Interview with Christian Cameron

Storming Heaven: Interview with Christian Cameron

It’s our pleasure to host Christian Cameron (also known as Miles Cameron), the author of several historical fiction and SFF novels. Today we are celebrating the release of his latest novel, Storming Heaven which is the second book in The Age of Bronze series. Out now by Gollancz!

Meet the Author
Christian Cameron

After the longest undergraduate degree on record (1980-87), I joined the United States Navy, where I served as an intelligence officer and as a backseater in S-3 Vikings in the First Gulf War, and then on the ground in Somalia, and elsewhere. After a dozen years of service, I became a full time writer in 2000, and it is the best job in the world.

Connect with Christian Cameron

About the Book
Storming Heaven by Miles Cameron

Before iron helmets and steel swords, when dragons roamed the world, was an age of bronze and stone, when the Gods walked the earth, and people lived in terror.

A scribe, a warlord, a dancer, a mute insect and a child should have no chance against the might of the bickering gods and their cruel games. But the gods themselves are old, addicted to their own games of power, and now their fates may lie in the hands of mere mortals . . .

By divine plan a plague of cannibals has been unleashed across the world, forming an armada which preys on all who cross their path. Meanwhile the people who allied against the gods have been divided, each taking their own path to attack the heavens – if they can survive the tide of war which has been sent against them.

All they need is the right distraction, and the right opportunity, to deal a blow against the gods themselves . . .

An original, visceral epic weaving together the mythologies of a dozen pantheons of gods and heroes to create something new and magical, this tale of the revolt against the tyranny which began in Against All God s is a must read from a master of the fantasy genre.

Interview
Welcome to the Asylum, Christian! Take a seat by the fire, have a glass of beverage of your choice, and tell us something about yourself that’s not in your bio! 

A pleasure to be here! And I love a nice fire in the fireplace.  How do you feel about mulled wine? I love mulled wine.

I don’t drink, so… But you are welcome to have some! Our barman is amazing.
Painted miniature
Painted miniature
What inspires your writing? Do you listen to music, stare into the fire, listen to the whispering of the wind, make deals with the Devil?

I tried making a deal with the devil and he said I didn’t have anything he wanted.  I do listen to music, and for the most part, I listen to Renaissance and Baroque music while I write fantasy. Sometimes, and here’s my secret vice, sometimes when I’m stuck I go outside and smoke a pipe.

I’m not even surprised at your choice of music. I didn’t take you as a smoking type, on the other hand, though, I can totally see you with a pipe.
Following your social media channels, you seem to travel a lot. Is there any particular place that draws you in the most? Why?

I love Greece.  I also love Northern England and the Western Isles of Scotland and Verona Italy and a bunch of other places, but I think my heart is in Greece.  I love the terrain, the mountains and the sea, the colour of the sunlight, the ancient ruins, the medieval castles, the beaches, and the people.  And the food.  And both ouzo and tsipouro.

I kind of anticipated this answer. I’ve never been to Greece, but I’m hoping to go one day. 
For those who don’t know, you are taking part in a lot of reenactment events. How did you get involved in that world and what attracted you to take part? What came first, reenacting or writing? Do you separate the two, or are they linked together now?

I started reenacting when I was thirteen, and I only started writing when I was seventeen, so reenactment definitely came first.  I got involved in reenactment because the American Bicentennial, which was a big deal in 1975-76, kinda took over my boy scout troop, and suddenly we were all playing ‘American’ militia, which itself had a less threatening aspect way back then. But my dad was a veteran theater tech guy, and he was also a very good historian (and a writer) and he made me look at the clothes and the details in a way that very few people were doing, back in the seventies, and I was not only hooked on reenactment, I was, as it turned out, hooked on history, costume history, art history, and a host of other studies. Very clever of my dad, really.

That’s awesome! I never quite figured out where my interest in history was coming from. Sounds like your dad had a huge influence on you.
Since we are on topic. What are your favorite parts about these reenactment events and what are the challenges one must face if they want to get involved? Please tell us a bit more about the kind of events you are doing! 

Well… there are as many types of reenactment as there are people in funny clothes.  I think of reenactment as a spectrum; at one end, you have Larpers, (live action role players) who aren’t really ‘reenacting’ as much as playing a role playing game, but they are at least nodding to history in terms of costume, and some LARP events are very detailed and immersive, taking the player deep into character and the ‘reality’ of the ‘game.’  At the other end of my spectrum is Experimental Archaeology, where very serious academics, who probably aren’t even dressed in period kit, try to do something like building an iron-age Celtic round house or a Mayan temple mound to learn more about period techniques.

