Joy is the author of Contraband, Dissolution and Hardware and I invited her on my blog to have a chat with us. She has two blogs The Character Depot and Joy L Campbell so pop over and say hi and check out what she’s been up to.
I live in Jamaica. Reading is my first love. Writing is a close second. I also enjoy cake making and decorating. I’m a sucker for electronic gadgets. My writing is directed at several groups – romantic suspense junkies, the women’s fiction and contemporary fiction crowd and young adults.
Contraband is about choices. A drug dealer has to choose between the benefits of selling marijuana and the woman in his life. Kidnappers and corrupt police officers run amok and someone gets killed.
Dissolution came out in May and is about infidelity and the effect it has on one family. Someone dies in this one too.
Hardware will be getting a second round of edits shortly and that one is romantic suspense, so there’s murder, mayhem and self-discovery.
I think I’m obsessed with killing people.
It would be hard for me to pin down one character, but if I classify them according to personality traits I admire, that might be easier. I’m gonna cheat and say I love them equally. I’ve noticed this is one question that writers never same capable of answering. It’s like being asked which hand, foot or eye one prefers.
How long does it take you to write a book?
Anywhere from two months to two years. I’ll write up a NaNo (National Novel Writing Month) project during November and then forget to finish it until the following October, when it’s almost time for NaNo again.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I watch too much Law & Order (mostly reruns from all the series) and NCIS. I also spend way too much time on social networking sites and visiting other people’s blog. Since I bought a Kindle, I troll Amazon looking for deals. Recently, I joined the library so I’m reading more than I usually do. Since I started writing, I’ve neglected my reading. I’m trying to remedy that.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
There are no limitations in fiction. I can take a situation, create a hundred spin-offs and write something unique – even though it is said that every story has already been told. Also, my characters all surprise me in one way or another. It might be something said or an unpredictable action. We writers are big on imagination. We can write incredible situations into being and have readers raving over our characters. That’s nothing short of amazing.
Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
I read in phases so I’ve learned different things from various writers. Dick Francis and Jeffrey Archer taught me about suspense. James Herriot and Gerald Durrell are masters at humour. Along with providing me with many hours of amusement, Mark Twain introduced me to uncommon words and gave me an appreciation for complex sentences. (Check out The Innocents Abroad if you ever have time). James Clavell and Eric van Lustbader turned me on to things Japanese and Oriental. Charles Dickens showed me Victorian England and along with it, intense human suffering. An assortment of Caribbean writers showed me what it is to write from an island perspective and endure in a harsh foreign environment.
What project are you working on now?
Make that projects; I never seem able to work on just one thing at a time. I’m editing Distraction, a story about three women who deal with dysfunctional relationships within and outside of their marriages. I’m trying to decide where to take another story that has six chapters written and I’m outlining the one that comes after that. I also have a YA novel with one only chapter written and there are other projects waiting. I’m trying not to think about how long I’ve neglected those.
What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
I mentioned before that I like complex sentences. For a while, the criticism I got most often was that I used too many words and tended to over explain. I needed a remedy and got a writing coach for a year. He told me today’s reader is not inclined to take the scenic route. He told me to unlearn everything I was taught in school and learn how to write clear, concise sentences.
In Jamaica, we use British English. Now combine that with my tendency to write convoluted sentences and you have disaster. Writers on the network where I’m a member never tired of telling me that I should stop using Latinate words and use plain Anglo-Saxon ones. What the heck? I still use Latinate words because it’s my experience living on a Caribbean island that used to belong to Britain. However, I now dedicate one of my editing runs to identifying words that may make North American readers wonder what on earth I’m talking about.
Readers like my characters and twisty plots. That satisfies me as a writer.
Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
Take time to learn the craft. It’s the best gift a writer can give herself. When you feel a burning need to submit your first novel, douse the fire with more editing. The book isn’t ready. I found that out by trial and error. There should be a foolproof way for novice writers to know when a manuscript is ready. It would have saved me feeling like an idiot several times over.
Finding a writing network did wonders for me. After harsh critiques, I sometimes felt as though I’d been violated, but all the criticisms helped. It took me a while to understand that some people give excellent advice, but know nothing about tact. Over time, I also learned how to differentiate between what advice would work for me and what was regurgitated clap-trap that more experienced writers feed to newbies.
Take care all!