Hi Everyone! Here is the first part of my interview with Shayne, Cameron, and Lane that I did at DragonCon 2018. I’d like to thank Michelle Duffy and Barb Wolf for their help creating the transcripts. (Warning: Spoilers!)
Interview with Shayne, Cameron and Lane. Part 1.
Joelle Reizes (JD Blackrose): Hi. Ok, so as you can tell, hi, this is Joelle Reizes at Slipperywords and you’re sort of coming in the middle of a conversation with Cameron O’Connell and Shayne Silvers. We’ll be talking to them today about their collaboration. And maybe if we can get Lane to join in. Lane is the business guy for this wonderful new group that’s formed, and he’s here and I might be able get him to say a few words as well. So I am going to let everyone say hello. So, Shayne go ahead and say hi.
Shayne Silvers: Yeah, this is Shayne Silvers. I’m the author of the Temple Chronicles about Nate Temple. The billionaire wizard in St. Louis. And then the author of the Feathers and Fire series. About a wizard in Kansas City that hunts monsters for the Vatican. Both of those series are combined into the TempleVerse so it’s one shared universe. And I’ll pass it over to Cameron.
Cameron O’Connell: Hi. My name is Cameron O’Connell. I write the Phantom Queen Diaries. It’s a kind of the third part of that tripod at the moment. And my story follows Quinn MacKenna. She’s the black magic arms dealer living in Boston. That’s the basic premise at any rate. And, yeah, so Shayne and I have been working together for, umm …
Shayne: About a half year.
Cameron: About a half a year at this point.
Shayne: Little more than that.
Cameron: So, yeah, that’s me.
Joelle: So, one of the things that is really interesting to me, you guys know that as JD Blackrose, I write in a shared universe as well but our monster hunters don’t interact nearly as much you guys do. Like your three major characters Callie, Nate and Quinn really interact. Your guys appear, they appear in the other novels. So the first thing I really wanted to ask, and I‘m gonna ask Shayne first and then Cameron. How do you map that out? That to me as a writer is the thing that just cannot, I cannot, grasp that. How you do that.
Shayne: Yeah. That is definitely the hardest part. We have to plan out our releases pretty far in advance. Because we need to know when Nate is coming in and then Callie and Quinn. And if they are going to intersect or if I’m writing Nate Temple number ten and he needs to meet Quinn in that book. So then we need to make sure it matches his timeline. So there is a lot of planning. And also to make sure the timelines make sense. So that he doesn’t, let’s say in my books, in Nate Temple’s books, Nate meets Quinn on a certain day and then in Cameron’s book he never references that meeting. So you need to make sure that everyone is aware of everything going on. So really it’s like writing a big story. Which is the whole point of the universe. You’re writing one big story. And so we’ll sit down for hours and really map out okay this is where Nate’s going in book eleven. This is where he’s going in book twelve. Here’s where Callie is going in book five, six and seven. That’s all happening in the next eight months or six months. And then what about you, Cameron? I know you have three or four books coming. And tell me what you are thinking about doing. And then how, what would a cool way to marry those two together. Is there a really funny scene that Callie could be babysitting some werebears for Quinn. Or something like that. Like how can we get them to cross over and meet each other or mess up the other person’s story? Make it harder for them to do whatever they are trying to do. So there is a lot of planning. Cameron is actually, we are flying back from DragonCon and spending about a week together. Planning the next six months. So.
Cameron: Yeah, pretty much piggy back off of that. The concept that I’ve come to understand is the most functional is the kind of optimization. So for example. As a very practical example. The initial draft of Whisky Ginger, which is book one of that series, Nate Temple was not in it. In the original draft. Very quickly we realized that there were some opportunities that we could exploit if we wanted to. To have him in. But at the same time it’s the rule of, umm what do you call it when someone, cameo. It’s a cameo.
Cameron: Cameo roles, I think, are always valuable as long as someone doesn’t stay to long. And I think that was always the trick that we’ve kind of adhered to. Is that we know we have valuable characters and we know they can bring a lot to a story. We also know they can bring too much to a story.
Cameron: So it’s making sure we can optimize their potential in each narrative. Give them enough time to briefly shine and then move the plot along. And to make sure, that of course, if they are there it’s not arbitrary. Right? We try to make sure everything we do has intention. Which like sometimes people don’t see it right away. But it gets there eventually.
Joelle: Okay , so I two questions on that. The first one is do you have like a giant white board? Like what do you have? Is this on the computer? Do you have a like wall …
Joelle: … that has become a chalk board that has all of these intersecting lines?
Shayne: So, I do. Yeah. I’ve got like a major outline that is always the template that we are all going to use. And I’ll tell Camron this is how I’m going to do this.
Joelle: It’s the Temple-plate?
Shayne: Yeah. Then I’ll totally change it on him. So it’s definitely fluid. I’d like to think it’s concrete. Like with Horseman that just came out, I told everyone or I told Cameron that a certain scene that ties into his books is going to happen at the very end. That’s how the Temple ten is going to end. I totally lied to him. As soon as he gets to a third through the book and there’s the scene that he’s been waiting for, that he thought the book was going to end on, then it keeps going. So we really try to, but he knew that. That was during ARC. So I didn’t just release that and not tell him that.
