Well. You are all in for a treat today. I’ve only known Christine Campbell for a short time through contacts made on Google+, but I always thought she was a classy, beautiful woman. Only, after preparing this interview, I now know this to be true. Frank, open and humble, Christine shares about her beginnings, her life’s passions and her books in such a way I feel as though I’ve actually met her. I’m still looking around to see if maybe she left her purse behind or something. Few people have such presence, especially in a written interview. Anyway, dear Reader, please settle into a comfy chair with a warm cup of tea and meet our guest. I know you won’t be disappointed.
Welcome, Christine. It’s great to have you with us. Can you start by telling us a little about yourself?
I was born in 1947 in what was left of London after the blitz of WW2. My parents were Londoners but things were not good in their marriage and my mother fled up to Scotland as soon as I was able to travel. I was only weeks old, so I never knew my birth father until I traced him when I was almost 40. Perhaps I’ll tell you that story sometime.
I think of myself as a Scot.
Growing up in post-war Britain was austere. There was still rationing as I grew up, so treats were few and far between and having food was often the treat, so I find I can be a bit greedy with chocolate now that it is plentiful in my life. That’s what I blame my addiction on anyway.
Reading and writing were the loves of my life: to lose myself in another world, whether of my imagination or another author’s, was my favourite pastime especially when I was in trouble at home, which was often the case. I used to hide in the bathroom and read my book or scribble down my stories while huddled in a corner on the bathroom floor, cosy in a nest of towels.
I love that story! I can just picture you scribbling madly in a notebook amidst piles of towels! You were born to be a writer, Christine. 🙂
Are you interested in other forms of artistic expression? Where does writing fit in, and why are you drawn to it? What keeps you motivated/inspired?
Art and music always seemed wonderfully exotic to me when I was young…and way beyond my reach. It wasn’t until I met the love of my life, my husband of 46 years, fifty years ago, that I learned these things were for everyone. I know that probably sounds a strange thing to say, but art and music played little or no part in my childhood home or even at school in those days. While we were courting and on through our marriage, my husband brought that exotic world into mine, with orchestral concerts, art galleries, records, art books…all of it wonderful.
What I did have when I was growing up was a love of theatre. My step-uncle had been ‘on the stage’ and he often procured back-stage passes for us to meet the performers in our local theatre, The Greenock Empire. Many of them were just starting out in their careers and were not ‘headliners’ and it was fun to see them become famous, knowing I had met them when they were ‘nobody’. In particular, I remember my step-father was very impressed with a young singer from Cardiff in Wales and we went backstage for him to meet her. She was stick thin and looked as though she hadn’t had a square meal in quite some time…but, then, neither had we, so I understood her hunger. Understood too her hunger to make a name for herself. Her talent was enormous, as was her voice and she became ‘somebody’ before too long. My stepfather bought every one of her records and that was the only music he permitted in the house. Her name was Shirley Bassey. Perhaps you’ve heard of her?
Whhhaaaaattttt??? She’s amazing!!! I listened to her growing up. My mother loved her music.
Later I joined an amateur dramatic group and loved playing any part I was offered, including being one of Snow White’s dwarves and The Principal Boy in Humpty Dumpty, the all-singing, all-dancing pantomime as well as many more serious dramatic roles.
Now, I love all sorts of arts and crafts and enjoy making cards and collages.
But writing comes first. That early love for getting lost in someone else’s world has never left me and my novels and stories tend to be very much character driven.
I find so much pleasure in weaving words and phrases to tell a story. I never tire of it.
Wow! What an incredible creative journey you’ve had!
What forms of writing and genres do you prefer and why? What can you never see yourself writing?
I have written in various forms at one time or another. I loved essay-writing when I was at school, then, when my children were young and I didn’t have much writing time, I wrote short articles for the women’s page of a small newspaper, graduated to short stories, and now I am principally a novelist.
I still enjoy writing short stories, including flash fiction and drabbles, and I love writing poetry but I love the space to shake out your wings that writing a full-length novel gives you.
My writing is always affected by the things I see happening around me, or things that are are in the news, so I tend not to shy away from sadness, grief and the struggles we all have in life. We are surrounded all the time by human drama and that’s what I write about. And, just as in life, no-one is perfect, no-one always gets it right, the same is true of the characters I create.
But I am an optimist. I believe in the ability of the victim to cast aside that role when given the chance and assistance, overcoming all adversity to take back a measure of control in their own life.
Science fiction can sometimes be fun, but I don’t think I’ve got the right kind of imagination for it.
I would never, ever write horror or anything erotic or paranormal. It’s not something I enjoy reading and I would take no pleasure in writing it.
I’ve read books which annoyed me to the point where I wanted to throw them across the room. As a reader, what do you think makes a good story? What’s one thing a ‘bad’ book taught you to not do in your own writing?
I have thrown a book across the room! It wasn’t so much a bad book, just that the ending was so frustrating. It taught me to pay attention to how I end a story, to make sure it ties in, is logical and satisfying. For me, a good story leaves me satisfied but thinking about the issues raised and the characters as people. A good story needs to hook me early, reel me in and hold my attention until it has all played out. To do that, I have to believe in the characters and care what happens to them, even if I don’t like them.
As a writer, what elements do you find are the most crucial to include in your stories? What are your strengths and weaknesses?
Passion! Not the sexual kind, though that has its place, which, incidentally, for me, is behind closed doors not in the pages of my books or on my television screen. Sorry to sound prudish, which I’m not, or old-fashioned, which I am.
