Image of a heart with rainbows

Author Interview: Cameron Darrow Chats about Hall of Mirrors

Author Chat IHS Logo
Get ready to learn more about the book Hall of Mirrors in this discussion with sapphic author Cameron Darrow.

Join us for an exclusive peek behind the scenes as we quiz Cameron Darrow about Hall of Mirrors, writing, reading, and more.

This book is part of the Found Family category in the 2024 IHS Reading Challenge.

Why did you write Hall of Mirrors?

The inciting incident for the entire ‘From the Ashes of Victory’ series is the First World War. Though we start after the war’s conclusion, its lasting effects loom over every character, whether in the form of trauma, loss, grief, fleeing your home country as a refugee on down to regular old nightmares. But the series is also building out an alternate history which truly began at the end of the second book with the revelation that magic is real and so are the witches that practice it.

Given all of that, I thought it was important to not only show the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, but have some of the most deeply-affected characters be there to witness it. The Treaty is what formally ended the war, and it served to give the characters some sort of closure. But as I closed the door on some of the real-world in the series, I opened wide the fantastical elements by having a council of witches gather to sit in judgment of our heroines for their actions in the previous book. We get to see how witches and magic work much more in-depth than ever before, very much opening this new world while leaving behind the old. As the third book of six, the ending is very much a hinge point that sets the course for the rest of the series.

In relation to this week’s theme, bringing a new witch into the fold and forging all the links on the found family chain from mistrust to fellow sister was important, especially for one of the main characters, Millie. She had resigned herself to being a purely physical presence, the protector of the others, but in this story those talents are useless. She needs everything she’s learned/taken from her girlfriend Elise to tackle a problem that can’t be solved with punching. Millie has to grow a lot in this story, and understand that she has much more to offer her sister witches than her fists!

Who is your favorite character in the book?

The series started with Victoria, so I can’t answer any other way! The series is her journey, starting from the very darkest moment of her life.

Only now as I look back on the series to I realize how much of me is in Victoria. I didn’t know what I was mining when I was writing her, or how deeply, but I’m glad I did. Victoria is purely rational and keeps her emotions strictly under control (to the point she can come of as aloof, arrogant or even indifferent), but it’s mostly to mask the turmoil underneath. She’s plagued by depression and self-hatred, but she’s also brilliant, which made her a challenge to write. It forced me to figure out how to write characters who are a lot smarter than me, and how to safely tap into my own issues to draw authenticity into her every dimension. Deep and multifaceted, writing her day after day was exhausting, but extremely rewarding. She undergoes a lot of growth in this one, with the first cracks forming in her icy exterior to reveal the passions that roil underneath. To the point that maybe, just maybe, she could feel something special for a certain special someone? You’ll have to read it and find out!

I’m very proud of Victoria as a character — if she’s the one I’m remembered for, then it will all have been worth it.

What was the biggest challenge writing this book?

The ending. I knew there was going to be a significant time jump afterward, so I needed to build a kind of ski ramp that would carry the momentum of this world forward without being able to see the events that take place in that time period. Creating an ending that’s satisfying to this individual book while also setting things up so that the reader knows where everyone is going to be and what they’re doing next without feeling like an ENDING was a tough balancing act. Hopefully I leave the reader wanting to know how things went! And that they read on to find out!

What part of Hall of Mirrors was the most fun to write?

The very first hints of flirtation between Victoria and Katya. They are at each other’s throats when they first meet in Book II, but over the growth of that story and into this one, we see that there might be a little more than friendship blossoming between them. The best part is that Katya is a very effective flirt but Victoria doesn’t even realize it’s happening! But it also serves to deepen and strengthen their relationship, so when they act together in common cause fueled by righteous indignation… the world trembles.

What is your favorite line from your book?

“I acquiesce.”

Katya felt her smile begin to re-form. “Good. Though I would have preferred to hear ‘surrender.'”

“You’ll have to work much harder to get that out of me.”

“A task for another day,” Katya said.

What’s your favorite writing snack or drink?

Coffee! Can’t brain good without it.

How do you celebrate when you finish your book?

By doing something nice for myself, usually in the form of all the alcohol I need to alleviate the guilt of unleashing my imagination vomit on an unsuspecting public. Oh, sorry, I meant to finally snap the stress that builds up on the way to publishing. Nobody’s going to read this far anyway, ri- oh.

What is the most valuable piece of advice you’ve been given about writing, and by whom?

I don’t remember where I first heard it, but the advice was: “Get the story down, you can always change it later.” I used to be the ‘refine the first paragraph until it bleeds’ type, thus I was also the ‘never finishes anything’ type. Once I internalized that the first, roughest draft doesn’t matter because it may not even make the final version anyway, things opened up and I began finishing things. Without a story, nothing matters. Just get that part out and go back and refine later.

Have you ever hated one of your characters?

For this book it was Octavia. She serves as the antagonist for this story, and she’s just so condescending and arrogant! She’s been around a long time, and her special magic ability makes her largely immune to consequences. She talks down to our heroines, assumes they must be ignorant/stupid because they’re so much younger than she is, demands they follow rules they didn’t even know existed… we want so badly to see her shut down and get a taste of what true magical power looks like. Does she? You’ll have to read the book and find out!

What type of books do you enjoy reading the most?

Fantasy! I love that the rules are only the ones the author comes up with, whether it be how magic works or if dragons can talk or whatever. It’s also a way to be somewhere else for awhile. I see the real world every day, been there, thanks. Hey, what’s happening in Middle Earth or Discworld? Oh, anything, you say? Tell me more.

But it’s not just simple escapism, fantasy (and sci-fi) are incredibly fertile ground for exploring themes and ideas without the trappings/biases of the real world, making them stand out more.

Are there any books or authors that inspired you to become a writer?

Mercedes Lackey’s ‘Oathbound’ books were the first fantasy stories I ever read, and I never looked back. They were so different to what I had imagined fantasy was until then, and I think I’ve basically been trying to live up to those books with my own since then. (The protagonists are women! Found family! Talking animals!) They taught me that fantasy didn’t necessarily have to come in the form of an impenetrable doorstop about men killing dragons. Those books have had a long tail in my life, and Tarma and Kethry will always be special to me.

Meet Cameron Darrow

I write fantasy books about women who love other women that are very much character-driven, told in their unique voices. I was born in a different century in a different country, so I write a lot about characters who live far from where they were born and stand out a bit. Go figure!

I’m the author of the From the Ashes of Victory series, an historical urban fantasy set just after the close of WWI. It’s got witches, friendship, found family, trial, error, themes about loss and rebuilding, and forging your own path in a world that would rather you didn’t. Sprinkled among them you’ll also find the Alumita fantasy lesbian romance anthology, which presents fantasy stories from across cultures over thousands of years that don’t ask if women can love each other, only how. Kissy bits and magic!

If you like witches that love science, or love stories that might also make you laugh, I hope you’ll find something you’ll like!

share on:

Author Interview