This is a continuation of the DragonCon interview with Shayne Silvers, Cameron O’Connell, and Lane Hamilton. I had just asked if there were any serious challenges to working together on the tight timeline they’ve established. (Thanks again to Michelle and Barb for the transcription support.)
Cameron Answer: Uhm… not really at all, uh in a lot of ways because one, he and I have known each other a long time, so he knows that I’m self-motivated and that that’s never necessarily going to be an issue. Uh, you know, he gave me deadlines and dates because he knew that I would try and destroy them and be done with them well in advance. So, that really wasn’t much of an issue. Plus, he was really understanding with it because he knew I was also working. And so it was like, you know, you can make inroads, but he’s also been really good and very supportive about like increasing work capacity and giving me tools to do that. And the process just gets easier, so it really hasn’t been, there hasn’t been any friction on that level up to this point, but we’ll see how it goes, ha ha.
Interviewer: OK, so tell me, when you say “increasing capacity, giving you tools”, give me some more detail. What does that mean, what exactly does that mean? And uhm, also, when you say “setting deadlines, and you wanting to shred them”; and I can already tell, I totally understand that’s your personality, like, I can see that completely. But, you guys are on a pretty fast release schedule. Really, you’re releasing a book every couple of months at this point, right?
Cameron Answer: Faster than that, yeah.
Interviewer: Faster than that. So yeah, so that’s a real rapid release strategy, and we can talk about the benefits of that later, but, what is an average book writing time for you?
Cameron Answer: And, see, that’s a little tricky at this point, because the average is really skewed for what I’ve been able to do, uh, because I was working. And when you have a normal, and I’m sure there are going to be tons of writers out there who are like yeah, a 9 to 5 kills, it’s makes it really, really hard because then you’re spending your excess time to do it, and that can be really difficult. But, I mean, I went from, and part of this was too, from getting out of the MFA program, where they insist on every word being perfect. Which doesn’t mean – it can still be perfect, but like, a perfect word doesn’t have to be meticulously chosen. It can be just the perfect word because it’s the perfect thing because you’re writing it. And it’s entertaining, and it flows and it works. It doesn’t have to be like, the most beautiful thing you could ever read, because like, it takes forever to do that. So, my capacity, early on, was probably about 500 words per sit-down. Now, I can do about 500 words in 20 minutes. And that’s routine. Part of it was, was a couple of the different – uh, was growing, and knowing my character and getting to the point where I could write those scenes faster, because I knew the world. Right? I could just, I could just, I could do it in the Head or Voice. Uh, but other parts of it were simple things. Shayne suggested I do this, it’s a process thing. And everybody has a little bit different one. And mine may uh, evolve from this at some point, but I did this with Dark and Stormy. I sat down – that’s book 4- I sat down, and I did 20 minutes on, 10 minute walk, 20 minutes on, 10 minute walk. And I did that, and I would write 7-8 hours a day, and I would do around 2000 words. You know, and that’s, that’s pretty intense. Now,granted, for some people, that might be the end of their process. For me, I do that until 5 o’clock at night. And then I go work out, and then I come back, and then I edit until 9 or 10pm. Some people don’t do it that way. Some people just write and write and write, and keep pushing the book forward, or whatever. I’m just a little bit of a perfectionist in that way. So, I always came back to it, and had to re-go over it, and make sure I was capitalizing on things before I move forward. And, I think the trick, for a lot of people, is like, doing it everyday, right, and building up that habit. Uh, and what I learned is, you always want to leave yourself hungry, for the next scene. If you go to bed, and you can’t stop thinking about the next scene that you want to write, I think, that’s the goal. And that’s the trick to whether you know you want to be in this business. Because, literally, you’re like, I want to get out of bed and keep writing, but I know I need to sleep, then you’re meant to be doing this.
Interviewer: Okay. So, uhm, I work a full time job. I drive a LYFT on the side to pay for my editing fees, and I have 3 kids. So, I can assure you, when I go to bed, usually, my main thought is: ‘I can’t wait to go to sleep.” My main thought is not the scene that I need to write the next day. Uhm, but again, since I’m not writing full time, I’m not releasing like you guys are. I mean, it’s really, really a balance. Uhm, now, Shayne, you have kids….
