2016 Snapshot: Steve Cameron

Interview by David McDonald.

unnamedSteve Cameron is a Scottish/Australian writer currently living in the U.K. Publications include Dimension6, Aurealis, ASIM and Galaxy’s Edge. Steve is a member of the HWA, and SFWA. He is an English teacher and will shortly commence work at a school with a 900 year history. Steve maintains a website at stevecameron.com.au

Congratulations on your first Aurealis nomination, with “Lodloc and the Bear” in the “Fantasy Novella” category! Could you tell us a little about the story and its genesis? The novella is one of my favourite forms, is it one that you enjoy writing?
Thank you. The nomination was both unexpected and thrilling, especially since the award is jury judged. I had a dream one night where I opened my front door and a couple of cartoon characters stood there looking at me. Their names were ‘Lodloc and the Bear’. When I woke that’s all I could remember, although I knew the dream had been longer. I noted it in my writing journal, and left it there for about a year before I wrote a word. I needed a story for Keith Stevenson’s Dimension6, so I sat down and wrote it in a 24 hour period. When I started, I had no idea how the story would end. I had a rough idea of what I wanted to do with it, but that was all. The words just poured out. A quick edit and off to Keith with an hour or so to spare. I was over the moon when he bought it.
I generally write between 4000 and 7000 words. Occasionally I go over, but it’s never really planned. I try to use as many words as the story needs. I think I’m getting better at it.
You’ve just come off a massive change in your life–a move to England! What was the impetus for this? How do you see this influencing your writing?
There were a number of factors, but I suppose the main one was to spend more time with my wife’s family. We’d been in Australia a number of years and we felt like we needed to be closer to my in-laws for a while. Other factors included employment, lifestyle, pace of living, less traffic,(we’re not in London), culture and history, and access to Europe.
It’s too early to say it was the right move to make, but so far everything feels right. And in all the planning everything just seemed to fall into place. Some difficult aspects were ridiculously easy.
I currently live a few miles from the centre of Lincoln. When I walk around town I’m surrounded by history, by buildings that are ancient. The Cathedral is almost 1000 years old and dominates the skyline. Australian Aboriginal history is very old, but it’s different type of history.
I was born in the UK. moved to Australia as a child. I’ve always felt a pull to the UK, a connection with the land and its culture. In fact when I visited here in 1985 I declared that one day I would return here to live. And now I’m relishing it. I’m surrounded by my history.
One example. I’m a huge fan of Steeleye Span, the English folk group. The very first time I heard them was in the late 70s, a song called Little Sir Hugh. It’s the tale of a boy who was murdered in 1255 and led to the arrest of 90 Jews of his supposed ritual murder. Legend says his ghost visited his mother and told her where to find his body, which was later found in a nearby well. Last week I visited the area in which this all occurred, and spent time at his tomb and shrine inside the Cathedral.
This year, you launched a new project called the “The Rowboat Syndicate”, a blog about the Beatles. The band are obviously a major influence on you. Aside from featuring in the excellent story, “I Was The Walrus” (After Death – Dark Moon Books), how have the band influenced your art and approach to creativity?
“I Was the Walrus”, which is a John Lennon reincarnation story, also had its genesis in a real life situation. And I was thrilled when Eric J. Guignard, the editor, won the Bram Stoker Award for that collection. I’ve been a Beatles fan since I was a child. An old friend, Allan Tong (a Toronto based film-maker and writer) and I set up this website and between us try to write articles with a different approach to the Beatles. In fact Allan and I just spent twelve days in the UK, visiting Beatles sites in London and Liverpool. He just flew out last night. He’s the only other Beatles scholar I’ve had the fortune to meet.
My writing contains direct references to a lot of art. Film, music, paintings, and literature. XTC, Wilco and The Beatles have all been included. I’m rather pleased that Damien Broderick is the only person to have mentioned he noticed my indirect reference to Phillip K. Dick and Linda Ronstadt in one story. I think the art you imbibe will always influence that which you create. I have a relative who creates in a variety of forms and we often discuss how other art influences your own. And how inspiration and ideas are all around you. Remember, Ringo once mistakingly said it had been a Hard Day’s Night, and that malapropism became a song and a film.

What Australian work have you loved recently?

Almost a year ago I commenced culling books and packing the rest for shipping to the UK. Hopefully they will arrive next week. As such, most of the books in my ‘To Be Read’ pile are somewhere on the ocean. The only Australian book I’ve read this year is Blockbuster, by Lucy Sussex. The fantastic biography of Fergus Hume. Highly recommended. Apart from that I’ve read a couple of 87th Precinct novels by Ed McBain that I hadn’t seen before. As an ex-police officer, he’s the only police procedural writer I enjoy. And I’ve just completed Electric Eden: Unearthing Britain’s Visionary Music, by Rob Young. It’s a tremendous account of British folk music and how it’s influenced by the landscape.

Which author (living or dead) would you most like to sit next to on a long plane trip and why?
My original thought was Hunter S. Thompson or Philip K. Dick, but I suspect they may be better on shorter flights. I think I would have to choose Katherine Mansfield, my all time favourite writer of short stories. Originally from New Zealand, she lived in London where she was a friend of Virginia Woolf and D.H. Lawrence, Unfortunately she died of tuberculosis in 1923 at the age of 34, leaving 43 incredible short stories. Her life fascinates me, and I have her notebooks and collected letters. And yes, one of my published stories is based on one of hers.
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