Today I am interviewing Bryan Camp, author of the new fantasy novel, The City of Lost Fortunes, which has earned starred reviews in Kirkus, Booklist, and Library Journal.
DJ: Hi Bryan! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview!
For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?
Bryan Camp: Sure! I’ve lived in and around New Orleans my whole life, and for most of those thirty-mumble years, I’ve wanted to be a writer. I studied creative writing in undergrad, earned an MFA from the University of New Orleans, and was a member of the Clarion West class of 2012. I’m married to a lovely high school math teacher without whom I would have accomplished approximately zero of the goals life goals I just mentioned. For the six years before I sold my novel I was a high school English teacher, and before that I taught community college, worked in an office in an oil refinery, and once, for a single weird, desperate week, was a parcel delivery driver in Alabama.
DJ: What is The City of Lost Fortunes about?
Bryan: It’s a murder mystery set in a post-Katrina New Orleans where the gods, magics, and monsters of various world mythologies exist. The story follows Jude Dubuisson, who is a demi-god, though he doesn’t know which deity is his father. He gets pulled into a tarot card based poker game along with Thoth, the Egyptian god of scribes, Legba, the voodoo loa of the crossroads, a vampire, an angel, and Dodge, the Fortune God of New Orleans. When Dodge is murdered immediately after the game, Jude must discover who killed him, and why.
DJ: What were some of your influences for The City of Lost Fortunes?
Bryan: Lewis Hyde’s Trickster Makes This World was a major influence on this novel. It’s scholarly study of the roles Trickster figures play in the cultures where their stories are still shared. He argues that they’re far more than mere stories, that they influence the psyche of the cultures that tell them. His work wasn’t my introduction to Trickster stories or to syncretic myth, but the way Hyde tied it all together in a tight, compelling package really helped me get my head around some of the themes at the center of the book.
DJ: Could you briefly tell us a little about your main characters? Do they have any cool quirks or habits, or any reason why readers with sympathize with them?
Bryan: As a demigod, Jude Dubuisson had a pretty strange childhood, aware of the magical figures and forces that are the foundation of our world, defined by his own talent for finding lost things. This is a deeper ability than merely knowing where a misplaced object has ended up, he can also feel where you lost your innocence, your passion, your faith. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, when everyone in the city lost something (and many lost everything) he was overwhelmed by his own magic, the birthright from a father he’s never known, and a power he’s never really understood.
DJ: What is the world and setting of The City of Lost Fortunes like?
Bryan: It’s basically our world, specifically New Orleans in 2011, just with gods of various cultures and myths–some of whom slip from one pantheon to the next when they need a change of scenery–existing behind the scenes, answering prayers or meddling or ignoring the lives of mortals as they see fit.
DJ: What was your favorite part about writing The City of Lost Fortunes?
Bryan: My favorite part of writing this book was my favorite part of writing in general, which is when those magical connections happen when I’m deep in writing mode and have been for days, and I think to myself, “if only this could happen, it would make so much sense,” and then I look, and to my utter amazement, the thing that just randomly occured to me isn’t impossible at all. Sometimes it’s a stray line of dialog that you wrote thirty pages earlier suddenly becoming relevant. Or a bit of research that kept circling in the back of your mind slipping right into place. It’s a rare and a wonderful feeling, and it’s as close as I get to being a magician.
DJ: What do you think readers will be talking about most once they finish it?
Bryan: Hopefully how much they’re looking forward to my next book! This book and the next one coming from HMH aren’t set up to be a series in the traditional sense, but there’s definitely more stories to tell in the Crescent City once the first book is done.
DJ: Did you have a particular goal when you began writing The City of Lost Fortunes? Was there a particular message or meaning you are hoping to get across when readers finish it? Or is there perhaps a certain theme to the story?
Bryan: At its core, this is a novel about loss and recovery. It’s certainly not the book I intended to write when I started it the weekend before Katrina hit. Immediately after the storm, I tried to write a book set before the storm, but that didn’t feel right. And since I’d evacuated, writing something about the immediate aftermath didn’t feel like my story to tell. But the years-long struggle of the city to recover from the devastation, that was something I’d seen enough of to grapple with.
DJ: Now that The City of Lost Fortunes is released, what is next for you?
Bryan: I’ve just turned in a draft of the next Crescent City book, about a psychopomp–one of the guides who lead the recently deceased into the underworld–who shows up to collect a soul only to find that he’s somehow escaped his moment of his death. I’ve been rummaging around my idea notes for the next thing, superheroes and houses that are whole worlds unto themselves and steampunk-ed versions of colonial New Orleans. Spoiled for choice, really!
DJ: Where can readers find out more about you?
Website: www.bryancamp.com (blog and newsletter sign-up)
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B074ZMLMGR
DJ: Before we go, what is that one thing you’d like readers to know about The City of Lost Fortunes that we haven’t talked about yet?
Bryan: By drawing on many of the noir sources that urban fantasy is rooted in, I made a real effort to not also pull in some of the uglier, harmful tropes that can become entangled in the genre. I’m sure I stumbled at least as often as I succeeded, but it’s important to me to try to move the genre forward as best I can.
DJ: Is there anything else you would like add?
Bryan: I think you’ve hit all the high notes! Thanks for having me!
DJ: My pleasure! Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to answer my questions!
◊ ◊ ◊
*** The City of Lost Fortunes is published by John Joseph Adams/ Houghtin Mifflin and is available TODAY!!! ***
Buy the Book:
Amazon | Barnes & Nobel | Goodreads | Kobo
◊ ◊ ◊
The fate of New Orleans rests in the hands of a wayward grifter in this novel of gods, games, and monsters.
The post–Katrina New Orleans of The City of Lost Fortunes is a place haunted by its history and by the hurricane’s destruction, a place that is hoping to survive the rebuilding of its present long enough to ensure that it has a future. Street magician Jude Dubuisson is likewise burdened by his past and by the consequences of the storm, because he has a secret: the magical ability to find lost things, a gift passed down to him by the father he has never known—a father who just happens to be more than human.
Jude has been lying low since the storm, which caused so many things to be lost that it played havoc with his magic, and he is hiding from his own power, his divine former employer, and a debt owed to the Fortune god of New Orleans. But his six-year retirement ends abruptly when the Fortune god is murdered and Jude is drawn back into the world he tried so desperately to leave behind. A world full of magic, monsters, and miracles. A world where he must find out who is responsible for the Fortune god’s death, uncover the plot that threatens the city’s soul, and discover what his talent for lost things has always been trying to show him: what it means to be his father’s son.
About the Author:
BRYAN CAMP is a graduate of the Clarion West Writers Workshop and the MFA program at the University of New Orleans. He started his first novel, The City of Lost Fortunes, in the back seat of his parents’ car as they evacuated the Crescent City during Hurricane Katrina.