JJ Campbell’s fascinating background includes jobs as diverse as hypnotherapist to video producer. Her first published novel, Reclaimed, is book one of the paranormal trilogy, The Immortal Trinity. The story of how it came about is an inspiring tale of women helping women.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I was a very dreamy child, constantly writing and drawing. I thought I’d be dead by 25 because all great artists died young.
How did you enjoy school?
I struggled. I couldn’t spell, still can’t. I thought I was reading, but my teachers said I was getting it wrong. My father, a head master, realized I was reading from right to left. At one school my parents were told I was educationally subnormal. Turns out I’m dyslexic. My entire schooling was driven by the impetus to prove I wasn’t stupid. But it never spoilt my enthusiasm for learning, my joy for reading or the desire to write.
Tell us about your early career.
I did a psychology degree because I was fascinated by the mind and what makes people who they are.
My first job was with severely mentally handicapped children. Then I became a marketing assistant, the first of many jobs involving commercial writing. At night, I sang and played percussion in bands and taught dance classes. Over time, I managed a large shop, worked as an accountant, a roadie and in TV production. I worked my way up to Producer, responsible for casting, crew, budgets, scripting and ensuring all aspects of filming ran smoothly. I had what’s now called a portfolio career, working freelance and doing two or three jobs at a time. It was great preparation for being a self-published writer!
Meanwhile, my short stories appeared in teenage magazines. After this success, I answered an ad in the Times for adult fiction. I assumed they meant stories for grown-ups. When we met, the woman explained they were for a magazine featuring erotic fiction by women for women. I wrote three or four stories for them and felt very modern and empowered.
Why did you take a break from writing?
I always wanted to be a mother, but I had an ectopic pregnancy followed by a few early miscarriages. My first marriage crumbled as a result. Finally in my late thirties, I got pregnant, but I was a single parent working freelance in a very demanding job. Having a child took up all the space in my brain where I would have created.
Tell us about your return to writing.
I came back to writing after my daughter went to university. By then, I’d remarried and moved from the UK to the Sunshine Coast, Australia. I was a yoga teacher and gave myself the goal of completing a novel without any expectations about being published. I wrote a YA fantasy romance and absolutely loved the whole process. I’ve written eight novels now.
What is your writing routine?
First thing in the morning, I go for a walk. Then I write. I never get writers block, because I don’t write sequentially. If I’m stuck on one scene, I work on another one. I write until I get tired.
What inspired the book, Reclaimed?
The word ‘reclaimed’ came into my head and I went from there.
How long did it take to write?
The first draft took one month in one-two hour blocks at a coffee shop in the UK. I entered a competition and got picked up by an online Canadian publisher. We went through an editing process, but they didn’t meet the deadlines and the book languished on my laptop. I decided to do some writing courses.
Have writing courses helped?
Initially, I didn’t do any training because of my school history. I didn’t want the creative process stymied by being told I wasn’t doing it right. In hindsight, I could have saved some heartache. I thought once I’d drafted a book, I’d finished the book. I didn’t understand about a dirty first draft and that a book is made in the editing.
I joined the Romance Writers of Australia (RWA) and met my writing group, Writers not Waiters. They’ve become my lifeline. I did courses with the RWA, Cornerstones, Curtis Brown and The Writer’s Academy. My big revelation with The Writer’s Academy was doing the synopsis before I wrote the book. I discovered that plotting could save me years of editing.
How did Reclaimed finally come to life?
My marriage came to an abrupt end and I was heartbroken. For the first time, I struggled to maintain my writing routine. My writing group encouraged me to get Reclaimed out there. With immense generosity and support, they basically published it for me.
Jo Edgar-Baker designed the gorgeous cover.
Elsa Holland did all the technical work. She formatted the text, developed my website and published the book both online and print on demand.
Sara Hartland organized my book launch, did marketing and got books into a local bookstore.
Thanks to these wonderful women, out of this terrible time, my book baby was born.
Can you give us a brief synopsis of Reclaimed?
Cass should have been starting college in the fall. Instead she’s been reclaimed by Gabe, an immortal from Atlantis, who thinks she’s his soul mate. She planned to reinvent herself at college, but gills, super-human strength and immortality were never on her wish list.
Cass wants it all, Gabe, college, land and sea, but what will she have to sacrifice to get it? Forced to live a double life, Cass struggles to deal with love, loss and a ghost from her past as she fends off demons, aliens, psychopaths and an evil step-father.
Can Cass overcome her past, find love and transform? Or will fate steal her happy ever after?
What are your next steps?
I’m editing book two and writing book three of the trilogy. Jo has already designed the stunning covers.
Reclaimed was a turning point in my long journey as a writer. I was thrilled and surprised that people actually enjoyed it. The feedback has been amazing and has influenced the plot of the subsequent books. Instead of writing as if I’m looking in a mirror it’s like I’ve opened a window and have connected with my readers.
Next time: The Perfect Time to Write
Next interview: Jennifer Harrold’s Mansfield Tree Change
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