Despite capturing and imprisoning Sovereign, his followers still hold influence. As they go on a killing spree, raiding realms and killing key Kindred members, the High Priestess decides to reinstate an ancient tournament with the hope of inspiring a new generation of mystics. It is up to these new Kindred to rise up and become defenders of the realm.
Creative Writer's Desk: Cameo, thanks for taking the time to talk to us. Your novel is being released this month. You've been working on it for a long time now. Can you describe your process? How has the novel evolved as you've grown as a writer?
Cameo Rowe: Defenders of the Realm has always been about a war between two factions of mystics, one that protects the world, and one that seeks to conquer it. The novel has always had a powerful and wise mystic as the leader for the good, and that leader's former student as the leader of darkness. The particulars of the conflict have evolved over time as the novel has evolved.
Initially, the "good mystics" were known as Masters, and their leader was the Keeper of the Realm. Now, the mystics have the title of Master, but are referred to collectively as Kindred. Their leader is the High Priestess. While the agents of darkness are referred to as Occult in all drafts, they're led by Carrion in the first draft, and a man who calls himself Sovereign in the final manuscript. The change provides a shift from seeing the Defenders of the Realm series as three or four separate novels, and seeing it as a unified story.
The first draft of Defenders of the Realm was written with more of a stream of conscious style. I focused on plot and developing setting, and didn't really get into the characters beyond simple surface emotions. It didn't start out as a novel, but as a short story that expanded as time went on. It went from one book, to a trilogy, and eventually included a prequel.
I showed the first book in the series to one of my old English teachers from high school. I'd given the short story version of the piece to her as a retirement present. She told me that the piece was too dense. Too much happened in too little time with very little development. I took the criticism and decided to step away from Defenders of the Realm, and write another manuscript using the advice I'd been given.
From there, I developed a manuscript titled The Two Kingdoms. It's a piece set in a land divided into an Earth and Sky Kingdom once its King passed away. The novel chronicles the rise of a young boy to become the prophesied One King to unite the land. I utilized fewer characters, had a simpler plot, and kept the piece more focused. Where the first draft of Defenders of the Realm was 350 pages or so, The Two Kingdoms was around 125 or 150. I wrote a second draft of Defenders of the Realm in a similar style, and simplified the plot of the first book considerably. I showed the drafts of both pieces to my English teacher, and she said they were better, but still needed some more refinement.
Around this time, I took on a second major at Pitt in English Writing (fiction concentration). I learned more about writing literary fiction, and the importance of making characters grow throughout the course of a piece, and how to derive conflict from their experiences. I came back to Defenders of the Realm and decided to use that knowledge to revise what I'd done. I rewrote the entire beginning of the novel, and included fewer characters than the original. All the names were given more of a fantasy feel. Some passages from the first set of Defenders of the Realm manuscripts were cut, pasted, and revised to come into this draft. Some passages and characters from The Two Kingdoms came into this draft. When I finished, I had a draft of Defenders of the Realm I: The World Mystic Arts Tournament.
The third draft of the manuscript is paced a lot faster than the first two drafts, but the storyline is a lot simpler. While it still maintains an epic feel, there are still aspects of character development and conflict that were lacking in the first two versions. I showed the novel to a professor here that leads a Fantasy Fellowship on campus. She read the novel and loved it. I've showed the novel to some more friends, and they loved it as well. I've since continued the story line from Defenders of the Realm I into a second manuscript, Defenders of the Realm II: The Guardians of Gaea, which I'm really excited about.
CWD: You have a diverse cast of characters in the novel. Not only in the abilities of the heroes and villains but also in their ethnicity. I grew up reading fantasy books and the most diversity I ever saw was a series of books with both talking ferrets and talking rats. Did you want to expand the ethnic boundaries of fantasy or did the characters come out of your life experience?
Cameo Rowe: When I originally wrote Defenders of the Realm, I used my friends as models for the characters, so the ethnicities carried over. My white friends were white characters and my black friends became black characters. As I continued the revision process, characters changed and ethnicities changed. I was more conscious of the choices that I made in character background and how they spoke, acted, and carried themselves.
