Monday, February 10, 2014

Writing From The Heart - An Interview with author Steph Campbell, Friend Is A Four Letter Word

Steph Campbell is an author I've adored ever since I read the amazing Grounding Quinn, way back when self-publishing and the indie world were very much a new phenomenon (June 2011, for those keeping score).  I'm delighted to have her here in the interview chair at Still seeking allies, as part of Have Book Will Read's Blog Tour for the release of her latest, Friend Is A Four Letter Word.

Welcome Steph, so great to have you here!  Let's plunge right in with the good old Spanish Inquisition!  (What you didn't expect that?  Well, nobody expects ... haha, sorry!)

Your books have a very palpable sense of place - especially Southern California (the Quinn and Silver Strand series)  and Louisiana (My Heart/Fate For Yours)  Is that something you strive for, and do you have thoughts on how that affects the reader's experience?

I think the biggest reason I choose to write my novels set in particular places boils down to the whole "write what you know" bit. I've lived in both Southern California and Southern Louisiana (and Georgia!) and there are certain aspects of those places that hold vivid memories for me. I want readers to feel that they're there with my characters and having a connection to the atmosphere helps. With the Lengths series specifically, Liz and I made a trip to Southern California and visited most all of the sites in the books to draw more inspiration. [Ed. note - That must have been quite the "research" trip, right?] I think/hope it helps draw readers in.I'm not sure how the readers experience is affected. I *hope* they enjoy it. :)

Were you a surfer growing up?  Surfing seems like kind of a cathartic, soul satisfying experience for lots of your characters.  Do you feel that the use of surfing conveys something emotional to your readers, is it consistently a metaphor for something?  Freedom? Struggle? Grounding? Escape?

 I dated a couple of guys that surfed when I was younger, and they took me out. I love the ocean, and the surf culture, but falling off of a board is about the extent of my surfing history.I think there's something so pure and freeing about the ocean and surfing. It's an entirely different world out there in the waves and it can definitely make you feel minuscule in the grand scheme of the world, and really put things in perspective. Surfing is more than a hobby to the characters I've written, it's almost a religion.

You've had two wonderful collaboration partners in Jolene B Perry and Liz Reinhardt, how did you decide to proceed with them, and is the experience different in each case, in terms of your process, or how it feels?

Jolene B Perry

I've been so lucky to work with both Jolene and Liz. I think the best part of co-writing is how much you learn from working so closely with someone, and each of you trusting each other with something so personal. The way that I work with Liz is completely different than the way I work with Jolene. The two books Jolene and I wrote together were both A) written completely out of order and B) involved zero plotting. We would each write whatever we felt like at whatever point in the story we felt like writing and then say "you're welcome!" (kidding. Sort of.) But Jo and I are total pantsers--we write completely from the hip and have total trust that each of us will do the right thing for the characters and story. I honestly can't think of a time when one of us said, "I don't think that'll work. I'm changing it."

Liz and I have published 7 books together (and written a handful of others that have yet to be published) [Ed. note - Wow!] and we have tried every method from the way I described with Jolene, to alternating chapters and POV to the way we've finally settled on which is: We call each other every morning and discuss where we're at in the story and spitball ideas back and forth about what we think should happen next and the characters motivations. Whoever gets to the manuscript first, wins! (kidding) but usually one of us will dive in and write until we don't know what to write (or our writing time for the day is up) and then leave a brief outline of what we *think* should happen next. If the other agrees (almost always) we pick up right where the other left off and continue on the same way. It works for us well! 
Steph and Liz

I think in the beginning when co-writing I would bite my nails a little wondering what the other would think of what I wrote, but now it's just a process that I've settled in to and I love the feedback and the tweaking. It's a huge learning experience and I've grown so much as a writer from co-writing. 

You've talked a little bit before about the decision to go indie, and I gather it was somewhat of a wrenching one, both in terms of making the decision, and with respect to the impact it had on your relationships with other authors.  The landscape has changed so much since you made that decision, what are your  thoughts on it now, and have any of those naysayers come around, or gone indie themselves?

Ha! This is such a great question [Ed. note - See, I told you Steph was insightful, lol,]. I decided to go indie after a couple of years of querying, and it was a really hard decision to make, because at the time, the story was that if you self published, you could kiss ever writing under your real name again. Actually, the day after I uploaded my first book for sale on Amazon, I got an offer of representation from a huge agent that was on my "dream" list. So, yes, it did take me some time to find peace with my decision. A lot of that peace came from finding such an amazing community of indie authors and readers and, as you mentioned, the changing environment. People became more accepting of indie, and to be honest, I lost friends when I first indie pubbed. I had people tell me that I'd ruined my career. They claimed they would NEVER self publish--and several of those people have since come around and asked for advice as to how to get started--and have done quite well in the indie world since then. :) 

I think I've finally realized that there isn't one perfect way to publish for each person. Everyone has their own publishing journey. I'm still on mine. :)
Rocking the indie with the Wilders at RT

The emotional intensity and angst of your books sometimes overshadows the very funny dialog and banter that leavens them.  Do you have to pull back on the drama to interject that, or does it all flow somewhat organically?  

First of all, THANK YOU for saying that my books are funny! A very well known hybrid author once told Liz and I that we are "so funny in person, we should make our books funny, too!" And of course we said, "Wait, they ARE funny!"  
Liz once told me that after meeting me in person, she feels like my books are very voyeuristic. Like you catch such huge glimpses of me in each of them, but until you know me, you can't pick them out. I really do write from the heart, and try to be as authentic as possible. So, I guess all of the emotion, one-liners, etc... just come organically. 

Your characters have passions they pursue with intensity - cooking, photography. Do you have a subject that animates you like that?  Is it writing, or something else?

Again, this is one of those "write what you know," things. I took photography in high school and college and bake constantly in my spare time. There are things that I know nothing about that always seem to work their way into my books, though. Sailing, fencing, painting.... I've watched so many hours of random You Tube videos to come up with a single sentence some times. :) 

Thanks so much for joining us, Steph!  Wishing you the very best of success with Friend is a Four Letter Word and all the amazing projects you have going!  Whatever you do, wherever you go, you can always count on Still seeking allies for support, we love you that much!

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The Steph-iverse, a go to guide!

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In connection with the launch of Friend Is A Four Letter Word, Steph and Have Book Will Read are sponsoring a giveaway for a lovely dandelion wish necklace and a $20 Amazon gift card - enter below!

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