Saturday, January 21, 2012

Interview with Vicki Hopkins, author of The Phantom of Valletta

Author interviews are one of my favorite things to post which is why I am super excited to welcome author Vicki Hopkins to Flashlight Commentary to discuss The Phantom of Valletta.

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What inspired you to write a sequel to Phantom of the Opera?
For many years, I had been heavily involved in the Phantom community writing a blog entitled, "Lessons From the Phantom of the Opera" that did quite well worldwide. In addition, I started an Internet radio show on Blog Talk Radio called "All Things Phantom," where I interviewed other Phantom authors and principle cast members from actual shows who played in Phantom productions. Frankly, I loved the story and it meant a lot to me personally. I was pondering one night the thought that if I were ever to write a sequel, what challenge could I give Erik to overcome? The idea for the story came into my heart, based mainly on Leroux's line spoken by the Opera Ghost, "All I ever wanted was to be loved for myself."

What makes your story different from other sequels on the market?
Though I have interviewed many other Phantom authors on my Internet radio show, I've only read one other series of Phantom sequels before I started writing my novel. I've pretty much stayed away from being influenced by other stories and plots, because I feared overlapping any ideas into my own works. It's difficult for me to compare my story to others. Perhaps it's time now I start reading more Phantom books.

How important was it that your story retain the spirit of Leroux’s work?
The most important aspect of retaining the spirit of Leroux's work, of course, is due to copyright infringement on Webber's work. Frankly, I think Leroux characterizes Erik more of a madman than I did with my version of Erik, so I admit I have taken some creative liberties. I did keep the back story, however, and pulled from the text a variety of characters to carry on the story to Malta. As far as the "spirit" of Leroux, I wanted to stay focused on Erik's cry for his need of unconditional love. Of course, in Leroux's version we are led to believe the Phantom dies at the end. Since his work is in the public domain, any author can change that ending to continue the story to new levels.

Is it difficult working with characters created by another author?
I did not find it difficult working with Leroux's characters, because it gave me an opportunity to build those characters further. I choose individuals that were barely mentioned in his work. With Madame Giry, however, I was able to take her character and weave her into the type of person that I imagined. As far as the Phantom in my work, he is frankly a personality creation of how I've always pictured him in my mind, which is no doubt a variety of Phantom influences from the stage and movies.

Why did you choose Valletta as your setting?
I chose Valletta from a simple search on Google. My story needed a setting, and I wanted to find an opera house during that time period that had been destroyed by fire. The Royal Opera House in Valletta, Malta came up, and after reading the history, I was totally fascinated by the site. It seemed the perfect place to set the story, so I embarked on an in-depth study of the history of the opera house. To my surprise, even before my book hit the market, the Malta news contacted me for an interview. They wanted to review the book after release and publish an author interview, as well. I was totally shocked. I didn't realize that the spot held such a passionate place in the hearts residents on the island. The Royal Opera House was rebuilt after the fire, but subsequently bombed and destroyed during World War II. It's never been rebuilt. The Phantom of the Opera story is a universal one, and there are many Phantom lovers in Malta who loved the fact I took the Phantom to their beloved Royal Opera House. Overall, they have been the most gracious, supportive, and welcoming fans of my story.

Were you at all nervous about how your work would be received by the Phantom community?
The Phantom community is a unique group of individuals, who are passionate and protective of the story. With my heavy involvement because of my blog and radio show, I knew I was sticking my neck out creating my own story and could very well be strung up with a Punjab lasso for putting one out there. There are many fans with many tastes, and each hold the story dear to their hearts in a variety of ways. They all have their own perception of the Opera Ghost. You tend to get good reviews from those who connect with your characterization of the man behind the mask, and poorer ones from those who can't relate to your interpretation. Frankly, that is okay, because it's a deeply personal story for many of us. I've noticed those interpretations of the Phantom vary worldwide, too. My blog is a perfect example of the universal love of the story with visitors from over 122 countries.

