I first met Austin Camacho at a meeting of the Mid-Atlantic chapter of Mystery Writers of America. It was my first meeting and he welcomed me and made me feel at home. This past fall (2015) I got to know Austin and his wife Denise a little better at their Crime, Creatures and Creativity conference. What I liked most about the event was the level of interaction with speakers. (The 2016 conference is moving to Columbia, Maryland; register for the Sept. 30-Oct. 2 event by March 31 to qualify for an early-bird discount.)
Austin grew up in Saratoga Springs––not far from my home town of Gloversville, NY––attended Union College and served in the U.S. Army. These days he handles media relations for the Defense Department. He began writing stories while in the Army and to date has published eleven novels and multiple short stories. He is a past president of the Maryland Writers Association and is active in several writers associations.
To learn more about his books at http://www.amazon.com/Austin-S.-Camacho/e/B003E1O5JO/.
- I just finished reading Beyond Blue, which is not only well-written, but employs an unusual plot based on the idea of an agency set up to take care of police matters in New York City that the police seemed to be failing to take care of themselves. In the forward to the book, you indicate the concept and characters were provided by someone else. What’s the story behind that?
Some years ago I became friends with Warren Murphy, author of, among other things, The Destroyer series. He had the concept in his head and asked me to collaborate with him on it. I fleshed out his skeletal characters, built the plot and wrote a first draft. The plan was for Warren to do a rewrite but his health was failing and he turned the whole project over to me.
- You’ve penned two series. Is Beyond Blue a one-off or the beginning of a new series?
Beyond Blue is intended to be the first of a series. However, they will come a bit more slowly than the others because plotting this kind of book is exponentially harder than the straight-line Stark & O’Brien stories.
- I especially liked your female characters in Beyond Blue. What’s your secret to writing intriguing female characters?
Creating good characters (male or female) is a matter of knowing their backgrounds and what matters to them. To create strong women I start with same way I would to build a strong man. But women express their emotions more strongly and are more perceptive of other people’s feelings. And of course all of my early readers are women and they keep me on track.
- Beyond Blue is published by your own publishing house, Intrigue Publishing. What led you to set up your own publishing company? What has been the hardest aspect of running your own publishing firm? What has been the most rewarding?
My experiences submitting to major publishers, being published by small presses and self-publishing gave me a clear picture of what I thought an author-friendly publisher should be. I learned so much about the business I just thought I should share it with other good writers. The hardest part of publishing for us has been getting books into bookstores. Few authors are willing to be active enough to get the kind of attention that gets books into stores. The most rewarding part of publishing for me has been that moment when we find a truly outstanding manuscript. Then there is the wonder of seeing our choices vindicated. Many of our books have won some pretty impressive awards.
- Do you do any of the editing at Intrigue? What have you learned by editing other writers?
I do the first editing pass. When the author fixes the gross problems I point out the book goes to a deep content editor. The author rewrites after that editor’s input. I do another editing pass after that.
I’ve learned two surprising things in this process. First, I’m stunned by how many writers don’t seem to read their work after they write it. We get manuscripts from pretty good storytellers with grievous grammatical errors, awful spelling, and a total lack of knowledge about punctuation. People need to proofread their work.
I’m also staggered by the number of writers who don’t read in the genre they’re writing. Every sub-genre has its own conventions and you have to know the rules to break them well. And when I see a story or characters that the author thinks are original when in fact they are so overused that they’re clichés, I know that writer doesn’t read enough.
- Your background is in the military. Why do you write crime fiction and not spy novels or thrillers?
Actually, I DO writer thrillers, and one of my protagonists, Morgan Stark, is an ex-mercenary soldier. But my favorite writing is mysteries because my favorite reading is mysteries. I started writing because I had read so many mysteries that I felt I knew what would make a good one. I love building the puzzle, planting the clues and fooling the reader – fairly.
- You’ve just come out with another book in your Hannibal Jones series, called Pyramid Deception. Tell us a little about that story.
In this one Hannibal’s woman Cindy gets conned out of the fortune she earned in the previous book. Hannibal tracks down a woman who might be able to lead him to the swindler but she gets gunned down right in front of him in a drive by shooting. When her body disappears the police don’t even believe she’s dead. So, Hannibal has to solve the murder as well as finding his woman’s money and of course, there is more than one murder to solve. Naturally it gets complex but this book is very much about Cindy’s reaction to her loss and her relationship with Hannibal.