Thursday, May 7, 2020

Cheryl Campbell Interview - Echoes of War

Photo Credit: Irvin Serrano

The Burnt Mountain Series consists of five novels published between 2013 to 2016 by award-winning author, Cheryl Campbell. She was born in Louisiana and lived there and in Mississippi prior to moving to Maine. Her varied background includes art, herpetology, emergency department and critical care nursing, and computer systems. In the Spring of 2018 she returned to her interest in a wandering lifestyle which she first did during her graduate studies of garter snakes on Maine islands. She is now rarely in one spot for more than a week before relocating. She lives in Maine, when not nomadic, and is currently working on a science fiction trilogy. The first book of the trilogy, Echoes of War, is available now through your favorite bookseller.


What inspired you to pen your first novel?

It started out as an experiment to see if I could do it. I had been writing Star Trek fanfic for several years and eventually moved on from that to not writing at all. The void left me wanting to write again, so I decided to give a novel a go. I wanted to write something for my nephew and niece (ages two and three years, respectively, at the time) for when they were teens, so that would give me about ten years to figure it out. The first fantasy novel was done in about four years.

Tell us your latest news.
I am an IBPA Benjamin Franklin Award finalist in scifi for Echoes of War, so I’m waiting to hear if I won gold or silver for that competition. Either way, I’m beyond excited to make the list of finalists. Also, I expect to have ARCs within the next week for my second scifi novel, Echoes of Darkness, in the Echoes trilogy. That book releases October 2020.

Who or what has influenced your writing, and in what way?
My grandmother and mother were both big scifi and fantasy fans, so I come by my fandom of those genres naturally. I have yet to cross paths with anyone that was as voracious a reader as my grandmother. She passed before I started writing my Burnt Mountain Series fantasy novels, but my mother was able to read them and enjoyed them. Unfortunately, my mother passed before she could read Echoes of War. They both influenced my love of scifi and fantasy books and movies.

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
There is always that moment when I release a book into the wild of anxiously waiting for the reviews to come back. Will the reviews be good? Will readers hate it? It is a massive relief to release that held breath when not only positive reviews come back, but when some readers absolutely rave about the book and can’t wait for the sequel. That is an indescribable feeling.

What was the single worst distraction that kept you from writing this book?
I don’t usually get too distracted from writing, but I do have time limitations due to my full-time IT job and sometimes frequent travel for that job. I have learned to capitalize on flight delays to gain writing time, and I am a master at being able to write in noisy airports. Hint: noise canceling headphones are key!

What do you hope for readers to be thinking when they read your novel?
Dani, the protagonist, is somewhat of a walking disaster. She never sees herself as a hero, and her plans sometimes go up in literal smoke. She’s impulsive and makes mistakes. Her heart is in the right place, but things don’t always go as expected. These are all things readers can relate to on some level. I hope that as readers see her struggle that they can empathize with her and reflect back on their own times where they planned for one thing but something very different and unexpected happened instead.

In your new book; ECHOES OF WAR, can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about it. 
Echoes of War is an edgy post-apocalyptic science fiction novel set in New England. Dani is a scavenger living on the fringes of society in war-torn Maine. She believes she is just another human refugee, but in truth, she’s a member of the nearly-immortal race of aliens called Echoes. She and other human and Echo civilians avoid the Wardens, a splinter group of genocidal Echoes leading a decades-long, human-hunting war against anyone who resists their rule on Earth.

When Dani risks her own well-being to save a human boy from a violent kidnapping, a chain of events is sparked which forces her to revisit events and people from past lives that she can’t remember and to step out of the shadows. She becomes determined to play her part to end the war against the Wardens, but her attempts to change the bleak future facing humankind will lead her to the center of a brutal confrontation that even she may not survive.

What part of Dani did you enjoy writing the most?

I love that she’s so conflicted. She believes she is a human, but she is one of the alien Echoes. She’s a civilian scavenger and should be avoiding the local military, but instead she’s sleeping with a military police officer. When a fight starts, she should be running in the other direction, but instead she intervenes and gets her ass kicked. Her only goal in her current and prior lives has been to survive, yet she becomes involved in trying to help end the war with the genocidal Wardens.

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
I would love for Dani to meet The Doctor (the Jodi Whittaker Doctor Who). I think they would have great stories to share over a pint about great intentions and things not always going according to plan.

What’s the most ridiculous fact you know?
Oh, wow, there’s so much useless information in my head, it’s hard to pick just one. I know the genus and species names for all the snake and frog species in Maine.

What according to you is your most treasured possession?
I am currently petless (for now), but when I have had a dog or dogs, my world revolves around them.

Best date you've ever had?

Still waiting to experience it. I have had fun on dates, but nothing yet that has rocked my world enough for me to call it the best date ever.

If you could go back in time to one point in your life, where would you go?

I wouldn’t mind a repeat trip to Germany from 2018. I had a spectacular six days in Bavaria, and I would happily repeat those days in the Alps.

