Austin S. Camacho is the author of five novels in the Hannibal Jones Mystery Series and four in the Stark and O’Brien adventure series. His short stories have been featured in four anthologies from Wolfmont Press, including Dying in a Winter Wonderland – an Independent Mystery Booksellers Association Top Ten Bestseller for 2008 – and he is featured in the Edgar nominated African American Mystery Writers: A Historical and Thematic Study by Frankie Y. Bailey. In 2012 Camacho co-founded Intrigue Publishing. He serves as editorial director of the small press which publishes YA and crime fiction, and is seeking urban drama and sensual romance to expand its market.
During the 2014 Philadelphia Writers’ Conference, Austin will be leading a 3-day Workshop called Creating Characters that Keep Fans Reading. The workshop focuses on techniques for creating rounded, interesting people who can interact in both predictable and surprising ways. Austin will explain how to focus on the details that make readers care about characters, cheer your hero, hiss your villain, and feel sympathy for those caught in the middle.
We asked Austin to give us his thoughts on the Writers’ Conference and hints for those starting out. Here is what he had to share:
PWC How important are conferences and conventions to a writer?
AC Writers conferences and conventions are very important to a writer’s craft, his career, and his emotional balance.
Technically, a writers conference is a learning experience. Aspiring and emerging writers attend classes to improve their craft. The atmosphere is generally warm and cordial and most offer opportunities to meet with agents or have a sample of your work critiqued by an expert. Panels and lectures are a great way to learn more about the craft of writing, but one should not discount the networking component. A good writers convention is the best place to get a referral to a good agent, editor, or proofreader. You might also find out about anthologies looking for the kind of story you write. And you’ll make friends who might help you succeed in the business of writing as they climb the same ladder you’re trying to get up.
Some events labelled “conferences” are really writers conventions, and they are valuable too although the emphasis is on fun rather than learning. These events offer readers and fans a chance to meet and hear from their favorite authors. Those of us who are not best sellers can benefit from association. Sitting on a panel next to a star in your genre makes the star’s fans curious about your work and if you present well it can be a real career booster. And making friends with those stars can pay off in blurbs for your next book.
Both types of event offer one more great benefit: the inspiration and psychic recharging that comes from spending time surrounded by writers. The conversations in the local eatery or bar between sessions are invaluable. Both kinds of writers conferences help you feel part of the larger writers community.
PWC What are some hints for getting your butt in the seat and your hands on the keyboard (or notepad)?
AC I find that writing at the same time and in the same place every day helps to get me into the right frame of mind. Once it becomes habit it prompts me to get back to writing.
I work to a detailed outline, so I always know what scene I’ll be writing next. Knowing what I’m looking forward to, and knowing I won’t just be staring at an empty screen for an hour, draws me back to the computer.
I like to write for a predetermined amount of time. When the alarm goes off I stop, even if I’m in the middle of a sentence. That creates a mini-cliffhanger that I desperately want to finish. The need to pick up that dangling thread gets my butt in the chair.
PWC How do you balance your writing time with the rest of your life’s responsibilities?
AC My life is very full, but so is everyone else’s. I have only two precious commodities: time and money. I tend to treat them the same. When I get paid, before I pay any bills I add to my savings. I pay myself first. It’s the same with time. I allot a certain amount of time to writing every week. I know when and where that time will be used. I don’t leave writing to “leftover” time. I pay myself first.
Sometimes people ask me how I find time to write. I remind them of the people they know who find time to bowl three games every week, and those who find time to shoot 18 holes of golf. We all have time to do those things that are important to us. Make your writing a priority among your other responsibilities.
Want to meet Austin and find our how he makes his characters come to life? Register for the 2014 Philadelphia Writers’ Conference HERE.