Shayne Answer: Mmhmm, 2 toddlers, yeah.
Interviewer: Yeah, and uhm, so, you’re writing, but you’re writing full time. And I know that you’re pretty much a maniac about, you know, about your butt on the chair, your fingers on a keyboard. So, tell me what… So, let’s back up, and tell me what made you think “Hey Cameron! I’m going to ask Cameron to do this!” Like, where did that come from? What was the thought process behind that? And then talk to me a little bit about, you know, how you put your butt in that chair and keep writing for that many hours.
Shayne Answer: Yeah, so, I’ve known Cameron for a while. We were actually just talking about this the other day. I think it was 2009? I think?
Cameron Answer: For when I first met you?
Shayne Answer: yeah, 08 or 09…
Cameron: Well, when did you get married Shayne?
Shayne: Well, that was 10. It was right before that wasn’t it?
Cameron: I met you the day before you got married.
Shayne: … so around 08 or 09…
Shayne Answer: Uh, I’ve known Cameron for a while. Uh, and I knew that I was looking, that if I were to ever look for another Author to join my publishing company, that they had to be someone that had the same kind of drive as I did, and the skill to write. And I knew Cameron had a different type of skill with his writing, that he had gone the more traditional route of going to school for it. And doing short stories, and getting awards, and submitting, and that whole process of the more traditional route: uh, short story publications and teaching and all this. I definitely didn’t have all that. I’m the kid on the street that just decided that he wanted to own his own business in 8th grade, you know, that kind of story. Uh, and I tried to learn through reading, how to write well. Uh, but I knew that if I was going to bring anyone else on, it should probably be someone like Cameron, so that we can kind of, complement each other. Uhm, so I approached Cameron, and told him the opportunity, that uh, I would like to have another series, or two, in my universe. I don’t really have the time for it, uh, because I want to devote on my stuff, my two series. Would you be interested? You know, there’s only a handful of people that I would consider asking that, and you’re one of them. Right now, you’re the only one, but I’ve got a couple others in mind. And he said, ‘Well, you know, let me see.” And, at that point, he was teaching. He was very set in the traditional model, the traditional publishing model mindset. And so he said ‘Let me see, let me look at it.” And he polished off the books. I didn’t even hear from him. He left, and then I didn’t hear from him for about 2 and a half weeks. And I think I called you [Cameron] and said “How are you doing?” or You [Cameron] called me, one of the two, and uh, he was like, ‘Hey, I’m on the last book of your 13 books.’ And I was like “ Oh! Okay, that’s why I haven’t heard from you! Because you’ve been reading, obviously, you must be interested…”. And then, right then and there, we started talking about his series. And I think at that point he was finishing the 12th or 13th book of mine, and he had already basically come up with his story. So then, we started fine tuning it and tweaking it, and saying okay, how can we marry this but keep it separate? What would be fun? And he said, ‘Well, Boston. Like a hard-core, red-headed, like, black magic arms dealer, from Boston.’ And it’s perfect. It works great, because it’s far enough away from my stuff, where it’s not direct interaction as necessary. But whenever it does happen, what happens in St. Louis, can have an effect on Boston, and vice versa. And, so there’s a lot of reasons for Boston, too, that you’ll find out as you read, there’s purpose for that. Just like St. Louis and Kansas City. Uh, yeah, that’s kind of how we got started. And he’s obviously proven… I told him that, if he’s going to do this, he has to release- we will release 4 books back to back. We’re not going to be like a book a year. So, how long do you think it’ll take you to write like, 4 books? You don’t have to write 4 books in a month. We will release them in one month. And so he said, ‘Well, you know, I don’t know. I work a job, and I do all this, all that…’ and about a month later he’s like ‘Okay, I just finished book 1.’ And he’s just hustling, and he has that same drive that I knew that he had. And uh, he’s starting to realize, ‘Oh, okay’. And so we sent it to our ARC team, just to kind of see what they thought. They loved it! They had some suggestions, and critiques, just like they do with everyone, and every one of our books. But he suddenly got that fire, like ‘Oh, wow! This, this is a lot different than the traditional model, and people are loving it!’. And all of a sudden it’s like, it just lit a fuse. And he uh, actually finished his project, what, 2 months early, 3 months early?
