Author Interview: The Childless Ones

tour coverWelcome to the book tour for “The Childless Ones,” the debut novel of Cam Rhys Lay! “The Childless Ones” will be released November 12, but you can preorder your copy now on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

The Childless Ones

Author: Cam Ryhs Lay
Genre: Fiction


In the “real world,” we open with Jack Ampong just leaving a prostitute when he receives a phone call that his wife Sarah has been assaulted. With this incident as a jumping off point, we watch as Jack and Sarah deal with past guilt and regrets as well as their own ongoing struggles with relationships, infertility and parenthood.

In the “fantasy world”—ostensibly written by Jack—a bureaucratic Empire rules with an iron fist…an ancient sect of sorcerers have extraordinary powers but are cursed with the inability to have children… and a race of beings called the Mandrakar live lives one quarter the length of normal people, but have memories that are passed on to future generations through the last of an ancient breed of tree. Along the way, we meet a crotchety governor who just wants to do right by his granddaughter, a hardboiled, lesbian, dwarf detective who just wants another drink, and a villainous sorcerer whose motives form one of the central mysteries of the story.
Throughout the book, the two narratives echo off one another—often in surprising ways—ultimately commenting on the very nature of storytelling itself.


“impressively creates two vivid worlds, each with its own history and compelling characters, while also offering a meditation on the relationship between creativity, fertility, and shared memory. A stunning fantasy debut.” — Kirkus Reviews

Screen Shot 2016-07-26 at 5.40.14 PMAbout the Author:

Cam Rhys Lay received his Bachelors Degree from the University of Pennsylvania and his MFA from the University of Kansas. For five years, he worked as an Associate Publisher at The Easton Press in Connecticut. Currently, he lives in Brooklyn, New York where he runs marketing for Skillshare, an online learning community for creators. The Childless Ones is his first book. To learn more about Cam and his writing, please visit him at

Interview with Cam Rhys Lay:

The Childless Ones deals with one man’s writing process. In what ways is it similar or different from your own writing process?

Certainly there were a lot of specific details about how Jack came up with his fantasy world that were pulled directly from how I came up with Jack’s fantasy world. For instance, one of the central premises of the fantasy world is that sorcerers (called the Cree) can’t have children. The evolution of this idea was that way back when I was a teenager I read this book by Orson Scott Card on how to write science fiction and fantasy where Card suggests that, in any world where there is magic, it ought to come “at a cost.” In the case of my fantasy world, that cost is infertility. This specific detail is mentioned almost verbatim when we learn how Jack came up with this premise.

All that said, Jack’s writing process is much more difficult than mine. In Jack’s case, it takes him nearly a lifetime to write The Childless Ones, whereas it only took me a breezy six years (and I had to write the realistic side of the book too)!

What inspired you to create a novel with multiple genres?

I read a lot of literary fiction as well as a lot of genre fiction. In writing The Childless Ones, I was really interested in thinking about how genres could collide and meld in new and interesting ways. The two main genres coming together are, of course, literary fiction and epic fantasy, but throughout the book I also try to play, in limited ways, with other genres. There are hints of lots of different genres and subgenres, including: noir/ detective stories, horror/ ghost stories, war stories, meta-fiction, post-apocalyptic fiction, and science fiction–and to me that mashup is really fun and exciting. Toni Morrison said “If there’s a book you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, you must write it.” This collision of genres was something I wanted to read

From what I have seen of the novel, the characters deal with hard themes of loneliness and barrenness which are then reflected in Jack’s fiction. What was the hardest part and what was the best part of writing through someone else’s point of view?

Writing fiction, unless it’s just veiled autobiography, is always about writing through someone else’s point of view. The inherent difficulty is that we’re forced to leave our own perspective for a time in order to inhabit someone else’s–but that’s also the unique power of fiction. I strongly believe that exercising our ability to inhabit other perspectives through reading (and to an even greater extent writing) fiction makes us more empathetic, more thoughtful humans. It can be hard to do, but the more we practice, the easier it gets.

What do you hope people learn of you as an author from this debut novel?

To be honest, I’m not particularly interested in people learning anything about me personally through my writing. I suppose that’s why I write fiction and not memoir. However, I would be absolutely thrilled if people are entertained by the complexity and puzzle-like nature of the book, and find some of the twists and reveals I sprinkle throughout the book satisfying. While this book took a long time to write, it also was a really fun project, and I hope that ultimately readers find it enjoyable, rewarding and impactful to read. When you ask someone to read a book, you’re asking for a lot of that person’s time. If my readers find that time well spent, then that’s good enough for me.


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