... J. E. Cammon
1. Tell me about your book Where Shadows Lie: Bay City and where you got your inspiration for it?
My book falls squarely into the niche created by shows like Being Human. Back when I wrote it seven years ago, it was an interesting idea to me because so much urban fantasy had human heroes and heroines, with lycanthropes and vampires and zombies and witches pegged usually in the villainous role. I was invested in taking similarly round individuals, and then giving them the conflicts of those conditions, diseases, afflictions, to see what that would look like. The result was the first novel, and then several subsequent efforts that let me flesh out the setting that would see such characters exist and change.
2. What do you think is the biggest challenge of writing a new book?
I think the biggest challenge of writing a new book, of doing anything really, is the fear of failure. And when it’s a creative idea, there is not only the doubt of it being any good, there’s also the doubt that it will be original enough. On the one hand, writing a book, taking an idea out of oneself and putting it down on paper can be cathartic and fulfilling, but on the other hand a lot of authors write books to be authors, to enjoy some sort of success or at least praise, and in that regard the product has to live up to many others’ expectations. That can put a lot of pressure on something that is inherently fragile because it is untested and unrecognizable because it is by and large original.
3. Are the titles of your books important?
Yes. All the titles in this series, for instance, are Where Shadows Lie followed by a place, and the place is pertinent to the story behind the title. Sometimes they are literal places, like in the first book, Bay City, and sometimes they are more metaphorical, like in the second book, Hunting Grounds, which I intended to be both places where hunting takes place, as well as circumstances that call for hunting. What it means to be a hunter. I try to put meaning into all the words I use, and since the title is what readers will see first, what they will share with one another, I work pretty hard on my titles.
4. How much of your book is realistic?
Well it’s about supernatural phenomenon, so I guess it’s about as realistic as those kinds of things are. I personally don’t believe such creatures exist. But first and foremost, I wrote the characters to be real people, with authentic reactions to their extraordinary circumstances. So, in regards to reality, yes, but also not so much.
5. Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Getting the reader to see what I see has proven to be tremendously difficult, and endlessly fascinating. I have an idea of something in my head, and I go about describing what it looks like, what it sounds like, what it smells like, where it is, and what it’s doing. And I fall short pretty often, when I talk to readers. I work very consistently on smaller things and try to get feedback on what works and what doesn’t, and the fact of the matter the more complex the information, the more differently two given people will perceive the information. It’s true to say that not everyone will get it, but it’s very difficult for me to accept that.
6. What was the toughest criticism given to you as a writer and the nicest compliment?
For the negative, a good friend of mine once told me that it was regrettable that I had chosen to write about the things I write about. My mentor said the same. It was tough to hear that because it meant that my interests did not align with my skill set, to some degree, which is like telling a college student about to graduate that they should not practice in the field of their major because it wouldn’t work out. I don’t know about the nicest compliment. Positive things have been said, but they were mostly pretty generic. I have some really positive reviews; one reader said my writing was like if Ernest Hemingway wrote fantasy. That’s good, right?
7. Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Do you have any advice on how to deal with the bad?
If I can, I respond to all of my reviews. Most don’t allow for that sort of thing, but if a reader wants to engage, I will respond every time, without fail. I do so because even if they hated it, they still went out of their way to read it, and then respond to it. The opposite of love isn’t hate. It’s apathy. People have all sorts of options to entertain themselves, so if they got my book, and read it, I’m thankful. I’m saddest when someone gives my work a try, puts it down, and then puts it out of their mind forever.
8. Do you have any suggestions to help someone become a better writer? If so, what are they?
I was told to read, write, and live. I stand by that. Reading helps strengthen the muscles of what language is supposed to do, shouldn’t do, and can do. Writing works very similarly, except it focuses specifically on what the writer’s writing can do, and it becomes more effective, flexible, and dynamic, just like with any other kind of practice. And they say write what you know, and you can’t know, if you don’t go out and do whatever activity. It’s hard to describe zip-lining over a inland rainforest effectively without having some sort of experience zip-lining, or without ever walking through or flying low over a rainforest. The richest stories often come from people who have no real understanding of how prose works, but were elbow deep in whatever they are describing.
