Austin S. Camacho [ascamacho]
What did you first read? How did you begin to write? Who were the first to read what you wrote?
First reading was comic books, so my first detective was Batman. I didn't become an avid reader until a librarian handed me The Hobbit. When I finished the Lord of the Rings she handed me Tarzan of the Apes and I was hooked on action, adventure and what we now call thrillers.
In high school I fictionalized my friends in a "Mission Impossible" type group, each with a specialty. That was a serialized story that spanned most of a year. They were the first readers and I must admit they were an eager and appreciative audience.
What is your favorite genre? Can you provide a link to a site where we can read some of your work or learn something about it?
I love to read what I write - detective fiction and action thrillers. If you like reading about Spencer or Alex Cross you'll love my Hannibal Jones mystery series. And if you like the adventures of Dirk Pitt or Jack Reacher you'll enjoy my series starring Morgan Stark and Felicity O'Brien.
You can read sample chapters of my novels at http://www.ascamacho.com/
What is your creative process like? What happens before sitting down to write?
Once I have a plot idea I write a detailed outline, although it is a series of scenes since I don't know where the chapter breaks go until I am writing. When I know the entire sequence of events I just sit down and write those scenes in the order they happen.
I write every day, but how much varies a lot. I tend to do necessary research only when I get to that point in the story. When I'm in the process I visualize everything that happens - I see the scene then try to describe it on paper.
What type of reading inspires you to write?
When I need inspiration, like a painter I return to the old masters. I read Raymond Chandler to be reminded what prose should sound like. I read Ross MacDonald and challenge myself to plot a mystery that tight. I read John D. McDonald to be reminded of how to keep a story socially conscious. And of course I reread Elmore Leonard to see what great characters are.
What do you think are the basic ingredients of a story?
A good story has a great hook, a strong pace, a logical plot and most importantly, fully realized characters that the reader can care about. If I care about the people in a story I'll follow them anywhere - through a mystery, an adventure, a fantasy landscape or into outer space.
What voice do you find most to your liking: first person or third person?
I prefer a very tight third person, both for reading and for writing. However, I have written short stories in first person.
What well known writers do you admire most?
I really admire the work of Raymond Chandler (Best Mystery Ever has got to be The Lady in the Lake.) Also Dashiell Hammett, Ross MacDonald, John D. McDonald (I read EVERY Travis McGee novel while in college,) David Morrell (Best of breed for thrillers,) Elmore Leonard, Ken Bruen, Libby Fischer Hellmann, Bill Pronzini, James Ellroy, Paula Woods, Harlan Coben and Laura Lippman.
What is required for a character to be believable? How do you create yours?
for a character to be believable they have to have familiar traits I can relate to, and some odd traits to make them memorable. They must be predictable, but also able to surprise me now and again. Their behavior must be consistent and match their background.
My characters grow organically out of their national and geographic background. As I add details to their history (age, appearance, family structure, profession, education) the personality comes into view. I cast the parts in my little dramas very carefully.
Are you equally good at telling stories orally?
I can tell a very short story well, orally, but I'm much better on paper because I love the ins and outs of weaving events together. I can't juggle plot lines in my head the way I can on paper.
Deep down inside, who do you write for?
Most of the time, I'm writing for me. I want to entertain myself, or learn something about myself that I can only get at by writing. My fiction is my worldview and my view of human nature and motivation.
There are times, though, that I write specifically for my son, or my wife. I have things I need to say to them, and hope that others will get the message too.
Is writing a form of personal therapy? Are internal conflicts a creative force?
Not so much internal conflict as internal exploration. Why do I think this? What makes me believe that? What would REALLY happen if I did this or went there? How would I react to a certain situation?
So yes, it is a form of personal therapy. It's me, psychoanalyzing myself
Does reader feed-back help you?
Reader feed-back is invaluable. Readers tell me what worked and what didn't, what's clear and what isn't, what's relevant and what isn't. Readers tell me who they like and who they hate, and that is sometimes a surprise. And if a reader is disappointed in a character, that means they're really invested in him or her, and I need to look at that person's actions again.
Do you participate in competitions? Have you received any awards?
I have never entered a writing contest except the Writer's Digest novel contest once. So, no awards for me.
Do you share rough drafts of your writings with someone whose opinion you trust?
I never share what I think is a rough draft. Occasionally, after my wife or one of my three early readers gets finished with me I realize that what I gave them IS a rough draft and needs a lot more work. But I can't discuss the story with anyone until I think it is complete and fully realized. I don't need anyone pointing out errors that I already know are there. It muddies things.
Do you believe you have already found "your voice" or is that something one is always searching for?
I believe I have found my voice... or my voices. My Thriller voice doesn't sound much like my mystery voice (sort of like John Woo's Brokeback Mountain doesn't feel like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.) I'm working on an urban fantasy right now and it doesn't sound like either of the others. Kind of different moods.
What discipline do you impose on yourself regarding schedules, goals, etc.?
I'm incredibly anal. When I start a project I set a deadline, then break it down into weekly writing objectives. I write every day and if I'm behind that means a lot of writing on Saturday.
Mantra is that we always have time for what's important to us. While some have no trouble finding time to shoot 18 holes of golf or watch 3 football games every week, I can always find time to create.
What do you surround yourself with in your work area in order to help your concentrate?
All I need is a keyboard and some decent music. I get a kind of tunnel vision when I'm writing and what's around me really doesn't matter.
Do you write on a computer? Do you print frequently? Do you correct on paper? What is your process?
I outline with a pencil on a pad. That gets typed into a word document. From there everything I do is on the computer. I almost never print until I have a complete manuscript. I do a couple of rewrites on screen. When I think it's done, THEN I print and read it through like a reader. Then it goes to my early readers to get beat up again. ;-)
What sites do you frequent on-line to share experiences or information?
Mostly I follow a few other writers' blogs. The most important to me are:
The Stiletto Gang Blog
Madam Mayo Blog
A Writer's Life
but I also follow Acme Authors Link, Slendah's Author Interviews, A Case of Murder, The Life of a Publisher, In Reference to Murder, Spunk On A Stick's Tips, Books and Magazines Blog, Mike's Writing Workshop, Buzz, Balls and Hype, Authors on the Net, Sling Words, Pop Syndicate, Murder Circle, BethBadandBeyond and Working Stiffs Blog
What has been your experience with publishers?
I haven't had any experience with major publishers yet. My experience with the small press is that they are hard working, dedicated people with not enough resources to do what they'd like to do for their authors. I don't have much negative to say about Echelon Press where I've placed work. But they do have limits and ultimately, the success of an author is up to them.
What are you working on now?
I am cowriting an urban fantasy featuring a werewolf and a mystic who is channeling a god in the African Yaruba pantheon. The fun part is that it's set in Portland, OR, one of the naturally weirdest places in the country. It's being a gas.
What do you recommend I do with all those things I wrote years ago but have never been able to bring myself to show anyone?
I suggest you pull out the one that speaks to you most and give it a fair and serious rewrite. There must have been some reason for you to write it. If you are still embarrassed when you finish, put it back in the drawer to rest while you improve your craft. When it makes you smile, THEN show it to someone.
Austin S. Camacho