Today, I´d like to welcome Cameron Haley, author of the brand new Urban Fantasy book Mob Rules that hit the shelves last week. He is stopping by Reading on the Dark Side to talk anout his book, writing and Urban Fantasy from a Man´s POV. Please give it up for Cameron Haley!
Thank you so much for taking the time to stop by!
This question deserves more than a plot summary, which your readers can get from my website or even the back of the book. So, at the risk of sounding pretentious, let me discuss what the book is about thematically. At its core, Mob Rules is about building bridges between worlds, and this is an image that is repeated throughout the book, from the first time Domino reaches out to a dead graffiti magician in the Beyond. It’s an image that describes Domino’s own story arc over the course of the novel: At the start, she’s almost completely alienated from the normal human world – she thinks of herself as inhabiting a separate world, the underworld, and she rarely even considers normal people. By the end of the book, Domino realizes she must try to reconnect with that world, and she is able to reinvent herself in the process.
LA, mob and magic are very unusual ingredients for a book. How did you come up with the story? Is the anything that inspired the mob- aspect?
I knew I wanted to write urban fantasy, and I knew I wanted my protagonist to be a wizard. I was also sure I didn’t want to do the usual covens or cabals – my modern-day wizards would need to organize, somehow, but I wanted to do something fresh with that. I’ve always loved gangsters, and their world seemed a perfect fit. There were specific images from popular culture that likely inspired me: What was the golden light in that briefcase that Vincent and Jules retrieved for Marcellus Wallace in Pulp Fiction? Was it Wallace’s soul? There’s an episode in The Sopranos where Christopher is becoming a “made man.” He has a little card with the image of a saint on it, and they burn the card as part of the ceremony. There’s a lot of ritual and mysticism in organized crime, from many different ethnic traditions, and I found it to be fertile soil for urban fantasy world-building.
Did you do a lot of research for your book? Or rather how does one research mob? :)
My lifelong love affair with gangsters means I’ve probably been “researching” organized crime most of my adult life. The version of OC in Mob Rules, obviously, is fictionalized and mythologized. It’s probably about as true to real organized crime as the Western genre is to the real 19th century American West…that is, not very true at all. I hope it feels true, feels real, to the reader. That’s the goal.
Can you name the key ingredients of your books in short words?
As a writer, the ingredients I try to include are compelling characters, engaging stories, snappy dialog, and sizzling action. These are probably the same ingredients every genre writer wants to include in their books!
Can we hope for more books in the world of Mob Rules or is it a stand-alone book?
Mob Rules is the first book in The Underworld Cycle; Book 2 is called Skeleton Crew. There’s also a prequel novella called “Retribution” in the Harvest Moon anthology, which will be published October 1, 2010.
How far ahead are you plotting your books?
I have basic plot concepts and the frame of an overall series arc for perhaps ten books. Mob Rules sets up the series pretty well, I think. You should have a pretty good idea of the general direction the series is headed by the time you finish the book.
What are you currently working on?
I just finished Skeleton Crew and submitted the manuscript to my editor. I’ll be expecting revisions in the next few weeks. The book is scheduled to be published in spring/summer 2011.
In September, I´ll focus mostly on male authors. Urban Fantasy however is a genre dominated mostly by female writers. Why are there so few male authors? Why did you chose to write Urban Fantasy? Or was it more coincidence?
I think there are more male authors writing urban fantasy than a lot of people think. A partial list would include Jim Butcher, Simon Green, Mike Carey, Mario Acevedo, Mark Henry, Anton Strout, John Levitt, Harry Connolly, Tim Pratt, Thomas Sniegoski, and Sergei Lukyanenko. Then there are those writing contemporary fantasy that perhaps isn’t the mystery/noir inspired subgenre that’s called “urban fantasy” today, such as Charles de Lint, Tim Powers, Sean Stewart, John Crowley, Peter S. Beagle, China Mieville, and many more.
That said, urban fantasy is a subgenre that’s clearly appealing to both women readers and women writers, and that’s probably the best thing that’s happened to the science fiction and fantasy genre in a long time.
You write your story through the eyes of a female main character. Wouldn´t it be easier for you as a man to write from a male character´s POV? Was it easy for you to make Domino a realistic character?
