Sunday, November 24, 2013

Meet Sharon Cameron--Win Books!

The lovely and talented Sharon Cameron joins us today to share her historical mystery adventures, The Dark Unwinding, and A Spark Unseen. In fact, she’s giving away a copy of each, so stick around for the details, but first, let’s meet Sharon.

According to her website Sharon has taught classical piano, raised a family, been a part-time genealogist, chaired a non-profit theater group, and continues to be a coordinator for the SCBWI Midsouth Fall Conference. Plus, you know, she writes books. I met her through the Midsouth conferences, and can tell you that she is one of the warmest, most energetic people in the building. Conference attendees also remark on her fabulous reading voice.

Sharon, thank you for joining us. I’d like to begin with your trailer.

It’s obvious you put a lot of work into this. Please tell us a little about the process of creating a trailer.
Thanks for all the kind words, Kurt! You’re right, the trailer was a ton of work, but really, really fun to create. I did the storyboard and staged most of the scenes, and Will Darnell of Modmonk Productions did the filming, editing, original music, sound, and…everything! We filmed in the Two Rivers Mansion here in Nashville, put the camera under a glass table and ran a hose pipe over it, built a Tesla coil in my office, and broke glass on my back patio (You wouldn’t believe how hard it can be to break a jar. We really should have made a blooper reel.) Many hours, but worth it to capture the spirit of the books.

There are a lot of historical details in these books. As a fan of analog science, I was struck by the automatons and the water mills, but there’s no denying that clothing plays a central role in setting the scenes and moving the plot. Can you tell us a little about your research?
Oh my. The problem here is going to be how to STOP answering your question. The science in the books was a huge research project. From clockwork to ship building to water management to the gasworks to you name it. All the machines in the book were either based on existing designs or imagined by me, and then designed by Philip Cameron (the husband). He created working schematics (like the swimming fish above), so we could know how the machines would sound, how long they would run, fuel sources, etc., etc. He also ordered chemicals that probably put us on a few FBI lists and created explosive gun cotton in our basement. (Note: Gun cotton does, indeed, smell terrible.)
But for the other, more day to day historic details, because I was already well versed in the time period, this was less research and more about making very careful choices. Clothing is a huge detail in any novel. The time period, a character’s economic status, their status within a community, the weather, background, personality, all this can all be stated with fashion. When Aunt Alice keeps Katharine in dresses of unflattering and uncomfortable cloth, this was a deliberate choice to not only show Aunt Alice’s personality, but the background of Katharine’s. And when Katharine chooses to leave off her ugly, tight dresses for the free-flowing, beautiful ones of her grandmother, it is a deliberate statement about what has changed inside her, and a foreshadowing of the choices she is about to make in her life. So very much a “show, don’t tell” kind of writing device that I enjoy playing with.

There comes a point in the first book where Katharine’s life gets unworldly enough that the reader really doesn’t know what is happening any more that she does, yet you had to show her actions without giving away the mystery. I’m curious as to how much those scenes evolved from your first draft.
I think ALL my scenes have evolved from my first drafts! But yes, a narrator that’s not completely reliable when the story is being told in first person is a very tricky thing. I had to go through those scenes many times, finding ways for Katharine to reasonably clue the reader while not being reasonably clued in herself. And of course to do that, the author (who knows all) has to figure out what clues a reader will and will not catch. This is where a really excellent critique group is gold.

There’s a bit of an homage to Oscar Wilde and P. G. Wodehouse in the books, yes? Could you suggest some period must-reads?
You noticed! I adore understated British silliness, and Oscar Wilde and P. G. Wodehouse are two of my favorites. I credit them both with my love of the tiresome, meddlesome aunt and tea served up with some snarky dialog. (For the record, none of my aunts are meddlesome and I try not to be snarky when I drink my tea.) When in need of a very Britishy laugh, I think everyone should read Heavy Weather by P.G. Wodehouse, and the Oscar Wilde plays The Ideal Husband and The Importance of Being Earnest. Another recommendation would be the BBC Wooster and Jeeves series (based on the books by P.G. Wodehouse), with Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry. Love these!

I mentioned your reading voice. At the conference, you read the YA First Pages with considerable skill considering the fact that you haven’t seen the text before, and you’re reading it in front of the authors, who are, in a sense, being judged. Am I seeing a theater background at work?
Well, I did a little theater in high school (a VERY little) and I have a daughter who has grown up on the stage, so I’ve spent a lot of time around actors, but I’m not sure that gives me an official theater background! Though I really do love and appreciate theater, and try to support it on a local level. I was, however, a musician for many years, so I think maybe it’s my musical background that has more to do with reading aloud. I have always loved the tone and rhythm and sound of words, and the imagination they ignite. Very much like music.

