ALL FOUR KIDS: An Interview with Erica Cameron, author of SING SWEET NIGHTINGALE

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Today we’re interviewing OneFourKidLit author Erica Cameron, whose YA urban fantasy SING SWEET NIGHTINGALE, the first book in THE DREAM WAR SAGA, came out yesterday!

About SING SWEET NIGHTINGALE:

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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 causes 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.

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I loved Sing Sweet Nightingale so much I read it in one sitting, staying up until 3:00am to finish! It’s the kind of book you’ll want to sneak-read under your desk at work because you have to know what happens next!

ML: Sing Sweet Nightingale is told in duel POV: Hudson and Mariella, which, I might add, is done perfectly. Which voice came easier for you?

EC: Yay! I’m glad it came off well. And, easier? Hudson. Definitely and totally Hudson. Like, without doubt. Hands down. That is the 1,010% truth. Mariella and I have had a somewhat tumultuous relationship since I first conceived of this world back in 2010. It took me a really long time to find a way to balance the many intricacies of her character and make sure she came off as distant without being cold, silent without being stupid, loyal without being naïve. It was not an easy balance to find.

ML: Did you always intend to write in duel POV or did one character come to you first?

EC: That depends on how you look at it—from the beginning of the concept or the beginning of the first novel draft? This story started life as a short story entirely from Mariella’s point of view, but it wasn’t that long after that first story that I decided to go back and write the same story from Hudson’s point of view. It was intended as a character exercise and a way to work out some more details of the universe, but then I let people read it and the feedback I got was essentially, “This needs to be a novel. With both of them narrating.” I listened and from the very first draft of the novel version, both Mariella and Hudson have gotten a chance to tell their stories. Trust me. It’s much better this way. 🙂

ML: Stones and crystals play a significant part in Sing Sweet Nightingale, is that something you have always been interested in or is it something you researched the heck out of? And a follow up: How many stones/crystals did you have before and how many do you have now?

EC: Both, actually! My mother is very holistic and my neighborhood is right across the street from a New Age store, so I’ve always known the basic theories surrounding crystals, stones, and their metaphysical uses. When I needed details for the novel, I definitely did research. There’s a lot more to it than just pretty stones that do stuff! My main bible for the properties of the stones has been The Book of Stones by Robert Simmons and Naisha Ahsian but I pulled the cleansing technique Hudson uses and other tidbits from a book called Crystal Enlightenment, Vol I by Katrina Raphaell.

As for how many of them I have… let’s just say it’s a good thing I’ve been on the broke side for the past few years. Gemstones and crystals are expensive and I haven’t had the money to build a collection. Or the space to display them. I have a piece of carnelian and a piece of seraphinite that I tend to carry around with me and an amethyst necklace I made from beads I bought, but other than that I’ve managed to keep myself from amassing a bunch of stones. Barely. 😉

What has surprised me about the stones more than anything is when people ask me, “How did you come up with the idea of using crystals like this and giving them properties?” The first time this happened, I swear I just stared at the person, expecting a joke or something. Only after a solid thirty seconds or so did I remember that not everyone had the same homeopathic, new-agey upbringing I did and that it might not be common knowledge to the general population that crystals have been attributed with many different powers and properties for centuries. Millennia, even. Or that one of the reasons humans began creating jewelry using gemstones is because of these powers, whether that power was healing or encouraging lust. So, hey! My book is teaching people an exaggerated version of something that exists in our world! That in itself is kind of awesome.

ML: That is awesome! You know what else is awesome? The dream worlds! I especially love the way the they’re tailor-made for each character. What would your dream world look like?

EC: Mariella’s dreamworld is a combination of one version of heaven from the movie What Dreams May Come and my own idea of a perfect world. The picture below is a still from the movie:

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Lots of color, water, mountains, clear skies, fields, trees, and flowers! Oh, and also, it never gets above 60% humidity unless it’s raining (which it would do every so often because I really like watching thunderstorms) and never gets hotter than 80 degrees Fahrenheit or colder than 10. I know. I’m the weirdest Florida girl ever—I pine for winter. What can I say? That impossible place is what perfect sounds like to me.

ML: Mari’s knowledge and taste in music is extremely vast and eclectic. Is your knowledge/taste similar to hers? And what, if any, kind of music did you listen to while writing Sing Sweet Nightingale?