I love that you created a new love interest for Erik. Can you tell us a little about Desiree and how you went about creating her?
She was mentioned in an obscure line in Leroux's original work, and I built an entire background story for her from it. Desiree was not just a new love interest for Erik, but also a test for Erik. The Phantom had always wanted to be loved in spite of his deformity, but I wanted to test him to see if he could love another in spite of their deformity. I also wanted to make Desiree, who by all rights should hate him, play an important part in discovering healing for her own pain of the past. The story is one of redemption, love, and forgiveness for both characters.

In The Phantom of the Opera, we learn most of what we know of Erik from other characters. Why did you decide to tell The Phantom of Valletta from Erik’s point of view?
Erik is a complex man. I wanted to focus on his frustration, loneliness, pain, regrets, and longing to be loved. In order to do that, it had to come from his point of view. I believe the story is so popular, because many people relate to him on various levels. I thought it would bring the reader closer to him as a character.

Characters like Madame Giry and Richard Mercier are key to the telling in your story. Why did you choose to cameo Christine and Raoul?
I chose to cameo Christine and Raoul, because it was an important area in Erik's life that needed closure. They both were part of his remorse over the past. He needed absolution, so that he could be free to pursue his future with another.

The original story has some pretty strong themes. Revenge, obsession and perception among them. What themes did you want to convey in The Phantom of Valletta?
There are a variety of themes woven throughout my story. One is that the consequences of our choices in life often follow us long after the act itself has played out. This was true of Erik's obsession over Christine. The second is that unforgiveness toward those who have hurt or offended us, if gone unchecked, can destroy us in the process if we seek revenge. And lastly, that each of us long for unconditional love in spite of our outward or inward deformities in life, and it takes great love and resolve to grant that gift of acceptance to others.

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"The Phantom of Valletta brings many wondrous things to the pages Hopkins vividly pens. Romance, passion, mystery, murder and mayhem, drama, music, action, and a grand scope of how the power of love can heal all, and that appearances don't matter when choosing someone to share your life with. I thoroughly enjoyed this new twist on the age old Phantom of the Opera tale, and highly praise the author for her inventiveness, great character development, and a story well told." - Jeannie Mancini, Amazon Reviewer

"I found myself genuinely intrigued as I read, wanting to know who the young girl was and why she was there. Ms. Hopkins does a nice job of holding back just enough information in order to build the suspense. There are passionate love scenes and mysterious pursuits through the dark streets of Valletta. There are prophesies, but most important there is growth and understanding. The effect is powerful" - author Sadie Montgomery

"I love the original Phantom of the Opera, and this book takes that character and makes him a bit more modern, and easier to relate to. I love all the details of the Royal Opera House, and the research the author put into get those details right. I just wish the ending and the edits were as high in quality." - Rachel Thompson, Goodreads, Reviewer

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Vicki Hopkins made her debut in 2009 with the release of The Price of Innocence. Since that time she has written four other novels in various genres - historical fiction/family sagas, Gothic romance, and Victorian romance. Her tagline is “Taking Readers Into the Romantic Past.”

In 2014 she decided to try her hand at something different and chose the pen name of Nora Covington to cross genre lines. “Romance With  Kiss of Suspense” is her new endeavor of novellas, which has been well received.

With Russian blood on her father's side and English on her mother's, Vicki blames her ancestors for the lethal combination in her genes that influence her stories. Tragedy and drama might be found between the pages, but she eventually gives her readers a happy ending.

Her passion, besides writing, is researching her English ancestry. To her dismay, however, Vicki’s DNA test results revealed that 57% of her genentic makup originates from Eastern Europe, only 21% England, and 16% Scandinavian. Regardless of the Russian and Viking percentage, she is obsessed with her English ancestors nonetheless. You will find the names of her family members sprinkled throughout her novels.

Website ❧  Blog ❧  Goodreads ❧  Pinterest ❧  Twitter ❧  Google+

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Format: Print, Audio & eBook
Publication Date: February 22, 2011
Released by: Holland Legacy Publishing
ISBN-13: 978-0983295921
Length: 310 pages
Genre: Gothic/Romantic Suspense

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