Saturday, March 8, 2014

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY: John Cameron, Author

John Cameron, Author; Philosopher
Reviewers describe John Cameron’s THE SECOND LIVES OF HONEST MEN as “a must read – the 1984 of our time” and also “’1984’ meets ‘Angels and Demons.’”  Concerned about the impact of modern technology on the youth of today, Cameron envisions a world in the future where Abraham Lincoln returns to “end slavery again.”

A teacher by profession, Cameron considers himself “a modern philosopher.” The current state of education concerns him deeply. Modern day dependence on technology bothers him the most. When he’s not worrying or writing, he likes to read, watch favorite TV shows and movies, and spend time with friends.

Don't miss the giveaway opportunity at the end of the interview.

Q: Reviewers tout the freshness and uniqueness of THE SECOND LIVES OF HONEST MEN even if they disagree with its premise.  How did you conceive of your plot?

John Cameron: I was sitting on my couch with a friend, watching television. We were discussing the concept that in today's society, we're all essentially slaves to a system we have no control over, and that one man is no longer capable of making any difference. At that moment, a commercial for Spielberg's Lincoln appeared on the screen. Off the cuff, I said, "That's what we need - we need Abraham Lincoln to come to the future and end slavery again." I simply couldn't shake the premise, and knew that it was something that needed to be written.

Q: “Here was a world that I could easily see existing” – Why did you choose to tell your story in the future? How did you create a believable world set in the future?

John Cameron:  Telling the story in the future allowed me a lot of flexibility in terms of world building. The book is allegorical - a social commentary of how we live today - this is fairly obvious. However, the dystopian future let me paint a much darker picture, and project forward with where I see some concepts taking us. As a teacher, I feel that I have very legitimate concerns. I'm only thirty-one, but when I was in high school, we didn't have cell phones. Now, most kids have either a cell phone, or a wifi enabled mobile device of some kind, by grade five, if not earlier. The time we had for self reflection has disappeared, and the need for critical thinking has gone out the window along with it. I'm not anti-technological. Technology is an amazing, wonderful thing. It's the lack of temperance, particularly among our youth, that worries me.

Q: “Pessimistic but fun” – An interesting combination. What makes THE SECOND LIVES OF HONEST MEN pessimistic? What makes it fun?

John Cameron: I wrote the book during the darkest time of my life. It's very harsh in some regards, about a lot of things that I was struggling with in the world around me.  However, the dialogue is very sharp, and often light-hearted. The story is a tale of redemption, and hope. There are moments that will make you laugh. There are others that may make you cry. On the whole, the book is something that will make you think very carefully about how we interact with one another, and with society - but that I hope you can also look back on, and smile. 

Q: Is there a message in THE SECOND LIVES OF HONEST MEN that you want readers to grasp?  Did the message drive your plot?  If so, how did you also make the book entertaining?

John Cameron: I want people to question the world around them. We were born into it, and we have no real choice but to live in it, but is it really the way things are supposed to be? Is this how humanity ought to exist? I want readers to consider more than just their present. I want them to think about where we've come from, and where we're going. Unless we know the entire path behind us, it's difficult to consider what's around the next corner. Did the message drive my plot? Absolutely. Still, I kept the book entertaining by keeping the characters real, and believable. I've described the story as 'character driven' - and I absolutely stand by that.

Q:  How did you engage readers to care about your characters?

John Cameron: By making them human. They are flawed, emotional, and vulnerable. In the end, they do what all people do - seek out real connections in the world.   

Q: What are the characteristics of a good villain? Do you need a villain to have a hero? Does the concept of “heroes versus villains” apply to your book?

John Cameron: While there is one character in particular that could be considered an antagonist, the truth is that the book really doesn't have one. The characters that stand in the way of the protagonists are simply driven to act by the system they've been born into - much like us. They're not inherently evil - simply misguided products of the world in which they live.  

Q: How relevant is your vocation of teacher to the telling of your story?

John Cameron: For the world I built, I had to look forward. The viewpoint of that forward vision was dictated by what I see in the education system - what's happening, and maybe more importantly, what's not happening. 

