Our final entry into Vampire month is Skyla Dawn Cameron. Yes, I know it is April now and Vampire month was March but it’s OK. By the powers vested in me by the fact I am ultimate controller of this blog, I now declare today to be honourary March and therefore still Vampire month. Hurrah!
So, here is Skyla…
Award-winning author Skyla Dawn Cameron has been writing approximately forever. Her early storytelling days were spent acting out strange horror/fairy tales with the help of her many dolls, and little has changed except that she now keeps those stories on paper. She signed her first book contract at age twenty-one for River, a unique werewolf tale, which was released to critical and reader praise alike and won her the 2007 EPPIE Award for Best Fantasy. She now has multiple series on the go to keep her busy, which is great for her attention deficit disorder.
Skyla lives in Southern Ontario where she dabbles in art, is an avid gamer, and watches Buffy reruns. She’s naturally brunette, occasionally a redhead, and will probably go blonde again soon. If she ever becomes a grown-up, she wants to run her own pub, as well as become world dictator. You can visit her on the web at www.skyladawncameron.com for free fiction, book news, and tons of other totally awesome stuff. She tweets like a fiend at www.twitter.com/skyladawn. Info about the current series she’s working on—which begins with Bloodlines—can be found at www.ZaraLain.com
What is the earliest memory you have of writing? What did you write about?
I remember sitting in my bedroom, on the floor, with stacks of blank paper with the logo of the hydro company my mum worked for on the top (as she’d brought me some from work), writing. I mixed fairy tales with horror; my influences were Disney princess movies I’d just watched along with Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” playing on my little record player (I loved the Vincent Price part).
When did you decide to become a professional writer? Why did you take this step?
In high school, I took everything—I was interested in so many different areas. So on top of creative writing and art classes, I took all the advanced sciences, law, philosophy, maths—all kinds of stuff. Of course, I didn’t always do my homework, but I sat and paid attention because that that point I was just interested in amassing knowledge and learning, still unsure about what I wanted to do for university.
I was about seventeen, sitting in an Advanced Biology class a grade level ahead of me, fairly confused because at that point of the semester, it was a lot of biochemistry, and required a working knowledge of a class I wouldn’t be taking until the following semester. We had a supply teacher who put on a video and I was drawing in my sketchbook. It was a terrible picture but I was practicing shading techniques.
I sat next to the two top students in the class—people a year older than me with like 98% in the course. And they were watching me draw. One whispered to the other, “If I could draw like that, I wouldn’t be in Biology.”
I don’t necessarily believe that and my drawing skills are nothing to write home about, but something clicked in my brain. Why was I spending all this time in classes that weren’t where my talents lay? The next day, I went straight to the guidance office and dropped everything but two art classes, English Literature, and Creative Writing. I filled the rest of my time with spares, which I used to write and draw. I finished writing my first completed novel that spring and pursued writing as a career straight out of high school.
What would you consider to be your greatest strength as a writer? What about your greatest weakness? How do you overcome this weakness?
Probably character and dialogue would be my strength. I love T.V. I’m picky in what I watch, but it’s one of my favourite storytelling mediums and for the longest time I wanted to be a screenwriter. Early on, I picked up a lot about dialogue writing from television, and I still think it—along with well-developed characters—is the strongest area of my writing.
Greatest weakness is description. I used to write first drafts that read like screenplays. Dialogue advanced everything, and description was more like set direction. I always knew this but it wasn’t until I really got analysing books that painted a vivid picture of the world that I truly understood I needed to step up my game—and wanted to. One of the writers was Lilith Saintcrow, probably my favourite living author. I was reading something of hers, marvelling at her word choice for sensory details and the sense of rhythm in her writing, and just thought, “Holy shit. I want to be a better writer.”
I am still nowhere near that level, but I take a lot of care now to slow down, immerse myself in the scene, and add flesh to the bare bones of my writing.
Tell us about the place where you live. Have you ever derived any inspiration from your home or from anywhere you have visited?
I went from living in a small town for twenty-seven years to an even smaller town for the past two; I live in rural, cottage country Ontario now.
