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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

From Blogging to Novels: Author Interview with Molly Campbell

When did you start your first novel? Was there any particular author that made you think “I could write like that?” 
I started my first novel, Keep the Ends Loose, about six years ago. And yes, there was an author that I loved and thought I could write in a similar vein.  That would be Lisa Lutz and her Spellman family series. The Spellman Files was just hilarious, and her narrator reminded me of my own thinking.

How long does it take you to write a novel? 
It takes me about two years. I carry the story around in my head for a long time before I start writing. The writing itself stretches on for at least a year. 

How many rewrites do you normally do?
Rewrites? On my latest title, Crossing the Street, there were about six arduous rewrites. My editor and publisher is the brilliant Lou Aronica of The Story Plant, and he guided me the whole way. He is brilliant.

Are you active in any writing groups?
Actually, no. I have been writing and blogging for over ten years. I am an old woman. My style and scope are my own. I think I missed the window for writing groups!

What made you decide to go with The Story Plant, rather than a large press?
It all happened in a very “karmic” way! I self-published my first book, Characters in Search of a Novel, which is a collection of flash fiction with great illustrations by Randy Palmer. That stemmed from a Twitter stream of funny names and descriptions of what people with those names might be like: i.e.: Loretta Squirrels—she makes moonshine and beats her husband. I did these posts for about a year until another writer suggested I put them in a book. 

I submitted one of my stories to The Story Plant, thinking it was an online literary magazine (I know; I didn’t do much research!). Lou responded and said that The Story Plant was a publishing company, and “did I have anything longer?” I blithely answered “NOPE!” That began a relationship with Lou as my mentor. He taught me how to write a novel (I trashed a complete manuscript—my first try at fiction). After three years, he published Keep the Ends Loose. I have never looked back.

What do you like the most about working with The Story Plant?
The individualized attention to my work. Lou and his staff devote hours and hours to their small stable of authors. We get the advice and criticism that we need to improve as writers, and our questions are answered promptly and with great care not to discourage. I respect everyone at The Story Plant. It is a group of talented and vastly experienced people who have all had long careers in publishing. Lou himself is the author of numerous novels.

What is the hardest part of writing to you? 
Oh, my gosh, that is so easy to answer! PLOT. I am a character-driven writer, and I absolutely fall in love with my eccentric characters. But plot? That is another matter entirely! I think the best and most successful writers come up with a fabulous plot idea, and then populate it with characters. 

I have a bunch of crazy people that exist in my head, and if only there were a plot store where I could buy a plot line to put them in, I would be so happy! I am not a natural storyteller, and so I labor over my plots.

We have all experienced rejection. How have you coped with rejection and gotten past it?
It still stings. I entered a writing contest in which the prize was $5000. Two of my friends also entered. When we attended the event in which the winners were announced, both of them (a married couple) won. I won nada. I rode home with them as they rejoiced over their $10,000 windfall. They were very gracious about it, but I have never quite gotten over it! But since then, I have had two novels published, so that is a great consolation.

What has surprised you the most about the publishing industry? What has been the most frustrating? 
Marketing. Even the “big five” publishers don’t spend the marketing dollars that they once did. So much of book marketing now falls to the authors, who are not skilled at marketing—we are writers! But this is a fact of life, and I have learned a lot about marketing: using social media and newsletters, scheduling my own signing events, and maximizing local publicity.

What do you know now about writing that you wished you had known sooner?
That I am good at it. I began my writing career at the age of 50. Where might I be now if I had begun writing in my thirties?

What is the best writing advice that you can give someone?
Write a lot. Blogging is great practice—keep it up on a regular schedule. READ all the time! The more you read, the better you are at understanding what makes a good book. 

Do you have another book in the works? Can you give a synopsis?
I do. But here is the thing: a manuscript is a very fluid thing. What I think my next book is going to be about at this moment will probably be nothing remotely like the finished product. Rewrites and plot changes are a given. So I can’t really predict what my next one will be once it’s finished. But I know it will be women’s fiction, and it will treat serious subjects in a humorous fashion. And there will be a dog involved.

That's all for today's interview. If you'd like to learn more about her writing or buy her books, here is a way to start. 

Her blog:
Link to her novels: Books

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