I am so excited to be interviewing the delightful and totally talented author, Erica Cameron, today. I just finished her novel, Island of Exiles, and LOVED it. Now I need to go back and read everything else she has written!
So, without further ado, let me introduce you to her!
Q: To begin with, Erica, can you tell me a little bit about your background before you became a published author?
I grew up in South Florida, and only moved as far as North Florida for college, so I’m pretty much a lifelong Florida-girl. Books and movies have always been a passion of mine, and my mom always said that if you wanted me to remember something, you had to put it to music. She wasn’t wrong. I danced and did musical theater growing up (once I played Cinderella’s mother in Into the Woods, and I had my own tree and everything!), but I was never good enough at either for them to be any more than hobbies. When I attended Florida State University, I fell sideways into my double major of creative writing and psychology mostly because those were the classes I did best in.
Over the years, I’ve also worked a lot of random jobs including dance teacher, restaurant hostess, pizza delivery girl, campus bookstore grunt, Starbucks barista, pointe-shoe fitter, dance teacher (again), psychology research assistant (twice), Borders book slave, editorial assistant at a magazine, freelance copywriter, and literature and composition teacher at a residential rehab center for teens (which is my current non-writing occupation). So far, writing is the only thing that’s stuck!
Q: Have you always known you wanted to be an author? If not, when did you begin writing, and why?
I don’t think I ever had a real answer to the “What do you want to be when you grow up?” question. There were ones I fell back on when this was asked—dancer and singer come to mind—but I didn’t actually know what either profession would look like, and I didn’t think I’d make it far in either profession. Auditions make me ridiculously nervous, for one. I’m also inherently lazy and dislike practicing, so… Yeah, my superstar career was doomed from the start.
Although I always loved books, and even tried writing my own stories a couple of times over the years, it didn’t occur to me to pursue writing as a career until my senior year of college. My sister introduced me to Twilight that year, which had come out about six months before she gave it to me. From the book, I jumped into the fandom and fanfiction, the existence of which I discovered for the first time because of Twilight. I wrote three book-length pieces of fanfiction in one summer. No, they’re not anywhere online anymore, but those projects taught me I could finish a book. The response from the fanfic community showed me people wouldn’t necessarily hate what I wrote.
I didn’t write any more fanfic after that. Instead, I jumped into trying to create my own worlds. First I played with a twist on the concept of angels. Next, I creepified the boy-next-door trope (and I might still go back to this concept one day). It wasn’t until I combined a selectively mute girl with a parallel universe that I found my debut novel. I finished the first novel draft of Sing Sweet Nightingale in 2011, and the book released in 2014. Island of Exiles is release number seven.
Q: I just read your newest release, Island of Exiles and could not put it down. What inspired you to write it?
Thank you so much! It’s thrilling to see the love this book has gotten so far! ❤
I have always loved fantasy. I grew up watching movies like Princess Bride and Willow, reading The Hobbit and Tamora Pierce, and loving the idea of faeries, dragons, and wardrobes that lead to magical worlds with talking animals. Writing a fantasy novel was something I wanted to do even before I decided I wanted to be a writer. The idea that became Island of Exiles came a few years ago. I don’t remember where it came from, but there was a question that stuck in my head: what would a society look like if aggression was more common than mercy? While this question does still play a part in the story, it’s not the main theme or thread anymore. Through drafts and edits and rewrites and editors, Island of Exiles has become something very different (and much better). The aggression vs. mercy question did however shape the landscape of Shiara, influence the kinds of animals that live there, and impact the tone of Itagamin culture. It was very much the springboard from which I dove into this world.
Q: Island of Exiles takes place in a tribal-like society. What kind of research did you do before sitting down and writing the novel, or did you already have experience with the topic?
I very much wanted to make Sagen sy Itagami its own society rather than a copy of an existing one, so I didn’t research any tribes. I did, however, spend a lot of time looking at desert survival. What kind of clothing do you need? What kind of plants grow here? What are desert caves like? This shaped the island of Shiara and how the Itagamins interacted with it, and that in turn shaped the society. There were certain quirks, laws, and expectations I needed the clan to have for plot purposes, too. Pulling from existing cultures any more than I did to create the language (the sound base I used for the Itagamin language was from Japanese and Malagasy) would have felt disrespectful to the source.
Q: When you aren’t writing, what do you like to do to relax or have fun?
It feels like non-writing time is getting pretty rare these days, but when I do have days off, I still love to do what I did when I was a kid—curling up and reading a book or watching a movie. I’m newly in love with The Expanse (both the SyFy show and the books by James S. A. Corey) and I’ve been slowly working my way through both Criminal Minds and Supernatural on Netflix. I tend to greatly dislike hot weather, so I don’t spend much time outside in Florida. If I lived somewhere with seasons, I’d go hiking, something I fell in love with when I spent six months in Maryland.
Q: Do you have any advice for those who are wanting to break into the publishing world themselves?
You can’t fix what doesn’t exist, so make sure you actually hit The End before you start editing.
Try to make yourself fall in love with editing—you’ll be doing a lot of it.
Manuscript Wish List is a fantastic resource, and I wish I had it when I was querying. Check out the #MSWL tag on twitter and browse the website to see what agents are looking for. It’ll help you target your queries better.
Make sure you communicate well with your agent. This is also true for your editor. These are the two people within the industry who can and should be most invested in your success, and that partnership will go better if you are open and honest with them.
Once you’re published, don’t read reviews unless you have a very thick skin.
Q: Where can we learn more about you, your work and any upcoming releases?
My website is full of fun stuff! I make quote art for all my books and there are deleted scenes, aesthetics boards, and playlists up for all of them, too. Check out ByEricaCameron.com for more! You can also find me on Twitter and Instagram a lot (@ByEricaCameron), and there’s a lot of fun/pretty/fandomy stuff to browse through on my Tumblr: ByEricaCameron.tumblr.com.
Thank you so much for taking the time to give us a glimpse inside your world, Erica. And for all you readers, to keep up to date with my latest author interviews, be sure to check out the interview tab at the top of the page!