Dana Cameron’s brand new urban fantasy, Seven Kinds of Hell, just came out last week, and she was kind enough to take time out of her busy schedule to answer a few of my questions!
Also, we’ve got a copy of the book up for grabs, so be sure to check out the details at the end of the post, and please welcome Dana to the blog!
Dana, you’ve written mysteries, noir, and now urban fantasy with the upcoming Seven Kinds of Hell! Will you tell us a bit about yourself? Have you always wanted to be a writer?
Hi Kristin! As a young kid, I wanted to be a writer, but decided that I couldn’t do that because I thought you had to get into bar fights and run with the bulls to write. So by the age of ten, I’d decided on archaeology, and that took me through college and grad school. I focused on colonial New England and post-medieval Europe, with some Romans and Vikings thrown in for fun. What I didn’t know was all that interaction with diaries and personal letters and artifacts was teaching me to write fiction as well as historical analysis. An adventure on a site in Maine prompted me to start writing crime fiction and that led me to everything else!
Will you tell us a bit about Seven Kinds of Hell and its heroine, Zoe Miller?
Zoe’s an archaeologist, she’s smart and curious. She’s also been on the run from her father’s family, who are reputed to be killers, so her tendency to violence—and the occasional glimpse of fangs in the mirror—has her worried about her sanity. But when a violent Russian “businessman” kidnaps her cousin, she’s forced to come to terms with her powers. She’s Fangborn; daughter to a family of vampires, werewolves, and oracles dedicated to secretly protecting humanity.
Zoe Miller’s world first appeared in “The Night Things Changed,” a story that was included in Charlaine Harris’s urban fantasy collection Wolfsbane and Mistletoe. Did you always plan to write a full length novel about the Fangborn?
Originally, Zoe was the protagonist in an archaeological thriller I was working on (at the suggestion of thriller writer Tess Gerritsen). That book stalled for me, but there were parts that I knew were working—they had something that kept me from chucking the whole thing. The breakthrough came when I realized that thriller, and the Fangborn novel I was working on, were actually two halves of the same book. When I figured out Zoe’s true nature, it all fell into place.
Zoe Miller is not only an archaeologist, but she’s also a werewolf! What kind of research did you do for the novel?
It was a fun mix of studying stuff I was already interested in and new things I wanted to explore further! The archaeology came from twenty years of my own experience, but since Zoe focuses on classical research, I had to learn more about artifacts and ancient city and temple plans, something that I only knew about from my travel to Greece and Turkey. I’ve also lived in or traveled to all of the settings in the book—Boston, London, Paris, Berlin, Delos, Ephesus—and I loved bringing those places into my story. As for the werewolf elements, when I wrote the first Fangborn short story for Charlaine Harris and Toni L.P. Kelner’s anthology Wolfsbane and Mistletoe, I decided to turn a number of the traditional conventions on their heads: Werewolves and vampires work in secret to fight evil and protect humanity. The shift from human to wolf-form is not a painful curse, but a blessing to help them do the hard work they do.
You must have pleased the cover gods to have scored Chris McGrath for the Seven Kinds of Hell cover! Did he do a good job capturing Zoe?
Oh, I am so thrilled with the cover art! When my editor told me who was doing the artwork, I was beyond excited—I’m a big fan of Chris’s covers! The art for Seven Kinds of Hell is inspired by a scene from the book, and it captures the mood, which is a bit dark and a little gritty, with a lot of action. I think Zoe looks awesome: young, modern, strong, and confident and ready for trouble. I would go on an adventure with her, and I hope readers will feel that too when they see the cover.
Obviously you wear many hats in your writing. Is it a challenge to transition between different genres, or does this come naturally to you?
I love the challenge of writing different genres. I’m not sure it’s not natural to me, though, because I always have a rush of excitement and panic when I start; it’s that emotion and excitement that fuels the story. On one level, in any writing, there is a basic set of problems to solve involving characters and actions. What elements and conventions are needed in a genre? How can I honor those conventions, or at least, acknowledge them by leaving them out or putting a different spin on them? On a very different level, making the story interesting—because it’s not simply an equation—and making the story your own, that’s where the hard real work comes in.
What are some of your biggest influences when it comes to your writing?
I’m still finding them! But to start, Shakespeare, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Edith Wharton are the writers from whom I learned the most about describing characters and culture when I was studying archaeology, and that fed my fiction. I had an epiphany about finding my own writing voice from reading Jackie Chan’s autobiography; he described how everyone wanted him to be the new Bruce Lee, but he only became successful by being Jackie Chan. And Robert Heinlein definitely influenced my story-telling.
If you were asked to recommend just one book to a fantasy reader, which one would it be?
Wow, that’s almost impossible to answer! It depends on the reader and it depends on the question. If the question means, what one fantasy book would I recommend to someone who is new to fantasy, I’d go with either The Hobbit or A Wizard of Earthsea. If the question is about one book to a veteran fantasy reader…I think I’d go with the complete works of Shakespeare. He’s got the characters (kings, queens, villains, scholars), the creatures (fairies, monsters, spirits), adventures, and most of all the emotion I look for in a good fantasy.
What book(s) are you reading now?
I’m reading Ben H. Winters’ The Last Policeman, which is brilliant. I just finished Leigh Evan’s The Trouble with Fate—terrific! On the TBR pile, I’m looking forward to Suzanne McLeod’s The Sweet Scent of Blood, Alex Jacka’s Cursed, and Christopher Farnsworth’s Red, White, and Blood.
How do you like to spend your free time (when you’re not busy at work on your next novel, of course)?
I confess to being a bit of a foodie; I’m a big fan of trying new food and drink, especially when I’m traveling. I love museums. I’m currently obsessed with watching both the American and British versions of “House of Cards.” And I go to the gym or go out for long walks to clear my head.
What’s next for you this year, and beyond?
I’m going to be busy with work on the next two Zoe books, a flock of Fangborn short stories, and a couple of stories not set in the Fangborn ‘verse. I have a lot of travel scheduled this year, both for conventions and for pleasure (and research!); this will include the Edgars Symposium (NYC), WonderCon (Anaheim), WorldCon (San Antonio), World Fantasy (Brighton) and a trip to Japan I’ve been looking forward to for years. Whew!
Keep up with Dana: Website | Twitter
About SEVEN KINDS OF HELL:
Archaeologist Zoe Miller has been running from a haunting secret her whole life. But when her cousin is abducted by a vicious Russian kidnapper, Zoe is left with only one option: to reveal herself.
Unknown to even her closest friends, Zoe is not entirely human. She’s a werewolf and a daughter of the “Fangborn,” a secretive race of werewolves, vampires, and oracles embroiled in an ancient war against evil.
To rescue her cousin, Zoe will be forced to renew family ties and pit her own supernatural abilities against the dark and nefarious foe. The hunt brings Zoe to the edge of her limits, and with the fate of humanity and the Fangborn in the balance, life will be decided by an artifact of world-ending power.
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