The passion I am talking about is shown in all sorts of ways. If a writer doesn’t feel passionate about his/her subject, his/her writing is flat. If they don’t feel passionately about their characters, they come over as cardboard caricatures. Passion and enthusiasm, those are some of my strengths both in life and in my writing, along with empathy and understanding. The fact that I have a life-long love affair with words and grammar helps my writing too.
I’m useless at being concise. That’s why I write flash fiction and drabbles from time to time to learn that discipline. With lots of editing and practice, I hope there are not too many unnecessary words in my books now.
I find writing poetry and flash fiction helpful for those reasons as well. 🙂
Who/what are the biggest influences in your writing? How do they influence what you write?
Ordinary people and their lives. So many of them are extraordinary, so much of ordinary life turns out to be extraordinarily interesting. Just as most of us enjoy to get close to our friends, to sit and talk and get to know them, how they feel, what they think, I try to create complex characters my readers can get close to and feel as though they’ve made some friends.
I love people. They fascinate me. I want to tell their stories.
What draws you to your preferred genre? What do you think makes your genre unique? And why is it so popular? (Or perhaps less popular than it could be?)
Mmm…genre…I find it difficult to define my genre. Contemporary Fiction, Literary Fiction, Women’s Fiction, these are all labels my novels have been given, but I don’t think any one label describes what’s in the can anymore than ‘soup’ defines the list of ingredients in a good Scotch Broth.
I don’t think my ‘genre’, or lack of it, is unique. I think many books are hard to fit into any one genre. Relationship novels, as mine are, are popular because the reader can identify with characters who are not so different to themselves, who are working through lives that are not a million miles away from their own, but have something unusual and interesting going on in them. They enjoy the novel for the same reason they enjoy watching a rom-com, a drama or a sitcom. They want to be entertained, preferably in a meaningful way.
Can you tell us about your books? What other projects are you working on?
I have two published novels, available both in paperback and Kindle editions.
Family Matters: Available on Amazon
A relationship novel, but also a detection novel with a difference; this story traces a woman’s drive to uncover and understand the truth about a family she thought she knew… her own.
Sarah’s husband, Tom, disappeared without trace eleven years ago.
Now her son, David, has died.
Tom appears at David’s funeral and tries to reestablish contact, which Sarah refuses but Kate, her daughter, accepts.
The growing closeness between Kate and her father worries Sarah because she believes that Tom is dishonest and unreliable.
Then Sarah finds David’s diary and follows the steps he took in search of his father.
It becomes a journey of self-discovery: what she uncovers forces Sarah to reassess her view of herself, her origins and her certainties.
Making it Home: Available on Amazon
A contemporary novel about three women who want more.
Kate had a home, but her heart wasn’t in it… or in her marriage.
So she left them both.
Phyllis had a home… and her heart was in it… but she wanted something more.
So she shopped.
Naomi had no home and her heart was in cold storage, frozen by grief and fear.
So she shopped.
They found one another in a department store, shopping.
The problem with ‘retail therapy’; you can overdose.
As friendship grows between these three women, they help one another face up to their problems, realizing along the way, that every heart needs a home and it takes more than a house to make one.
My Work in Progress is my third novel, Flying Free, another relationship novel, more of a romance this time. It traces Jayne’s struggle to become the woman she wants to be in order to be able to marry the man she loves…
When Tom asks Jayne to marry him, he unwittingly opens her personal Pandora’s Box, and now she can’t seem to close the lid on it. It’s affecting her ability to commit to their relationship.
When she finds someone to help her, instead of slamming the lid shut on all that had been let loose from her past, he opens it wider and makes her face her fears in order to overcome them. He finds one last thing left in her Box: hope.
What do you find is the most difficult aspect of writing and how do you cope with it?
I’m a ‘pantser’ and sometimes struggle with seeing the overall concept of my story. I can lose sight of the shape of it and feel a bit lost in the middle. I always get there in the end, but I make it harder work for myself than it needs to be. Plotting beforehand would be the obvious solution to that problem but that is something I’m not very organised with and aim to improve on.
Who are your favourite writers and why?
So many writers I admire!
Anita Shreve for her economy with words. In her novels, there is seldom a wasted or unnecessary word. She makes each one work for its place in the piece.
John Grisham builds a story expertly.
Nicholas Sparks knows the importance of emotion in the novel.
William Shakespeare…well! To write thousands of words to tell a story, all in rhyme…what can I say? Genius!
Charles Dickens and Jane Austin, master and mistress of recording the nuances of their eras. Great observers of the human condition with its flaws and fancies.
Maggie O’Farrell, wonderful storyteller.
The list goes on….
What advice would you give to new writers?
To persevere. Writing sometimes comes very easily and naturally, but that doesn’t mean it is necessarily good writing. But we can make it good if we are willing to work hard on getting it right: editing and proof reading are SO important. If your punctuation and grammar let you down, seek help. Get someone to look your work over. Get it right before you offer it to your readers…especially if you are going to expect them to part with their hard-earned cash. When we buy a sandwich, we expect the ingredients to be fresh and tasty and we expect the sandwich to be correctly assembled. Butter on top just doesn’t work for me 🙂
We owe it to our readers to give them a fresh, tasty read, correctly assembled. So…work, work and more work. Get it right.
How can readers get into contact with you?
Facebook: Christine Campbell, Author WriteWhereYouAre
Christine, it was a tremendous honour to meet you today. Thank you for sharing about your life and your passion for the arts, writing in particular. I feel like I’ve just met a beautiful spirit! Readers, I am certain you also felt inspired and moved by Christine’s story so I encourage you to look her up, chat with her and to buy her books. Every artist needs to be supported and encouraged!
Thanks for tuning in once again, everyone. Have a great week!