This is Writing – An Author Interview with Hayley Camille

I was lucky enough to be interviewed recently by Scott Mullins for the publishing site “This is Writing” recently, and am delighted to present his work here! Please visit the site for more great author interviews and an exclusive excerpt from HUMAN that you can download, free! Find it here: HUMAN – BOOK EXCERPT

Interview by SCOTT MULLINS :

Hi! I’m Hayley Camille and I’ll admit, I’m a bit of a chameleon as an author. I’ve written a number of books, both non-fiction and fiction but my heart lies in Science Fiction and Fantasy.

I have published a series of non-fiction gaming books for a childrens’ audience, called ‘The Ultimate Players Guide to Skylanders’ through Pearson Education Publishing, as well as numerous Minecraft contributions to gaming guides. My most recent book though, is called HUMAN, which is the first novel in a SciFi series called ‘The Chronicles of Ivy Carter’. Book 2, ‘EXTINCT’ will hit shelves in 2017.

Coming up very soon, my Superhero Noir serialised novel ‘Avon Calling!’ will begin rolling out, which is a throwback to 1940’s New York full of fun, crazy characters, including Betty, a vigilante Avon Lady taking on the mob. I’m also planning another Minecraft release next year. I know genre-hopping is generally frowned upon for authors, but I just love too many styles of writing to stop!

When and why did you start writing?

HUMAN was the first book I began and still remains the one I’m closest to as an author. I actually spent eight years at university studying science, anthropology and archaeology, which I was very blessed to do. I just love prehistory and studying human evolution- I find it fascinating. So when I finished my post-grad, I planned on taking my archaeology to the field, but life led me down a different path- I soon got married and started a family and new business instead. Although I absolutely loved my new life and little family, the nerd in me roared for release- I really needed something to channel all that knowledge and passion into. I’ve always had vivid dreams and loved creating new worlds in my imagination. So I began writing an epic Science Fiction adventure about an archaeologist, my would-be alter ego perhaps, and I just haven’t stopped since then. The more I write, the more I love writing.

What inspires your writing?

I’ve always been inspired by strong female protagonists and the character Ivy Carter really became her own muse during the course of writing HUMAN. Likewise, Betty Jones, my vigilante Avon Lady in ‘Avon Calling!’ really takes on a life of her own and I’m always surprised where she leads me. Women are often underestimated in survival situations, but I think there’s an internal strength in women that can hold great power and catalyse huge change within society. I like to draw that out of my characters. There is also such a massive scope for adventure within scifi and fantasy, because you’re essentially taking a character and throwing them into a strange new world or situation, whether space-age, prehistoric or anything in between, and you’re testing their limits. Every person will react to danger in a different way because we’re all unique, flawed, we all have different priorities and life experience. You can really build your character arc on what they go through, how they react and what they take away from it.

How would you define creativity?

Creativity to me, is that irrepressible urge to express yourself. There are so many parts of our lives that require us to be uniform and keep everything in order, fitting parts of yourself in neat little boxes with labels. There’s a place for this, don’t get me wrong, our society needs to be coherent, we need to do the right thing by other people and contribute in a positive way. But still, every person craves self-expression, and wants the world to know who they really are inside. We want to be heard and understood, and keeping that bottled up is internally destructive. Creativity is that expression in its physical form for me. You might paint, sing, code, dance, play, game, build or something else to express your passion – but if it makes your heart sing, it’s a beautiful thing.

Do you have any writing rituals to get you in the mood for writing?

I find it quite difficult to get prepared unfortunately, and I’m easily distracted, usually by on-the-go research as I write, which turns into surfing the web. I do like to have a coffee nearby, though, and popcorn. And chocolate. At least, they keep me in my chair and focussed on my computer! I write best in the early hours of morning, which works well, as I’m an insomniac, so I put my sleepless hours to good use.

If you could, what would you go back and tell yourself as a writer starting out?

I think every writer is their own worst critic, so my advice to myself would be to judge fairly and don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s a craft that takes a long time to master, and we spend our lives as authors working toward that goal, hoping to reach it. Every book is a new challenge and a new opportunity to gain skill. As long as each day you’re a little better than the last, you doing well. Just keep writing.


What do you believe makes for great writing?

Great stories stick with you for so many different reasons. It might be fantastic dialogue or the relationship between two characters, or descriptions that send you off into a dream world that you miss so badly after you’ve turned the last page that you live in your head for a few days reliving it. But I think ultimately, it’s the connection with characters that draw us in. One of the hard lessons I’ve learnt (and continue to learn) is that really incredible characters are never entirely good or entirely bad. It’s hard to give redeeming personality traits to the bad guys in your story because you don’t want your audience to empathise with them too much. But ultimately, we’re all shades of grey. Humans are flawed creatures, and those flaws influence our behaviour, for better or worse. Great writing highlights these contradictions and conflicts the readers.

Which writers have influenced your writing?

There are a few writers that have had a strong impact on me, but I’d say the most important in getting me started, would be Jean Auel and her ‘Earth’s Children’ series. It follows the life of a young Cro-Magnon child, Ayla, after she is orphaned and then raised by a clan of Neanderthals in Europe during the last Ice Age. I think I read it when I was about fourteen and it definitely led me down the path of studying evolution and archaeology. As a writer, her meticulous research was so inspiring, she wanted the scientific facts to be represented as correctly as possible, which was a momentous task, and the story was utterly original and spellbinding to me. I’m a huge fan, as both a reader and a writer.

How do you measure success as a writer?

Success to me is finishing something. Getting through the long nights of sitting alone on the computer and stressful deadlines and editing and reworking to end up with a manuscript that you can proclaim is finally finished. (Although you usually have to proclaim it really quietly, so as not to wake everyone else up!)