I look at the world of Gaea, where Defenders of the Realm is set, as a world that's beyond racism and sexism. The Kindred, who protect Gaea and its people, are led by a black woman. There's no bitterness or tension in this fact. The other characters respect her as a talented mystic and an intelligent person. The Fairy Clan in my novel is a race led by women. Women are the warriors, leaders, and healers. The queen is black, but the Fairies are an extremely diverse society. The Fairies are respected for their power and abilities as well.
Defenders of the Realm uses aspects of politics in modern society to provide conflict. While I take a broader approach, focusing on things like the nature of power and ethics in society, I also include some prejudices in this world, which gives the main character, Aleron, an obstacle to overcome. The prejudice doesn't focus on race as much as his cultural background. The feel you should get from reading the novel is that you're dealing with people, and that race and sex doesn't have as much weight as the choices they make. Being black, white, male, or female doesn't make you evil, but acting on your own greed does.
CWD: Like most writers, you hold a day job in addition to writing. How do you find time for writing and how do you keep up your discipline?
Cameo Rowe: While I was a student at Pitt, I mainly used my breaks to work on Defenders of the Realm. So, I didn't go out and party as much as some of my friends, even on Christmas breaks or over the summer. Majoring in English allowed me to work on my writing skills apart from Defenders of the Realm, which I think made my manuscripts better. Majoring in Engineering is time consuming, so I didn't necessarily have a ton of time to work with, but I used it well.
Now that I'm working and continuing my education, my time is constrained a little more. I have to balance promoting the book, writing and revising manuscripts, and pursuing other opportunities now. With limited time, this means drafts get written a little slower. I try to keep writing by maintaining a blog. It's accessible through my website, http://www.cameorowe.com, and also is fed to my Facebook account (search Cameo Rowe Jr) and MySpace page (http://www.myspace.com/thedefendersoftherealm). I don't focus on fiction as much as politics, pop culture, and my thoughts on the writing and publishing process in the blog. I also write for JENESIS Magazine, and interview different artists and businessmen throughout Pittsburgh. I think it's important to stay writing if you want to be a writer, even if it's part time. If you have the passion to write, then finding the time is not a problem.
CWD: I've never talked to an author who didn't have problems somewhere along the line when finishing a project as large as a novel. Did you ever get stuck? How did you deal with writer's block and creative droughts?
Cameo Rowe: Writing the book was never really a continuous process. I wrote in bunches a lot, as opposed to writing 5-10 pages a day, every day. I often find that I get stuck when I'm at a part of the book that I'm not quite sure about. I may have a vision of what happened before, and a vision for what happens next, but not necessarily for where the characters are in a certain passage. Inspiration comes to you in time, and you can encourage that by making sure you take part in different things that stimulate creativity: going to museums to look at art work, poetry readings, watching certain movies. As a fantasy writer, I try not to watch tons of fantasy movies or read tons of fantasy books while I'm working on a project, but I do like to read up on politics and history, which can provide an excellent source of inspiration. Using deadlines can help you too. If there are writing contests coming up, make note of them and use them as benchmarks for when you should be finished a manuscript.
CWD: If I gave you $10 million dollars and you had 5 days to spend it (trust me, it's a very hypothetical question), what would you do first?
Cameo Rowe: My focus is so much on my book, and developing myself as a writer and leader, that I would probably take that money and put it right into my book and other ideas. I'd hire a publicist to help me get the word out about the book, not just in the Pittsburgh area, but on a national level. I'd look into investing in different avenues to release the story, perhaps with online gaming or something else. I'd look into investing in writing programs for young minority students to help them refine their skills as well. I'm not really the kind of guy that focuses on having the houses and the cars and the trappings of success. I think what you do is more important than what you have.
Check out Cameo Rowe's website www.cameorowe.com where you can read his blog or order Defenders Of The Realm I: The World Mystic Arts Tournament.