Author Spotlight – Christian Cameron (aka. Miles Cameron)
Joining us for today’s Author Spotlight is Christian Cameron!
Christian Cameron AKA Miles Cameron was born in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania in the USA, graduated from University in 1987 with a degree in Medieval History and Classics, spend fifteen years in the US Navy, and became a writer in 1996, full time after 2000. Christian has too many hobbies, which include wilderness camping, all forms of martial arts but especially fighting in armour, re-enacting, travel, and drinking red wine. He has an excellent spouse, Sarah Jane Watt, and an equally excellent daughter, Beatrice, although both might resent being referred to as appendages and probably need their own bios…
You can learn more at www.christiancameronauthor.com, or by following @Phokion1 on twitter.
Thanks for joining us today, Christian. Let’s start small: tell us about a great book you’ve read recently!
That’s easy, because I just spent a week at the family cottage reading, and I read a lot of great books. In Spec Fic, I read C.J. Cherryh’s latest Foreigner novel Emergence… call my crazy, but I could read those books forever. I read a stack of books on Venice and Croatia for the Cold Iron background, and I read War and Peace, which is so amazing that I don’t even know what to tell you about it, except that it is all the things that Game of Thrones failed to deliver. And I read Anthony Mara’s ‘Czar of Love and Techno’ which I’d recommend to any lover of fantasy and sci-fi, even though it’s a ‘mainstream literary’ novel. It was both clever, in that it had some great tricks, and brilliant, in that the writing was magnificent.
Okay, time to escalate things: reality warps and you suddenly find yourself leading a D&D-style party through a monster-infested dungeon. What character class are you, and what’s your weapon of choice?
I’m a Ranger, and my weapon of choice is almost certainly an Italian Longsword, as that’s the weapon I often fight with in real life; but I’d also carry a ghiavarina, a lugged spear. An incredible weapon. You can even kill a dragon… Second choice Paladin, but I don’t always make the best choices… and I’m really good at tracking…
When you’re not trawling through dungeons as a ranger-paladin-rogue-bard, do you prefer to type or to hand-write? Why?
Oh, I type. My spelling is atrocious at the best of times and my handwriting, unless I do calligraphy, is just as bad. I could write a book and no one, including me, would know what I had written. Embarrassing. Awkward, even.
Awkward indeed! And how do you like to work – in silence, with music, or serenaded by the damned souls of a thousand dead shrimps?
I work to music. I usually theme the music to what I’m writing, so Masters and Mages was written to Renaissance Persian, Ottoman, and Venetian music.
Are you an architect or a gardener? A plotter or a pantser? D’you write in your underwear, or in a deep-sea diver’s suit? Tell us something unusual about your writing method!
I write in a local Italian bakery called Sud Forno. I sit from 8AM until 2PM at the same seat with plenty of room, and I consume pastries to fuel my writing, which is why I have to run 10k a day and fight in armour to keep the pastries from overcoming me. I photo my pastries most mornings and put them up on Instagram, just so people can follow my sugar-fuelled page count. I certainly write detailed outlines, which I jettison easily when the spirit moves me.
What are your most significant non-book fantasy influences?
Probably the most important is/was Medieval re-enacting, and re-enacting in general, because using the weapons and wearing the clothes fuels everything for me; then travel, because a sense of the wonderful and the alien mostly comes from direct experience of magical stuff in the real world. I walked the Camino di Santiago this spring; there’s a lot of magic out there. Wilderness camping, too; going way off the grid always makes my hindbrain wonder if there really are Orcs and ghouls, or whether those are just coyotes out beyond the campfire.
It sounds amazing! (Also, orcs and ghouls are definitely real.)
What was the last thing you watched on TV and why did you choose to watch it?
I’m watching ‘Altered Carbon’ on Netflix; I chose it because I loved the book. But also ‘Brooklyn 99’ because my wife and daughter love it too.
The world shifts, and you find yourself with an extra day on your hands during which you’re not allowed to write or otherwise do any work. How do you choose to spend the day?
