Miles Cameron Interview – The Fall of Dragons
Five years ago The Red Knight came into the world to high acclaim. This year The Traitor Son Cycle concluded with The Fall of Dragons. We at Fantasy-Faction have been following this series since the beginning and are lucky enough to have here today author, re-enactor, outdoors expert, and weapons specialist Miles Cameron to tell us his side of this epic fantasy journey.
You have finally written the conclusion of The Traitor Son Cycle, how does it feel to finally end the series after five years?
All the usual stuff; it feels great, especially as so many positive reviews come in, but it is hard; I keep thinking of little vignettes; I think, ‘Sauce should say that,’ or ‘There’s a great line for Ariosto,’ and then I realize . . . it’s over. But then, it is never over. I mean, maybe I’ll return to the series, and anyway, I think of it from time to time . . . it was the world of a shared RPG for ten years.
So, will our thirst for epic battles be satisfied in the finale?
Wow, yes. I mean, it’s not really a spoiler to say that the first four books were the set up for my epic battle across a lot of worlds and battlefronts, right?
Who among these characters are you going to miss writing about the most?
Sauce and Bad Tom; Blanche, and Kronmir. Kronmir was my favourite in many ways, but then, so was Blanche . . . and so was Bad Tom and Sauce . . . well, and Michael. And Long Paw. And Oak Pew. I loved writing Oak Pew. In fact, I loved writing Ash, so really, I love them all. But writing the snappy repartee between Sauce and Bad Tom was perhaps the most fun.
Is there a chance of you returning to this setting or writing more about these characters?
SPOILERS! Oh, yes. I mean, if people will buy, I could write twenty more, although if/when I go back, I won’t go back to the meta-plot, but to minor plots and adventures. How do Tom and Sukey do in setting up a kingdom in the north? What happened to those ambassadors? Is Harmodius dead? These things would interest me, and I think interest readers.
If you had a chance to redo the series would you change anything or add any new stuff?
I’d like to go back and tweak Red Knight for name spelling and two tiny plot actions that annoy me. Otherwise, I confess myself deeply satisfied, which probably makes me a bad person. Artists are supposed to struggle and always be dissatisfied. I’m a failure as an artist, because I loved these books and they are, pretty much, just as I wanted and imagined them.
Your books are famous for being medieval fantasy with historical accurate action sequences, care to divulge a bit on your technique and research regarding this?
Actually, that makes me laugh, because I really can’t imagine the epic level magical exchanges as ‘history’. But I will say that really, all fantasy is history; after all, we really can’t imagine anything except in terms of our human lived experience. SO there’s ‘Dark Ages-ish’ and ‘Medieval Vietnam-ish’ and ‘Byzantium-ish’ fantasy. J.R.R. Tolkien himself borrowed heavily from history. Every time a writer speaks of a material culture artifact (even a sweater!) or a food or a weapon or a type of horse, we’re being dropped into a puddle of history and historical assumption. Plate armour? Bang, you’re in the late European Middle Ages. Flintlock? Powdered pumice? Silk? Gold leaf, oil painting, sprung carriages, stirrups, gas light, halberd . . . you get where I’m going with this? We fantasy writers swim in a sea of historical assumption, and there’s no way to climb out.
I happen to know more than most people about armour and weapons (and a bunch of other stuff, largely because of reenacting) and I’m happy to let it show. My technique, whether in fantasy or historical fiction, is that of a reenactor. I try to give the reader not just the story, but the EXPERIENCE of the story. What does the armour feel like? How does the horse react? What does it feel like to have a sword break in your hand? To be cold and wet? To be in love?
The biggest difference between writing fantasy and writing historical is historical fiction is a story of the probable. That means with good research and some careful analysis, I can arrive at what PROBABLY happened. But fantasy is the art of the possible . . . it’s a little more exciting because my only limitation is what could POSSIBLY happen, given the world setting and background. That’s fun. But at least the way I write, it takes just as much research to reach the fantasy as the historical. How does a fur trade work? What’s in a sword? Metallurgy? Molecular level magic . . .
As far as I can tell from your various pen-names, you, sir, are quite a prolific writer. So, what’s your secret?
It’s work. My last job was in the military; I learned to work. Also, I love to write. There is no better job. So I get up at 6, I’m writing by 8:30, and after 2PM I’m doing research. When I’m writing I don’t allow myself access to any form of social media, and I (mostly) used paper books as references so I have no reason to go on the web. I write in a café with no wireless. Also, I have two hobbies, sewing and painting little soldiers, which allow me to THINK. I sit and paint and think about the next day’s writing. In effect, I’m always working, even when I’m camping or reenacting or on travel.
Among your two areas of expertise epic fantasy and historical fiction, which one do you prefer more as a writer? And as a reader? Which is harder to write, may I ask?
Let me appal you by saying I’m just as expert at spy novels; I wrote eight of them. I can write thrillers and I can write YA and I can write . . . whatever I like! It’s writing, and it’s all very much the same. I’m not a fan of genre sub-categories. I like some grimdark and not others, I like some epic and not others, I like some YA and some this and some that.
But okay, to be less difficult, I prefer writing fantasy, but it is much harder, because history has a frame ready-made, with events that dictate timeline and chronology, and frankly, the real world is a much, much better designed and functioning hyper-complex world than anything I’ll ever invent. On the other hand, it is truly rewarding to tell EXACTLY the story I want, unlimited by some historical cataclysm or whatever. So, fantasy, and not just epic. Must it all be epic? I’m really tempted by the idea of writing ‘incidental fantasy’, where very little happens.
Can you tell us a bit about your influences as a writer? Or is your hobby as a re-enactor or your passion with weapons the main factors driving your writing?
I started reading fantasy at age five, when my mother read me The Hobbit. It is what I read, when I’m not doing research. My influences are many: Tolkien and Dumas and James Fenimore Cooper and William Morris and Dorothy Dunnett and Katherine Kurtz (remember the Deryni Chronicles? Anybody?) and Glen Cooper and Joe Haldeman and Robert Heinlein and C. J. Cheryhh and Celia Friedman and Patrick O’Brian, and more recently, Lois McMaster Bujold, Robert Jordan, and Steven Erikson. Oh, and Sabatini (Scaramouche?) and Byron and Terry Pratchett and Ian Banks and . . .
Listen, I read about a book a day. I could write a lot here.
What secret future project are you working on? Care to share a little for your fans?
I’m writing a new fantasy series called Masters and Mages about a fantasy Baroque Enlightenment and a circle of oligarchs attempting to roll back the clock, collapse consensual democracy, and replace it with a tyranny of money and birth. The first book is finished and is tentatively called Cold Iron. There are swords and flintlocks and high magik and lots of spying and daring do. And some philosophy.
Lastly, what good books have you read this year? Can you recommend some for our readers?
I absolutely recommend John Gwynne’s latest A Time of Dread, which I loved. I very much enjoyed Anna Smith Spark’s Court of the Broken Knives. I generally enjoy any historical fiction written by Ben Kane or by Simon (SJA) Turney. I’m currently reading his smoking hot new Caligula. For straight history with no pretend, I recommend Agents of Empire by Noel Malcom and Traveling Heroes by Robin Fox, both brilliant, and both of which I inhaled recently.
Thank you again to Miles Cameron for taking the time to speak with us today! The final book in The Traitor Son Cycle, The Fall of Dragons, is out now! If you’d like to learn more about it and his many other works you can check out his website or follow him on Twitter @Phokion1.