Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Hello. Thank you for visiting my blog today. I'm Rebecca Scarberry (Scarberryfields on Twitter). I have a very interesting author interview for you. His name is J. Cameron McClain (jcameronmcclain on Twitter). Enjoy!

Cameron: Hello to Scarberryfields! Nice place you got here, thanks for having me on!
Scarberryfields: Hello. Can you tell us a little about your nationality?
Cameron: My passport tells me I’m a citizen of the USA, and I’m currently set up in San Francisco, California. My passport got used most recently when I spent four months with family in South Africa. Got the first draft of a book written there in fact. I lived for about thirteen years each in Boston, Tokyo and Honolulu, and feel equally at home in all three places. I lived and almost died of malaria in Tanzania back in the late 1960s, I went on a six-month walkabout through Malaysia, Thailand, India England and Wales back in 1992.
All that’s another way of saying I’ve been fortunate to call a number of places “home” in my life, so many so that I find myself embracing the “earth is my home” mindset. I will not swear extensive reading of speculative fiction hasn’t helped create that mindset, of course, but big as it is, Earth is a tiny little place, with people who are very much alike in many ways.
Scarberryfields: When you finish a novel, do you miss the characters?
Cameron: Absolutely, although I’m fortunate enough to be working on a couple of series. Even after one book is done, I know I’m going to have the opportunity to meet up with the characters again and see what they’ve been up to while I was otherwise occupied. I also know I’m going to learn more about them at the second meeting, that’s exciting too. When my subconscious is in high gear the characters write themselves, all I do is type the story as it happens.
I certainly miss some of the characters in my short stories, and sometimes think about what happens to them after the story’s done. Maybe it’s the comic book-lover in me that laughs and says, “Who knows, we may just resurrect him somehow. We can do that. We’re fiction writers.” After I read When the Shark Bites, written by my writing professor Rodney Morales, I had to tell him I was bummed when in the book >>spoiler alert<< one of the coolest characters I’ve come across recently ends up dying. >>end spoiler alert<< He shrugged and said one word to me. “Prequels.”
I admit to a terrible sadness when killing some characters. I don’t think you can make any level of investment in a person, real or fictional, without feeling some sense of loss or emptiness when you’ve written them gone. Or cruel glee, if you’ve modeled them after a person you didn’t like in order to kill them off in a story. If you don’t invest what Bruce Lee calls emotional content in all of the characters you write, you’re not writing the best story you can.
Scarberryfields: While writing, if you need help with punctuation, grammar, etc., where do you turn?
Cameron: For grammar or punctuation questions, and if it’s handy (like right now), I check my hard copy of Diana Hacker’s Pocket Style Manual. I made extensive use of it as a teaching assistant at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa. If it’s not in Hacker, or if I’m too lazy to get up and pull Hacker off the shelf, I check the Purdue OWL, Grammar Girl, and Wikipedia. Or rather, I Google it, and when OWL, Grammar Girl or some other site I know and trust comes up, I check out what they’re saying.
Scarberryfields: With the number of hours spent writing, do family members support you or complain about the time spent away from them?
Cameron: Oh, gosh no, I took care of that mess way back. I murdered my wife and six kids nine years ago, we’re coming up on the anniversary in a couple of weeks, as a matter of fact. It wasn’t even Julie and the brats’ constant whining and yammering on about how I spent too much time writing that made me take a shovel to the lot of them. It was all the small things. Breakfasts not ready promptly at seven, clothes hangars placed on the left side of the closet instead of the right side. A crayon left on the dining table. The dining table! Things that would send anybody right over the edge, you know what I mean?
Scarberryfields: Does writing benefit you in any way and if so, how?
Cameron: Benefit? I made almost $850,000 last year on book royalties alone, I’m not even talking residuals from the latest film in the Devi franchise! Benefit?! Ha ha ha ha ha!
Scarberryfields: When you’re writing, do you shut-off all social networks?
Cameron: That’s the minimum. I’m typing with headphones on right now (now playing: Analyze by Thom Yorke). I shut as much out as I can—I write with music, that’s my only input. I know folks who (bless their souls) can manage to type 100-200 words between breast-feeding their babies, but in my case, I need to switch to writing mode, which takes about an hour to fully activate. It’s hard to describe, but for me it’s a bit like I’m charging up the story, activating it. Names come back to me, events, places, dates, actions, narrative timeline, everything switching on bit by bit until it’s a big clunking monster that I start attaching things to in order to get it moving more smoothly and acting more in accordance with my vision. Seriously, I can get grumpy when I’m interrupted because it takes so long to get into that mode. There’s no way I could Tweet every half-hour and keep the storyflow (yeah, storyflow, one word) going in my mind.
It cracks me up to see folks posting things on Facebook or Twitter like “gotta try to get writing done today.” Don’t tell the world, tell your brain and keyboard, or pen and paper!
Scarberryfields: Did you use any family members as Beta readers for your debut novel?
Cameron: Oh yes, and I have to give thanks to the folks who Beta-read the book for me, those folks—especially those in the early stages who I asked to read an honest-to-goodness not-ready-to-be-read draft. They really had their work cut out for them. The Five Watchers has had a very long gestation period. It’s been “ready” four or five times by my count. Lots of friends have read iterations over the past six years.
I let my mom read it more recently, when it was an actual first draft, so yeah, family has read pre-release versions. Dad doesn’t do speculative fiction. I did get him to read Pierre Boulle’s Planet of the Apes a couple of years ago, but only because he’s a Francophone, and I was able to track down the original French version La Plan├Ęte des Singes for him, and I convinced him it was social commentary and not just a cool book about talking apes capturing almost-naked humans and how one cool astronaut guy escapes them- with a girl in tow, no less.
Scarberryfields: Do you feel social networking as a marketing tool, is beneficial?
Cameron: Whether all authors can benefit from social networks, I couldn’t say, but I’ve talked a little with Richard Tillotson, author of Acts of God While on Vacation, on this topic. As the author of a literary work rather than genre fiction, his and my self-publishing experiences have been different. Much of his sales come from hard copies sold, for example, whereas in my situation and story type I’m more focused on ebook success. I think the online community is very interested in self-publishing, and are devouring this stuff, so it’s not surprising to me that I’m making almost all of my professional connections through networks such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Goodreads and Facebook.
Marketing, sure, but there’s much more use to be made. One piece of advice that goes for any human interaction: interact. I introduced Marlene Wynn, an author whose novel I’m currently editing, to a Facebook artists’ collective. Three weeks later, after interacting with folks there and asking around, she now has a professionally-designed cover with original artwork, fee gratis. There are a whole lot of great people out there, waiting to connect with you and help you. All you need to do is ask.
And I believe this is an excellent time to point out that my connection with Scarberryfields has been almost entirely via Twitter, and here I am in my first interview because of it. Not to mention I’ve just finished reading Rebecca Scarberry’s enchanting novella, Messages From Henry because of it (readers—give this a read, it’s a wonderful story with a fresh twist). So yes, a big thumbs-up to social media from me.
Scarberryfields: What is the last book called that you completed and published?
Cameron: The Five Watchers is out now. It’s gone through an evolution from kill-em-all ghost novel—my original vision—to something much more complex. And now it’s the first in a trilogy. Had to start picking more people to survive than zero, which tends to change the plot somewhat. There’s now a second, interlinked plot alongside that of the Investigators, and a lot of history involved. Much of the history revolves around the Five Watchers building and the Prescott family, who are a presence in the main setting—Shady Glen, Pennsylvania—for hundreds of years prior to the events in the book. The action was fun to write, but without a sound foundation of history, there isn’t nearly as much depth to a story, whether it’s a character’s personal history or the history of a place like Shady Glen. As you peel back the layers, you piece together a larger and larger understanding of the totality. One of the successes in the trilogy will be to peel back layers to this story in each book that readers would never have expected to find.
As for completed stuff, the first draft of my vampire-human-zombie novel Alliance is done, and I’ll be working it into a completed manuscript within the next four months. So, definitely yay for that! I love The Five Watchers but the trilogy is a longer-term thing, and Alliance is a different sort of fun to work on. First draft of 65,000 words in a month’s writing’s worth of fun in fact. Gawd, vampires? Yeah, I still can’t quite believe I’m writing vampires but if it’s wrong, I don’t want to be etc. And surprisingly enough, I have an aspect to the zombie-vampire connection that hasn’t yet been explored.