Inspiration? Yes, it’s something that’s popped up in a lot of my WIPs. There is this wonderful isolation in a small town that is perfect for the horror elements in anything paranormal. Although this area is bustling in the summer with tourists travelling the canal, in winter it can be absolutely dead and lonely, and that’s wonderful to play with while writing. In fiction, I feel the setting needs to be its own character, and small towns have a lot of personality.
Which book, if any, would you consider to be your greatest influence and inspiration?
I don’t really know if I could pick a book. In terms of writers, hands down the top is Joss Whedon. Buffy the Vampire Slayer was pretty foundational for me: I learned about character arcs, plot arcs, dialogue, etc from watching and re-watching the series since I was fourteen.
Though perhaps not a direct influence in what I write, but definitely a contributing reason as to why I write, would be Louise Cooper’s The Time Master Trilogy. I had been writing all my life—including attempting YA horror novels when I was a preteen—and then I drifted into poetry and other stuff for a while. When I was sixteen, my mum got a box of fantasy novels at a church sale, which was a genre I’d never really read before. The first I picked up was Cooper’s The Initiate.
Blew. My. Mind.
It actually inspired me to try writing fantasy. While I quite firmly suck at writing straight fantasy, my fantasy novel was the first I ever finished (at 85 000 words) as a teen. I still have first printing copies of The Time Master Trilogy and was fortunate enough to work with Ms. Cooper for a short time before her sad passing years later when I started working in publishing.
What drove you to write about Vampires?
Well, first we have to go waaaaaaay back.
My fourth finished novel, River, was a contemp teenage werewolf tale, written in the fall of 2003. Prior to that, the books I’d finished were Gothic horror, epic fantasy, and suspense thrillers. I’d finished River, submitted it, and started poking around with what else to write.
Then, honest to god, this vampire chick strolled up and tapped me on the shoulder while I was out walking one night.
Granted, she was in my head. But I heard her. Her voice, her observations. I tried to ignore her, but then she gave me her name: Zara Lain. So I started her first book, Bloodlines, not really feeling like I had a choice in the matter because she might cut me. Now, that book was first published in 2008, and I let the series languish for awhile before revisiting it, totally rewriting it, and re-releasing Bloodlines in 2011—which reinvigorated my interest in the series.
So there you go. I write vampires because the vampires make me do it.
What do you think is the attraction for Vampire fiction? Why is it such a popular topic?
I…honestly don’t even know. As far as traditional mythological beasts go, I prefer a very wolf-like werewolf—and really, my preference is to write monsters from more obscure world myths.
I suppose it’s the beauty and immortality of the vampire—there’s a certain wish fulfilment they provide. And, despite the fact that it’s 2012, there is still a lot of sexual repression in many circles—so along comes a sinful, highly sexualized, seductive creature of the night, who promises eternal life, beauty, and freedom of everything our culture knows. Vampires today—just as they did in Bram Stoker’s time—provide an outlet for issues we’re struggling with as a society.
In a fight between all the greatest Vampires of fiction, who do you think would come out on top?
Count Chocula. C’mon, no one would ever see that coming.
What about in some other contest such as sexiness or dress sense? Who would win that one?
If I don’t say Zara is the best dressed vampire, she will probably stab me. Sexiest? It makes me a terrible person but I loooooove David Boreanaz in season two of Buffy as Angelus. He was horrible. That season was utterly heartbreaking and gutted me. But that pure evilness was sexy as hell.
How well do you think your character would fare against the winner(s) of the above?
My money is generally on Zara to survive anything. That’s what she does: she survives. Even if she’s not the strongest and she’s up against something big, she’s resourceful and a bit Machiavellian, and she’d manage to pull an ace out of her sleeve at the last moment.
Tell us the basic premise behind your latest novel.
It’s called Lineage and is the second sequel to Bloodlines and follows quarter-demon merc, Persephone Takata. Peri’s deeply damaged and suicidal after an attack meant for her kills her husband and children. The novel picks up five and a half years after that event, when the shadowy mercenary organization she works for at last gives her the name of someone who can help track down who killed her family. That someone is the vampire Zara Lain.
And, of course, wackiness ensues from there.