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Sunday, October 28, 2012

Interview with Miles Cameron (with comments by Liviu Suciu)

1. Miles, can you tell us a little about yourself?

Well—I’ll say a little.  I live in Toronto, Canada, I’m a military veteran, and I have a family, a cat, a lot of books and a suit of armour.  I love to read philosophy, I love to read about chivalry, and I love the wilderness. 

2. What are some of your influences as a fantasy author?

First and foremost, JRR Tolkien.  I’m pretty sure it was only ten years ago I stopped re-reading the Lord of the Rings just before Christmas every year.  I love the Lord of the Rings, and I love the scholarship that his son put into gathering his papers—most of which I’ve also read.  Understanding Tolkien’s path from the inn in Bree to the Lord of the Rings helped me become a writer.   

T.H. White was another great influence—I’m reading ‘The Sword in the Stone’ to my daughter at bedtime, and realizing how many tidbits and snippets of T.H. White are ‘embedded code’ in my fantasy consciousness.  The dog’s boy…  King Pellinore.  All that good detail about hunting.  The lyrical descriptive passages.  And then—E.R. Eddison.  I LOVE Eddison.  I have a feeling I might not have liked him as a guy across the table—there’s a hint there of cruelty, perhaps—but his heroes are HEROES in all caps in classical Greek, and his villains are also heroes.  When they are cruel, they are cruel.  

Another major influence that I re-read just before starting Red Knight was William Morris’s City of the Sundering Flood.  I had a great friend—still do—but when I was a young teen she made me read all the ‘old fantasy’ like Eddison and Morris.  Morris loved craftsmanship and a somewhat tidied up and clean vision of the art of the Middle Ages.  I share his love of the art, and I can remember lying on the floor in front of a fireplace on our family farm reading his descriptions of armour and hoping that someday I could own some.

I don’t want to seem completely antiquated, so add Steve Erikson and Celia Friedman and Glen Cook and CJ Cheryh and… quite a few other authors.  Robert Heinlein.  Jerry Pournelle.  Larry Niven.  Ian M. Banks—wow, I think the world of Ian M. Banks.  I think his Culture novels are—what SF and Fantasy ought to aim at.  Fun, high adventure, sometimes comic, yet deeply informative, forcing questions, moralizing.  Terry Pratchett.  For many of the same reasons.

I also want to add Conan Doyle and Alexander Dumas and George McDonald Fraser.  And—you know, this could run on a long time.  Mary Renault?  Dorothy Dunnett?  The Red Knight has some Dorothy Dunnett in him…

3. I gather you spent time on your magical system…

Well, I like to think that real men and women spent time on it.  I’ve attempted—with some rationalizations, of course—to present hermetical magic as a fourteenth or fifteenth century practitioner might have wanted it to work.   But with that said, there a zillion influences on my magical system, and one of the strongest is modern electronic warfare.  I spent some of my former years tracking Iraqi SAM sites from a USN carrier aircraft, and the whole process of passive detection, active emissions—and sonar, and sonar detection—I realized on my first re-read of the Red Knight mss. that EW and ASW had become deeply embedded in my magic system.   

And I’m not ashamed to say that I’m an old RPG veteran, as well.  I’m not ashamed to say that in big scenes, I had a scratch sheet to track power expenditure for the major casters.  Yep.  I’ll also note in case anyone is watching that the one time that a character appears to grow more ‘spell points’ at a convenient moment—she does.  There’s a reason, and it will, I hope, seem cool when revealed later in the plot.  Or at least make sense.

4. You love chivalry….

I do.  I’ve studied it on and off since I was seventeen.  I tried to practice it in real conflict, and even in my modern life.  But I hope I’m not romantic about it—chivalry, ultimately failed as a method to restrain violence among warriors who were also petty kings.  On the other hand, we could still learn from the notion that rules in war are, in fact, good.  Anything that mediates the effects of war is good.  What I’m not, however, is pro-aristocrat.  I think too many fantasy novels take the social structure of the Middle Ages for granted.  I tried to play with that a little, without writing a Marxist polemic.

5. And according to your website you do Martial Arts.

Yes, I learn, and sometimes I teach.  I’ve been fencing since I was eleven.  There were dinosaurs back then.  I did a little unarmed stuff in the military, and now I’m far more interested in it.  For the last few years I’ve been learning as much of the Italian chivalric martial systems as I can get, and there’s lots of them and about how they work in the books—that’s mostly Fiore di Liberi’s Fior di Battaglia.  Guy Windsor has been my principal teacher and he’s been kind enough to write a spot on the website.  Mostly, learning to fight in armour with a two-handed sword is fantastic exercise, a great lesson in humility, and a fine way to stay in shape.  When you are past age forty—and I am—you need incentive to keep your waist size down.   

A good suit of armour with no room to grow is a great incentive.  I’m hoping to do some jousting—I’ve done a little, and I want to do more, as book two has a huge tournament scene…  If everyone in the world buys a copy, I might get to joust more than once.  I’m looking forward to visiting a friend in Pennsylvania in two weeks and spending a few days on horseback, and I may get to do a little tilting from the lance rest on my new breastplate—really, this is the stuff that turns me on.  I promise to post videos unless I fall off.

6. Anything else you want to say?

I’d like to give a push to the traitorson website, if allowed.  There will be content—more content—photos from good medieval reenactments (not just those I attend, either) and some stories—free—from the Red Knight world.  All the stories will, in the end, prove pertinent to the main plot.  They will be a little hidden.  There’s not going to be a link called ‘stories.’  There’s some great art by my friend and sometime sword student Dmitry, and Jessie Durham—and some guys from the real Middle Ages and Renaissance, so if you look it over you can see original paintings and armour that helped inspire me.

7. You didn’t even mention reenacting…

Next time, I promise!


I would like to thank Mr. Cameron for this entertaining interview and I will have  the review of The Red Knight asap - target date is October 30th.

Here are the first lines from The Red Knight for your pleasure:
"The Captain of Albinkirk forced himself to stop staring out his narrow, glazed window and do some work.
  He was jealous. Jealous of a boy a third of his age, commanding a pretty company of lances. Riding about. While he sat in a town so safe it was dull, growing old.
  Don’t be a fool, he told himself. All those deeds of arms make wonderful stories, but the doing is cold, wet and terrifying. Remember?
  He sighed. His hands remembered everything – the blows, the nights on the ground, the freezing cold, the gauntlets that didn’t quite fit. His hands pained him all the time, awake or
  The Captain of Albinkirk, Ser John Crayford, had not started his life as a gentleman. It was a rank he’d achieved through pure talent.
 For violence.


John said...

Thanks for the interview.Is there an approximate date for the release of book 2 (The Fell Sword)?

Secondly,will the whole of the 2nd book take place in Morea ?

Lastly,will the identity of the Red Knight's father be revealed in book 2?

Liviu said...

Miles says he's on page 423 of writing The Fell Sword (title likely but not final 100%); the way publishing works, I would say late 13 - late 14 for a date

He also says:

"In the Fell Sword, the angle widens considerably--you get to visit and see places much farther from the center of action, and the plot widens, too. But the Red Knight and his company remain the center."

John said...

Thanks for the info Liviu.

Laurie Sanderz said...

Your blog is a good one...

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