Monday, 18 February 2013

Meet A Writer Monday Presents...

... J E Cammon

1. Tell me about your book and where you got your inspiration.

This book is the third in a series, and I can't speak much on having inspiration as much as I was following the story. There were three main characters in the first book, and each book since has followed one of those main characters on their own personal journey. The two other characters are Nick, a cursed mage turned hunter on a quest to right wrongs-his included- before his time runs out, and David, a lycanthrope trying to survive in man's world while only acknowledging that half of himself. This book lies in the wake of Jarvis, the slave-turned-vampire, and the work opens up the cosmology of the series a good bit. I feel like readers are going to experience some unexpected twists, and might even read about things they hadn't considered existing within the supernatural cosmos. 

2. Ninjas or Pirates?

I think ninjas are cooler, but if I was going to be one, it would probably be a pirate. Ninjas seem to be all about being cloaked and masked, striking with impunity and impossible to catch. However, that comes with a lot of structure and sacrifice and training. Pirates on the other hand are all about freedom, seizing the horizon, and whatever else one fancies. No credentials or training required, just a sharp whit and wanderlust. I think I'd be a pretty good pirate, and a lackluster ninja.

3. Do you have a writing process? If so, describe it.

I was taught once that to advance any story, all one has to do is move a character closer or farther away from what they desire. I guess that's my process. When I sit down and write out an outline, I think about what the story is about, and who it is about. When I flesh out those characters, I brainstorm on where they start, where they're going, and why. I never have much problem with that until they start clashing with each other, and those clashes result in death and other outcomes that can't be taken back. Here recently, I realized that two sets of characters had goals that were mutually exclusive, and that things were beginning to happen that could not be undone. As I like my characters, it all made for some tough decision-making.

4. If someone came up to you and wanted to tell you about an idea or a book they were writing, what would you do? Or what advice would you give?

 I think I would welcome the opportunity to hear someone out. This is my third publication, but I've gotten at least 20 times that in rejections. I know the value of just taking the time to hear someone out, so it would mean a lot to do that for someone else. As far as advice goes, I would tell them about my experiences. Hearing no, not hearing back at all, big things really being small things, or becoming nothing. I'd tell them that ultimately being a writer, or being anything, is about the work. Writers write. The success of any book idea, therefore, is going to occur on the back of hours and days and weeks of writing and editing and writing and editing. I'd tell them not to give up, because it can be a very solitary undertaking. No one's going to have the same capacity to care as much about the words they're putting down as they do, so if it's going to breathe, the air will have to come from their own lungs and no one else's.

5. How do you react to bad reviews of your books?

I try to respond to the bad reviews just like I respond to the good ones. I try to stay even keel about things, and, good or bad, keep in mind that it's just one person's opinion. I've had good reviews that didn't really give me the impression of understanding. I've had bad reviews that sounded like the person really tried to figure out what was going on, and simply came away unimpressed or disappointed. It's easier for me to live with the second review than the first, actually. There are all kinds of tastes out there, which allows for there being all kinds of stories, and therefore authors.  

6. Would you rather write for children or adults?

A lot of my stories occur from my wondering about something I couldn't myself figure out. In a way, they're like really long, vague answers to questions I can't always articulate. I really relish a situation where I get to have a conversation about something I wrote with someone who read it, or even wrote something similar. Writing for children seems to be more about helping or educating them in some direct or indirect fashion. In that way, I feel really under qualified and unworthy. 

7. Have you ever killed someone in a novel and regretted it later?

No, although I did write a character once who I assumed would die. I examined his ability and compared it to the task before him and reasoned "Oh, well this guy just isn't going to make it." I didn't write him out of my outline, but I also didn't project forward with his being alive in mind. As I wrote though, he turned out to be quick of thought and foot, if not powerful. He escaped every brush with death with only moderate injury. His pluckiness won me over, and he actually ended up being a major character, loved by my beta readers. Not only did he survive the first book, but every novel in the series. Just goes to show what tenacity can get you.

8. What are books for?

I think stories are for conveying truth, things that can only be internalized after living, or purchasing whatever wisdom. Before that experience, the knowledge is much less real. After, it's like the truth was with us the whole time and we had only forgotten it. At least, I think that's what stories used to be for. Now they're used for a lot of other different things, too. And books can contain stories.

9. What do you like most about being a writer?

What I like most about being a writer is having an outlet for my creativity. I love telling stories. It seems unavoidable that I have them, so writing is a great way to put them down somewhere so I don't have to keep carrying them around. And also, being a writer is a good way for me to investigate possibilities. I can't fly, but if I could, what would it be like? Like this or that, I write. 

10. If you could ask your favourite author one question, who would it be and what would you ask?

It would be Glen Cook. His books rescued me from the serial misery of the late Robert Jordan and Terry Brooks, and taught me that there is a different way to tell any story, no matter who came along before and canonized a particular method. And that just because your book isn't a doorstop, doesn't mean that it can't be great. I would ask him about his life, because I think there's no way he could write the way he does, about the kinds of things that he writes about, without having had some rich experiences. Not a biography that I could access via wikipedia, those stories he only shares with his family and friends, the ones he uses to transmute wisdom. 

11. How did you come up with the title for your latest book?

All of my titles in this series are Where Shadows Lie: X. At the time I thought it was actually semi-unique. Was pretty wrong about that. But I guess the individual titles are more like subtitles. Going in, I knew I wanted the base of every story, of the whole story, to be about that. Shadows laying, and also speaking untruths. So, each of the titles pertains to a place, either more concrete or abstract. The first was Bay City, the next was Hunting Grounds, and this is Steeler's Mill. 