Actually this just happened. I sit in my basement and paint little metal men and women and various monsters for gaming. Want to see? Currently painting Qajar Turks and Venetians and RPG figures.
If you could choose one punctuation mark to be made illegal, which would it be and why?
Emojis, please. Or make a dictionary so I know what the hell people are doing/saying, especially people my age who are probably misusing them.
In no more than three sentences, tell us a little something about your current work in progress!
I’m writing the third and final Masters and Mages book, probably called Lightbringer. The second one is done and handed in already. I’m writing about PTSD and alternate solutions to violence.
If you could co-write or co-create a series (like The Expanse, or the Malazan Book of the Fallen), who would you choose to work with and why?
I think I’d choose John Gwynne, and Nick Eames, because I love their work, because both of them have a sense of humour that I think is essential to good writing, and because I think we’d all get along. I wrote mainstream thrillers with my dad in the 90s; you really have to get along with a co-author, or the whole thing is particularly hard. But I’d also love to work with C.J. Cherryh, because I’m such a fan… but that might not make me the best co-author.
What’s the most (and/or least) helpful piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?
‘Writing is just work. You have to do it like work, and you have to do it even when you don’t feel like it. Like work.’
‘The difference between a great scene and bad scene is usually about 15 words.’
If you could visit any country at any point in history, where/when would you go, and why?
Athens in the Golden Age; Venice in 1680. Frankly, I love Athens and Venice anyway, but I’d love to see them at their height, and go to the theatre, and see the art and the architecture brand new. But I’d also like to go take some fencing lessons in Bologna in the 1520s, and have a peek at Constantinople in the 11th century, and maybe London in the 18th century… Really, this is my fantasy; an unlimited temporal travel budget. It’s probably why I reenact…still waiting for the temporal portal to open.
Every writer encounters stumbling blocks, be it a difficult chapter, challenging subject matter or just starting a new project. How do you motivate yourself on days when you don’t want to write?
I just keep writing. I can write dialogue between my favourite characters virtually forever; I can write an action sequence without any thought, mostly because I fight so often myself, in and out of armour, and there’s always some element of a fight that can make it interesting and characterful. When I’m stuck, I either write dialogue or a fight scene. Often I cut it later, but it gets me back into ‘flow.’
Tell us about a book that’s excellent, but underappreciated or obscure.
I’ll give you three: Tim Akers’ ‘Heart of Veridon’ was one of the best SpecFic books I have ever devoured (different from just reading) and no one ever talks about it; Dorothy Dunnett’s entire set of works were mildly famous in her day, and I think she’s the best historical novelist who ever lived; and her element of whimsy/magic makes her books possible candidates for ‘Historical fantasy.’ Outside a few nutters like myself, no one reads her anymore.
But…Ellen Kushner. She wrote a novel called ‘Swordspoint’ which remains one of the finest fantasies I’ve ever read. I bet I’ve read it ten times. Do people shun it because the protagonists are LGBTQ? No one ever mentions it, and yet it has everything I want in a fantasy. I even had a little homage to it in my new Cold Iron.
Finally, would you be so kind as to dazzle us with what we like to call a ‘shark elevator pitch’? (It’s exactly the same as an elevator pitch, but with sharks.) (Well, one shark. Which, by the way, is currently picking between its rows of teeth to try and dislodge the remains of the last author who stepped onto its elevator.)
Ahem. So: why should readers check out your work? A shark elevator pitch of your own book(s) in no more than three sentences – go!
D’Artagnan, Galadriel, Mahatma Ghandi and James Bond conspire to save the world from a cabal of oligarchs bent on undoing a thousand years of liberal reform. Oh, yes, and Cthuloid old gods, but they’re not the real problem.
It sounds amazing, Christian! Thanks again for joining us today, and best of luck with the new book!
Christian Cameron’s latest book (written as Miles Cameron) is Cold Iron, and is available now from Gollancz.