Thank you, Adrianna.
I thought it was tremendously generous of writer and blogger Adrianna Joleigh to interview me and then to publish the interview on her blog…especially since I made it plain that her genre was not my taste to read or write.
I have now copied the interview here for you, or you can follow this link to Adrianna’s blog to read it there:
Hello Dear Readers & Writers,I’m trying a different approach to learning more about the craft of writing. Sure, it’s a great idea to get advice from your fellow writers/authors, but who is going to judge your writing in the end? The Reader. In order to catch the imagination and the desires…the cravings even, of a reader, we must first ask them.
I’ve never thought of doing that, until a few days ago, when I was discussing ideas with a friend of mine. Nothing specific, but just in general it brought many questions to mind. What do they want from me? What will keep them reading my story? Are there ways of writing that can cause them to toss the book before giving it a chance?
Here we have lovely Christine Campbell. A lover of writing and reading. I have only just met Christine. I’m happy that I have had to chance to interview her, and get to know her a little more. Enjoy!
What genre are you particularly drawn to, Christine?
There are quite a few genres that draw me, but I particularly like relationship novels: the kind of thing that explores how families function in differing and difficult situations; how friendships grow and how they falter; how relationships bear up under stress and strain and what attracts people to one another.
I like detective novels: cozy crime and harder hitting…but not too gory or violent.
A bit of romance goes down well with me, but I like there to be more to the book than just the romance: not just boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy wins girl back sort of thing. I want the characters I read about to have more on their minds than love and/or sex.
What does a story need to keep you turning the pages?
It has to be well written: good story with good editing, punctuation, grammar, nice use of words and creative sentence structure. I love words. Good words. I love allowing them to melt in my mouth like chocolate. But I like sharp, hard-hitting words if those are the ones that are needed to tell the story.
There are books that I read more to savor the writer’s skill with language than to race through a story. For example, how about this from ‘The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox’ by Maggie O’Farrell: ‘It is always the meaningless tasks that endure: the washing, the clearing, the cleaning. Never anything majestic or significant, just the tiny rituals that hold together the seams of human life.’
I just love that: ‘…the tiny rituals that hold together the seams of human life.’
Or one from Dorothy Parker: ‘Constant use had not worn ragged the fabric of their friendship.’ Beautiful!
‘She took her mother’s dry hands between hers, noting the tiny flicker of resistance that came before submission.’ Rosie Thomas.
There are other books where the story is the thing…but then I still look for a nice turn of phrase, dexterity with words. John Grisham is a great storyteller who knows how to capture and hold my attention, but also lets me pause now and then to savor and digest the quality of his writing.
What is usually the thing that makes you toss the book, to never return to it again?
Bad writing, bad grammar, bad punctuation, bad editing, bad language…any or all.
Do you prefer Happy Ever Afters? Or Bitter Sweet Endings? Or something other than what I’ve mentioned?
Mmm! Don’t need it to be ‘Happy ever after’ but do like it to be at least hopeful. Hate a rushed ending! You now the kind, where you’ve ploughed through hundreds of pages of a book and everything happens in the last ten. Everything told instead of shown, all neatly packaged up and handed on a plate. Always makes me wonder if the author got fed up telling the story, ran out of time for the deadline, or just wanted to be done with the blessed thing!
What writing styles do you particularly favor? If you have any.
It depends on my mood. Sometimes I like crisp, spare writing, like some of Anita Shreve’s novels. Other times, I feel like being courted sensuously with poetic phrases and sumptuous descriptions. It’s rather special if you get a bit of both in the same book.
Do you have a favorite book? Favorite author?
Couldn’t possibly narrow it down to just one! Anita Shreve, Rosie Thomas, Anne Tyler, Maggie O’Farrell, John Grisham, PG Wodehouse, James Thurber, Mark Twain… I could go on…
Do you have any tips/suggestions/advice for aspiring authors, on how to grip the reader’s (your) attention?
Don’t waffle for the sake of the word count! Keep the action moving with short, sharp sentences, short paragraphs and short chapters. Then woo me with beautiful words in sumptuous sentences when the action slows down. Variety is the spice of life, they say, so mix it up and don’t be boring.