EC: Mariella’s taste in music has definitely expanded as a result of her time performing for Orane. When you’re singing for a couple of hours every single night for ten solid years, you better have an incredibly vast collection of songs to choose from. Thus, Mariella’s taste is partially due to necessity, but it also kind of mimics mine. My father is a classic rock fan—The Who, The Beatles, The Doors, The Eagles, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, etc.—and my mom favored singers/bands like Bonnie Raitt, Shawn Colvin, Sarah McLachlan, and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. My own generation taught me to love alternative, rock, and techno and my interest in dance and theater gave me an intense appreciation for classical music and musicals. The only thing Mariella likes that I’ve never really connected with is opera. And country. I’m picky about what country artists I like.

While I do have playlists for Sing Sweet Nightingale, they’re not songs I listened to while I was writing. Because of years of dance and singing classes, I tend to either choreograph or sing along in my head when I hear songs I like. That gets kind of distracting when I’m writing! The songs I include on my playlists are songs whose lyrics I realize connect to the book, but this realization usually only happens after the book is written. For example, I’m only now building the playlist for book 2 in The Dream War Saga and I’m already working on polishing that book with my editors. That’s how disconnected the playlist process is from my writing.

ML: The secondary characters are so much fun! Between K.T. (the kind of friend everyone wishes they had), Horace (Hudson’s sharp-witted, spry seventy-eight-year-old guardian/benefactor), Mariella’s extremely patient parents, and Dawn (a brainy, short-for-her-age fourteen-year-old with extremely poor eyesight), I don’t know which one was my favorite. But I’m going to make you choose. Which secondary character was your favorite to write? And please tell us we’ll be seeing them all in the sequels!

EC: Thank you! It always makes me happy when people see the awesome of all the people who don’t get as much “screen time” as Mariella and Hudson. Obviously, I love all of them immensely, but it’s probably a solid tie between Horace and Dawn for favorite. Although they are very different people in just about every way, they each have very strong voices. As soon as they walked on to the page the very first time, they were who they were. Period. End of story. In fact, in every version of the book, their roles have grown. Horace especially was a much more minor character in the first draft of the novel. Once they wedged the door open, though, they refused to leave! And I love them both so much for that. In fact, the scene in which we first meet Dawn is one of the two (yes, only two out of a 104,000 word book) scenes that survived from draft one of the novel through the final copyedits. It was tweaked, but not changed. Dawn’s entrance into the book remains the same as the day I met her! As I write that I can almost see her rolling her eyes at me and saying, “Well, of course it does.” Horace would probably just grin and shake his head with something like, “Shouldn’t she know you better by now?” 😉

As for the sequels… I guess we’ll have to wait and see! The title for book 2 will be revealed at an event in Alexandria, Virginia on Sunday, March 9 and the cover is coming during BEA—May 30! Details on who, what, where, when, and why for the future of our favorite supporting characters are coming soon!

ML: As this community is fearless, we’d like to know something you’re afraid of, and something you’re not afraid of.

EC: How scared are we talking? Like phobia level fear or just things that make me anxious? I haven’t run into anything that completely paralyzes me, but there are definitely things that make me nervous. I don’t like speaking in front of small crowds, but big crowds I can handle if I’m on stage (not being able to see the faces helps). I don’t like walking alone in a strange place, especially not at night. Meeting new people for the first time ever makes me really nervous and I get super awkward in large groups. Usually, you can find me in the corner. Also, a restricted word count! Oh, that will blank out my mind and send me into a tizzy. It may be clear from this interview alone that I’m not good at short!

As for not afraid… Well, I’m not afraid of airplanes or the dark or the number thirteen or spiders or people with blue eyes or heights or… a lot of things! 😉

ML: Thank you for sharing, Erica. I can’t wait for the sequels!

About Erica:

ericacomplexionperfectionErica 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 Psychology 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 décor pieces, and a desire to travel the entire world on a cruise ship. Or a private yacht. You know, whatever works. WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | TWITTER | TUMBLR | GOODREADS

Michelle Levy squaredMichelle Levy grew up in Littleton, Colorado, but moved to Los Angeles as soon as she was legally allowed because she hates driving in the snow. When she’s not writing, she’s likely working at her other job as a casting director for film and television or skulking about (and occasionally posting—she’s working on that) on Twitter. Her debut, THE END OF THE BEGINNING, is slated for a summer 2015 release from Dial.
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