Hello ladies and gentlemen!
The stars have aligned for us today as Cameron Johnston, author of the recently-reviewed-by-me The Traitor God, takes the time to answer some questions for us.
What do you say if we kick things off by giving everyone an idea of who you are?
Hi, I’m Cameron Johnston, author of the dark and gritty fantasy novel, The Traitor God. I live in Scotland with my wife and an extremely fluffy cat. I’m an enthusiast of archaeology, history and mythology and love exploring ancient sites and camping out under the stars by a roaring fire.
How does someone find themselves writing a story like The Traitor God? What was your inspiration?
I wrote two complete novels before this, neither publishable. Then I joined a great writing group and decided to get good. I tried new styles and techniques and improved, and decided to try writing a 1st person point of view for a short story that I imagined as a film noir swords and sorcery story about a mage investigating a murder on the mean streets of a dark and corrupt city. And that world and character demanded more than a short story, and it all began to grow and evolve from there.
What are the key ingredients that you always keep in mind when writing your stories?
Always, always start with a character. If you have a good character the world explodes around them and the plot twists to serve their story instead of shoehorning a character into a plot. Have them actively do something interesting instead of only reacting.
What would you say is the biggest challenge in writing The Traitor God?
A lot of novels with big events and battles feature multiple characters that allow a writer to explore what is happening from all different angles. In The Traitor God Edrin Walker is the only point of view character, which caused me some difficulties since he cannot be everywhere at once, or know what is happening elsewhere at any given time. However, that did allow me to write the events in a more personal way, and to explore the ‘fog of war’ wrapped around a single person landed in the middle of bigger events.
To all those who seek to publish their own stories some day, what would be your ultimate advice?
Join a writing group, or an online forum like https://absolutewrite.com/forums/forum.php or https://www.reddit.com/r/fantasywriters/ which offer up huge amounts of advice. Find some fellow writers if you can and critique their stories, and receive critique yourself then work on improving your writing. Try writing some short stories before taking the plunge into a full novel (it hurts less when those first few experiments are pretty crap and get left to gather dust in a folder somewhere). If you are seriously considering writing a novel for publication, do your research and planning BEFORE writing it and it can save you a lot of extra work and disappointment. That can help you avoid the pitfalls of cliché and trope and if possible, be ready with a compelling single-line pitch to market it in query letters to agents or publishers once it is finished and polished. You only have a short time to pique an agent or editor’s interest so make the best of it. An example of a good short and snappy pitch would be Sean Grigsby’s Smoke Eaters: Firefighters vs Dragons. I don’t know about you, but that pitch made me interested to find out more.
Having now published The Traitor God, is there anything you would have done differently or wished you had done throughout your writing process?
Yes and no. The thing about getting published by people like Angry Robot is that a debut novelist learns a whole lot by going through a professional editorial process, and it quickly became apparent that my editor Phil Jourdan is a wizard. A good editor helps to clarify and distil your vision of the novel into the best version of itself and there were so many moments where I looked at the manuscript comments and thought “Why didn’t I do that in the first place?” I learned a lot from that process and will carry that forward into future novels.
What would be some of your favourite books of all time? Those that you would, without hesitation, recommend all the time?
It’s at this point where people usually bring out the old classics they love. Not me, I think we are currently living in a golden age of speculative fiction. The Realms of the Elderlings books by Robin Hobb, The Divine Cities by Robert Jackson Bennett, Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky, The Ninth Rain by Jen Williams, Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie, and a host of other truly superb fiction have been coming out in recent years. Of course, I still love reading my old Alan Garner books, HP Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, etc but I couldn’t recommend them without some hesitation.
What’s your favourite movie of all time?
That’s a tricky one as I can’t claim to have a single favourite of all time. My answer tends to switch between a few different films. On the one hand there is Aliens, a perfect mix of sci-fi action and horror. On the other there is the supreme silliness of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. And then there is Quatermass and the Pit, a creepy and intelligent sci-fi horror film which struck me hard at a young age and has stayed with me ever since.
Big thank you to Cameron Johnston as well as Angry Robot for making this interview happen!
The Traitor God came out on June 5th 2018 and awaits after you!