Have you ever hated something you wrote?

I’m one of those writers that edits so fastidiously as I write (each paragraph gets thoroughly rewritten on-the-go before I move on), so nothing I hate lasts long enough to leave a lasting impression on me. The backspace button is my friend 🙂

What’s your biggest fear as a writer?

I suppose my biggest fear as a writer is that the general busy-ness of every day will take over and leave me no time to write creatively. It’s particularly hard if you have a family with small children and other work to do, but writing really is a full time job and deadlines are ongoing. Quite often, you’re working on multiple books at once and publishing deadlines can be demanding. I do a lot of writing at night to keep up, as editing, proofreading and researching takes a lot of time too. As hard as it is to make a routine each day or try to push for a word count each day, it really is a necessity.

What traits do you feel make a great writer?

To be a good writer, imagination is number one, but I think just as important are traits like perseverance, self-motivation and patience. HUMAN took me seven years to write (although at that stage I wasn’t writing full time), whereas non-fiction titles were a far more intensive five months per book. No matter what you’re writing, as an author you have to be really self-disciplined in pushing through toward the finish line. Until your first draft is done, fiction particularly, is a solo journey and needs to be self-propelled- so keep believing in your work and celebrate small victories to keep your momentum up along the way.

Describe your latest book to our readers

My latest novel, HUMAN, is an adventure that follows an archaeologist, Ivy Carter, as she gets thrown back in time 50,000 years into prehistoric Indonesia. She’s a reluctant hero, an introvert, workaholic and from loss of loved ones in her past, she is quite emotionally closed off to new relationships. The only enduring love she shows is to Kyah, an ex-pharmaceutical laboratory bonobo (which is a sister-species to chimpanzees) who is in a rehabilitation program at the university where Ivy studies. Kyah, like Ivy, is emotionally scarred, doesn’t trust easily and the two form a bond of friendship that is carried through the story. When Ivy, along with Kyah, fall victim to an accident in a physics laboratory that sends them into prehistory, it’s not just a story of survival, but also an opportunity for redemption for both of them.

Ivy is tasked to save a primitive species of human from extinction, a situation which is complicated by the manipulations of another time-traveler that they are unaware of. An inter-species war is reaching a critical point, between the Homo floresiensis tribe and our own ancestors, primitive Homo sapiens. Despite her best efforts not to influence the course of human evolution, Ivy inevitably becomes attached to minority tribe and fights for their survival against Homo sapiens.

Over the course of the story, we also follow the point of view of Ivy’s would-be love interest, Orrin James, the physics researcher responsible for Ivy’s accidental disappearance and who is trying desperately to get her back. As Ivy interferes with human evolution in the past, we see the catastrophic repercussions of that through Orrin’s eyes in the future. Not one, but two species of human now survive to modern day and our definitions of humanity are being argued. Ultimately, Ivy needs to decide what future humanity will look like and it’s not an obvious choice for her.

This book was a real passion project for me and I am currently working on the sequel, EXTINCT. I got to throw all of my science and archaeology research behind it, so it’s based on a very real species of hominid (Homo floresiensis) at the intersection of a time that they were actually co-existing with Homo sapiens in Flores, Indonesia 50,000 years ago at Liang Bua Cave. The dig itself is an ongoing archaeological excavation and it has brought some interesting challenges to the scientists who work on it and has been quite controversial. I tried to stick as closely as I could to the scientific facts while creating this story around them, which I think makes for a great adventure.

What would you like readers to take away from your writing?

I think my overall theme would be, ‘question everything’. Do your own research, look at the facts and try to figure out whether something is the way it is because it should be, or perhaps, simply because it has always been that way. And if it’s the latter, find the power within yourself to change it. As writers, we’re lucky to be able to demonstrate this through our characters. But all of these characters are really just parts of us, as a collective humanity. We facilitate change ourselves, one by one, which has a snowball effect on the world. In that way, our potential is massive. One of my favourite quotes regarding writing is by an English author, Augustine Birrell.

“A conventional good read is usually a bad read, a relaxing bath in what we already know. A true good read is surely an act of innovative creation in which we, the readers, become conspirators.” I love that.

Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?

My advice for aspiring writers is to find a small group of people, maybe two or three or four, that write in a similar genre to yourself and are at a similar stage, and then workshop together as often as you can manage it, to critique each other’s work. Learn from each other. You’ll need to develop a thick skin as a writer, and the best way is by taking regular constructive criticism from other writers, whose skills you value and trust. Progress together over the years and celebrate each other’s achievements. Try not to take their advice personally, or argue on points to justify your writing, just accept their feedback and then objectively take it or leave it, but always learn from it. My writing group have been invaluable to my ongoing development as a writer.

Can you give our audience a writing prompt to help get them writing?

My perennial favourite prompt, because I adore nature; Write a short story from the perspective of an animal.

What’s next for you?

I’m very excited at the moment, as I’m preparing the roll-out of my serialised novel “Avon Calling!” over the next few months. I originally published a short story by the same name in the ‘This Mutant Life’ Neo-Pulp anthology by Kalamity Press a few years back and the story received such a great reception and reviews, and was honestly just so fun to write, I had to keep it going. I’ve done a lot of research about WW2-era New York, the jazz scene, gangsters and fashions of the 1940’s. But the biggest drawcard is a slightly unhinged, but oh-so-ladylike, ninja-kicking, knife throwing, vigilante Avon Lady on a serious revenge mission. What’s not to love?! The episodes will be released on Amazon e-book every week or so, beginning in September, and the first episode will be perma-free, so you can try it out at no cost. It’s a lot of fun.

Original interview appeared on the This is Writing blog, created by Scott Mullins.