Today, our guest is J.B. Cameron, author of Reading The Dead: The Sarah Milton Chronicles. Come back tomorrow for an excerpt from his work.
Having spent my entire life in New Brunswick, Canada, I have a very limited perception of the world outside of the Atlantic Provinces. I'm not a huge fan of crowds, so I'm content with just watching bustling, big city life from the comfort of my living room, in a country where trees outnumber people by a vast majority. That's probably why my books read more like a TV show than anything. My personal reality largely formed in a cocoon fashioned by American television.
What made you want to become a writer?
The need to write, or do anything creative, has been a part of what makes me tick for as long as I can remember. I don't think there was ever a time in my life when I wasn't drawing something, programming a game or web page, or writing. I've always had this irrational urge to stay busy. It helps keep me balanced. Writing was one of my earliest passions. Being able to pursue it now in my free time is a little like returning to my roots.
Your book is a paranormal detective thriller. What about this genre appeals to you?
Good question. I've always been a huge fan of the work that writers like Joss Whedon and Tim Minear produced on the TV show, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Though they based their characters in this wildly implausible paranormal fantasy world, they managed to imbue them with a wit and charm that almost made them feel like they could have been someone you knew from high school. That's the kind of chord that I'm hoping to strike with my own work. Though the world of LAPD Detective Sarah Milton is seemingly overrun with these uncontrollable elements of supernatural and mystical origin, underneath all of that, Reading The Dead is really just a tale of two friends rediscovering one another, after years of separation, and learning to overcome hardships to find a place in their lives for each other again. Of course, nothing in life is ever quite that simple. It's the dynamic of their characters that appealed to me when writing this story, more so than the paranormal aspect itself.
Do you believe in ghosts?
Sarah Milton and I do share a similar character trait, in that neither of us strongly believes in anything that we can't see with our own two eyes. However, as readers will come to discover throughout the evolution of the series, a growing faith (not to be confused with religious belief) will play a key role in Sarah's life. Maybe by the time I'm done writing the last book, my own faith will have progressed to the point where I can unequivocally answer "yes" to your question. I'm not there yet.
Could you tell us a bit about your most recent book and why it is a must-read?
Reading The Dead - The Sarah Milton Chronicles is the tale of a bookish girl with an imaginary friend who stayed with her well into her teens. After the trauma of her mother's brutal murder and the disappearance of her only companion, Sarah forges a new life out of the ashes of her past, using her training in forensic psychology to earn herself a place with the LAPD's Violent Crimes Unit. Her story really begins fifteen years after the death of her mother, with the VCU team hot on the trail of a mysterious serial killer known only as "Raithe." After a shooting takes her beyond the veil of death, she awakens to discover that Anna Nigma, as she aptly named her irrepressible teenage friend so many years before, has now reinserted herself into her structured, sane existence. Amidst fears that she's losing her mind, Sarah eventually comes to realize that both Anna's presence and her current murder investigation are steeped in the paranormal, and that only her rekindled ability to see and speak with the dead can help to stop the city's most dangerous killer before he strikes again.
I'll leave it to the readers to decide if it's a must-read. It's a fun story, filled with some great characters, and it's only getting better as the series progresses. It's not going to change the world, but it will keep you happily entertained. That's the best I can do.
What gives you inspiration for your book?
Reading The Dead began as one of several screenplays I wrote in 2011, purely for fun. After moving on to short stories for a while, I decided that I wanted to try my hand at my first novel. Going back and rereading the screenplay, I found myself really enjoying the dynamic between the main characters, particularly in the scenes involving that wildly unpredictable spook, Anna. I wasn't sure how well it was going to play out, but I immediately knew from looking at it that I wanted to use the script as the basis for something more grand.
Are your characters based off real people or did they all come entirely from your imagination?
I can honestly say that I've never met anyone in my life who even comes close to either the tough, but introverted and damaged Sarah Milton, or the completely uncontrollable Anna Nigma. I think that's what makes them both so much fun for me to write. Their personalities aren't grounded in reality. They're both very much larger than life characters.
Of all the characters you have created, which is your favorite and why?
Anna Nigma. Absolutely. Her youthful innocence and naivety, combined with a worldly experience beyond her years and an almost pathological need to insert herself into the heart of trouble makes her a total joy to write. Being a ghost, she has no concept of consequence, since nothing can touch her. In many ways, she sees herself more as superhuman than supernatural.
The upcoming release of the second book in the series will coincide with a special companion book, featuring a pair of her standalone adventures. I'm presently working on the second tale now, featuring Anna squaring off against a couple of would-be robbers. The ghostly aspect of the Home Alone scenario makes for some hilarious moments. I think readers are going to have a blast seeing her strut her stuff without big sister Sarah to hold her back.
What is the biggest surprise that you experienced after becoming a writer?
I guess that would be the arrival of my muse. For some strange reason, story ideas only seem to pop into my head as I'm lying in bed at night. This can often go on for days at a time, as my mind churns through the story, presenting me with snippets of fun dialogue and interesting scenes, until I at last sit down at my word processor and purge these concepts onto the page. I miss having a good night's sleep.
Is there any particular author or book that influenced you either growing up or as an adult?
After reading J.R.R. Tolkien when I was just a boy, I found myself charged up about writing my own fantasy series. My parents bought me a second-hand manual typewriter, which I promptly hammered to death as I banged out chapter after chapter of my grand "epics". Back then, I think raw desire probably substituted for talent. Maybe that's still the case. All I know is that my love for inventing make-believe worlds is as strong now as it was back then.
Do you have a day job in addition to being a writer? If so, what do you do during the day?
I've spent the past two decades earning a comfortable life in Information Technology, in one capacity or another. Currently, I'm Director of IT for an online university, based out of Fredericton, New Brunswick.
What is your favorite writing tip or quote?
My favorite quote is still the first one that I came across when learning the in's and out's of Twitter as a marketing tool for my book: "I'm tired of the anonymity of being an unpublished author. I crave the anonymity of being self-published." It's probably the most apt statement of my time as an indie author that I've ever found.
There are such an overwhelming number of fantastic authors out there, and their ranks are only swelling more every day. Anyone looking to publish in this climate needs to find a reason beyond fame or fortune. If you're not writing because it makes you happy, you might never have peace of mind after you publish.
Tell us a little about your plans for the future. Do you have any other books in the works?
Book two of the series is in the editing stages now, and I'm gradually piecing together where I want to go with book three. As I mentioned earlier, a companion book will also be coming out, hopefully later in 2013 or early 2014.
Additionally, I have a half-completed Y/A paranormal detective comedy that I intend to revisit as time permits, entitled Rhetoric, Occult Detective. The series details the adventures of paranormal detective Rex Hetoric and his partner, Chester Ames, a former police Sergeant, turned "were-hedgehog." I hope to polish it to make it as absolutely insane as it sounds. Presently, I'm working on both a novel and a collection of short stories that I plan to chain together into an anthology "prequel."
I'm also entertaining an idea of writing a follow-up short story to a horror tale published last December on the Spinetingler's UK website, entitled "Madhattan". I might build the stories into a novella for a subsequent release as well.
Where can we find you online? (please cut and paste links):