9. What are you ambitions for your writing career?
Honestly, I’m extremely ambitious. I think it would be pretty cool to be a household name, with my stories made into the kinds of movies that launch actors’ careers and television franchises. I would love to be stuck behind a bus in traffic, and then look up to see an ad for one of my books across the back of it. But I also know how hard it is just to live off of what one makes selling books. So that’s my main goal, to tell people I’m a writer when they ask me what it is I do, because when people ask that, what they mean is what I do to make money to pay my mortgage and put gas in my car. What I vacation from, when I go on vacation, and what pays for that time away. My ambition is to be able to tell them that I’m a writer.
10. What are your thoughts on writing a book series?
I believe happy endings depend on where one stops the story. To that end, I believe that stories can be about as long or as short as we want. Some ends make more sense, there’s a certain feel for when something is over. And sometimes, fan bases won’t let a creator or creative team end something where they originally intended. I think book series are by-products of a few of these different kinds of things. First, I wouldn’t want a reader carrying around a doorstop. I think 800 pages is too much for a book, so, the story can be divided, or pared down. Second, if the story has natural breaks in it, and continuations consistent with its internal logic, then a sequel and subsequent series makes sense. In my personal experience, whenever I approached a series I tried to think of the books like paragraphs: identify the main idea of the book, follow that, and when that journey is over, the book ends. There might be a later book, but that more specific telling becomes finished.
11. A penguin walks through that door right now wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why is he here?
In an Australian accent, he says “I bet you were expecting me to say Hola, Amigo.” And I would say he is some sort of collections agent, not by trade, but is looking into changing careers because since moving away from home, his degree in ice sculpting has proven insolvent in this job market. Unfortunately, I’m not who he’s looking for, but I can’t really leave him alone either, because that’s just too strange. I mean, an Aussie penguin?
12. If a two year old hands you a toy phone, do you answer it?
That depends on whether they want me to make a call, or talk to someone they were just talking to. If I have to make a call, then we probably have to have a conversation about international service charges, the date line, things like that. I can’t be responsible if we call the moon, and it’s yesterday. Where are this child’s guardians?
13. What would be the most gratifying thing a fan could do in your opinion?
It’s always special when I get a new reader because they heard about me through an old one. An author friend of mine showed me a Wikipedia page a fan made for her works. That was pretty awesome. Basically, any effort they put in on their own accord, sacrificing their own time and energy, because they enjoyed what I created, is very, very gratifying.
14. To what would you like to devote more time?
Funny you should ask. Writing.
15. If you had to dispose of a dead body, how would you do it?
I don’t know if it’s going to work out for them, but some characters I started watching on television carried theirs into the woods, and burned it. Supposedly that cleans off their DNA, and disposes of the body. If it were just me, though... I can’t think of anything that wouldn’t leave a paper trail or produce some amount of eye witnesses. Even driving in the dead of night to some place known for animal attacks there’d be evidence on my car and clothes. I guess I could immediately get new tires... Which reminds me, I need new tires.
A star fall's light briefly uncovers the obdurate mask of evening over a world that looks suspiciously like our own. What it illuminates is the underbelly of an eastern US seaport, and the creatures hiding beneath in an effort to understand, belong, and simply exist. Who is David, and why is he so far away from his clan? Before Nick, his only friend was a vampire named Jarvis, however Nick's only gift seems to be a curse: to bring change wherever he goes, so maybe he isn’t much of a friend.
Where the three disparate souls find secrets, and answers to their questions, they also find a volume of yet more mysteries and it's possible that by story's end, all of them will have wished they hadn't been present on the evening when everything changed irrevocably forever. Is it worth trading everything to the darkness to know anything? After all, shadows lie, but what's a supernatural creature to do when where shadows lie, is home?
About J. E Cammon
J. E. Cammon has lived in the Atlanta area since the summer of 98, uprooted from the soil of the Midwest and replanted in different clay. 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.