Christian Cameron in medieval armour
Christian Cameron in medieval armour

    Let me hasten to say I like it all, and it’s very easy to get involved.  There are literally thousands of reenactment groups in the world, especially in Europe and the Americas, and you (the reader) can probably find any time period you want.  Most groups have an active Facebook group and anyone in the hobby will help you find the right match. It can be very cheap, or very expensive, depending on what you want and what you can afford.  Authenticity in any period is going to cost research, and money. But in my favourite period, which is late Archaic-early Classical Greece (the time of the Persian Wars), you can be a poor farmer for about 100 euros, or you can be a front rank hoplite from an aristocratic family for about 10K euros, or you can be a countryside woman for about a hundred and fifty euros, or you can be an aristocratic woman going to a religious ceremony for… all the money you have (in textiles and jewelry). In the Middle Ages, a good suit of armour will cost 15K euros, but you can make a basic kit for the price of the wool and linen.

Christian Cameron in Greek armour
Christian Cameron in Greek armour

It is good to start small.  It’s not good to spend a great deal of money up front, although people do.  Starting with the simplest authentic kit allows you to enjoy the immersion, meet the people, and work with others while you learn enough to consider a more expensive role.  I insist that anyone who wants to portray a medieval knight, no matter how well funded, spend at least two years as a page and squire.  It takes that long to learn what it is you want in armour, for example.

You are also running a series on social media called Writing Fighting, which seems to be a great inspiration for a lot of authors. Where is your passion for sword fighting coming from? And your interest in history in general? Is it a childhood thing or something you picked up in your later life?

I have been a swordy person since age 11 (eleven) when I watched the old Michael York Three Musketeers movie and discovered that my dad knew how to fence and do stage fighting too. We made our own (aluminum) rapiers and we were off!

I was a pretty decent fencer in High School and University, but I dropped it for a few years while I was in the military, and when I came back, lots of people in Europe and North America had started an historical fencing study, which is what I’d wanted all along, and I dove in with both hands, as I’m ambidextrous… Okay, I think I’m funny ?

Haha! I’ll never forget you showing up with two swords in the bar at the WorldCon in Dublin. Not something you expect to come across there, but then again, it was a Fantasy WorldCon, so…
Since we are talking about history, your new book, Storming Heaven, the second book in the Age of Bronze series is being released on July 20, 2023. Congrats! If you could launch a release party with your MC(s) present, how would that go down?

Ah… Enkul Anu would swear a lot… Era would organize the party better than I can, and Pollon would note the names of everyone in attendance.  I don’t think we should discuss what Sypa or Laila would do, but I’d love to meet Tyka and Temis, for reasons that would totally be spoilers. I think I can guarantee that Druku would make the party much, much more exciting for everyone, as he’s the god/goddess of lust and drunkenness.  I suspect it would be the most memorable party that Bakka Phoenix ever hosted, but I’m not at all sure the building would survive.

No worries, we have a good insurance policy.
Tell us a bit about the inspiration behind the series, and Storming Heaven specifically. Why the age of bronze?

Wow, where to start.  First, I have to go back to childhood; my mother LOVED Egyptian and Greek myths, and read them to me endlessly from various books.  And then later I saw the incredible remains of the real Bronze Age in the Middle East, in Egypt, in Greece, and oh, the incredible stuff at Heraklion in Crete, at Mycenae, and in museums all over the world… it really never gets old, because it’s so old, if that makes sense.  And then, early on, I decided, because of my friend Greg Mele (who writes fantastic MesoAmerican themed fantasy) that I was going to include the Americas in my Bronze Age; so I got into the Poche people of South America, and the Mayans… 

But if you want just one single moment of inspiration, it was the ‘Sword dancer’ sword at Heraklion; a three thousand five hundred year old sword with a figure of a dancer or gymnast back flipping over an upright sword engraved on the pommel.  I was standing in the museum, looking at this sword hilt, and in a moment I imagined the Bull Leapers, my fantasy Bronze Age extreme parkour martial artists.  Everything for Against All Gods flowed from that… Well, everything except that from the first time I read the Iliad, which I love, I always thought like, golly, this world is HELL for women, slaves, soldiers… even Achilles doesn’t really have any agency, does he? And Gilgamesh… very much the same; no matter what he does, HE can’t have immortality.  And I thought, what if mortals rebelled in this world, and tried to pull down the gods?