If you wrote a journal entry today, what would it say?
Did some errands. Worked on a novel. Did an interview. Goofed off. Worked on a novel some more. Spent time with friends. Laughed. Went to bed. (Yes, I’m awful at journaling).

What event in your life would make a good movie?
Starting in Spring 2018, I spent 1.5 years living nomadically. I sold my house in Maine and lived on the fly. Where I happened to sleep one night often changed the next night. I spent time in Maryland with work living in hotels and traveling. I would camp on weekends in Maine. If the weather wasn’t great for camping, I’d be at a hotel, friend’s house, or AirBnB somewhere on the Eastern Seaboard of the US. I lived in the UK for a month. There are plenty of adventures and good stories during that nomadic time.

Technically I have a residence now, but I’m hardly ever there. I call it my glorified storage unit where I sometimes sleep. But the 18 months or so of 100% nomadic life would probably be a fun movie.

What was the best memory you ever had as a writer?
The first print proof of my first novel. I was traveling for work and had it shipped to the hotel where I was staying. It arrived, I opened it, put it on the table in the hotel room, and just stared at it. All I could think was: “That is my book.” I still do it every time I get a print proof or ARC, but seeing that very first novel was quite memorable.

· Dani, the protagonist, is named after a girl I played softball with for All Stars in high school. I barely knew the player because she came from another team, but I loved her name. I am deliberate in NOT describing what Dani looks like other than her having short, dark hair and a small frame. I want the reader to form their own image of what she looks like.

· Miles, the Commonwealth military police officer, is named after a Boston Terrier puppy I encountered while in obedience class with my own dog. Miles, the puppy, was adorable and had a great name.

· Aunt Hattie, the brothel owner, is based off two actual historical figures in Bangor, Maine. Fan Jones was a successful brothel owner in Bangor in the early 1800s, and there was another successful businesswoman in Bangor during the Revolutionary War that sent a bill to the King of England when English soldiers got rowdy and wrecked her boarding house. I believe her first name was Hattie (and is how I came up with the name of Hattie for my character), but don’t quote me on that.

· Mary, Dani’s friend and one of Hattie’s workers, was supposed to have a different name. I couldn’t think of anything on the spot when I created her, so I just plugged in “Mary” to start with the intention to change it later when I had something better. The name stuck.

· Oliver was named after my friend’s son. It’s just a great name and it suited the character perfectly.

· I flew in and out of the Portland, Maine airport frequently for work. I was careful though when going through the airport and checking things out for use in the novel. I obviously didn’t want to get tackled by TSA, so I committed images to memory instead of taking pictures of runways, air traffic towers, and such. I was also careful when talking to friends about the novel in public places, especially when on the phone and sitting in the airport. “Yeah, it’s gonna be great. I’m attacking the Portland airport. It’s the perfect target.” Um. No.

· All landmarks in the novel are real places in Bangor and Portland, Maine.

· I took numerous historical society tours in both Bangor and Portland as part of my research for the novel.

· The idea for Echoes of War began with a literal dream I had early one morning about a girl that had died and had the option to go back and repeat her life and try to not make the same mistakes. The catch was she had to do it without the advantage of being able to remember her prior lives … and she’d already done it and failed a dozen times before. I woke before I learned her decision. That idea of a semi-reincarnation and forgetting the past was the spark for a trilogy. Add some aliens into the mix and turn it into scifi.

· The original name for the novel was Forgotten Echoes. The publisher wasn’t crazy about the title and gave me some alternates. That is how it became Echoes of War.

Decades of war started by a genocidal faction of aliens threatens the existence of any human or alien resisting their rule on Earth. Dani survives by scavenging enough supplies to live another day while avoiding the local military and human-hunting Wardens. But then she learns that she is part of the nearly immortal alien race of Echoes—not the human she’s always thought herself to be—and suddenly nothing in her life seems certain.

Following her discovery of her alien roots, Dani risks her well-being to save a boy from becoming a slave—a move that only serves to make her already-tenuous existence on the fringes of society in Maine even more unstable, and which forces her to revisit events and people from past lives she can’t remember. Dani believes the only way to defeat the Wardens and end their dominance is to unite the Commonwealth’s military and civilians, and she becomes resolved to play her part in this battle. Her attempts to change the bleak future facing the humans and Echoes living on Earth suffering under the Wardens will lead her to clash with a tyrant determined to kill her and all humankind—a confrontation that even her near-immortal heritage may not be able to help her survive.

Praise for ECHOES OF WAR

"Readers who enjoy a blend of action and character exploration will eagerly anticipate the next book in the trilogy." ―Booklist

"...perfect for fans of post-apocalyptic worlds who are looking for more of a science fiction twist." ―, 4/5 atoms

You can purchase Echoes of War at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you CHERYL CAMPBELL for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of Echoes of War (Echoes Trilogy #1) by Cheryl Campbell.