Cam Torrens is another member of Black Rose Writing, and he writes in my genre, though with a little international flare. Given his background, it is only natural. He is the father of six kids (four adopted from China and Russia) and husband of 33 years to his lovely bride, Linda. Both are Air Force veterans who met in pilot training. Cam served 30 years (and one month) in the Air Force as a mobility pilot, the Air Force Attaché to Beijing, China, and the Professor of Aerospace Studies at Virginia Tech. But the tagline on his website describes who he is best: “I’m a guy who likes to write, read, run, and ruminate!” But I would describe him as a guy I’d love to have at a barbeque together with his family and mine, eating a burger and drinking a beer- even though I don’t drink. I felt that comfortable with him in this interview.
Cam is giving away 30 free copies of his debut novel, Stable, on LibraryThing. The giveaway ends April 25th. All you have to do is sign up to review it at: https://www.librarything.com/ner/detail/47024/Stable
What was it that made you decide you had a story to tell and to become an author?
I’m a lifelong reader and have always averaged about 90-100 books a year. It’s my absolute favorite thing to do. Throughout my military career, I often thought how special it would be to impact others through writing, as so many authors did for me. In 2019, I read a newspaper article about the Roberts Tunnel, which transports water from the Rockies, under the Continental Divide, and supplies Denver. An amazing feat of engineering, and I thought: what would happen if someone tried to blow it up? There you have it…my first book idea. Of course, that first completed novel has never seen the light of day.
As an author or writer, what sets you apart from others?
My favorite books to read are in the mystery/suspense/thriller genre. So that’s what I write. But I’m far more interested in character than plot. So I like to think my “thrillers” are a little light on the “thrills” but heavier on character development.
How do ideas for your stories present themselves? How do you know what story lines to follow and which to ignore?
I’m very active in our county’s Search & Rescue (SAR) team and my books all carry some element of Search & Rescue in them. I often fictionalize some of our actual missions and use them as subplots or B-stories in my work.
What genre do you write, and why?
Mystery/Suspense/Thriller—because that’s what I like to read!
Besides writing and telling a good story, do you have any other talents?
I’m a part-time ultra-runner. I’ve done seven marathons and six races between 30-50 miles. I’m not sure if it’s a talent because my running is like my writing. It takes me a long time. I’m not always happy with my results, but I generally can count on finishing. I’m on day 541 of a running streak where I run at least a mile a day.
If you were to name one or two books that you deem unforgettable and that had a major impact on you, what would they be, and why?
American Caesar by William Manchester—this is a biography of Douglas MacArthur and it was the first time it ever occurred to me that a great author could write about a character I don’t like and still create an unforgettable story.
The second book sounds almost cliché for a new author, but I’ve read Stephen King’s On Writing multiple times. He covers it all. I’ve always loved writer autobiographies, even before I started writing.
What authors do you read regularly? Why?
Craig Johnson (Longmire series,) CJ Box, Nick Petrie, John Sandford, Lee Child—they’ve all written series with flawed characters trying to do the right thing.
If you were to have dinner with 5 individuals living or dead, who would they be and why?
My grandmother—she’s 97, and I’ll take any opportunity to have dinner with her. Everyone in the family wishes they were more like Grandma Liz!
Matt Rossi—he and I flew missions together in the 90’s and then never saw each other for 20 years until we bumped into each other while we were both hiking the Appalachian Trail. We hiked over 500 miles together (before he turned on his afterburner and left me in the dust.) He died in an accident five months after we finished the trail and I wasn’t done getting to know him.
Colin Powell—he was my favorite leader. Flew him out of Iraq in 1991 and wrote him in as my candidate for president on several ballots.
CS Lewis—especially if I’m having a crisis of faith. He was an incredible thinker and a great storyteller.
James Michener or Louis L’Amour—I don’t read their work anymore, but both were so influential in my middle school years.
What is your writing routine? When you write, do you plan or outline ahead or are you a “pantser”?
I’m a planner in the beginning and usually create an outline in Scrivener. The moment I start writing though, the planning usually goes out the window—you know, that quote “no plan survives first contact with the enemy,” right? I write a thousand words a day until I have a first draft of around 100K words. They are not good words. I use the next six months to rewrite, run drafts through my critique group, ask beta readers for help, and put the whole thing together. I’d love to write more than a book a year, but I’ve got two of our six kids still at home, and a wife that expects me to swat a tennis/pickle ball and take her hiking and skiing!
When writing, how much do you read? Do you read in or out of your genre?
I’m a reader first. I usually have a hard copy book, two e-books, and an audiobook going at one time. The audiobooks are only for when I’m running or on a road trip. I read out of my genre all the time—mainly because now that I know how hard it is to put a book together, I feel like I need to read work by other authors facing the same challenge. One of the unexpected joys of joining Black Rose Writing is discovering a new cohort of fellow authors and friends. I’ve been reading a lot of their work this past year.
