I recently conducted an email interview with one of my favourite authors Skyla Dawn Cameron. Her new book Lineage is due out 21st February 2012, third in the Demons of Oblivion series. Having enjoyed Bloodlines and Hunter I am eagerly awaiting Lineage. Many thanks Skyla for your thoughtful, informative and fun answers.
Your theory on how vampires are created is really interesting, how did you arrive at the idea?
It was many years ago, so I’m not sure I can come up with the exact reason, but I know I’ve always had issues with the explanation that “magic” is responsible for everything. My brain has trouble with that. I need fairly logical explanations behind things, even in a fantasy setting.
My vampires are created with a demonic parasite in their bodies, as that gave me a chance to explain—for myself, not even readers—why the person’s body changed when becoming a vampire and how everything held together.
For years I’ve had an interest in the occult and how there are more contemporary theories about magic that are based in pseudo-science, and threads of that often appear in my work. “A wizard did it” (thank you, The Simpsons) rarely satisfies me.
Some people may enjoy reading about Zara in the first book Bloodlines, then become disappointed when the next book Hunter is told from an entirely different point of view. Why did you decide to write each story in the series from a different character perspective?
Again, it was years ago, but I think it very much came from my desire to just do something different. To stretch myself as a writer. After writing Bloodlines with a promiscuous, narcissistic,snarky vampire assassin lead, I knew I didn’t want to just write the same book over again. I had a bigger story to tell, and telling it required different narrators. The logical choice for me next was a demon-hunting nun for Hunter, and after that, a suicidal and homicidal quarter-demon merc for Lineage—both as far from Zara as I could make them.
Did I expect some readers to be disappointed? Yes. And there are some who continually bitch that Hunter and Lineage aren’t about Zara or Nate (her love interest in Bloodlines). But at the end of the day, they are not the main characters. This series has a story that is much, much bigger, and a plot that Zara is merely one of many players in. I hope readers who stick with me for the ride find it worth it. Those who don’t are free to reread Bloodlines and just write fanfic if it’s that much of a problem.
My cat Kira tends to sit as close to me as possible when I work, often on my keyboard or papers. You have a few felines, do you find them a help or a hindrance when you write?
Oh, god, I have five of them. And a dog.
The dog is the most helpful. She drives me to get up and take walks every day, which is the one time plots and scenes jangle loose from my brain when they’re stuck. The cats…not so much. Most of them sit aro
und me constantly while I work. The kitten—currently seven months old—is at that stage where she randomly runs over and walks across my boobs like they’re furniture, standing in my face and purring ’til I either remove her or stop working so I can pet her. They periodically fight like children. They’re demanding of my time. I’m hard pressed to do any writing without a feline or two on my lap, and one is a 20 lbs Maine Coon, which makes working around him interesting to say the least.
What drew you to fantasy writing rather than any other genre?
Actually, my first love is horror. Not many people know that about me, but I always assumed I’d be a horror writer as that’s what I wrote growing up. I love the adrenalin spike while scared and I love scaring others. And often there are elements of the horrific in my work. But I do love the mix of genres urban fantasy allows me to play with. There is paranormal. And mystery. And horror. And romance. And humour. And action. Few genres allow me to mix and match the way UF does.
Which character arrived in your mind first and how did the story develop from there? Or did the story start first and the characters later? (courtesy of my daughter Alice).
I always start with character first—the protag/narrator. The plot has to service the character or IMO it will fall flat.
This is one of m
any lessons I learned from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The best episodes were the ones where the Monster of the Week and story somehow reflected Buffy and what she was going through on a personal level.
For my Demons of Oblivion series, Zara arrived first on the scene. When I was done her book and other narrators tapped me on the shoulder, the overriding series began to take shape. Even then, each book is unique to its narrator. I try never to shoehorn characters into a story that doesn’t want them.
Are the rest of the books already mapped out fully or have you a good idea what is going to happen but willing to go where the characters lead you?
Yes and no.
For example, in December I finished the fourth book (and the first to return to Zara as a narrator after Bloodlines), Exhumed, and for the better part of five years, I’ve know how it would end. I had that ending scene in my head. And when I wrote the ending? Yeah, what happened was what I expected, but I didn’t have context. It really floored me. I tend to have scenes for books with no idea of how to reach them or what circumstances brought the characters there.
I’ve finished writing twenty books now, so I’ve refined my process along the way. I used to be a devout pantster; I now do a bit more plotting, but always with room for improvising. I have a “murder board” over my couch now, which is a dry-erase board I jot down notes on. Sometimes the act of standing up and writing is enough for me to figure out tough plot tangles.
How do you feel on release day?
Utterly terrified. And
There comes a point where you just have to let go of the fear of course. I strive to make each book better than the last but I know, for example, that readers and I might disagree on that fact. I was fortunate in that other writers (and my mum) thought Hunter was better than Bloodlines, for example, but I know many readers weren’t entirely happy with the direction I took the series. So more and more, I try to let go of the release day anxiety and accept that I did the best I could and I can’t control how other people feel. drunk.
Mostly I just drink a lot, though.
Favourite weapon (for your characters of course)?
Well, Zara is a very strong, overly dramatic vampire who likes to make an entrance. She often carries a Desert Eagle, usually a high calibre (in Exhumed, she has it loaded with .50 AE, as she’s very pissed off in that book). My nun from Hunter, Ryann, leans toward a collapsible metal vampire stake and a katana most of the time—she’s much more about the art of the fight and isn’t as brutal as most of my characters.
Peri, in Lineage, is another story. She spends most of the book with a pair of SIG Mosquitos, loaded with .22 CCI Mini-Mags. And Gemtech Alpine suppressors as she usually has to be s
tealthy. She also likes explosives, though. And piano wire for garrotting. She’s a violent one, that’s for sure.
I, of course, am a tree-hugging Canadian hippy who isn’t into weapons. *cough* Really, I swear.
Star Trek or Star Wars?
I have to turn in my geek cred—I’m not really into either. I do like the original SW trilogy, however my favourite part was the Ewoks, which I’m sure horrifies the fandom in general. I’m actually first and foremost a Joss Whedon fangirl, and choosing between his shows would be like choosing a favourite child.
Most annoying trait in a person that makes you wish a demon would appear in a flash of light and smoke to drag them to the bowels of hell?
Oh god. We could be here all day.
General stupidity and people unable to follow instructions/expect info to be handed to them is VERY high on the list. Which also goes with laziness. And entitlement. Oh, and passive aggressiveness.
I should stop now and have a drink.
Lineage is out 21s
t February 2012, for further information about Skyla, her words and her work please follow the links below.