Please welcome Cameron Johnston to The Qwillery, as part of the 2018 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Traitor God was published on June 5th by Angry Robot.
TQ: Welcome to The Qwillery. What is the first fiction piece you remember writing?
Cameron: I have vague recollections of writing Transformers fan-fiction as kid back in the 80s. I suspect Grimlock was the hero of the piece. How can you not love a T-Rex transformer?? Oh, wait, I've seen a film called Age of Extinction...never mind.
TQ: Are you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?
Cameron: A pantser! I find if I try and write detailed plot outlines that it kills the joy of writing for me and the characters rebel. Instead I only have a bare scaffold of beginning, end, and a few important points that I want to hit along the journey.
TQ: What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?
Cameron: Making the time to do it all. When you have books, TV/films, RPGs to play, swords to practice with, and a lovely wife to spend time with, it can be so easy to put writing off to another day. As for the writing itself, sometimes a plot is supposed to head to Y, but the character you have developed goes "Nope!" and wants to go to Z instead. It can be tricky to resolve those issues.
TQ: What has influenced / influences your writing?
Cameron: Too many media influences to list them all really. Old films like Night of the Demon and Quatermass and The Pit, pulp fantasy stories like Conan and Elric, the cosmic horror of HP Lovecraft, and comics like 2000AD and Hellblazer. I'm also heavily influenced by history, archaeology and mythology, with a great love of castles and other ancient sites.
TQ: Describe The Traitor God in 140 characters or less.
Cameron: I will go with two comparisons to see if I can get the flavour of the novel across:
-Hellblazer’s John Constantine meets swords & sorcery in a tale of revenge and Lovecraftian horror.
-Malazan meets grimdark urban fantasy.
TQ: Tell us something about The Traitor God that is not found in the book description.
Cameron: It's not all relentlessly grim and dark. There is hope, bad jokes and black humour, and also decent people trying to do the right thing in horrendous situations.
TQ: What inspired you to write The Traitor God? What appeals to you about writing grimdark?
Cameron: I used to strictly write 3rd person limited point of view, and as an experiment I tried 1st person PoV in a film-noir styled swords and sorcery short story - and it sucked me into this unexpectedly dark and dangerous world and demanded expanding into a whole novel. As for writing grimdark, it allows me to explore what characters do when everything has gone to hell - how do they keep going in the face of death and devastation? And how do they survive without becoming monsters themselves?
TQ: What sort of research did you do for The Traitor God?
Cameron: Entirely too much research, 98% of which never made it into the book. Medieval sewage, tanning practices, ancient farming, magic tricks and mentalism, alchemy and ancient medicine...
TQ: Please tell us about the cover for The Traitor God.
Cameron: The cover art is all thanks to the amazing Jan Weßbecher. It depicts Edrin Walker crossing a bridge to the poorest area of the city, the Docklands, and in the background you can see the palaces of the Old Town on its high rock, where the magi and nobility live. In the background, and to scale, is a titanic black metal statue...yes, definitely a statue...
TQ: In The Traitor God who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?
Cameron: Charra was the easiest. She is a mother and a businesswoman out to do some good in the world. She has a very strict sense of right and wrong: she is right and others are wrong, and she has the knives and people to back it up. The hardest character to write was Walker himself - he is conflicted and broken and being pulled in so many directions. He walks a tightrope between magician and monster. The magic urges him to do one thing, his selfishness another, and his humanity that resists it is dwindling...
TQ: Why have you chosen to include or not chosen to include social issues in The Traitor God?
Cameron: Walker was a gutter rat in Docklands before his magical Gift was discovered and he was plucked from poverty to become an initiate with the Arcanum that rules the city. With that, he straddles the lines between the rich and powerful and the destitute and desperate he still self-identifies with. It would be impossible not to delve into that social divide in some way.
TQ: Which question about The Traitor God do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!
Q: Did you purposely set out to create a high-magic setting?
A: Definitely! Things like A Song of Ice and Fire with its vague, looming magical threat and hints of magic was something that I wanted to get away from. I wanted it more like old pulp fantasy worlds of Conan and Elric. Big magic, dark gods and demons, magical weapons and horrific monsters.
TQ: Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from The Traitor God.
Cameron: The first is also the cover tagline, but I will expand upon that:
"This town was already doomed and I wasn’t going down with it. Heroism could get a man killed."
Another that I like:
"A daemon glitters in the moonlight, crystalline, many-eyed, scuttling towards him down the alley like a spider made of knives, its limbs all straight lines and jagged cutting edges."
TQ: If you could build one structure from The Traitor God in LEGOs, which one would it be and why?
Cameron: Oh dear. You have happened upon a hobby of mine. How can I possibly only build one thing out of LEGO? At a push I would go for a cityscape scene, with giant brick monsters fighting.
TQ: What's next?
Cameron: A second novel in the series, The God of Broken Things, is coming next June, so watch this space.
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
Cameron: Thank you for having me. It has been a pleasure.
The Traitor God
Angry Robot, June 5, 2018
Trade Paperback and eBook, 432 pages
A city threatened by unimaginable horrors must trust their most hated outcast, or lose everything, in this crushing epic fantasy debut.
After ten years on the run, dodging daemons and debt, reviled magician Edrin Walker returns home to avenge the brutal murder of his friend. Lynas had uncovered a terrible secret, something that threatened to devour the entire city. He tried to warn the Arcanum, the sorcerers who rule the city. He failed.
Lynas was skinned alive and Walker felt every cut. Now nothing will stop him from finding the murderer. Magi, mortals, daemons, and even the gods – Walker will burn them all if he has to.
After all, it wouldn’t be the first time he’s killed a god…
File Under: Fantasy [ Look Who’s Back | Blood Sorcery | Tyrants & Titans | Mind Mates ]
Cameron Johnston lives in Glasgow, Scotland, with his wife and an extremely fluffy cat. He is a swordsman, a gamer, an enthusiast of archaeology, history and mythology, a builder of LEGO, and owns far too many books to fit on his shelves. He loves exploring ancient sites and camping out under the stars by a roaring fire.