Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thursday's Interview - Malcolm Campbell

Malcolm is a fellow Vanilla Heart author who also writes fantasy.

What's your genre or do you write in more than one?

Two of my four novels are contemporary fantasy, one is magical realism and one is comedy/satire.

Did you choose your genre or did it choose you?

I chose fantasy because it’s an outgrowth of who I am and what I believe. Many of the “techniques” mentioned in Sarabande and The Sun Singer (the fantasies) as well as in Garden of Heaven: an Odyssey (magical realism) are real. That is, they are taught in mystery schools and self-improvement courses, and are widely known by mystics, shamans and psychics. (That’s my story, anyway.)

Naturally, a lot of the material in these books truly is fantasy, the kind of thing that occurs to a writer when s/he allows the imagination to run amok; but it’s a publishing convenience to call the psychic and mystical material fantasy because most people don’t have (or pretend they don’t have) those kinds of experiences.

Is there any genre you'd like to try? Or is there one you wouldn't?

I like magical realism, but the public is generally uncomfortable with the approach. I see magic in day-to-day life and magical realism captures that. Even so, it would be fun to write another novel in this genre. I’ll never write anything classified as occult. I don’t believe in the so-called occult because it’s totally fabricated and based on a corruption of mystic and psychic practices. It’s also a form of propaganda that some religions use to denigrate other religions and, as such, Hollywood and many writers have had a field day with it.

What fiction do you read for pleasure?

I read a wide variety of books. I just finished reading “The Help” and I’m now reading Laura Hillenbrand’s World War II nonfiction, “Unbroken.” I have also enjoyed Katherine Neville’s “The Eight” and “The Fire,” and D. J. McIntosh’s “The Witch of Babylon.” And then—switching more into literary fiction, I thoroughly enjoyed Jamie Ford’s “Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet” and Patricia Damery’s “Snakes.”

Tell me a bit about yourself and how long you've been writing.

Most of my career has been spent as a journalism instructor, training materials writers, technical writer and corporate communications director. It was only after a post-9/11 layoff by a large computer company, that I looked again at fiction. I’ve been a writer since 1968 when I served as a Navy journalist. My first novel, The Sun Singer, was published in 2004.

Which of your characters is your favorite?

Janet, I like many of my characters, but if forced to choose, then Robert Adams, the protagonist in The Sun Singer, and Sarabande, the protagonist in Sarabande are my favorites. Both face many dangerous moments and some hard decisions, yet they persevere. Persevering is, of course, a strong theme in fantasy whether the climax is heroic and epic or whether it is a personal transformation.

Are there villains in your books and how were they created?

A temptress named Dryad came out of nowhere in The Sun Singer and became more of a factor in Robert Adams’ journey into the alternate universe of Pyrrha than I expected. When I write, I begin with only a few plot points in mind, so I really should know better than to expect one thing or another. Dryad wanted to corrupt Robert, and she was such a pervasive character that she showed back up in Sarabande with even a larger and nastier role.

What are you working on now?

Robert’s grandfather, Thomas Elliott, in The Sun Singer is rather like a modern-day Gandalf even though you would never suspect it if you saw him in a store or city park. He’s another favorite of mine. He also appeared in Garden of Heaven: an Odyssey and I’d like to bring him back again in a follow-up story to Sarabande. When my muse is ready, so to speak, I’ll go from the thinking about it stage into the writing stage.

What's your latest release and how did the idea arrive?

My latest release, Sarabande, came out August. While it’s a sequel to The Sun Singer, it can be read as a stand-alone fantasy. My title character, Sarabande, was featured prominently in The Sun Singer. The evil nymphet Dryad is her sister. Dryad attacks Sarabande near the end of The Sun Singer and, when Sarabande killed her in self-defense, I knew Sarabande and Dryad would return as protagonist and antagonist in my next book about Pyrrha. You understand, Janet, that in contemporary fantasy, the fact that Dryad is dead at the beginning of Sarabande isn’t a deal breaker.

Tell me about your latest book and how it came about. Enclose the opening of the book around 400 words.

Sarabande bled on the leading edge of the Angel Wing while the moon was dark. The grey-green rock at the summit accepted her flow without complaint. Yesterday, Gem said sky wasn’t a fit place of renewal: dark woods and tents served best for bleeding. “Tccch,” she said without finesse, “why expose yourself on that strange spur of rock at the high end of the valley? You’ll catch a cold sitting on unforgiving stone above that cold glacier.”

Indeed, but it suited her.

During the night, Sarabande heard the beating of her heart. She heard the voice of water flowing eastward out of the cirque that hugged the glacier snuggly against the Continental Divide. Water called her attention to a world on the other side of time, a world with a road running truer across the plains into dawn than golden eagles, a world with destiny straighter than cedar arrows, a world called the World of the Dead. There was a dead horse alongside the road. Past the horse, an angry fire gave off black smoke that lifted away from the prairie and the straight road like a prayer.

Water’s voice distracted her from the discomforts of the joyful dying of a synodic month and the sad birth of another. She sat within her sacred circle at 7,430 feet above the level of oceans she had never seen and evaluated the thirty-six new moons that had come and gone since Osprey, who is also called the Sun Singer, left them for his home on the other side of time. Those who did not believe in the other side of time said the Sun Singer was dead.

Yes, Goddess of the Night, the thought as she ate a handful of roughly ground flax seeds from her leather pouch, the moons are cycles of rebirth—even for creatures of the sun. Sarabande meditated on flax seeds and the potentials of flax seeds from the center of her compact circle while sipping the nettle and stonewort tea she brewed in a tiny kettle over a tiny fire. She placed sacred objects: to the east for air, a hawk owl feather; to the south for fire, a drum; to the west for earth, a red and yellow rattle; to the north for water, the flow of the glacier in a copper cup. She traced her name in blood on a shard of bloodstone, then sheltered it within the cat’s cradle of her hands.

Though she waved the feather, banged the drum, shook the rattle, and drank the water, her visions were of death rather than life.


Malcolm R. Campbell said...

Thank you for inviting me to stop by your blog today, Janet. Nice to be here on Thanksgiving day.


Smoky said...

Delighted to hear you're giving more consideration to bring David's story to life!I'm ready to read it when you're ready to write it!

Anne K Albert said...

Great post Janet and Malcolm. It's always fascinating to read how an author creates his stories and characters.

Malcolm R. Campbell said...

Thanks for stopping by, Smoky and Anne.