Q: I have to ask: do you really dislike the internet so much? I’m of the Baby Boomer generation, and I find it useful – even Wikipedia (gulp! Now I’m on record as using it.)  And while “facts” remain elusive, I suspect that using the internet can help us approach the “truth” in today’s world more so than even 50 years ago.  Much can be said about the inaccuracy of “history.”

John Cameron: I don't dislike the Internet at all - I think it's an incredible tool. I was raised on screens - starting with the blue hues of my first Commodore 64 at the tender age of 3. I used an archaic modem from my first "PC" to dial into primitive bulletin board systems, becoming a global citizen in the early 90's, before the Internet even existed at the public level.

I'm only 31, and I've been cutting edge my entire life, until recently. I took a brief step back, so I could really gain perspective on where it's all heading. I may have grown up on the technology, but I'm still part of the first generation born into a world that was only beginning to embrace it. In that sense, I have the best of both worlds - I can see the benefits of what it has to offer us, while also understanding that technology is a double edged sword.

Q: What’s next? Will you write again in the same genre?

John Cameron: I have a sequel in the works, and a prequel planned, to turn THE SECOND LIVES OFHONEST MEN into a well rounded trilogy. After that, I'd really like to try my hand at something totally absurdist and see where that takes me.

Q: Tell us something about John Cameron. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

John Cameron: I like to read! (Okay, that was probably a given.) I love spending time with friends, and I still follow a handful of T.V. shows. I enjoy movies, but I'm fairly fussy about what I watch. (Field of Dreams? Yes! Twilight? Not so much.)

About John Cameron

My family often drives me to the brink of madness; not a difficult thing to do, considering how close to the edge I already am. My daughter is a hellion. At the age of six, she’s both bright and bold, obstinate, and pushes every button I have. My wife blames my genetics: “I was never like that,” she claims. I deny it, despite knowing that I was also an uncontrollable child.

I’m a teacher, but I consider myself a modern philosopher. I’m very worried about the current state of education. I’m concerned about the future, in general. I don’t think we all necessarily need to be alarmists, though I do believe that if you look at the world around you and aren’t a little worried, you and I probably aren’t going to agree on much.

On the evening of April 14th, 1865, a flawless duplicate replaced the 16th President an instant prior to his assassination. Two centuries later, Honest Abe opened his eyes to a world in desperate need of guidance.

THE SECOND LIVES OF HONEST MEN is a prescient vision of where society's dependence on technology could be taking us. It's a character driven story about love, redemption, and hope, with deep philosophical underpinnings related to how we think, feel, and reason in a world where it's ironically easy to feel disconnected.


The sidewalks were crumbling.
The once firm footing of gleaming white cement had poorly withstood the weathering of half a century’s worth of winters. Although some slabs fared better than others, all were subject to the same elements. Water permeated the man-made stones, wrenching them apart each time the mercury fell below the grade. The decay was exponential; each crack birthed two more. Jacob didn’t mind the erosion underfoot. The coarse gravel lent traction to his trudging. He’d never fallen while he felt the grit beneath him.
He stopped walking, suspiciously eyeing the familiar section ahead, as his wispy gray hair fluttered in the breeze. The memory was still fresh. It’d looked so bright and sunny when he peered out the window that cold morning, on a day not unlike this. He’d been in agony, sprawled atop the frigid ground for over an hour while he called out for help, until he finally came to accept that with everyone virtually a million miles away, they’d never hear him. As cars passed, he crawled toward the closest store, screaming until he caught someone’s attention.
His new hip was better than the original, or so the doctors told him. Still, it wasn’t nearly worth the price.
Jacob pulled his hands from his pockets, making them more accessible should they need to break his fall. He took a deep breath and stepped forward. His boot found purchase on the cement, and he exhaled a sigh of relief. This time, he’d managed to avoid black ice; so aptly named for the mood of its victims.
He continued walking, bundled tightly in his thick, warm leather coat. He’d worn it the first time he walked to work, decades prior. How the world had changed.
The first time, he’d smiled at fellow pedestrians as they crossed paths. Now, the decrepit sidewalks were empty but for the bland people wearing bright colors meant to catch the eye. They only used the sidewalks laterally, stepping over the rubble to cover the distance from their vehicles to the entrances of the particular shops or services they cared to partake of, and not one step more.

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