Is there something you set out to do, but somehow, it didn’t work out for you? (In writing, or something else you felt was important to you at the time?)
The hardest thing I’ve ever done is to learn Mandarin Chinese. I was the Air Force Attaché in Beijing, China from 2011 to 2014 and studied the language exclusively for 15 months prior. I was adept at reading, but never advanced much further than 4th or 5th grade level when it came to speaking or listening. Of course, I was spending a lot of time mingling with Chinese pilots and, just like US pilots, we did a lot of talking with our hands and the conversation rarely went beyond a 3rd grade level. So I was OK.
What tips would you give to new or even experienced writers?
Never underestimate the power of discipline and routine to make up for lack of talent. And … there are plenty of folks out there who can help you turn your poor first draft into a great story. But they can’t help if you have a blank page.
How did you “teach” yourself to write or did it just come naturally? What lessons would you pass on to others?
When I first started, I thought “how hard can it be?” After all, I’m a prolific reader, right? So I can recognize great writing and should be able to do it. But that’s like saying, “I’m a great eater and love food … how hard can cooking be?” I read a ton of books on writing and spent a year on my own with that first book (whose name shall never be spoken …) before I joined my county’s writing group. That was the game-changer. Finding fellow writers willing to be honest about your work because they want you to succeed.
How do you handle a negative critique?
I’ve got plenty of practice! It’s never fun to get criticism, but I find that about 75% of the time, I agree with the critique, and the other 25% I usually find a kernel of something that made the reader pick that particular item to call out. So I may not make their suggested change, but often will change it in some fashion (and wouldn’t have without their negative critique.)
Is there a type of writing/genre that you find difficult to write? Why?
Science fiction and fantasy. I only read those genres if 1) my friends are writing them, 2) Andy Weir wrote it, or 3) my kids told me it’s a must read. If I don’t read it, then I would struggle to write it.
How important are the elements of character, setting, and atmosphere to a story, and why?
Character trumps all! I don’t know to whom to attribute the quote, but I remember reading “the reader doesn’t care about your plot … they care about how the plot affects the characters they’ve grown to care for …” I try to remember that while writing.
I’m not saying setting and atmosphere don’t matter. I recently read Carolina Variant by Brooke L. French and The Edge of Life by Lena Gibson. Both authors had great characters AND knocked it out of the park with settings (the deep South and the Pacific Northwest) that immersed the reader so deeply they felt like they were standing next to the protagonist. Carolyn Korsmeyer did it with atmosphere in her book Little Follies set in turn-of-the-millennium Poland. Setting and atmosphere matter … just not as much as character.
Do you see yourself in any of the characters you create? How/Why?
Oh sure! My series protagonist, Tyler Zahn, is also a retired Air Force pilot. I’ve given him all my flaws (well … most of them,) but made him ten years younger than me, and with a sense of character I aspire to, but don’t always meet.
Is there an unforgettable or memorable character that will not leave your head, either of your own creation or from a book you’ve read?
Walt Longmire, sheriff of the fictional Absaroka County, comes to mind. I love Craig
Johnson’s series written in first person and feel like Walt is a personal friend. Longmire isn’t a bad show … but the books are genius!
Tell us about your most recent book.
My suspense thriller Stable releases on July 20th and is available for pre-sale now.
This is one of those examples based on a real search & rescue mission. We were searching for a young girl who disappeared from her home abutting the rugged Collegiate Peaks. We found her a couple of hours later. I remember thinking, “what if the girl we found wasn’t the girl we were looking for…if it was another missing person?” The book took off from there.
How did you come up with the title?
Stable has a double meaning. It features as a location that is integral to the plot, but it also reflects protagonist Tyler Zahn’s current mental state. He’s been through a lot in the last eight years and now, just when things are stabilizing for him, he runs into trouble.
From your book, who is your favorite character?
I like Gabe Elliot. He manages the horses at the church camp near Zahn’s house and he’s a charismatic guy. I remember thinking of the actor Sam Elliot while writing.
Who is your least favorite character? Why?
Police officer Linzmeier. I believe our nation’s police force is similar to the military. They are 99% good people trying to do the right thing in a difficult job. It’s the remaining 1% that tarnish police and military reputations. Linzmeier is in the 1%.
Author/media contact information:
Cam Torrens, email@example.com
Link to your book on Amazon and B & N
And, don’t forget that Cam is giving away 30 free copies of his debut novel, Stable, on LibraryThing. The giveaway ends April 25th. All you have to do is sign up to review it at: https://www.librarything.com/ner/detail/47024/Stable
4 thoughts on “Meet Cam Torrens – An Author!”
Wonderful interview! I look forward to reading STABLE (just pre-ordered it!)
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Thank you so much for stopping by and giving the interview a read! I appreciate it!
Wonderful interview! I look forward to reading STABLE (just pre-ordered it!) My husband participated in SAR for over a decade.
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I pre-ordered it too!