28 April 2015
Note From Rochelle
Greetings! I spent Saturday at the Wisconsin Romance Writers of America conference, soaking up tips on writing romance for young adults. The conference was held in conjunction with the annual Barbara Vey Reader Appreciation Luncheon, which brought together 60 authors with more than 500 readers. I didn’t attend the luncheon, but had a chance to meet some of the authors, including Tess Gerritsen. And I got a whole bunch of books and swag!
Today I have a special treat for you, an interview with award-winning author Dana Cameron. I met Dana at Murder and Mayhem in Milwaukee and fell in love with her books. Read the interview then enter to win a copy of her newest book, Hellbender.
Happy Writing! Rochelle, the Write Now! Coach
You’re an archaeologist by training. Do you still work as an archaeologist? How did you make the transition from archaeologist to author?
Hi Rochelle—thanks for having me!
I no longer work as an archaeologist and there are days when I miss being in the field (usually around deadlines or when the weather is gorgeous). As for that transition…it was unexpected. A guy came onto a site where I was working and pulled out a gun. He was trying to steal artifacts, and luckily, he left before something bad happened, but it was…scary. Shortly after that field season, I found myself writing a series of six mystery novels featuring amateur sleuth, archaeologist Emma Fielding, starting with Site Unseen.
Then a few years later, my friends Charlaine Harris and Toni L.P. Kelner invited me to write a short story for one of their urban fantasy anthologies. Writing that story was amazing fun and led to a lot more Fangborn short stories. Eventually, those in turn led me to write the Fangborn series, which features a young archaeologist (and werewolf) named Zoe Miller. They are: Seven Kinds of Hell, Pack of Strays, and most recently, Hellbender, all published by 47North.
I’ve loved both of your series featuring strong women who work in archeology—the mystery series with Emma Fielding and the urban fantasy series with Zoe Miller. What kinds of decisions and plans did you need to make at the beginning of a series?
Thank you! With the first series, I didn’t really make plans because I had no idea I’d be published. I started to write after telling a friend about the incident above, and she said, “You need to write this down!” And boom, instantly, I had to try. I wrote, took a writing class, then joined a critique group. I went to the Bread Loaf Writers Conference where I found my first agent. But with the Emma books, I did want to show what it was like to be an archaeologist, to give readers a look behind the scenes of what really goes on during a dig.
When I got to the Fangborn books, I had much more experience writing. I wanted to keep the archaeology, because I love it and it would give Zoe a way to explore the history of the Fangborn and make sense of her world. I wanted her to start off as someone who was on the margins in every way, but who grew into the power she discovered she had. And I wanted to show characters with different kinds of strengths working together. It was a way to look at a lot of big life questions for me.
The first thing was that I did was to invert many of the traditional tropes about werewolves, vampires, and oracles. My characters are superheroes working in secret to protect humanity from evil; my vampires need sun to charge up and my shifters can change form whenever they want. Shapeshifting stories appear in most cultures run the gamut from godlike, to good, to evil. I decided that all of these traditions were connected, just places where the Fangborn failed to cover their tracks and got incorporated into local folklore. What lends an air of believability, I hope, to my world is that I describe real artifacts and places the reader might know.
What does your writing life look like?
I have an office at home and work with music, making a playlist for every story or novel. It’s really helpful with focus, and if I am writing a series, I can listen to earlier playlists and get right back into that mindset. I usually warm up after breakfast with email and social media, then figure out what has to get done that day. I try always to have two or three things going, to have something to work on when one project is stuck. The cats can come in and hang out, as long as they behave. I work until lunch, eat, and then go back until about five or so. I aim for about four to eight pages a day, less for short stories, and I don’t outline. Most of my ideas come from my travel and museum visits. I have beta readers whom I really trust when I’m done with a first draft.
What are some of the best books you’ve read lately?
I was in awe of Mike Carey’s The Girl with All the Gifts. The Martian was so compelling and so inspiring—it was great to see how the main character used logic and science to survive. And I’ve been reading a lot of comics lately: Captain Marvel, Ms. Marvel, Bitch Planet, and Afterlife with Archie are all amazing.
Thanks so much, Dana! Readers, don’t forget to enter to win a copy of Hellbender!
About the author: Dana Cameron writes fiction inspired by her career as an archaeologist. In addition to the six Emma Fielding mystery novels (starting with Site Unseen), Dana’s short fiction evokes the darker side of life, ranging from the Anna Hoyt colonial noir stories (the first was “Femme Sole”) to thrillers and the “Fangborn” urban fantasy world. The latest novel in the Fangborn series, Hellbender, combines archaeology with werewolves, vampires, and oracles and was published in March by 47North. Her work has won multiple Anthony, Agatha, and Macavity Awards, and has been nominated for the Edgar Award. Dana lives in Beverly, Massachusetts. Visit her online at: www.danacameron.com