Cameron: Uh, yeah, almost to the detriment, at that point – because we, we didn’t anticipate, uhm… Part of it was me finishing early to tell Shayne that I finished 2 months early, because I just wanted to be able to say that. Uhm, but the other part of it is, it’s very true based on response. Right? The traditional model that I’ve known is, I mean you totally have to, you toil, you toil endlessly, and then you, you pray somebody will read more than past the first page. Because, when you send to an editor, you know what I mean, they tell you, make sure the first page is the most interesting, because they may not read past it. Well, you know, that’s incredibly frustrating when you wrote 300 pages. You know what I mean? You don’t want them to just like, judge everything, you know, based on the first page. Uhm, so, to have it sent to the ARC team, and to have these people that read books all the time, and have that kind of feedback- positive or negative- you know, was uh, really, it made it very real. Uhm, you know, the first book, for me, was really just like, I had all these ideas and I really wanted to do it. And by that point, I was like, man, this is, not only that, it’s also, like, I’m creating for an audience. And, and that was a different feeling and it motivated me in a different way.
Interviewer: Uhm, so, just so everybody knows, Cameron and I are sharing a microphone, which is why there’s this weird delay. Uhm, I apologize for that. So, I still want to talk to Shayne about your process, but, I want to follow this line of thought. So, a couple of questions for you, Cameron. One, uhm, I’m going to guess Boston because of her Irish roots….I’m just putting that out there. Uhm, two, why a female character? Why was your main character a female character? And I’m asking that, uh, really, you know, out of total curiosity, so uhm, I, my, one of my, sort of, probably, my best new character, my monster-hunter mom, character, obviously, is very much like me, except like, infinitely, infinitely, cooler. Right? Like, she is sooo much cooler than I am. But, she’s, you know, a Cleveland Mom, with 3 kids, right? It was a stretch. Uhm, in the book that I’ve been working on now, the main character is a dark skinned man. Uhm, that’s how he came into my head. I can not tell you why, it’s just how he was. So uhm, I’m really curious. What made you think of a red-headed girl?
Cameron Answer: Well, so I think there’s a level of Schizophrenia that’s involved in writing. Like, just, there is. Uhm, you know, you have voices in your head, right?. You have people that have active, differing personalities. Uhm, and I think the temptation, uhm for me, to write, as a man, like write a male character, would be – and I’d fall into a lot of pitfalls of, I’d be writing myself. Right? I’d be writing myself in a situation. And it’s, it’s hard, to put yourself through, uhm, difficult situations. Or to even, just to differentiate, uhm so you can do that. And I, I don’t actually like, even know of any authors outside of my head, but I’m sure that there’s authors out there, right? Who, like, live vicariously through their main character. Like, their main character is, uhm, some extension of themselves, that they wish they could be. I didn’t want that. Uhm, I wanted to write a character who was really, fully formed. Uhm, picking Quinn was, was simple in some ways, because, there were certain things I knew I wanted. Uhm, like, I knew I wanted her to be tall, because I’m tall, 6ft 3in. It’s not like super tall, but it’s tall enough that I know that it’s weird to be tall sometimes, and I know what that experience is like. And I want to be able to write a character that’s believable. So, some of those decisions were that. Uhm, I knew I wanted her to be red-headed, because, in my experience – and this may not be true for all, so this is just a generalisation- but, red-heads are very spirited. (chuckles) And I, uh, I wanted a spirited, cocky, confident, character to write, because I find those characters the ones that create their own drama. They create their own tension in a story. Uhm, they create their own action, and I don’t understand characters that are passive, like necessarily. I mean, I don’t want to write Doctor Watson, studying Sherlock Holmes, who’s doing all the stuff. Like, I don’t want to do that. Uh, but as far as just the gender aspect, I really, I really just wanted to write someone really interesting. And, no offense to the male population, but, I find women more interesting. And parts of that are sexual orientation, but another part of that is that I have 3 younger sisters,uh, and a mom who is very independent and strong. And all my sisters are like that. And, uh, I knew that I could draw from a well of, of seeing them and observing them. And, I wanted to be able to put somebody on the page who represents them, right? That doesn’t represent, necessarily, someone soft, or feminine. Although, my main character can be those things, as all people can. They have duality.