Those moments are amazing, aren’t they? When something just creates this tiny spark in your mind and off you go. 
The book descriptions tell me that the first book, Against All Gods drew on Greek mythology. What about Storming Heaven? Any particular myths you built on? 

So, I’m sorry to say that’s a complete error by the publisher or maybe Amazon. There’s not much Greek mythology in any of these at all (and I was frustrated to find it so-labeled).  I mean, okay, maybe a little, but the Gods are mostly based on Mesopotamian tropes, with a little support from Egypt and Central America; the various peoples who provide the characters are very roughly based on Hurrians, Hittites, Sumerians, Egyptians, Minoans, Mycenaeans, the closest we’ll get to Greek ? as well as Mayans, Poche/Inca, and Woodlands North American.  Enkul-Anu is very much a Babylonian-style Great God of Thunder, and Sypa his wife is also more Mesopotamian.  The World Serpent Antiboga is more than a little like many Mesoamerican types of the feathered serpent, except maybe much larger… But also, it’s fantasy, and Tyka, the Blue Goddess, is completely made up by me, while Temis, the Black Goddess, is a vast composite of ideas (but does include a little bit of Ancient Greek Artemis, so there’s your Greek bit).

Oh my, I stand corrected, then ?On the other hand, it’s cool that you had inspirations from so many cultures!
Let’s talk a bit about the characters. Since this is book two, we obviously can’t spoil things for readers, but I’m curious what was one thing about your MC(s) that you can identify with, and what were the most challenging bits of their personalities to write? 

Era, one of my protagonists, has been a loner all her life, an outsider; a woman in a male-dominated world, a gay woman in a world that really only values women in as much as they make babies and textiles. I wanted her to be one of the two protagonists, and I wanted to show her gradual emergence as a leader, and that involves stressful scenes in which she makes social errors.  I find social scenes gone wrong far worse than monsters; I’d rather watch ‘Alien’ anytime than ‘Pride and Prejudice.’ I love Pride and Prejudice, but every time the poor idiot parson speaks, I writhe…

     Anyway, I hate making characters I love make mistakes that will cost them friends and lead to the anxieties we all feel.  I’d rather they just faced dragons.

    Also, I have a whole cast of pacifist characters and they come to a very difficult apotheosis early in ‘Storming Heaven.’  I love the scene as it came out, but it was murder to write.

Joys of a writer, huh?
What you would say is the main message of Storming Heaven? Is there something you’d like readers to take away from it?

Some people are surprised when I say this, but there’s an element of political allegory to it.  The Gods are… not unlike some leaders in today’s world; the level of surveillance on the populace is an important part of the message. I believe in themes of hope and recovery, so I don’t think I’ll wreck everyone’s read by saying that I’m not going to kill everyone off… but the main message is about the use of power, from the oppression of the Gods to the thoughtless misogyny of Zos, one of the protagonists.

What are your plans for 2023? Any particular events you plan to visit? Where can fans meet you?

I’m still sort of hoping to make BristolCon in October.  Otherwise, I’m afraid I’m writing like mad because I have five books due this year.  I’ve handed in ‘Deep Black’ the sequel to ‘Artifact Space,’ and I’ve handed in ‘Beyond the Fringe’ a set of Artifact Space Sci-Fi stories; I’m working on a secret project (historical) and then I’ll write ‘Breaking Hell,’ the last book in this trilogy.  And then… well, next year, I hope we’re meeting up in Glasgow for World Fantasy? August 2024?

Otherwise, fans can find me and #writingfighting at @phokion1 on Twitter and @christian_cameron_author on Instagram and Threads.  And of course on my website, www.christiancameronauthor.com

I do try to respond to every message and email.

Yikes, no rest for the wicked! I certainly hope you’ll be able to make it to BristolCon! It’s always a pleasure to meet you ?
Well then, it was a pleasure to have a chat with you! Please allow these nice attendants to escort you out. We hope you’ll enjoy your stay in the Asylum! Any last words? 

Thanks very much for having me.  Say, what is that scaly creature by the fireplace?  Should I be worried? And how do I get out of here?

Worried? In an asylum? Nah. That’s just our friendly pet demon, who likes to transport people into books. And also sometimes thinks they are snacks. But hey, I’m sure you’ll be fine!
*locks door*
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Grab a copy of Storming Heavens by Miles Cameron which is out now by Gollancz!

Storming Heaven by Miles Cameron

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