Monday, October 12, 2015

Drawing Out Charles Butler

Today, we discuss the art and artistry of Charles E. Butler, a talented artist whose written and illustrated a number of books about vampires in films. 

Where are you from?

I was born in Leeds in the UK. Apparently, I am a Welsh, Irish Yorkshireman with me stuck in the middle.

You’ve built up quite a shelf of books examining vampires in film, beginning with The Romance of Dracula and continuing. The books feature artwork created by yourself.  Which interest came first, art or writing?

Art came first. I was fascinated by comicbooks very early on and tried to draw the characters and make up my own comic strips. I’m actually a comic book artist wannabe.

Which are you more comfortable with?

Drawing. But I wanted to use my skills in tandem. To integrate writing and drawing and my love of fantasy and cinema. The Romance of Dracula helped to bring all that to the surface.

Do you have formal art education or this a skill you’ve always had and developed on your own?

I’ve always been able to draw. I left school with 3 O levels; Art 16+, English Literature and English Language. The terrible trio.

What is it about vampires that strikes your fancy?

I’ve always been a fan of Dracula since picking up my first comic book – Dracula Lives UK No. #2. He is the greatest fantasy character ever created. I like stories that stay in the Stoker tradition of the vampire tale. Like the movies I watch, I like them to be entertaining without leaving a bad taste afterwords. The vampire itself is open to a myriad of different interpretations. They live forever, have amazing strength and power, in fact the only downside is the blood-drinking thing.

Explain the books you’ve written and how you were inspired to write them?

The books are my own journey through the many vampire movies of the cinema. I write the text and illustrate the chapter headings. It began with The Romance of Dracula – originally meant as a private undertaking and not as a publishing venture – that chronicles the 14 major adaptations from Bram Stoker’s novel. I had read a really bad review book about a major Horror film studio that had very glaring errors that would insult any fan of the genre and I decided to write my own. 

You’ve self-published the books. What are the pros and cons of self-publishing?

The pros – to me – are getting sales when someone hits your link and buys one. The cons are the tiring promotions that you undertake that sometimes never result in anything. You do this on your own time and – in some cases – with your own money. You just have to fight against the frustrations and believe in the work you do. And it can get very frustrating.

Any advice for someone thinking of self publishing?

Yes. Think long and hard about it. Do not think of the financial rewards and expect to be a millionaire overnight. My rule of thumb? If something isn’t working, bin it and start again. If you decide to publish, have a 100% total faith in the work and be prepared for long periods of frustration. If you like it, chances are that others will too. But once you start, never give up.

What is your take on the marketing process?

I hate marketing. I was a salesman for nearly ten years and made a lot of money for others. But everything is marketed differently and trying to do the same for your own work can give you crazy thoughts. I keep going by thinking things like; ‘My books are in someone else’s home! And they paid for them!’ This still strikes me as very surreal.

What are some of the things you do to market your work?

I started really marketing five years ago – 2010 - when I published The Romance of Dracula. I was writing blogs for internet sites and magazines. I was networking through social groups and author pages. I was even giving copies away. TROD did well on its first two years and it pleases me that people still pick it up today. It has made its way into overseas libraries thanks to some amazing friends and I now market just by adding my links to social media. I have pages dedicated to all my books and various horror characters that are managed by my sister! She works lovingly on them every day. Another friend in Australia has placed my first three books in the State Lending Library of Southern Australia! And still another friend manages the bulk of my twitter account. These people are really God-given and I wouldn’t be without any of them. I can only offer my gratitude to them as they have shouldered two and a half years responsibility for my work – and they are STILL talking to me.

What do you like or dislike about that side of the creative process?

As above. The friends who help are amazing and it certainly pays to an extent to network and blog. I’ve never been comfortable with blogging or discussing methods as most of my ventures happen through happy accident or emotional frames of mind. The Romance of Dracula had it all in there. It is a very raw book in that respect. As I say, I do hate marketing and wish that everyone just pressed on my link and bought a book. How easy that would be.

What’s your favorite vampire movie?

"Nosferatu" (1921) without a doubt. It will never be beaten.

What’s your favorite vampire book?

Dracula, Bram Stoker.

Were others in your family creative?

Apparently, my dad had some creative drawing style going on, but never pursued it – he had eight kids after all! But all my siblings have their own distinctions. I am the only one to venture outside the box in the family and I like to think they are proud of my efforts. In reality, I only have myself to please and if I am pleased, then it has been a good day.

Are there any rituals you follow before drawing or writing?

Unless it is a commission, no. With a commission, I try and see what the customer sees and hope that we agree on the finished work. My own published works are written with myself in mind. Again, if I like it, chances are others will too. I have thrown more work away than will ever see publication.

Do you have any music that puts you in the mood?

No, I like all kinds of music and films. My biggest foe is procrastination and self-doubt. These are the obstacles I imagine that many creative people confront. I keep going by reminding myself that if I stop, everything stops.

Do you have any hobbies?

Funny thing, my hobbies are drawing, writing and acting! Life is a hobby.

You also have acting experience. How did you get involved with that? Do you still do it? 

I started acting with local theatre groups twenty years ago. I’ve trodden the boards of many venues. Appeared in TV shows and again, written and directed my own plays and short films. One of the films was showcased in New Orleans in 2011! I’m really proud of that.

What’s the next project you’re working on?

I have several writing projects at the moment. All indie publishing. I have some drawing commissions to fulfill. My latest is actually a collaboration to illustrate a book on the major film adaptations of A Christmas Carol that I should have started by the time this interview goes to print. Plus, I am trying to get some graphic comic book ideas literally down on paper. My next book on the horror cinema should be hitting online shelves next year – mid-March (2016) – and it is chronicling werewolf movies throughout the years.

For information on Charles and his books you can visit his Amazon page.

Thanks for stopping by, Charles.

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