You know several talented authors, including a few with debut novels in the works. Care to drop a name or two we should look for in the coming year?
Absolutely! Courtney Steven’s Faking Normal is coming in February 25, 2014, and Tracy Barrett’s The Stepsister’s Tale in July, 2014 from Harlequin, Teen. Jessica Young’s second picture book, Spy Guy, will publish spring of 2015 with Harcourt, and in winter of 2015, David Arnold’s debut Mosquitoland will hit the shelves from Penguin. I live in SUCH a talented town!

Speaking of future projects, let’s finish with your next novel, Rook, which comes out in 2015. According to your website, it’s “a retelling of The Scarlet Pimpernel set in the future, which chronicles a Sunken City gone mad, an unwanted betrothal, and 13 innocents who will die unless a legend can save them.” That’s quite a setup, and I imagine you had to do some new and exciting research. Can you share a few details?
Sure! I love archaeology, and have always been fascinated with the idea of when we, the people of 2013, will be the ancient and vanished past, studied like we now study the Romans or the Incas. I’ve also always been amazed by the repeating patterns of history. So the setting for Rook is a time where our world has vanished and become the stuff of myths, and unbeknownst to the people involved, history has actually repeated itself through a dark age and into a new enlightenment. But really it’s about corsets and swords and beheadings and spies during a second French Revolution, in a Paris that has collapsed into its catacombs and been rebuilt. And did I mention corsets and sword fights? Lots of those.
So my research for this has been very odd. All about what would be, instead of what was, but based very much on what was, because that was what worked for us before! Currently learning about biodegradable plastics, methods for making fireworks, religion during the French Revolution, what would happen if we didn’t have flood control on the Thames, free climbing buildings, and strange and interesting ways to hide a dagger.

Again, my thanks to Sharon for taking the time, and for sharing her books.  We’ll be giving the set to one lucky winner.  Read on for details on the prize and how to enter.

 The Dark Unwinding

When Katharine Tulman's inheritance is called into question by the rumor that her eccentric uncle is squandering away the family fortune, she is sent to his estate to have him committed to an asylum. But instead of a lunatic, Katharine discovers a genius inventor with his own set of rules, who employs a village of nine hundred people rescued from the workhouses of London.
Katharine is now torn between protecting her own inheritance and preserving the peculiar community she grows to care for deeply. And her choices are made even more complicated by a handsome apprentice, a secretive student, and fears for her own sanity.
As the mysteries of the estate begin to unravel, it is clear that not only is her uncle's world at stake, but also the state of England as Katharine knows it.

A Spark Unseen

The thrilling sequel to Sharon Cameron's blockbuster gothic steampunk romance, The Dark Unwinding, will captivate readers anew with mystery and intrigue aplenty.

When Katharine Tulman wakes in the middle of the night and accidentally foils a kidnapping attempt on her uncle, she realizes that Stranwyne Keep is no longer safe for Uncle Tully and his genius inventions. She flees to Paris, where she hopes to remain undetected and also find the mysterious and handsome Lane, who is suspected to be dead.

But the search for Lane is not easy, and Katharine soon finds herself embroiled in a maze of political intrigue. And with unexpected enemies and allies at every turn, Katharine will have to figure out who, if anyone, she can trust to protect her uncle from danger once and for all.

Filled with deadly twists, whispering romance, and heart-stopping suspense, this sequel to The Dark Unwinding whisks readers off on another thrilling adventure.

Please comment below to be considered for the drawing. Extra points offered for posting about the contest on Facebook or Twitter (please include mention of this in your comment). Email MUST be included in the comment to be considered. Open to US and Canadian entries only—apologies. Contest closes at midnight EST on 12/1/13.


Evelyn said...

Thanks for a fascinating interview, Sharon and Kurt. The books sound terrific. Best wishes to you both. Evelyn (dot) christensen (at) gmail (dot) com

Susan Eaddy said...

Ooooooohhhhh! Excellent interview! I love all of the behind the scenes research, and love both of these books.

Kristin Lenz said...

Thanks for introducing us to Sharon. I love the photo of her drinking tea, and her books sound fascinating. I'm off to check out her website!

Kristi Valiant said...

I love reading Sharon's books, and I love reading about Sharon's books too! What a fabulous book trailer. Best wishes on your continued success, Sharon!

Joyce Lansky said...

These look good. I would love to win them! Please count me in your contest.

I tweeted:

and posted on Facebook:!/joyce.lansky


Colette Ballard said...

Fascinating intervies, Sharon and Kurt. The book sounds awesome. I can attest to this amazing reading voice. I look forward to listening to Sharon's 'first pages' reading every year! :)

Sarah P. said...

Sounds fascinating and great interview!

SarahJPerry9 (at) gmail

Joyce Lansky said...

I reposted on Facebook because I had accidentally linked FB to the Twitter ad. Readers would still get to the contest, but not directly. Do I get another point for posting again??