If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com

Our September Author Interviews--9/6 Kathleen Valenti, 9/13 David Burnsworth, 9/20 Jeri Westerson, 9/27 Frances Brody. Please join us in welcoming these authors to WWK.

September Saturday Guest Bloggers: 9/2--Anne Bannon, 9/9 WWK Bloggers, 9/16 Margaret S. Hamilton, 9/23 Kait Carson, and on 9/30 Trixie Stiletto.


“May 16, 2017 – The Women’s Fiction Writers Association (WFWA) today announced the finalists of the second annual Star Award, given to authors of published women’s fiction. Six finalists were chosen in two categories, General and Outstanding Debut. The winners of the Star Award will be announced at the WFWA Retreat in Albuquerque, New Mexico on September 23, 2017.” In the general category, WWK’s Carla Damron was one of three finalist for her novel, The Stone Necklace. Go to Carladamron.com for more information. Congratulations, Carla!

Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Warren Bull's new Lincoln mystery, Abraham Lincoln In Court & Campaign has been released. Look for the Kindle version on February 3.

Shari Randall's "Pets" will be included in Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies anthology, which will be published in 2018. In the same anthology "Rasputin," KM Rockwood's short story, will also be published. Her short story "Goldie" will be published in the Busted anthology, which will be released by Level Best Books on April 25th.

In addition, our prolific KM will have the following shorts published as well: "Sight Unseen" in Fish Out of Water, Guppie (SinC) anthology, just released, and "Making Tracks" in Passport to Murder, Bouchercon anthology, October 2017.

Margaret S. Hamilton's short story, "Once a Kappa" was published as a finalist in the Southern Writer's Magazine annual short story contest issue. Mysterical-E published her "Double Crust Corpse" in the Fall 2016 issue. "Baby Killer" will appear in the 2017 solar eclipse anthology Day of the Dark to be published this summer prior to the eclipse in August.

James M. Jackson's 4th book in the Seamus McCree series, Doubtful Relations, is now available. His novella "Low Tide at Tybee" appears February 7 as part of Lowcountry Crimes: Four Novellas, which is available for order.
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Saturday, March 2, 2013

An Interview with DANA CAMERON

Photograph by James Goodwin

Dana Cameron is a wonderful individual and marvelous author (having won multiple Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity awards and been nominated for an Edgar). She has the distinction of writing in at least four different genres: (1) archeological mysteries (her New England archeologist Emma Fielding is the protagonist in six novels and one short story); (2) historical and colonial noir (featuring Margaret Chase and Anna Hoyt); (3) urban fantasy (her Fangborn characters, previously showcased in short stories, make their first novel appearance in March 2013 in Seven Kinds of Hell); and (4) thriller (a new short story with assassin protagonist Jayne will appear soon).
To meet her is to come face-to-face with intellect, curiosity, wit, and intense caring for people, culture, and animals, including her husband James Goodwin (who takes fabulous photographs) and the benevolent feline overlords in their lives. She speaks with enthusiasm on a variety of diverse topics such as travel, food, music, Sherlock Holmes, and Dr. Who. Her posts on Facebook, her website (www.danacameron.com), and as a member of the Femme Fatales (www.femmesfatalesauthors.com) provide a fascinating insight into her latest discoveries as well as her writing life. She is generous to a fault in offering support and encouragement to writers, and in sharing her experiences with readers.

Dana, welcome to WWK and thank you for taking the time to tell us about yourself and your work.
Thank you so much for having me, Paula! And thank you for your warm words!

You have a distinguished background in archeology and academia. Has that part of your life ever competed with your fiction writing life and, if so, how did you resolve the competition?

There were times when I was supposed to be writing non-fiction that I was actually furiously writing one of the Emma Fielding archaeology mysteries. It made for a very busy schedule, but I still met my deadlines! There have been times working on archaeological research that I was trying to remember where I'd found this really wonderful diary or historical document...only to remember I'd made it up for one of the novels. The cross-roads came just after I got my first contract for the Emma books. I realized I could keep teaching part time, and keep applying for tenure-track jobs that would most likely take me away from the home we'd made in Massachusetts, or I could have a crack at writing full time.

I wouldn't have started writing fiction without having been an archaeologist for twenty years first. The only job I can think of that I would have traded archaeology for is writing. I've been very lucky.

Part of your education as a fiction writer was to attend the prestigious Bread Loaf Writers Conference. Could you tell a little about your experience there and how it influenced your writing?