Well, in fact I did write a male protagonist: Domino Riley was originally a man. When I finished the first draft of the novel, I had a tough guy main character saving a damsel in distress and it was just…tired. After a few comments from early readers, I decided to rewrite the book with Domino as a woman, and it changed everything. One of the most interesting parts of that exercise was that it forced me to consider why I wanted to make a change, just because the gender of the character had changed. I’ve had lots of female readers (including both my agent and editor!), and none of them has thus far made any negative remarks about the character or voice, so I guess I did okay. Most reviewers seem to assume I’m female!
Why is it in your opinion the the majority of the readers of the Urban Fantasy genre are female and not male? Do you read Urban Fantasy yourself?
Well, a majority of fiction readers are female, so it would be unusual if urban fantasy had more male readers. In any case, I imagine lots of women are reading urban fantasy because writers are creating characters, worlds, and stories that resonate with them. I do read urban fantasy – in fact, I’m busy enough now that it’s about all I have time to read.
Would you say that your mood has an influence on your writing?
I don’t think so. If I’m in a lousy mood, I probably don’t write. When you’re writing in first person, the character’s mood should really drive things.
Where do you get your inspiration from? Music, books, TV shows or real life?
All of the above. I’m pretty sure all of it gets thrown into the stewpot of my subconscious, stirred around, and then served up in a (hopefully!) new form when I sit down to write.
A question that I am always curious about (but could be kind of personal) is: are your characters based on people you really know or maybe even a little bit about yourself or are they all purely fictional?
See above. I don’t think characters are ever “purely fictional” in the sense that they’re created from whole cloth. All of them are probably Frankenstein monsters – partly real, partly fictional – we drag out of our subconscious. They’re not going to look exactly like another person, real or imagined, but they’ll have bits and pieces of character we’ve taken from elsewhere.
How did you chose the names of the characters in your book? Do they have a special meaning?
It depends on the name. As I mentioned above, the protagonist in the original version of the novel was male, and his name was Domingo – Domino was an obvious nickname. When I changed the character’s gender, I needed a feminine name that would still work with Domino, and I settled on Dominica.
Other names might mean something. “Shanar” and “Rashan” are anagrams, for example. Shanar Rashan is clearly an invented name, which you’d expect given who it belongs to!
What do you like most about being an author? And what annoys you?
Well, I love writing. It’s hard, but it’s absolutely magical. What annoys me is that I have to keep a day job!
Did you ever have a writer´s block? If so, what did you do to deal with it?
I’m not sure there’s an accepted definition of writer’s block. For some writers, it could be the effect of clinical depression or another serious condition; for others, it could be procrastination. I’ve certainly experienced the “what happens next?” syndrome. For me, the only way to work through it is to sit down, brainstorm and outline, and figure out what happens next!
Tell us something about your favourites:
Elmore Leonard, Larry McMurtry. In urban fantasy, Jim Butcher and Ilona Andrews.
favourite paranormal creature?
favourite all time hero/heroine?
favourite all time villain?
Darth Vader! (Yes, I’m a Star Wars geek.)
Which one do you prefer, book or e-reader?
I prefer the tactile and visual experience of reading a book, but I’m growing quite fond of the convenience of my Kindle.
Is there a book you love above all? One that had a great influence on you or your life?
Was being an author something you´ve always wanted or did it just happen?
I think it’s always something I always wanted to do, it just took awhile. I was basically writing UF short stories for my high school creative writing class in the early 80s (yes, I’m old). They were Magnum P.I. rip-offs, but with a Scooby-Doo twist. I remember one where the detective hero takes a case from the beautiful, mysterious client, and then she gets abducted by Satanic cultists…
Is there any question you´ve always wanted to be asked? And if so, what would be the answer?
Question: Now that we’ve optioned the film rights for your book, would you be willing to write the screenplay? Answer: Talk to my agent.
A question that is inspired by another interview I did with an author: If you would be Superman, what would be your cryptonite?
The day job. It drains the strength from my body, mind, and soul, and makes it difficult to sustain my secret life as a writer. Hope my boss doesn’t read this…
I’m currently reading Madhouse by Rob Thurman.
And finally: Is there anything you want to say to your/my readers?
I really enjoyed this interview, and I appreciate the opportunity to speak to this community. I hope you’ll all have a look at Mob Rules if you haven’t already. I know times are tough for a lot of folks, so don’t forget your library…libraries (and librarians) are a writer’s best friends!
Thank you Cameron for stopping by and answering all my questions? Come again if you want you!