Review: Cameo and the Highwayman by Dawn McCullough-White *PLUS* Author Interview!

Posted on 04/28/2011 in Author Interview / 1 Comment

Review: Cameo and the Highwayman by Dawn McCullough-White *PLUS* Author Interview!Cameo and the Highwayman by Dawn McCullough-White
Series: Trilogy of Shadows #2
Published by Claypipe Press on 10/11/2010
Genres: Adult, Paranormal Fiction, Romance, Steampunk
Pages: 244
Format: eBook
Source: Author
Buy on Amazon

The land of Shandow is a place of arctic cold. It was the scene of the bloody revolution, and is the location of the item Cameo's master wants so badly.


In the dark of winter a vampire lies in wait...


...Opal is unable to run from his past... and Cameo must make a choice that will cost her the last shred of humanity she has left.

Sometimes I get lucky and get two 5-star books in a row.  This is one of those times.  Cameo the Assassin sets the backdrop and begins weaving a story.  In Cameo and the Highwayman, Ms. McCullough-White masterfully executes a follow-up that expands exponentially on the first.  It’s twisted, it’s dark, it’s witty and it’s written to keep you reading.  The plot is engaging and fast-paced, making it incredibly difficult to put down.  Most of all, it is FUN.  I finished this book in just over 24 hours.

Cameo continues to long for a piece of herself stolen long ago: her humanity.  She has a hard time reconciling with herself that she may not be the monster she’s always thought she was.  She reiterates every now and then, that she “doesn’t kill everyone” she comes across. Opal, for all his selfish, materialistic ways, certainly is a more complex character than originally led to believe.  While I really liked him in the first book, I loved him in this one.  His dark humor and vanity often made me giggle out loud and frankly, he’s a charming sort of person.  Who doesn’t like charming?!  He’s obviously uncomfortable returning to Shandow…who was he before his life as a highwayman with a penchant for fine clothes, jewelry, women and drink? Kyrian surprised me…in a good way.  The book is not religious, or at least I didn’t get any overly-religious vibes, and yet, Kyrian mysteriously is a more powerful entity than I anticipated.  He’s  genuinely a good person, which seems to be in direct conflict with Black Opal, a fact that does not go unmentioned on several occasions (and often provides for entertaining repartee between he and Opal).  And while he doesn’t necessarily voice his disdain for the misdeeds of his little ragtag group, it’s obvious he is uncomfortable with the crimes they’ve committed.  Yet that doesn’t make him like them any less or deter him from trying to exert a positive influence. Edel the Vampire seems much like Cameo; frustrated with what was taken from him, and determined to spend his eternity battling his vampiric ways.  He’s moody, stubborn, good-hearted…  It’s obvious in his treatment of Chester, his zombie servant, that he loves him so inexplicably (at least until he explains why).  Edel seems bent on “saving” Cameo, yet Cameo is not someone who wants to be saved, I think.  The only person who can save her is herself and this is her journey of self-discovery after years of feeling dead inside. And Jules…Jules!  I’m not sure yet what to make of Jules, except – I think he’s unsure of himself and what he wants.  He’s obviously lived his life serving others and now that he’s free of Wick, he doesn’t know what to do with himself.  Does he really hate Cameo as he always implies?  I don’t think he does, but there is always time to prove me wrong. This series has certainly taken me on a journey I did NOT expect, from the very beginning.  The characters are so intriguing, the plot is just fantastic and I can’t get enough.  It’s action-packed and quick and if you haven’t heeded my recommendation yet to grab these up, get to it!  You will not be disappointed.

Author Interview With Dawn McCullough-White   TBBBAccording to your online bio, you’ve been writing Cameo the Assassin for a long time. On the surface, Cameo is a shallow character; she appears emotionless and robotic in her work, when in fact, she later demonstrates that her character is very deep. She longs to be human again, and demonstrates many emotions, some I think she doesn’t completely understand, when it comes to her highwaymen, Black Opal and Bellamy. How did you come to know and write Cameo? Dawn: Yes, I originally created the Cameo when I was sixteen, way back when in 1986. Strong, female warrior type characters were really at odds with the established order at that time. I wrote and re-wrote many versions of her story during the 1990s. Then, feeling pretty defeated at the traditional publishing industry, I set it aside until 2006, when I decided to write her story from a fresh perspective. It’s interesting to hear what people think of my characters. I will say that, I have never been completely certain if Cameo is a seemingly bad person with a heart of gold, or just a bad person. Certainly her early life situation set her on a path of darkness, and that was out of her control, but what she does with it (her life) remains to be seen. TBBBI have to admit, he’s one of my favorite characters. So who inspired Black Opal? Dawn:  Physically? David Bowie was the original inspiration, but, feel free to imagine him physically any way you’d like. Rutger Hauer was the original inspiration for Lestat but I have never envision him that way. There is no real person that is Black Opal. He is the culmination of all things rogue and dandy that I have been exposed to in my life rolled into one character and spat back out onto the page. As an aside though, as I wrote the first book I was also making notes for the second book, and as book one unfolded, I realized Opal had qualities and deeds that paralleled a well known historical figure, and by book two I decided to mesh their lives together. If you read “Cameo and the Highwayman” I think you’ll see it. TBBB:  Who inspired Cameo’s appearance when you wrote her? Dawn:  When I originally created this character I was sixteen, and she looks/ed shockingly similar to what I looked like. Tall, thin, blonde… but not exactly me or my Mary Sue. She actually was created to have a small part in another novel. I wanted a completely cold character who had no problem killing people. Someone people feared when they heard her name. In my mind she looks sort of like an amazon… She has a similar feeling of Rachel Lefevre as Victoria in the Twilight movies. TBBBThe worldbuilding in Cameo is great; what inspired that world and names such as Sieunes, Shandow and Lockenwood? Was there any particular place from which you drew? Dawn:  That world has been with me for so long, it’s just second nature for me now. It’s a little bit 18th century western Europe, a little bit fantasy, and a little bit childhood experiences. I both take words I think sound interesting and rearrange the letters and use place names that are, or were, real in the area I live in, mainly. When I was a kid I lived on a road that had been part of a different town a hundred years earlier, it was called Furnaceville, and it was known for it’s iron ore production. I thought that was so interesting that I decided to use that name in the book. Kings Basin, is the original name of the hamlet I currently live in (an original canal town circa 1825). Shandow probably came from an accidental misspell of “shadow” and I liked it and kept it in my notes to be used eventually. Lockenwood is something that popped into my head when I needed a city name, I’m pretty sure it’s an unconscious thing I pulled from the memory of the old soap opera Santa Barbara (I used to watch). One of the last names on there was Lockwood. TBBB:  What’s the hardest part of the creative process for you? Dawn:  Ripping out plot lines that did not work. Sometimes these have lasted for chapters, but somehow something about the concept just didn’t work, so I go back in and remove every single mention of said plot. It can be a long and tedious job, and absolutely no fun. In “Cameo the Assassin” there was a different plot thread involving Bellamy that was removed. The novel is better for it, but at the time I hated losing so many pages to that other idea. TBBBWhich character from your books do you identify with the most and why? Dawn:  Hard one. Cameo, Opal and Kyrian are all definite aspects of who I am. I’d have to admit that Cameo is my inner dialog some of the time, especially when things aren’t going my way. So, probably her. TBBBI know you love music. When writing Cameo, what artists and songs were in your head and at which scenes? Dawn: Cameo the Assassin The opening scene- “The Great Below” by NIN The first time we see Opal- “Stand and Deliver” by Adam Ant Cameo and Opal (the first scenes)- “The Walk” by Imogen Heap The scene where Cameo meets Haffef in the graveyard- “Lacrymosa” by Evanescence The first time we meet Edel- “Gabriels Message” by Sting The ending- “I feel you” remake by Placebo Cameo theme song- “Nutshell” by Alice in Chains Cameo theme song- “The Devil You Know” by Econoline Crush Haffef theme song- “I Put a Spell on You” remake by Marilyn Manson Cameo and Opal- “We’re in this together” by NIN Opal theme song- “Rebel Rebel” by David Bowie Edel theme song- “Gonna Get Close to You” by Queensryche Cameo and the Highwayman Opal awakes to the sound of a bell- “Intro Versailles” The Marie Antoinette soundtrack The harpsichord scene at Cammarth- “Les Barricades Mysterious” by Francois Couperin Edel theme- “Silent Lucidity” by Queensryche Edel theme- “Helpless” by Geoff Tate Opal theme- “Counting Bodies Like Sheep To The Rhythm Of The War Drum” by A Perfect Circle Jules theme- “Why” by Stabbing Westward TBBBDo you think vampires are sexy?  (I can’t help but ask this, because I do!). Dawn:  Depends on the vampire. Generally, when I’m reading, I hope they will be, yes. I’ve been a fan of vampires since Dark Shadows was in re-runs in the 1970s. But, I also like how creepy, and downright horrible vampires can be too. TBBBIf your closest friends had to describe you in 5 words, what would they be? Dawn:  Autonomous, optimistic, organized, spiritual, nurturing TBBBFavorite author(s)? Inspirations? Dawn:  Well, my favorite author is Lauren F. Winner but she’s not exactly an inspiration for the books I write, although I try to emulate her prose, which is superb. I’d probably go with Anne Rice, Robert Lynn Asprin (MythAdventures), Micheal Moorcock (Elric of Melnibone), Marion Zimmer Bradley (The Mists of Avalon) and Edgar Allen Poe as inspirations for what I write about. Characters, worlds- the dark and fantastic nature of my books, that’s probably gleaned from things I read as a young adult. TBBBWhat’s your favorite place to read? Dawn:  Curled up at one end of the sofa with cats piled on top of me. TBBBDo you have a writing corner or a favorite place to write? Dawn:  I write at the dining room table. My laptop and notes are all set up in there, all the time. (I’d love an office someday). TBBB Biggest pet peeve! Dawn:  Being rudely awakened in the morning by someone mowing their lawn. (This is when the Cameo inner dialog is loudest). TBBBWhat’s your favorite dessert? Dawn:  Baklav. TBBBIf you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and what would you do there? Dawn:  France. Oh, I’d travel around to some of the most historic sites of the French Revolution. TBBBShare a few facts with us that very few people know. Dawn:  When I originally wrote the Cameo novels in the 1990s, Kyrian was a slightly different, older character and Cameo’s love interest. Cameo was not in any way supernatural in the original stories. Black Opal had both eyes, and no scars in the originals. The name “Haffef” came one evening over a decade ago, from the Ouija board. The original Ouija board spelling was closer to “Hafefefefefefefefef”. Haffef and Ivy were originally part of a different novel. TBBBWhat’s your next project? Dawn:  I just finished up “Cameo and the Vampire”, which is the third book in the Cameo series. It’s currently being edited and the tentative release date will probably be in late October. I’m currently working on a short story for an anthology due out in November, after that I’m going to write something new. (Although, there is always the possibility of going back and working with these characters and/or world again). TBBBDawn, thanks for stopping by The Bawdy Book Blog and giving us a chance to get below the surface of Cameo!  It was great talking to you and  I can’t wait to see more of your work.  I especially look forward to reading Cameo and the Vampire.  Keep up the great work! Happy reading!

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Jennifer is both a book nerd and professional photographer. That means she lives in the fantasy world all the time, whether of her making, or someone else's. She collects books like the Duggar family collects kids, and began waiting for her Hogwarts letter at the tender age of 33.

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One response to “Review: Cameo and the Highwayman by Dawn McCullough-White *PLUS* Author Interview!

  1. Follow Friday (40): Unusual Names | The Bawdy Book Blog

    […] series alone.  They’re odd names and I wonder how the author came up with them.  I did an author interview last year, where I asked Dawn McCullough-White how she came up with a few of the names used in her […]

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