12. What are your current projects?

Currently, I'm writing on the second book of a science fiction series I started last year. I hope to finish it by Spring. It's looking to be a trilogy, but we'll see. The central character is a young man who is a member of a category of human that have psychic powers. Because of this he is feared, but because of his age, he's also as ignorant about life as he is powerful. The story takes place on a wild solar system frontier, a place humanity has migrated to following an exodus from alien bondage. It's about learning and love and life, with spaceships. I'm also working on shorter stories to submit to contests, of the same genre. I usually don't win, but that also means a lot of my shorts can be found online in places like for free. 

13. Do you recall how your interest in writing occurred?

What I tell people is that I've been writing for as long as I can remember, but then again my memory isn't perfect. One of my most vivid memories is sitting in a Calculus II class writing. I was scribbling a story in the middle of class, and I really, really should have been taking notes. When I got back to the dorm the first thing I did was tell my roommate about what I was developing. That happened a lot, somewhat continuously. Eventually, someone posed the question of "what would you do if you didn't have to worry about money?" and the answer was easy. It was pointed out to me that if I did what was in me to do as a profession, I'd never work a day in my life.

14. If you could choose one person, living or dead, real of fictional to mentor you, who would you choose?

I have kind of a long list in mind for this. Ironically, I don't think I'd ever want a real person to mentor me unless I already knew them. Like I could say Glen Cook, but he might be a much better writer than mentor, whereas someone like Gandolf has been exposed to much scrutiny. I would know his reaction if I were to, say, accidentally open some pandora's box somewhere and doom the world. He would still stick by me and help me out where he could. And I say all that because my mentor wasn't as helpful as he could have been when I told him I was going to write what he describes as "genre fiction." I was raised in a contemporary literary tradition, and both my literary father and grandfather are those kinds of "serious" authors. The word vampire occurs in my first publication, and somewhat frequently. I won't say that he wrote me off, but he did say it was a phase that would pass. If I had to pick someone real, it would probably be someone like Neil Gaimann or Steven King. Someone less real? Merlin. 

15. What's your favorite love story?

 Actually, my favorite romance occurs in a very dark and gritty fantasy wartime book. Even though it was between main characters, I wouldn't say that the books were about their relationship. Even still, I loved how realistic and accessible and different it was. For once, the woman in the couple had most of the power, a sorceress of immense ability, an overlord of vast resources. The man was a clever and seasoned mercenary in her employ, with a past he rarely talked about. During the story, she loses much of her power, an entire empire as well, and has to adjust to a new way of life with him as they flee her enemies. She doesn't shrivel up or need coddling, though. She's as tough as him, even more so, and they continually surprise each other throughout a relationship of decades as they learn about one another. They grow old together. His hair falls out; they both put on weight. It even has a happy ending. Except for all the danger and blood, the story has the kind of shape that I'd want for my own marriage. I think that's probably why it's my favorite.


The vampire Jarvis has seen much in his centuries of being: slavery, wars, and the birth of a nation. The town of Steeler’s Mill is his next stop. The vampire is in search of a place to dwell on his immortality in peace. However, something is amiss in the tiny slum of a train-stop town. The Mill is more than what it seems. There are hidden doors to other worlds beyond mirrors and shadow, where there stalk things that feed on dreams and hope. Things the vampire thought were only legend.

Finally, he had reached the place called Steeler’s Mill. The train stopped, and in his hand the small vial lolled back and forth, spun gently like it had its own will and desires. Jarvis slid the door open and inspected his new home. In the night, from the train yard, the place looked the same. For a moment, he wondered at maybe seeing David, or even Nick again, and thought it would have been nice. As he walked, Jarvis discovered new things, and they spoke that this was not the place he had haunted for so long. Before him, birds took flight, rats scurried, and other night walking animals ran from sight; some of them held their ground and snarled, barked, and whined.
A bit of time passed before he stopped in the street, sensing others like him. They were many, but weak. The sensation blossomed into a memory in his mind. The last time Jarvis had sensed so many young ones he was still relatively unknowing himself. He was still carving out his territory, and there had been a great convening. Some believed in a solitary way of things, while others thought that quantity was the best way to exist. Jarvis’ only contribution was that Bay City was his, and all those who disagreed would either flee or perish. He had fought and destroyed so many, but in the end it was for nothing. Being adaptable proved to be the most useful trait. Things would be different this time, he thought. He came upon them like he had that last time. There was no conversation, and no quarter. Some of them had no idea at how to use their strength; most had no strength at all to use. When it was done, the place was quiet and Jarvis surveyed the location. The others were so young that decay did not touch them. Most of their bones remained draped in flesh. . Jarvis had not found a substantial member of the fallen, but if they had a leader, they would either leave, or they would die. Jarvis would not take the whole city, this time. He would take only what he needed.


About J. E Cammon

J. E. Cammon has lived in the Atlanta area since the summer of 1998, uprooted from the soil of the Midwest and replanted in different clae. He graduated from high school, and college there, too, and enjoys spending his days thinking of fantastic pasts, paranormal presents, and possible futures. When he talks to himself, it's always in the form of questions like "What if" and "Why not and he only rarely answers out loud, preferring instead to write things that seem a bit like answers, but mostly like stories.


  1. Another awesome interview Sonnet...And another fascinating guest! Way to to JE ;)

  2. I second that about Glen Cook ... wonderful storyteller!

  3. Interesting post. I don't write outlines, but I do write synopses, since I'm a plotter, not a pantser. I've always been drawn to the dark side, but so far my vampires have always been villains. This series of yours that begans with the vampire sounds intriguing. Jane