Monday, April 28, 2014

Author Interview and Book Spotlight: Sing Sweet Nightingale by Erica Cameron

A couple of months back I read Sing Sweet Nightingale and I absolutely loved it! It's definitely a series I'm obsessing over. I'm thrilled to have the author today on the blog to discuss her writing!

Book Summary:

Mariella Teagen hasn't spoken a word in four years.

She pledged her voice to Orane, the man she loves—someone she only sees in her dreams. Each night, she escapes to Paradise, the world Orane created for her, and she sings for him. Mariella never believed she could stay in Paradise longer than a night, but two weeks before her eighteenth birthday, Orane hints that she may be able to stay forever.

Hudson Vincent made a pledge to never fight again.

Calease, the creature who created his dream world, swore that giving up violence would protect Hudson. But when his vow caused the death of his little brother, Hudson turned his grief on Calease and destroyed the dream world. The battle left him with new abilities and disturbing visions of a silent girl in grave danger—Mariella.

Now, Hudson is fighting to save Mariella's life while she fights to give it away. And he must find a way to show her Orane’s true intentions before she is lost to Paradise forever.

About the Author:

Erica Cameron knew that writing was her passion when she turned a picture book into a mystery novella as a teen. That piece wasn't her best work, but it got her an A. After college, she used her degree in Psycology and Creative Writing to shape a story about a dreamworld. Then a chance encounter at a rooftop party in Tribeca made her dream career a reality.

Erica is many things but most notably the following: writer, reader, editor, dancer, choreographer, singer, lover of musical theater, movie obsessed, sucker for romance, Florida resident, and quasi-recluse. She loves the beach but hates the heat, has equal passion for the art of Salvador Dali and Venetian Carnival masks, has a penchant for unique jewelry and sun/moon d├ęcor pieces, and a desire to travel the entire world on a cruise ship. Or a private yacht. You know, whatever works.

Her debut novel Sing Sweet Nightingale released March 4, 2014 from Spencer Hill Press. It is the first book in The Dream War Saga.

Interview with Erica Cameron:

Hi Erica and thanks so much for stopping by the blog today! I loved Sing Sweet Nightingale and I’m so excited about the sequel.

Thank you! I can’t wait to share more about Deadly Sweet Lies. I only hope people like it as much as they’ve enjoyed Sing Sweet Nightingale so far!

How did your writing career begin?

I have always been a story addict, the kind of kid who could re-read favorite books a dozen or so times and re-watch favorite movies a couple hundred times. They don’t really cover “how to be an author” in grade school, though. So even though I understood that there were mystical “authors” somewhere in the world who created the stories I so loved, it wasn’t until college that I got it. It really clicked that I could be one of those mystical authors.

In 2007, I wrote my first original novel and in early 2008 I began shopping it to agents. While I did get some really fantastic feedback, no one signed me as a client. Someone eventually pointed out all of the errors and inconsistencies in the first book and, while writing book two I realized how many corners I’d written myself into with the world. I shelved that series and moved on to something new.
It wasn’t until 2010 that I wrote Sing Sweet Nightingale and that is really where my actual “career” began. This book was strange from the start, beginning life as a single POV past-tense short story and ending up as a dual POV present-tense novel. It makes sense that the way it became a “real” book is strange too. I wrote a pretty detailed blog post about how I met my editors at a party I crashed and another one about the incredibly roundabout way I signed with my agent Danielle Chiotti seven months AFTER I sold Sing. Now I just have to keep the career running in the right direction as long as possible!

Do you read often? Any favorite books and authors?

Yes. As often as I can. This is, admittedly, not as often as I wish I were able to. My TBR pile is not actually a pile. It’s a whole six-foot-long, double-stacked shelf. Plus everything in my Kindle app. As for what I read, I tend to go on genre binges. If I read an excellent YA fantasy, I try to find a lot of other books in the same vein. But eventually something will hit a sour note and I’ll genre jump. Maybe mystery/thriller, maybe contemporary romance, maybe historical. I don’t read a lot of horror, really “literary” literature, or non-fiction. Because of my really wide reading range (and the seemingly permanent oddities of my brain), I don’t really have a true “favorite” author. However, my earliest “I will buy anything you write” author was Tamora Pierce. And my first book boyfriend was George Cooper from her Alanna series. I still adore her writing, her characters, and her worlds. They’re phenomenal!

The beginning of Sing Sweet Nightingale grabbed me from the beginning and I fell in love with Hudson from the first pages. Where did you get the inspiration for his character? What about Mari’s character?

I’m going to start with Mari only because the inspiration for her character is really easy to explain. I plucked her, name and everything, from a song by Kate Nash called “Mariella.” If you’ve read the book and you read the lyrics to the song, you’ll see exactly what I mean. What’s funny is that, as straightforward as the inspiration for her character was, no character I have written has ever, EVER fought me as much as she did. We had an incredibly contentious relationship for a long time.
Ahh, Hudson. <3 The inspiration for Hudson is harder to explain because there wasn’t some lightning bolt inspiration moment. When I started writing Sing (the very first draft of the short story version) I had no clue where the story was going. I knew there was a voluntarily mute girl, a guy in a dreamworld, and a guy in the real world. I didn’t know which side would be the “good” guy. The dreamworld guy looked hot but weirded me out for some reason I couldn’t explain, and the guy with the black eyes and the scars who showed up out of nowhere looked creepy but felt a lot safer. Hudson is one of those characters I had to get to know slowly, but it didn’t take long at all for me to realize that he was definitely the good guy. From the first draft to the very last, Hudson didn’t change much at all. He still is almost exactly who he was when he stepped on to the page that first time.

