Follow me into a frozen land plagued by monsters – interview with fantasy author and Glimpses anthology contributor Cameron Wayne Smith.
Cameron, thanks for joining me. When did you know you wanted to write and why did you begin?
Back in school I was somewhat of a joker and often turned essays into snarky stories. The teachers never really appreciated my humour, but a few of these single page stories did make it through the school. I don’t have any of these anymore, but if I did, I probably wouldn’t let you read them!
In 2012 the missus and I bought a Landcruiser camper to travel around Australia. We hit the road and I thought it would be fun to write stories while doing so. I started writing my first novel seriously while we were running a pub in a small town called Thangool. I did start very casually, but that was the point I decided to write.
What has the writer’s journey been like for you?
Well, the day we hit the road and the day I started writing a novel were one and the same. I’ve loved travelling around this beaut country, working from place to place, and writing along the way.
That first story I started, in 2012, was a fantasy story taking in a lot of creative ideas I had come up with when I was younger. I ended up self-publishing that story in 2015 (In Innisfail, QLD), the sequel in 2016 (In Esperence, WA) and the third episode earlier this year (In Queenstown, TAS). The whole series was discovery written without a target audience. Sadly, the originality made it quite difficult to market, but it will always hold a special place in my heart!
The concept of Holtur—a town in the midst of a frozen, desolate land, plagued by monsters and full of mystery—came to me late last year. Originally because I wanted to try my hand at writing a vampire story. My goal was to not have them sparkly, romantic, linked to were-creatures, or the result of an infection. I’ve got nothing against the way vampires have been used in the past, but I wanted a completely original take on the creatures, while still taking some elements of the classics. I wanted to create monsters.
I like the sound of your vampires!
The first step for my Holtur plan was to write a story displaying how horrible this town would be to reside within. I feel I did that reasonably well by bringing a cowardly outsider, Vivian Patressi, to the town and creating a story about his attempt at survival. At first, his attempts convincing Captain Sonja Bluwahlt, and her band of monster slayers, to fight his battles for him does little but amuse her. Experiencing the horror of the town through Vivian’s experience explains why, to both reader and the less than heroic protagonist, the slayers laugh at his problems. The vampires are hinted at during Vivian’s initially romp through the town, but the folk of Holtur have no idea that the ‘leeches’ are in any way humanoid.
The biggest change I’ve made between series is going from discovery writing to plotting. This year my writing journey has been quite interesting, landing me in the magnificent (but cold) Tasmanian hinterland, and I’m keen to see how the rest of 2017 unfolds.
So, would you now describe yourself as a “plotter” rather than a “panster” aka discovery writer?
I honestly do not know if I could label myself as one or the other. The Necrosanguin series was all discovery written, but The Holtur Trilogy has been planned… Well, it was supposed to be! In The Holtur Curse, chapter 10 has now gone for six chapters. So, I’d say I’m a primarily a plotter now, but the ‘pantser’ within likes to beat up the plotter from time to time! Without ruining the story, this section of the story, in plot form, was basically ‘x attacks y, but z goes and brings w along, now v has to solve the problem’. I didn’t realise at the time, that actually meant I’d have to write an epic battle the length of a novella, it happens!
Ah yes, I’m with you there. I have a final battle sequence I always knew would be two chapters, but I didn’t expect each of those chapters to be double the length of the others!
Where does the inspiration for what goes into your stories come from?
A lot of things! Where I’ve been and things I’ve seen and done. Books, movies, and games too!
The second half of my first story I got to work on not long after going to the USA and doing some ‘tunnel time’ at iFly in Chicago. My partner and I did quite a bit of skydiving that year and used the wind tunnel to improve our skills. The characters in my story travel to an incredibly large tower in a wealthy city, and I thought, why not throw a massive air vent into the tower for transportation? Of course, that lead to the next obvious question: Why not have a battle in that giant wind tunnel? Being fantasy, and marketed to no-one in particular, meant that it all came to life!
Necrosanguin also has a heavy ocean theme throughout the series. During the time I did most of the writing my partner and I spent a lot of time in and around the ocean.
This year, living in a cold, mountainous region, I’ve written about a variety of wyverns (if you don’t know what a wyvern is, for my style think dragon, but four limbed, less regal, more savage and numerous) and creatures I could imagine lurking in and around mountains. The shroud are probably my personal favourite creation this year; they’re a skinny, insect-like creature with large claws and translucent skin. These things are awkward, like a fish out of water outside of the ‘fog’, but within their special environment, they are practically infallible. I’m sure you can get a bit of an idea where some influence for this came from, but driving through winding mountains, in a fog so thick I could barely see, was what really made my mind wander!
For media that has inspired me, I’d have to say the two biggest things are the video game series Monster Hunter and the card game Magic The Gathering. The Monster Hunter games are, not surprisingly, games full of monsters. It’s a series that my partner and I have enjoyed playing together when we have spare time. Magic cards are an unlimited source of inspiration. I don’t play as often as I’d like to, but just gazing upon the sensational artwork on the cards can help me find inspiration.
The ‘kehrip’ creature from the Necrosanguin series was loosely based on two things I thought were scary as a kid: raptors from Jurassic Park and xenos from the Alien quadrilogy. While books have inspired me also, I cannot think of anything in particular that strongly influenced any of my creations.
Tell us about your Glimpses short story, Flight of Flame, and how it relates to your series, The Holtur Trilogy?
The Holtur Enigma was quite an ominous ride from start to end, and I wanted to create something lighter to bridge the gap to the upcoming sequel, The Holtur Curse. I also made the decision to switch point of view characters between each book in the trilogy. Flight of Flame was a great opportunity to take Sonja out of her element by throwing the veteran monster slayer into a ‘wyvern piloting course’.
Thank you, Cameron, for sharing your author’s journey and giving us some insight into your stories.
Glimpses, an anthology of 16 fantasy stories including Cameron’s Flight of Flame can be found here: http://books2read.com/glimpsesanthology
You can connect with Cameron and find more of his works using the following links:
Free book: The Holtur Enigma: http://www.cameronwaynesmith.com/books/the-holtur-enigma/
Free bestiary (email sign up): http://www.cameronwaynesmith.com/scholars-of-the-bristrunstium/join/