I really had no idea what I was getting into. It had been recommended to me, and seemed like a good way to get stronger, better, and more diverse criticism. I'd read Walter Mosley had been there, and that was strong incentive as I admire his writing tremendously. The campus at Middlebury is gorgeous and the program was full of people who were passionate about writing: amazing readings and workshops, writing 24/7—I loved that! But there were two things I had to overcome. One was that many of the students had a bias against genre fiction, which I wasn't expecting. The faculty was great about that: either you had a story that worked, or it didn't, and they were there to teach you how to make it better. The other thing was that because I don't come from an English background, I didn't understand the language they were using to describe writing. For about three days I floundered, until it hit me: they're talking about critical analysis! I do that all the time, but for documents other people wrote 200-300 years ago. It all fell into place, then. It was like Parris Island for writers: tough, emotionally draining, rewarding.

The two main influences: my instructor there taught me the value of honest critique—telling the truth to someone about their work (when they ask you) is one of the greatest gifts you can give someone. And I found my first agent there, who eventually sold the Emma Fielding books. It was a very important ten days for me as a writer.

You have excelled in writing both short stories and novels. How do you approach writing each discipline?

Mostly with excitement, fear, and uncertainty! I love the challenge of a new project but then, fear settles in. I've learned to make that work for me; usually, the main character is worried about something, or has a problem to solve, so I try to take the thrill of starting something new and infuse that into the story. With short stories, if I find the main POV character first, the rest follows, and a goal, the obstacles to that goal, and the theme of the story emerges. With a novel, I write the scenes as they come to me, out of order. It's like seeing scenes in a movie, and I rearrange them later. It's very exciting, writing by the seat of my pants, but it works for me.
Your writing has spanned genres and time periods (archeological mystery, historical, colonial noir, urban fantasy, and thriller). Does one type of writing fuel another or do you have to keep them compartmentalized?

They do tend to fuel each other. I'll usually have more than one project going at a time, and when I run out of steam on one, I pick up the other. And if I'm running into a problem with an element that doesn't fit into the thing I'm working on, it usually ends up that it will fit in the other WIP. Your brain is often solving problems for several projects at once, and it really refines a writer's editorial skills to figure out where the idea you've just had goes.

The Fangborn families of werewolves and vampires charged with protecting humans are your own unique creations. How would you describe them?

I've turned a lot of the conventions on their heads, and so werewolves, vampires, and oracles are secret superheroes. The werewolves are inclined to “track and tear,” and the vampires don't feed off human blood but alter its chemistry to heal and mislead humans about the existence of Fangborn. Oracles are the wild cards, and have a variety of wonky powers, from telepathy, to precognition, to simple luckiness.

I think of Seven Kinds of Hell as “Buffy meets The X-Men meets Raiders of the Lost Ark.”

The characters for your Fangborn stories arose out of short stories. How did you approach a Fangborn novel differently from writing the short stories?

Seven Kinds of Hell arose from two WIPs that were, unbeknownst to me, two halves of the same book. The main difference is that the protagonist doesn't know she's a werewolf. Part of the novel is her coming to grips with her identity and the obligations of being Fangborn, and part of it has to do with questioning what the Fangborn believe they are. Most of the short stories take place in one or two locations; Seven Kinds of Hell is a globe-trotting adventure.

In Seven Kinds of Hell, you introduce a new Fangborn character Zoe Miller and bring your archeological expertise to urban fantasy. How was this different from writing your archeological mysteries?

It's different because in the Emma Fielding archaeology mysteries, I'm really sticking close to the reality of being an archaeologist. In the Fangborn novels, I'm utilizing Zoe's skills as an archaeologist to help her unravel the history and identity of the Fangborn. Seven Kinds of Hell is a much broader canvas, and I explore bigger themes in it.

Dr. Emma Fielding, the professor archaeologist hero in your mystery series, initially appeared in novels, but recently has been featured in the Agatha nominated short story “Mischief in Mesopotamia” in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine (November 2012). How did it feel returning to Emma and what were the challenges of writing about her in a short story as opposed to a novel?

It was very strange revisiting Emma because she'd clearly moved on with her life after the end of Ashes and Bones. It was easy to do a short story, because it was one brief event, the murder on the tour through Turkey. It was challenging because we'd both gone our separate ways.

Anna Hoyt, an independent and resourceful colonial woman who has appeared so far only in the short stories like “Femme Sole,” “Disarming,” and “Ardent,” is an intricate and complex character. What inspired you to write about Anna and would you like to see her as the
subject of a novel?

I was asked to contribute a story to Boston Noir, and had a very short amount of time to get the story done. Besides that deadline, I was driven by the desire to do something different, but that had all the traditional components of a noir story. I know Boston well, and chose the North End because I'd researched a lot about merchants and life in shipping communities, and decided on a story set on the 18th century because I felt comfortable writing about crime and social tension then.

Anna's hard to spend time with, but I intend to spin her life into a novel...when I have the time.

What have you learned from attending writers conferences in different genres?