I’m assuming that since you didn’t ask about upcoming projects, I can’t mention Kamaitachi (second in the SpiriTrilogy: the sequel to The Five Watchers, out late ‘13), Devi, my wicked cool novel based on two wicked cool short stories I wrote about sentient robots (out mid ‘14), or the final book of the SpiriTrilogy series, Megiddo (out late ’14 or early ’15). So I won’t.
Scarberryfields: Where can readers go to find your books?
Cameron: The e-version of The Five Watchers is currently available free, and is rampaging through Smashwords like a tornado. For those seeking a hard copy, you can click the little button on the right side of the Smashwords page, or type “Cameron McClain” on Amazon. Don’t search “The Five Watchers” on Amazon because you’ll have to wade through twelve pages of Weight Watchers Five Minute Recipe books to find mine.
After October 31, 2012, I’m putting a second edition of The Five Watchers out for general release, along with a Kindle version, one for the Nook, and wherever else I can post it up on, for money. And it’ll be worth it because it’ll have maps and be geo-coded and stuff so that’ll be cool. But in the meantime, it’s free on Smashwords right now, so go get it free.
Thanks again to Rebecca for having me over, and as always, thanks to our readers.


  1. Funny, but wikipedia says J. Cameron McClain DID die of malaria in the 60's. Either this guy is an imposter, wikipedia is wrong (as if), or things are getting very strange.

    That being said, I really enjoyed the tunnels in the five watchers. Personally I feel his stregth is action writing, which may be due to his having dated the daughter of a very well known action orented author years ago.

  2. Wow, now THERE'S a blast from the past. Hey all, remember Trevanian, author of The Eiger Sanction and Shibumi?

    I'm pretty sure the real reason why she broke up with me was that I beat her at Scrabble with the word "dais." She popped up on Facebook a few years ago. Said hello in a message. She disappeared from Facebook. Still sore about my win!

  3. Rebecca, maybe a question or two about whether the authors in these interviews have self-published and, if so, their process (i.e., what they did for editing, design, and layout)? Just a thought.

  4. Stephen, if you're following this post, I am self-published, in fact with the exception of two fantastic editors, one of which also runs the publishing company I've released this with, this book is 100% done by me. I used to be a graphic designer, so the technical and artistic elements such as covers and layout for print and ebook were more like fun than work to put together, and many of my jobs in the past were PR related so I have some understanding of marketing. As a side benefit of being a graphic designer, I'm relatively capable at media, and am finding a lot of success with professional connections I'm making on Goodreads and Twitter in particular--oddly enough.

    I hope the info is of interest. For me this is all an experiment in progress. I'm learning as I go from those around me who are becoming successful. And in case there's any confusion, success = getting the stories I desperately love to as many people as there are who want to read 'em.

  5. Lovely. I shut out the world too (and get very irritated when it interrupts), though lately I've been guilty of tweeting while writing (yeah, I know, I know :)))