Author Spotlight – Cameron Johnston
Joining us for today’s Author Spotlight is Cameron Johnston!
Cameron Johnston lives in Glasgow, Scotland, with his wife and an extremely fluffy cat. He is a swordsman, a gamer, an enthusiast of archaeology, history and mythology, a builder of LEGO, and owns far too many books to fit on his shelves. He loves exploring ancient sites and camping out under the stars by a roaring fire.
Welcome to the Hive, Cameron. Let’s start small: tell us about a great book you’ve read recently!
Children of Ruin by Adrian Tchaikovsky is the long-awaited sequel to Children of Time. It’s big, epic, and incredibly smart science fiction that packs in the entire development of an alien species and explores the different mind-sets and methods of communication between human and alien. I’m in awe of how Adrian manages to pack so much goodness into a single book.
Ooh! We loved Children of Time, and Children of Ruin sounds brilliant!
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’ll be a paladin. Not one of those goody-two-shoes paladins though, but a holy warrior of the god of books (and hopefully also magic). Mostly because I get to wear heavy armour and shield (yay for not dying!) and smash skulls with a morning star while smiting book-burners with my cool-as-heck divine might. Will smite for books.
Love it! When you’re not trawling through dungeons (and smiting), how do you like to work? (In silence, with music, or serenaded by the damned souls of a thousand dead shrimps? Do you prefer to type or to hand-write? 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 a little bit about your writing method!
I like to write in silence, and edit with some good tunes on. Typing on the computer, definitely typing. I’m more pantser than plotter: if I write a detailed plot outline I lose all will to actually go on to write the story and it ruins all sense of fun I find in the discovery. I’m a scaffolder in that I usually have a start, an end, and a few important points I want to hit along the way, and then have at it.
What (or who) are your most significant fantasy influences? Are there any creators whom you dream of working with someday?
I had a dream of working with H.P. Lovecraft one day. It wasn’t very productive; he was all bones and everything. My big influences would be Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, Michael Moorcock, Steven Erikson and David Gemmell. I don’t actually dream of working with any other writers. I think I’m happy enough just working away and developing my own worlds to play around in. That said, there are certainly people like Jen Williams, Steven Erikson, Gavin Smith, Peter McLean, Robin Hobb, RJ Barker and Ed McDonald that I would be lucky, lucky I say, to ever do a project with.
What was the last thing you watched on TV and why did you choose to watch it? Alternatively, what games have you enjoyed recently?
I’m not sure Mock the Week is a hugely entertaining answer, so let us go for PC games instead. I’ve been enjoying Stellaris for some good old 4X space empire building, and Kerbal Space Project for some space program simulation fun where my rockets tend to blow up horribly before reaching orbit, or run out of fuel just as we reach another planet.
The world shifts, and you find yourself with an extra day on your hands during which you’re not allowed to write. How do you choose to spend the day?
If the weather is nice, a trip out in the countryside and a forest walk past some ancient ruins or a castle. Perhaps even a night out wild camping under the stars with a crackling fire that I started with my Cameron-forged fire-striker and flint and tinder kit, and a sausage on a stick for nummies.
Ha! Can you tell us a little something about your current work(s) in progress?
It’s a standalone dark fantasy reworking of The Seven Samurai, and hopefully it will find a good home with a publisher.
Fingers crossed! What’s the most (and/or least) helpful piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?
Most helpful: first drafts are most often really clunky and often bad. Most writers don’t just poop out golden prose, so don’t get discouraged when you have just finished writing your book and think it’s a pile of crap. Writers are not the most objective about the quality of their own work.
Least helpful: You MUST write every day. What a load of old balls that is. Sure, regular writing helps to keep the momentum and story flowing but it doesn’t have to be every day, and where do people get off trying to guilt others for not being able or willing to write something every single day. Bah!
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 think there are two different types: hard blocks and soft blocks. Hard blocks are real difficulties, when putting words on the page is like pulling teeth and writing is not fun. In those circumstances I find if I step away and do something else or write a little of something else it gets my creative juices flowing again. The soft blocks are me being tired or lazy and I find even trying to get two or three hundred words down really helps, and often I end up getting carried away and do a lot more. I also find noting and celebrating the big numbers of a manuscript really motivating: if you are writing a projected 100,000 word novel, then celebrate that first 10,000 words, then 20k (a fifth of a novel), 25k, (a quarter!) 33k (a third!), and so on until 50k, then it’s a short hop to three-quarters of a novel and the end is in sight.
If you could visit any country at any point in history, where/when would you go, and why?
Argh, way too many choices, from the construction of Stonehenge to the great pyramids of Egypt – I want to know so much! At the moment I would visit Scotland, specifically 5000 years ago in Orkney when the temple complex of the Ness of Brodgar was in use. It was likely the centre of British Neolithic culture at the time and I would love to explore their religions, mythologies and daily lives.
Tell us about a book that’s excellent, but underappreciated or obscure.
Gavin Smith’s The Bastard Legion series – that’s some damn good military science fiction right there that way more people should be reading.
Finally, would you be so kind as to dazzle us with an elevator pitch? Why should readers check out your work?
The Traitor God is blood-soaked, high-magic, swords and sorcery meets Lovecraftian apocalypse. Grimdark with heart and bad jokes.
As for why readers should check it out, well, I mean, Cameron could do with some funds for new swords…oh, wait, you meant why for READERS? Well then, they will get an interesting mix of noirish murder mystery, creepy magic, horrible monsters and a good dose of mayhem that I hope they find most pleasing.
Fantastic. Thanks again for joining us, Cameron, and good luck with the new book!
Cameron Johnston is the author of THE TRAITOR GOD and GOD OF BROKEN THINGS, both available now.