In this edition, we’re chatting with Greg Camp. He’s an experienced writer, and author of A Draft of Moonlight, among many other works.
Let’s get interviewing …
Please introduce yourself, and talk a little bit about the genres of books that you write.
I started out in love with physics, but physics just wanted to be friends, and the humanities ended up being my reliable standby as a career. The first book that showed me the power of writing was Watership Down at age eleven, a book that I’ve read many times since the first. That’s what gave me the need to write.
My first short stories were third-rate Alfred Hitchcock Hour knockoffs, but people tell me that I’ve improved since my high school days. When it comes to genre, I’m all over the bookshelves, since the type of storytelling that I like and keep striving for is good. But if I have to categorize my work, it falls mostly into westerns and science fiction, with occasional forays into literary writing.
My paying gigs have been in teaching, mostly on the community college level. The department chair asks if I’d like to teach a class, and I bow and say “thank you very much,” regardless of what it is. This summer, however, I became a staff writer at Guns.com, writing commentary on politics and the gun community.
Tell us about any past writing experience.
As I said, Richard Adams was an early influence. Then I found out about Isaac Asimov. And J.R.R. Tolkien. And Douglas Adams. The list goes on. What these and other fine writers showed me was the power of language to build worlds and fill them with meaning.
I started off writing short stories. Well, that’s not entirely true, since I did what many writers do at first, trying to write a novel and ending up writing “the end” after five pages. I also dabbled in poetry. But over time–squeezed in between college and graduate school work and the tutoring jobs I had–I kept writing.
After many attempts, I started getting stories accepted in literary journals, the payment being two free copies. Then the occasional magazine would say yes to something for some actual money, and I got two novels accepted by publishers–A Draft of Moonlight, a political thriller set in a lunar colony, and The Willing Spirit, a western story that takes place at the time of the finishing of the Transcontinental Railroad.
After spending some time with a publishing company, I decided that I could put together a book, so I went through the struggle to learn Gimp and Scribus to design covers and layout interiors and then published No Easy Road and If You Want Peace, the first two books of my military science fiction series, myself.
What motivates you about the content that you write? Any inspirations?
If I were in elementary school today, I’d probably be diagnosed with ADHD. I am curious about. . . Squirrel! Where was I? Oh, yes, many topics fascinate me, and my desk is papered with notes about things I want to turn into stories and essays. Inspiration is everywhere.
How much research is typically involved for your books?
I have to know what I’m talking about when I write, so I spend time wandering around reference books, web pages, and the like before getting started. While writing, I’ve got my own library and Duckduckgo.com on standby for checking facts and context.
I’ve been told that this is a bad way to write, that I should just get the words out and then go back to edit, but I have to be on solid ground for each step forward. It’s a slow process, but it saves time on the back end.
Do you find it easy or difficult to set time aside for writing? How do you deal with distractions?
At this point, writing is my primary job, so the question is scheduling time for each project, rather than writing as a whole. My magazine work has me doing a six hundred word essay a day, five days a week, and that takes its own block of time. Other things that I’m writing don’t have the same urgency, so I have to remind myself daily to take at least a couple of hours to work on whatever other things I’m writing at present.
I find distraction to be a help in writing. Music, YouTube videos, my cat jumping on me, Solitaire–these and many other things give me a moment of pause before I write the next section or paragraph or sentence. That lets the ideas I’m working on settle into place in my head, into a form that I can put into words.
Are there days when you get out of bed and simply can’t get any work done? If so, how do you combat that?
I’ve got ideas for projects coming at me all the time, so I’m never blocked for something to write. The work required to take an idea to a finished essay, story, or full book can be intimidating, but what I learned in writing assignments in school is that doing some writing every day is the easiest way to get thousands of words finished eventually.
Sometimes, I make outlines to map out where I’m going, and I use the distractions that I talked about to take a break while processing ideas. But the discipline of writing is first a commitment to write, and I’ve found out that the best way to get the piece done is to sit down and write it, even if that means fifty words at a stretch.
Do you have any proud memories as a writer? Moments that made you just burst with joy?
Any time I finish a project that satisfies my internal editor or a publisher says yes, this does in fact meet our needs.
For an indie author, what do you think are the best ways to market your book?
I spend a good deal of time on Twitter and some other social media sites, and I’m working on learning how to make videos for YouTube. And, of course, I’m looking for reviews–thus my answers here. The truth is, though, that no one has figured out the the best model to market books in this new publishing world of the Internet so far, so we’re all casting about for what will work.
As an indie author, what would you say is the most challenging obstacle?
For me, it was learning the software necessary to make a book a real book and not something cranked out on a home printer and stapled together with a crayon drawing for the cover. And the marketing. Always the marketing.
Please tell us about any future projects you have on the horizon, be it writing, or marketing a new book, etc.
I’ve just finished a book with a co-author titled, Each One, Teach One, on the Second Amendment and the left-right divide in American politics. I’m working on a book about reason in science and religion and a collection of short stories based on Tarot cards. I also have extensive notes for the third book in my military science fiction series.
In the longer term, I’ve got a novel in mind about exploring Sedna, the trans-Neptunian body in the inner Oort Cloud, and I need to return to my western character, Henry Dowland.
Be sure to check out Greg’s author page on Amazon!