Austin S. Camacho
Interview by Uriah Young
QFTD: Tell us a little about yourself. Who is Austin S. Camacho?
Austin: I am a fiction writer. I am a philosopher. I am a teller or morality tales, thinly disguised as mysteries or adventure stories. I am a husband and father and all the roles that come along with those titles. I care about people, and I have a big heart. I can admit that I am a bit of a loud mouth. I think I’m a great writer and think I am a great guy. One thing is certain, you have to have confidence as a writer. Essentially, as a fiction writer, you have to suspend the disbelief of the reader and be good at writing a 300-page lie. Stephen King writes fantastic fiction, but people believe it. He’s great at it because he’s convincing.
QFTD: When did you fall in live with writing? How did it happen?
Austin: When I was in grade school, I loved comic books. Then I started reading adventure stories. I always, on some level, wanted to tell tales myself. In high school, I wrote this “Mission Impossible” sort of story, featuring all my friends at the time as the characters. I would type out a few pages at night on my portable typewriter, and when my friends would greet me the next morning, they would ask me, “Did you finish? Is your story done?” People really wanted to know what I was going to write. I had never been good at sports or a joiner of clubs, so I thought, here is something I’m good at that draws an audience. I thought, this is what I should be doing. I fell in love with the idea of people wanting to know what’s going to happen next. It’s how I felt when I read Tarzan by Edger Rice Burroughs.
QFTD: What has your experience in the military done for your writing career?
Austin: Of course being in the military made it easier to do research about weapons and fighting, but I won’t minimize that. I’ll say that it allowed me to have some settings that I wouldn’t have had if I hadn’t seen the world. In my second novel, the characters were in Europe. I was able to give that realistic feeling for those kinds of international settings because I had been there. Just as significant, being in the military gave me a certain mindset, work ethic, and use of time management skills. The way it affected my brain put me in a situation to be able to force writing in my life. In broadcast journalism, I was able to apply the military discipline that I acquired. It takes discipline to write; for those who are serious about writing, you have to be ready to endure the process. For some of us, the process is the point.
QFTD: When you are working on a manuscript, what is your typical day of writing like? What is your biggest challenge as you write?
Austin: Most days, during the week, I get up and go to my Clark Kent job, which is a public affairs specialist at the Department of Defense. I almost never go anywhere for lunch. I push the door closed, put my headphones on, pull up my document, and use my full hour to crank out my work. As I write, I eat my sammich and bag of chips. Sometimes, when I feel really high energy, I get up and do some writing before I head to my job. I don’t have a number of words to target; I just pull up my outline and write each scene, one at a time. I am able to compartmentalize that amount of time for writing purposes. Often, when my lunch is done, I can stop in the middle of the sentence or paragraph. Coming back and finding a nice cliffhanger can be good.
My biggest challenge is keeping my characters true to themselves. It’s too easy to let your plot drag your characters along. You have to be able to relax and let the characters do what they have to do. Sometimes characters don’t want to do what the plot calls for…sometimes you have to raise the ante and crank it up, giving your character a tough time. My process is to write the book beginning to end, revise it, then go back and rewrite, beginning to end. Something else that’s a challenge is figuring out what stays and what goes. It’s hard deleting sections of what you wrote when you edit.
QFTD: You also teach writing classes at a college in Maryland. What brings you satisfaction when it comes to wearing the teacher's hat?
Austin: A couple of things. I really love to see new writers get charged and fired up to run to the keyboard and do something. I try to give writers ideas so they can go home excited about writing. For instance, I feel satisfaction when I tell students to use the five senses as they write and a light bulb goes off above their head. The long-term satisfaction…I get a kick out of seeing a writer’s work improve. It feels great when you give a tip, they apply it, and their work explodes. That is the biggest reward.
QFTD: You are a member of at least a half dozen writing organizations. For an aspiring writer who may be curious, what are some advantages to being a part of such organizations?
Austin: The networking is very important. It’s a people business, and it’s important to have a chance to meet agents, publishers, or other writers who want to collaborate. Organizations coordinate conferences that bring in speakers and provide opportunities to learn the craft side of things. There is a number one advantage: fellowship. Writing is a very lonely activity. You need feedback from other people who do this and know how to do this. We need to get involved and learn from each other. There are times I can go to someone and say, “What do you think of this article? The end isn’t working. What am I doing wrong? Will I be able to place this somewhere?” Writers helping writers and being able to relate are very important.
QFTD: As I read your book, The Troubleshooter, I enjoyed Hannibal's intrepid nature and stubborn attitude to not give up on his mission. How do you develop your protagonists?
Austin: You have to know everything there is to know about that person. Plot and character kind of grow together…you know the situation and you know the problem, and when you’ve got that, then you go, “What kind of person is going to do what needs to be done to get the job done?” That’s where you start. Think about character traits in comics. What’s the difference between Superman and Batman? Superman comes from a nice background and he’s a straight arrow. Batman is a character drawn out of tragedy after watching his parents die. He’s carrying this rage where he wants to pound into the sand anybody similar to the guys who killed his parents. Similar to Hannibal Jones, he’s a stick-to-the end guy––we admire that, but we must remember that he is stubborn ALL THE TIME and that can make him difficult to get along with. As you build that person, and those character traits, you must realize that every positive trait can also be a negative trait.
QFTD: Tell us about your latest book that will be released in the fall.
Austin: A big deal to me is my next book, Beyond Blue, and it’s different than anything I’ve ever done. It is a detective novel set in New York City with an ensemble cast. Beyond Blue is about a privately funded detective agency, and its purpose is to help officers who are in trouble. If you were to ask me to compare it to something similar, it reminds me of an episode of Criminal Minds. What’s unique about the characters is that they only take these particular cases. In this book, there are four cases going on at the same time, and they are all interconnected. I am very proud of the story and the premise. The characters I’ve created, who I am also proud of, are quirky in their own way.
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