The DreamWorld was described in vivid detail and I really could picture it in my mind. Was it challenging to come up with all of the intricacies of the DreamWorld?

Thank you! A lot of the concept and imagery for Mariella’s dreamworld came from the movie What Dreams May Come (which I highly recommend watching if you’ve never seen it). Writing within the dreamworld itself wasn’t challenging mostly because I knew I could do almost whatever I wanted. That part was SO FUN! The hard part of the dreamworld came in all of the ways that world interacts with ours. And how people like Mariella and Hudson interact with the dreamworld. What’s possible? What’s impossible? How far does their power stretch in each place? What are the creatures like Orane capable of? If they can’t do something within our world, why not? How long can the doorways remain open? At what rate does time pass in each world? There are so many questions I had to answer in order to keep the possibilities for both Sing Sweet Nightingale and the rest of The Dream War Saga consistent. So, short answer? Yes. So much yes. It was definitely a challenge.

Willing to give any tidbits up about the next book in the Dream Wars saga?

The only thing I can say before the cover reveal on May 30 (everyone should come see me at BEA if you’re going to be there!) is that book two will probably not take the shape anyone expects it to. And I sincerely hope they’ll see this as a good thing.

I love the cover for Sing Sweet Nightingale. Have you seen the cover art for the next book?

Isn’t it GORGEOUS?! Spencer Hill is fantastic about asking for author input through the whole process. I don’t have a designers eye at all, so I didn’t have a clear concept of what I thought the cover should look like. The only thing I insisted on was that the cover relate to the book in a clearly defined way. My favorite covers are all ones that make perfect sense once you read the story. The “hot girl” or “pretty picture for no reason” covers make no sense to me. That was the ONE thing I insisted on and that’s definitely what I got. Also, Jeremy West (my cover photographer and designer) is a freaking prodigy child. I’m so glad I have him on my team!

And I have seen the cover art for Deadly Sweet Lies and O. M. G. Guys? He’s done it again. It’s perfect.

What’s your writing process like?

I always laugh/cry in my head when I see the word “process” applied to writing. It makes it seem as though there’s actually a way to do this. Worse, it makes some people think there’s some secret trick that’ll make writing a breeze. To date, and over the course of ten completed first drafts, I can say that I’ve never written a book the same way twice. One thing I am definitely not good at is outlining before I write. And by not good I mean awful. Horrifically awful. I hate it. 

For me, it is impossible to predict how people will react in a given situation until I know them. Characters are people. Until I have a handle on their voice, their quirks, and their backstory, I cannot possibly know what they’ll do if I throw them in the way of a gunfight or toss them on a desert island. Even more importantly, I won’t know WHY they react the way they do. And I know that some people can create these intricate questionnaires for their characters before they write to get to know them, but that doesn’t work for me either. I subscribe more to the ideology of letting the character introduce themselves to me as I write. The “listen to the voices in your head” theory.

Any advice for aspiring authors?

My friend Marni Bates recently wrote a FANTASTIC blog post with advice (and gifs!) for aspiring authors. She titled the post The Best Writing Advice I Don’t Feel Qualified to Give… I will tell you right now that there is a VERY GOOD REASON she titled her blog post this. Even people who have been in this industry for decades can’t tell you how to become an author. Or what it might take to make your career successful. Trust me, I know. I’ve asked them.

THAT BEING SAID, here’s some advice:

Take advice when it’s offered and apply it whenever it’s useful, but don’t listen to anyone who tells you there’s a “right” way to write.

Fight for your dream, but don’t beat your head against a brick wall with a project that isn’t right.
Don’t quit your day job until you’re really sure you’re ready. If you like your day job, you don’t have to quit ever unless you want to. Lots of authors have dual professions.

Writing is an art and therefore subjective. Extremely. Not everyone is going to like everything you write, but all you need is one agent and/or editor to say “Yes! I love that.”

In the same vein, don’t sign with an agent who isn’t extremely passionate and enthusiastic about both your current book and your potential career. Also, don’t sign with an agent if the only thing they have going for them is passion. Writing may be an art, but it’s still a business. You need someone who knows the industry to help you navigate the technical aspects of your chosen career.

Learn to love (or at the very least cope with) editing. It’s going to be a very big part of your life.
Last, but possibly most importantly, don’t become an author unless you honestly, seriously cannot see yourself doing anything else. It’s stressful, time consuming, and utterly rewarding. Be sure the prizes you’ll get from writing (and what those prizes are is different for every author) is worth everything else.  


  1. What a great interview! Thanks for sharing this with us. Erica sounds like a very smart, gifted young woman. Like someone I'd love to meet and hang out with! And I've been dying to read her book since I first heard about it - feels like forever ago. I'm going to encourage my library to purchase it, actually, as I've recommended several other Spencer Hill Press books to them before and they've purchased them.

    Yay! I had fun reading this, thanks :)

  2. Wonderful interview. Sounds like a great book, too. Well done, ladies! WRITE ON!

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