Joelle: That was nice of you.
Shayne: I shouldn’t have done that. But what I’ll do is send the book to Cameron once it’s finished. And he will do the same. Send me his stuff when he is finished. And then we will compare notes and he’ll say hey, it would be really cool if you added Quinn doing this in Temple’s book or just reference something in Boston that could really bring things together. And then I’ll do the same for him. Like, hey, it’d be really cool if Nate accidentally stumbled into an Uber with Quinn. Just drunk. And like just being a nuisance and that’s how she sees Nate for the first time. So just kind of finding ways to marry the two but keep them independent.
Joelle: Right. So I should tell people there are some spoilers that have already come out. So, I’ll just put a spoiler warning …
Joelle: … on the front of this.
Joelle: But, actually they’ve all been for Quinn books basically.
Joelle: So, I wanted to get back to that, so that scene, I’ve read all the Quinn books. And I have not read the Horseman. And I’m a little behind on the Callie series personally. So, just being honest about that.
Joelle: But when Nate meets Quinn, and I knew it was Nate immediately, he has a moment where he, at the very end, right, he shakes her hand and he sort of, there a like a magical …
Joelle: … you know moment where he sort of looks at his hand and she looks at hers like, okay who the hell are you? So the writer in me is like okay that is totally foreshadowing. Like I know that is foreshadowing I know exactly what that is but I honestly spent the rest of the freakin’ book waiting to figure out what that was. And was really annoyed when it didn’t happen.
Joelle: By the way.
Joelle: So, you know, do you, are you going to specifically reference that moment? Or is that just like a gentle way of saying, okay, they recognize each other a magical practitioners. And I’m going to give this to Cameron.
Cameron: It’s entirely intentional. I have a plan. Shayne and I have a plan …
Cameron: … for that moving forward. The beauty of it is that we know, from looking at any kind of co-author setup, that certain things should have an impact. And your main two characters meeting like shouldn’t be just a brushing of coats, you know, in a passerby situation. I think that would be a mistake to do it that way. But there is definitely a reason for why because; spoilers. My main character in book one she doesn’t get influenced by magic. Like she is essentially a null. She keeps all magic from reaching her in one way or another. And yet Nate did. And there is going to be a reason for that.
Joelle: Okay, now I actually feel better.
Shayne and Cameron: <Laughing>
Joelle: Like I knew, I knew …
Joelle: … I’m reading that as both a reader and a writer, and I’m like, okay, that little sentence means something and I’m really frustrated that I don’t what it is. So you should know that, you know, we read that and do think about it. So that’s great. And I did love the sun bear by the way. I loved the bears.
Joelle: That was awesome.
Cameron: That was a great phone conversation.
Joelle: You have to read the Quinn books to get that reference. Okay, so, one of the things that I realize that I really never have done, and I want to get back to Cameron, is I wanted you to tell us a little bit about your writing beginnings. Like where you started writing and then I’m going to ask each of you to tell me how you decided to start writing together. And we’ll see what the difference is in those and the retelling of that story. But Cameron tell us a little bit about where you started in your writing career.
Cameron: Yeah. So I’ve been writing pretty much since I could hold a pencil, or a pen, or what have you, depending how, <chuckle> on how my parents felt that day. But writing for me was always cathartic in a lot of different ways. I think I had this discussion earlier with someone else when I mentioned that if I wasn’t doing it the way I was doing it now I would still be writing. I would just also be teaching. I went and got an English Bachelor’s degree and then I jumped over and got my MFA in creative writing. Which is a great experience. I really can’t recommend it highly enough for certain reasons and then I can’t like not recommend it. <Laughing> The opposite is also true for other reasons. But I walked away from that experience thinking, okay, like, I wanna be a writer, I wanna be an author, I wanna create some beautiful masterpiece this is the next great American novel. And it was a much more completed process that what I expected it to be. I was really kind of overwhelmed by how difficult it is to write in a vacuum. When you have no audience and when you’re trying to develop a story from scratch. Not because you don’t have great ideas necessarily but because no one is there to validate those ideas. And that can be really frustrating experience, I’m sure, for many would be writers. When that didn’t pan out I went back to being a server and a bar tender and I hated it. Again. And I swore when I finished that that I would never go back and do it again. So I went back to school and I got my teaching license. And I started teaching. And I learned that I truly loved teaching. Teaching is a great career path. And you can give back to a lot of people doing that. But then Shayne came along. It was literally as I was heading back, I was moving to the DC area. And I stopped in, I think it was Christmas, right?
Shayne: Mm-hmm. Right before.
Cameron: Yeah, right before Christmas. And he sat me down and we had a just a chat where he explained what it is he was hoping to achieve depending on my interest. Right? It was just like a just a putting feelers out. And he’s like, okay, you know, if this is something you wanna do then I’d like you to take a look at all of my books, the accumulative body of work, at this point which was 14 books?
Cameron: Because Callie 5 hadn’t come out yet. And so. No, thirteen.
Cameron: Thirteen books. And he said ok, you know, take a look at all of these and let me know what you think. Let me know if you have any ideas. And I read them in three weeks. And gave him a phone call. And from there it was pretty much work, work, work. Create, create, create.