from Downe House School, she trained at the Baytree Hotel in Burford and at The Marlborough College, Oxford. She spent several years working in Cambridge and Hong Kong, and traveled to Crete, Cyprus and Egypt. She latterly married an American and became a US citizen in 2008. 

When she isn’t writing, Claire spends time with family and friends, reading books in the best of the local bookstores and drinking great coffee. She lives with her husband and son in New Mexico, the land of desert sands, pueblos, roadrunners and breathtaking sunsets. 

Stibbe’s latest work is titled Chasing Pharaohs and was released in November 2013. The protagonist is a Commander in the court of Pharaoh Kheper-Re, a story loosely based on Thutmose II during the 18th Dynasty. The second book in the series in titled The Snare of the Fowler and will be released in March 2014 (give or take a month).

Tell us a little about yourself, your work and how you got into writing.

I’m British and I live in New Mexico, USA. Having traveled extensively to many archaeological sites all over the world, my experience motivated me to write historical fiction and suspense. I have been writing since I was five years old, encouraged and inspired by my father; author P.G. Stibbe, Author of Return Via Rangoon.

When it’s a passion, it’s a calling and you just can’t stop.

What five words best describe you? 

Loyal, efficient, fun-loving, disciplined, committed.

Are there any critiques in particular that you just can’t seem to shake?

All critiques are positive― good and bad. As a first-time author, we must all learn to have a teachable spirit.

How do you come up with the character names in your books?

Since my first book is Egyptian, I research names associated with 18th – 24th dynasty kings and their nobles. For my suspense novels which are set in New Mexico, a name just usually pops into my head. If it doesn’t, I trawl the phone directory.

How many people have you killed off over your career as a writer? Ever offed someone off then kicked yourself for it?

I’ve killed off three characters so far and no, I don’t regret it. Having said that, one may not be dead at all...

Have you ever written yourself or people you know as a character in one of your books?

No, but I have used the sarcastic, humorous portion of my personality for one of my main characters.

Do you laugh at your own jokes as you write them? 

Absolutely. I giggle all the time!

Do you write full time or do you keep a day job?

I used to have a day job but I always felt like a left-handed person trying to do a right-handed job.  Now I write full time.

When did you decide to make a career of writing?

Probably around 2010. I had a very positive review from a large publisher for my first book and my second book was on their list of ones to watch.  I’m a workaholic so I get a kick out of the process, rather than the end result.

Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?

Yes, I hear from readers all over the world. Reviewers have said the books are vivid, with visceral descriptions and twisting, exciting plots. I think it’s important for a reader to escape into a world they can smell, taste and feel. If the residue stays with them for a time, then the author has done a good job!

What was your favorite moment when writing your book?

I have too many favorite moments. Every day creates a favorite moment, especially when you have a passion to write.

How long does it take you to write a book?

The Historical Fiction books can take up to a year to write, sometimes more including edits and proofs. The suspense novels usually take up to three months.

What do you do when you are not writing?

Family, bible study, travel and meeting people. I love people.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Read great books and you’ll become a great writer. Read a lot! Pay close attention to style and mechanics. Find your voice.

Who are you reading right now?

Frank E. Peretti, John Buchan and Bill Myers, and several new authors on the block.

OK, so, what’s next, do you already have a new project in the works? 

The Snare of the Fowler is the second book in the Egyptian Fiction series and should be out March 2014 (or thereabouts). Two suspense novels, a Christmas book and there are many more floating around in my head.

Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?

Having a daily word count really helps. I usually write for four hours at a stretch in the mornings. Then, after a one-hour lunch break, I revise the morning’s chapters. If writer’s block sets in, I go for a brisk walk, do some jazzercise and listen to music.

Did any specific author(s) motivate you to begin writing?

My father, P.G. Stibbe, my twin brother, Mark Stibbe, CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien, Agatha Christie, PD James.

You are hosting a dinner party and must invite 3 famous people. Who would you choose and why?

Hopefully, this applies to dead people too:
Sir Anthony Hopkins ― just because he’s a brilliant actor.
Margaret George  – just because she’s a brilliant historian.
Pharaoh Thutmose III (Napoleon of Egypt) ― just because he was a brilliant tactician.

In ten words or less

  • Are you a morning person or a night owl? 
    • I’m a morning person.
  • Favorite TV Show? 
    • Porridge with Ronnie Barker
  • First item on your bucket list? 
    • To go back to Luxor, Egypt.
  • If you were a Star Trek® character, which one would it be? Why? 
    • Lieutenant Uhura.  I thought she was tough and beautiful.
  • If you could meet anybody in history, past or present, who would it be? 
    • Sir Thomas Moore (past). Billy Graham (present).
  • How would your friends describe you in 3 words.   
    • Fun, loyal, caring.
  • Mac or PC? 
    • PC
  • Pie or cake?  
    • Pie. Definitely pie. Key Lime to be precise. 
  • What is one thing that you can’t live without? 
    • The Bible.
  • What is the craziest thing you have ever done? 
    • Sky-diving.
  • What is your biggest pet peeve? 
    • Gossipy women.
  • Who’s your favorite blogger? (cough) 
    • You, of course.
  • Worst job ever? 
    • Cleaning the toilets at Taizé, Saône-et-Loire, Burgundy, France
  • Would you rather be homeless for a year or be in jail for a year? 
    • Homeless, because I’m resourceful so I wouldn’t be homeless for long.

Where can readers stalk you?
Amazon Author page: