Ashley Neuhaus 06-JUNE-2012 Do you enjoy mythological creatures that get into trouble?  How about summer camp and all that goes with it?  If you do then CAMP MYTH is the perfect series for you to enjoy.  And if you have kids, they’ll enjoy it too!  Creator, Chris Lewis Carter has created a fantastic world filled where a fae, a cyclops, and a kitsune befriend each other at summer camp.  The series is aimed for ages 10 and up.

Kind of like how an entire family can watch a Pixar movie and each person can enjoy it for different reasons.” – CLC

Every month Carter will release a new volume of CAMP MYTH, reaching about 20,000 words a piece.  Each book will follow the adventures of Felix, Argee and Moxie as they learn more about the camp their attending, the importance of friendship and attempt to achieve merit badges.  The title of each book is also the name of the merit badge the campers will be trying to earn.

Carter has turned to Kickstarter to try and raise the funds to make this series come to life.  With his goal set at $4,000, the campaign ends on June 18th and is a little over 50% funded.  Some of the great rewards for backers include an ebook copy of book one, hardcover copy of book one, official CAMP MYTH t-shirt, and some original art.  Carter is doing something I’ve never actually seen done before on Kickstarter called “stretch goals.”  He talks more in depth about those in our interview.

AN: What made you decide to go with Kickstarter over other crowdfunding sites like Indiegogo?

CLC: Indiegogo is great, and I really like the way they select which projects get to reach the front page, but Kickstarter seems to be a household name at this point. I hate to say it’s purely a numbers game, but that’s kind of what it boils down to. The more people know about your project, the more likely you are to succeed. Yeesh, now I sound all cold and calculating.

AN: When/how did you come up with the concept of CAMP MYTH?

CLC: I first came up with the concept about a year ago, mainly because I’ve always been bothered by the fact that every story involving fantasy creatures has to have some “special” humans who just so happen to be the only people in the world who can save the day. I’d always think, “Why can’t they just solve their own problems?” God forbid another culture sort things out for themselves without us teaching them about how awesome we are in the process. That’s why I wanted to create a world where humanity was on the back-burner for a change.

As for the camp itself, I used to be a Cub Scout, and any former (or current) Cub Scout will tell you that the absolute coolest part about the whole thing is earning a merit badge for a job well done. I’ve always thought there was an idea somewhere in earning merit badges, so I got to thinking, why not combine both ideas?

AN: You’ve got plans for several of these books, four of which are actually drafted.  Will all the books take place over the course of one summer at camp?

CLC: That’s the plan. Each book will focus on the main characters earning a different merit badge, but the entire story will play out over the course of one summer. Book two will pick up exactly where one ends, and so on, so you won’t miss a minute of the experience. I’ve always hated it when the next book in a series jumps ahead in time.

AN: Did you attend summer camp as a kid?  If so, how has it helped shape the person you are today?

CLC: I used to attend my area’s version of summer camp, but it wasn’t a whole summer-type deal. It was only a few days, tops. But I was a Cub Scout for most of my younger years – even managed to get 2nd place in a Pinewood Derby once (for those of you who aren’t familiar, there’s an awesome episode of South Park that covers it) and the one thing I’d always go crazy for was earning merit badges. It didn’t matter what the task was, I just wanted the badge. It was like my ten-year-old self’s version  of Xbox Achievements.

AN: What was your favorite merit badge that you earned in Cub Scouts?

CLC: I forget the exact name for it, but it was something like “Pet Care.” To earn it, you basically had to not kill your pet over the course of a few weeks. We had a cat, Fluffy, that my Mom could never get me to take responsibility for, but during the time while I was on the hunt for that badge, I hovered over the cat day and night. After I’d finally earned the badge, Mom asked me to feed the cat, and I responded with, “That’s okay, I don’t need to do that anymore.” As if the badge was proof that I’d taught the cat how to work a can opener, or something. That became the running joke in our house for a while.

AN: Do you find yourself still applying the lessons you learned in the Scouts to your life?

CLC: Absolutely. If you ever need transportation, carve it out of a giant block of wood.

AN: Do you identify with any of your characters?

CLC: For sure. I think all writers put a little bit of themselves in their characters, whether they’ll admit to it or not. But the one I probably identify with the most is Argus (or “Argee,” as he’s usually called). He’s a cyclops – a race known for their anger and brutality – but he’s not concerned with any of that. He just wants to read and learn about nature. So while the rest of his siblings are off forging weapons or trying to prove how dominant they are, he’s the kid who would much rather do arts and crafts. I was totally that kid growing up. Everyone else would want to have a game of road hockey, or ride their four-wheelers, but I’d be indoors reading, or playing RPG’s.

AN: Are any of the characters inspired by people in your life?

CLC: Not completely, but certainly there are bits and pieces of people tucked in here and there. Strange as it might sound, I try not to write characters based on people I know because it makes it that much harder to rationalize certain actions they might take. I start thinking, “Well, so-and-so wouldn’t be the killer, he’d never do such a thing,” and then I have to remind myself that I’m turning into a crazy person.

AN: What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done to a character?

CLC: This might sound insane, but I’m torn between, “Infected a guy with a parasite that burst out of his skull,” and, “Killed a guy’s dog.” I mean, the first one would probably suck, yeah, but I remember writing a short story called, “Bandit,” and feeling so guilty the entire time.

AN: You place a lot of emphasis on the value of friendship.  Were you one of the popular kids growing up?

CLC: I’d place myself squarely in the mid-tier of the social ladder. I wasn’t going to win Homecoming King, but I didn’t need to watch my back if I went to the bathroom, either. I was always the funny kid who tried to play nice with everyone, and I’d sometimes be disruptive in class just to entertain the popular kids. That way, I at least had some value to all of the social cliques in school.

That said, looking back, I spent so much time and effort trying to fit in where I didn’t belong that I’d sometimes forget who my real friends were – the guys who didn’t mind spending a friday night playing Magic: The Gathering, or ten-straight hours of Goldeneye 64 – The people who I’m still friends with to this day. Growing up, you sometimes feel like the entire world needs to love you, but the truth is that it’s practically a miracle to find even one person who you can connect with on multiple levels. I think that’s as good a lesson to teach kids as any.

AN: The world of CAMP MYTH is filled with a plethora of mythological creatures.  How long have you been interested in those creatures?

CLC: For as long as I can remember. I’ve always been way into fantasy and mythology. I even liked Wrath of the Titans – that’s how much of a blind spot I have for that kind of material.

AN: Favorite mythological creature?

CLC: The Sphinx. There’s just something about a creature that’s willing to kill people for giving the wrong answer to a riddle. Now that’s hardcore. One of my favorite characters to write in Camp Myth is actually Althea, the Sphinx camp counselor. She only talks in rhymes and puzzles, and is pretty much convinced that she’s the smartest person in the room at all times.

AN: Tell me more about these “stretch goals” and why you’re doing them.

CLC: The stretch goals (or Camp Milestones) came about because I originally had too many ideas for neat backer rewards. Eventually, I realized that it just wouldn’t be practical to offer so many different collectibles and reward upgrades without setting my goal amount through the roof, so I figured I’d let people vote for themselves. If the interest is there, and I raise enough to cover the additional costs, I’m planning to include everything from iron-on merit badges (designed to look like the badge the characters attempt to earn in the book), to fancy hardcover editions for everyone, to copies of future titles in the series (and a few other ideas I haven’t revealed yet!) It’s also a great way to reward people who don’t necessarily have zillions of dollars to spend backing kickstarter campaigns. Once a stretch goal is reached, the reward is given to everyone, so you can enjoy the extra stuff just by spreading the word and getting your friends and family to donate, too!

AN: Do you set any sort of writing goal for yourself?

CLC: Only to produce work that I’m satisfied with, regardless of anything else. And on a daily basis, I try not to stress about hitting a specific word count. It’s just unnecessary pressure, and only leads to me cranking out nonsense that I’ll end up deleting anyway. Besides, writing is supposed to be fun, not a death-march to the finish line.

AN: Do you write every day?

CLC: I try to, but it never seems to work out that way. If only there was a way to pay the bills without having to work so dang much.  I have to write a lot of emails during my job, though, and sometimes when I’m feeling a bit stir-crazy I’ll respond to some serious corporate account in an insane way, like crafting a zombie narrative around why a sofa set got damaged in transit. Luckily, it’s a family business, so I’m let off the hook for most of my personal crazy.

AN: How do you overcome writer’s block?

CLC: At the risk of sounding sarcastic, by not writing. There’s a really great Chuck Palahniuk interview where someone asks him about writer’s block, and he says, “Let me ask you a question. When you’re at home, do you spend hours just sitting on the toilet, or do you go when the feeling strikes you? Well, that’s how I am with writing.”

And I’ve always remembered that, because it’s so true. Sometimes, you can’t force what isn’t there. You just need to be ready for when inspiration strikes. I’d love to continue with this metaphore, but I feel like it might go to a werid place

AN: Where can people find out more about you and your writing?

CLC: To find out more about me and the rest of my work, you can visit http://www.chrislewiscarter.com.