Is/Are there an overused word(s) that you loath? Or can’t stand the sight of?
Swear words. I’m fortunate that I am seldom anywhere where I have to hear bad language, I turn off television programmes that keep using it, I have no interest in reading it. It jars on me.
What topics do you avoid reading about?
Sex, violence, vampires, ghosts, paranormal. Sorry! It’s just not for me.
What are the most common mistakes made by a writer in telling their story? (in your opinion)
Telling instead of showing. I want the story to unfold before my eyes: I don’t want it spoon-fed to me. Sometimes writers do both: they do well showing then insist on telling in case we didn’t get it. If the protagonist’s face goes red and he shouts at someone, I don’t need to be told he’s angry…I can work that one out!
**And now a few questions about you, that I’d like to ask.**
What do you write about?
I suppose I write what I’d want to read. Relationship novels, with a touch of romance and a bit of detection. Sometimes I deal with quite dark subject matter. My first published novel, ‘Family Matters’,addresses how a mother copes with her husband’s abandonment of her and her kids, and the death of her son through drug abuse. So fairly heavy subject matter, but I try to write about overcoming these problems rather than dwelling in them. It’s not chick-lit, but neither is it misery-lit.
My second novel, ‘Making it Home’, looks at the lives of three unhappy women, two of whom overindulge in retail therapy, in fact, they are shopaholics. The book is about how they meet, how they help one another and how they find their way ‘home’.
If there is anything about writing that you would say you need to improve on the most, what would it be?
My storytelling. I think it’s sometimes a little predictable. I’d like to get better at springing surprises.
What/Who inspires you to write?
The need to express myself is very strong in me. Growing up, I felt that no-one wanted to hear anything I had to say, so I started saying it to myself. Writing became my silent cry for help. It has now become my creative outlet. So, I could say ‘life’ inspires me: the joys and sorrows of life.
What is your favorite piece that you’ve written?
Perhaps not one piece on its own. Every now and then, a phrase or a sentence flows from my fingers that I can hardly believe I formed. They are peppered here and there throughout my novels and my short stories…even in my poems. I say ‘even’ in my poems because I don’t think of myself as a poet although I enjoy writing it.
Do you have any writings in the making?
Oh, yes! Several. There are at least three completed novels in the queue waiting to be edited and published with a few more partly written. Plenty to keep me busy into my very old age.
I was posting a Story a Day for a Week in May, but didn’t want to stop so I’ve kept going and will try to continue to the end of the month. I have also been posting the stages of a trip my husband and I made a few years ago, when he cycled 1,000 miles and I was his ‘domestique’ in the car. The details and links of my two published novels are under ‘Books’ on the menu bar, some of my poems are reproduced under ‘Poetry’ and some interviews under…no, not ‘interviews’…hah! Got you there!…under ‘Fireside chats’.
Sometimes, as a writer, we are faced with challenges in our work. What would be something that is out of your comfort-zone to write about? Or it can be a way of writing that is out of the ordinary for you.
I’m not good with deadlines. My health is not good and I’m getting older now, so I can’t be hurried. That’s possibly why the queue of work waiting to be finished: the need to have the next thing almost ready.
If I feel uncomfortable about writing something, then I don’t write it. I’m too ‘long in the tooth’ to feel obliged to: one of the few perks of getting older, I suppose.
Wonderful interview Christine Campbell! Thank you for taking the time with this out of your busy schedule.
Til next time…
Some thoughts on “My Interview With Reader Christine Campbell”
Great interview, Christine. Your comprehensive answers and examples of what you like help aspiring authors like me to make certain we are add the elements needed for readers. I am especially happy you like creative sentence structure and short paragraphs and chapters. All are things I strive to do in my writings.
Excellent input for writers! I love this: “Don’t waffle for the sake of the word count! Keep the action moving with short, sharp sentences, short paragraphs and short chapters. Then woo me with beautiful words in sumptuous sentences when the action slows down.” This is something I need to work on. Too often I am caught in the action and forget the beauty of the writing. Ah, well, at least I have the editing process to correct all that, right?
Brilliant interview! Very insightful!
Here is Adrianna’s link: My Interview With Reader Christine Campbell.