That the story and characters are the most important things, no matter the genre. But you also need to honor the conventions of the genre in which you're working—or at least acknowledge them. The wonderful thing is that there's a lot of overlap in what people read, and you encounter romance and mystery panels at SF/F conventions and supernatural panels at mystery conventions.

How does music influence your writing?

I can't write without music. If a work has stalled, often I need to find different music to get it back on track. If I think something will work, and I'm wrong, I have to chuck it. I used a lot of 17th- and 18th-century music when writing my first Anna Hoyt story, “Femme Sole.”

But after I'd established the parameters of her world, I started needing music with a woman's voice, singing about a woman in danger. With Seven Kinds of Hell and its sequels, I'm listening to a lot of music with young female vocalists—almost anything by Metric—to capture Zoe's character, then a lot of movie soundtracks and electronic dance music to drive the pace and action of the story.

What words of wisdom would you offer aspiring writers?

Finish your project. Find the best criticism you can, someone who will be honest but not make it personal. Write as often as you can. Try different things. When you're reading, and you find something that you love, try to analyze it asking: why did it work? What did I like about it? How did the author do that? Edit, edit, edit. Then rack up the rejection letters, and learn from them, until you get a “yes!”

You have seen many parts of the world. Has any one of those places made an indelible impression that you have not written about yet, but feel certain you will in the future?

I use a lot of places I've traveled or lived in Seven Kinds of Hell—Boston, London, Paris, Berlin, Delos, Ephesus. I'm using the experiences from my trip to Alaska during the 2007 Bouchercon in the next book—I loved visiting there! There was a trip to Scandinavia last year, and that will certainly be featured in the next book. And I'm traveling to Japan next year; I've been dying to go for decades, now, and that will certainly end up in my work.

E.B. Davis always likes to ask our guests if they prefer the mountains or the beach. Do you have a preference?

I love mountains for the amazing views and different climates you encounter, but I really prefer the beach. Staring at the horizon over the ocean puts things into perspective, and if you need inspiration, the history of humanity on the water will bring it. It's also incredibly soothing.

Thank you very much for having me at Writers Who Kill!

15 comments:

Paula Gail Benson said...

Dana, thank you for taking the time to visit with us. Best wishes for great success with Seven Kinds of Hell and all your writing.

James Montgomery Jackson said...

Dana,

I really love seeing people able to do the work they really enjoy. Based on this interview, it sure appears that applies to you. Congratulations.

Best of luck on all varied writing projects.

~ Jim

Pauline Alldred said...

Dana, I admire the variety of your work, the stories and the characters. I'm guessing traveling helps you see different perspectives and personalities. Pauline

Dana Cameron said...

Thank you for doing such a wonderful job, Paula, and thanks you you, Jim, and the other Writers Who Kill for having me!

Pauline, travel really does fuel my work--plus it's a lot of fun!

Warren Bull said...

Great interview. I admire the range of your writing.

Dana Cameron said...

Thank you so much, Warren! I've been lucky to have so many opportunities to challenge myself.

Gloria Alden said...

Wonderful interview, Dana and Paula. I'm hoping to see you, Dana, at Malice so I can get some of your books signed.

E. B. Davis said...

I'm amazed at the multiple genres in which you write. I've studied mystery for a long time and still think there is a lot to learn. Analyzing and writing in two or three boggles me.

Juggling several projects at once also boggles me. I must get into my character to write. Perhaps I'm not a quick change artist--and writing with music isn't something that lends itself to me.

I met you briefly at Malice last year. We must have been interested in the same panels because we also ended up going to many of the same ones. I doubt you remember me, but I'll try to introduce myself again this year.

Learning how you work in and of itself has been an education, Dana. Thanks for sharing with us.

Gail Farrelly said...

Lovely interview. Packed with information and inspiration! Lots of luck with your work, Dana.

Gail Farrelly
http://www.farrellysistersonline.com/

L.J. Sellers said...

It was fun to get to know you better. Great Q&A.

Dana Cameron said...

Gloria and EB, thank you so much for your warm words! I'm looking forward to Malice, so please, yes, say hey!

Thank you so much, Gail and LJ! Paula did a wonderful job on her research and her questions really got me thinking!

Kaye George said...

Very enjoyable interview! Thanks to both of you.

Paula Gail Benson said...

Thank you for so many kind words about the interview. Dana, you are always so gracious and generous in sharing. E.B. is right, you've given us a lot to think about and learn from. I can understand how you, like Emma, would be a favorite professor. Thanks to everyone for reading the interview and participating in our discussion.

Dana Cameron said...

I'm so glad you enjoyed it, Kaye! Thanks again, Paula!

B.K. Stevens said...

Very interesting interview--thank you, Dana and Paula! Dana, I was especially interested by what you said about music. I listen to music when I write, too, but I've never tried matching the music to the writing in the way you describe. I'll have to give it a try. Best of luck with the new book!