It is such a honor and pleasure to be able to chat with author Christine Campbell. She is an accomplished novelist of contemporary fiction with two published novels currently working on her third.
What inspired you to be a writer?
Writing was always something I loved to do. From when I was quite young, I adored the feel of a pencil or pen flowing across a smooth expanse of paper, the joy of filling its virgin whiteness with words. Words themselves enthralled me and, once I realized they were the building blocks of stories, I was captivated and played with words the way some children play with Lego. No matter what else I did in life, I knew I would always write.
After having published a couple of novels, do you feel that the process has gotten easier?
I feel I have learned a lot about the craft, so, yes, it has become easier to know the best way to approach a new piece of writing. The part I still find difficult is editing and rewriting in such a way that the reader will derive the same pleasure as I had as the writer. I try not to present my readers with a stream of consciousness, but to refine my original thoughts, to distill them until they express the thoughts or emotions as clearly as possible.
The goal of a writer is to give the readers characters that they can really connect with. The characters in your books have such a engaging depth to them, what advice can you give other authors with finding that authentic voice that speaks to the reader?
Thank you, Michelle. One of the things I do is sit still with my characters for a while before I put pen to paper, finger to keyboard. When I have a story in mind, I decide whose story it is going to be, then I spend some time getting to know that character. Sometimes I write details down, sometimes I just get a feel for them. I see them in the situation and I see the situation as a scene in a movie, so I sit back and watch how they move through it as I have directed.
Is this a character who moves purposefully, or does he or she move more aimlessly? Do they get easily riled or are they laid back? What does she sound like? Does he have an accent? Does she have self-confidence, a certain swagger, even? Or is she timid and reticent to put forward her opinions?
For some of my characters, I have found it fun to choose film stars to play them. Not necessarily as the actors are in real life, but perhaps as they played a certain character in a particular film. For instance, I have a character in some of my short stories who is very much modeled on Hugh Grant in the film Nottingham Hill. He is handsome and kind, but rather vague and a little hapless. To be fair to Hugh and the character he played, I have exaggerated these qualities in my character, but it was fun to imagine Hugh Grant playing the part in my stories.
You have a gift of storytelling, especially in writing your short stories. Have you ever thought about making a compilation book of them?
Thank you again, Michelle, and, yes, I have thought about doing that. In fact, I have gathered a few of my 'hapless Hugh' stories and I may even embed them in a rather lighthearted novel. His wife in the stories I have modeled a little on Sandra Bullock in Miss Congeniality, so I think there's a bit of fun to be had with the pair of them.
And I may also, at some point, publish a compilation of other short stories, including flash fiction, drabbles, and poetry. A drabble is an extremely short work of fiction, exactly one hundred words in length not including the title. The purpose of the drabble is brevity, testing the author's ability to express interesting and meaningful ideas in an extremely confined space. I have been enjoying writing them recently, using an image as a prompt.
What book or author can you say has had an impact on your career as a writer?
That's a hard question for me to answer because I doubt if there was ever any one author who had such an impact. I think it has always been a conglomeration. As a child, it was the classics: The Bronte sisters, Jane Austin, then Enid Blyton with The Famous Five and a series of books called The Chalet School Mysteries by Elinor Brent-Dyer, initially published between 1925 and 1970. Thirty years ago, it would have been writers such as Maeve Binchy, Rosamund Pilcher. Now, I am inspired by such authors as Anita Shreve, Anne Tyler, Nicholas Sparks and JoJo Moyes. There have been many more authors whose works have inspired me. These are just some names that come to mind.
What really inspires me is good writing, no matter who wrote it.
On a different note, there is one writer who inspired me to publish my novels. That was Barbara Cartland. I'm sorry if any of your readers enjoy her books, but I read one once that my mother handed on to me. Her butcher was giving them away free with every purchase of mince. How very appropriate. The book was total mince. It was drivel. It was so badly written that I thought, 'I can write so much better than that!' And she had hundreds of books published! Hundreds! I was shocked into doing something about getting my novels out there.
What is the hardest part about being a writer?
Having to stop and make the dinner. When in a flow, I find it so difficult to emerge from fiction to deal with reality. But then, I find that as a reader too. I get engrossed. Another thing that is hard, at the other end of the writing spectrum, is getting started on a new piece of work, getting into that flow.
What have you taken away from your experience so far that you can offer someone who is just beginning?
Not to be disappointed when not everyone likes your writing. Anyone can call themselves a writer. Not everyone can call themselves a good writer. So practice, practice, practice. Read, read, read. Learn your craft. Be the best writer you can be. Then, at least some people will enjoy your writing.
Are you currently working on anything that you can share?
Absolutely. I have just finished writing another novel. It is currently with my proofreader and will be published very soon, I hope. It is called Flying Free and it tells the story of how a woman overcomes the disabling memories of her past in order to carve out a future and be able to commit to a relationship with the man she loves. To call it a romance would probably be misleading because, although it traces a romance, it is the difficult emotional journey the character has to make that carries the story.
Do you have any advice to any writers?
Just to write. To quote something I read, 'You can't edit an empty page.' So, get the story out there on the page then go back and refine it until it is something you can be proud of.
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