The Word Nerds had the opportunity to meet Dana Cameron while at Murder & Mayhem in Muskego. It was a pleasure to hear about Dana’s training in archaeology is different than the movies and how it influenced the creation of her first series. Answers below!
WN: Your latest novel – Seven Kinds of Hell – is the first of three in the Fangborn series. Tell us more about the premise and drive of the characters.
DC: Okay! I first “met” the Fangborn in a short story, “The Night Things Changed,” when Charlaine Harris and Toni L. P. Kelner asked me to contribute to WOLFSBANE AND MISTLETOE. I decided my creatures would turn most of the usual supernatural conventions on their heads: My werewolves, vampires, and oracles are superheroes who worked in secret to fight true evil. They’re called Fangborn because they’re born, not bitten. The vampires don’t feed on humans but heal them and use their powers to cloud human minds; they need the sun to regenerate their strength. When the Fangborn pick up the scent of true evil, they can’t turn away, but are compelled to find and fight it. It was a lot of fun, and I suddenly found I’d written a half dozen stories set in that world.
SEVEN KINDS OF HELL (47North) is my first novel with the Fangborn. I liked the idea of my protagonist, Zoe Miller, being a “stray,” a werewolf who’s been raised outside Fangborn culture. She’s an archaeologist and has no idea that she’s a werewolf, only that she has a scary tendency to violence. Her cousin is kidnapped and she must recover certain artifacts to get him freed. She has no idea how powerful these artifacts are or that they have a fangborn pedigree. On this adventure, she learns about the Fangborn and who she is.
WN: On your website you have a section about integrating action into your writing. What’s a key element to your writing and reading pleasure?
DC: Hmmm, if you mean, what do I like about writing and what do I like to see when I’m reading? I like being able to communicate a physical sensation, like hunger or pain, that makes the audience respond in kind. What I love to see when I’m reading? A writer who follows an emotion or a response out to the final beat. Someone who loves a character so much, he or she can be fearless in writing that character to its fullest.
WN: Tell us about your writing space. What do you consider essential for starting out your session?
DC: Music, a closed door, and a keyboard. I write in my office at home and always have a soundtrack for whatever I’m working on. It might be a playlist for a particular character, or for a whole story or book, but it’s what takes me into my working “space.” What’s great is that if I’ve left a piece of work sit for a while, the music puts me right back into that world.
I have giant Post-It notes hanging from my bookshelves and a white board I call “Jarvis,” after Tony Stark’s AI assistant in the “Iron Man” movies. I yell “Jarvis, we have a new project,” but then when no one answers, and no holographic interface pops up, I start scribbling ideas in different colors.
My office is a mess. The cats surf on the cascading papers and books. Nice people shouldn’t even think about what my office looks like. There’s a rumor that there’s a Hellmouth somewhere in my office, and it’s just the clutter keeping the demons from getting out.
WN: What’s the best part about being a writer?
DC: There’s so much. The people I’ve met—other writers and readers—have been phenomenal. The community of writers is amazing and supportive, and I’m honored to work with such cool people—and even call a lot of them friends. I’m just back from Bouchercon and already I’m looking forward to Murder and Mayhem in Muskego because I’ll get to see some of my friends again!
The other thing I love about being a writer is being able to change my world and live in that new one for a while. If I feel like walking around as a “retired” covert operative or a sociopathic 18th-century tavern owner or a vengeful werewolf, I can. That’s pretty awesome.
WN: Do you have a favorite quote or piece of advice you’d like to share?
DC: Finish the book. Use your own voice. Get the best, most honest criticism you can—then decide if it rings true. And then do your research on editors and agents and send it out. You’ll start getting form letters—what I call “bad rejections”—then you might get “good rejections,” in the form of specific suggestions or criticism. Eventually, you’ll get that “good acceptance.”
WN: You’re a recovering archaeologist – what’s it like being a writer and why recovering?
DC: I loved archaeology and writing is one of the few jobs that is as good or better than that. “Recovering,” because in my experience, once you’ve been an archaeologist, you never stop looking at the world that way. I still glance at my neighbors’ recycling bins and do a quick household analysis as I walk by. I still look for the high spot in a town, because that’s usually where all the coolest, oldest stuff will be, along with the best views. I still stop by construction sites to look at exposed soil profiles. I play “What did this place look like 400 years ago?” or “What did this town smell like in the Roman age?” It’s an excuse to be eccentric.
Writing is about people. Archaeology is about studying people. I just get to make up the data (and the rules) now. That used to be cheating, and now it’s a requirement. 🙂
WN: What question did WN not ask, that you really would love to be asked?
DC: What movies inspire you? There are certain movies that have taught me a ton about storytelling and world-building, including “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “Master and Commander,” “Streets of Fire.” There are some I watch because I love the fight scenes, like “Desperado,” anything by John Woo with Chow Yun-Fat, “Dragons Forever.” Something like “Stranger Than Fiction” is so strange and wonderful it just makes me want to run
to my keyboard.
Thanks so much for asking great questions, Word Nerds!