Readers, today we’re interviewing Melodie Campbell, a Canadian who’s most recent publication is “Rowena Through the Wall”, a fantasy and romance.
David: This is what she tells the world about herself…
“By day, Melodie Campbell is a mild-mannered association executive; by night, she transforms into a fevered scribe of comedy and suspense. Melodie has a Commerce degree from Queen’s University, but it didn’t take well. She has been a banker, marketing director, comedy writer, association executive and college instructor. Not only that, she was probably the worst runway model ever. Melodie got her start as a humour columnist, so it’s no surprise her fiction has been described by editors as ‘wacky’ and ‘laugh out loud funny’. With over 200 publications, and three awards for short fiction, Melodie’s work has appeared in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Star Magazine, Canadian Living Magazine, The Globe and Mail, The Toronto Star, The Hamilton Spectator, New Mystery Reader, Mysterical-E and many more. Melodie is now the General Manager of Crime Writers of Canada. She lives in Oakville, Ontario with husband, two kids and giant Frankenpoodle. http://www.melodiecampbell.com”
We may be fortunate enough to find out a little more…
David: A Frankenpoodle?
Melodie: A standard poodle that didn’t know when to stop growing. He’s 30 inches at the shoulders. We call him a giraffe in a dog suit.
David: You’ve had an interesting career so far, what actually brought you to becoming a novelist?
Melodie: I got my start writing comedy. Didn’t mean to, but somehow every time I tried to write straight, the gremlins took over and twisted the words. Okay, I’ll go back; I was the class clown in high school, always getting in trouble for quipping in class.
I wrote shorts for many years. Had a humour column, wrote standup. In 1993, a producer from fledgling HBO saw my play, ‘Burglar for Coffee,” labeled it “completely nuts” and offered me a spot writing pilots, which I stupidly turned down. This goes on record as one of the worst decisions ever made by a human not officially insane.
In 1999, I was asked to open the Canadian Humour Conference. Was invited into the Toronto Press Club. Drank a lot of scotch there. Then some newspaper guy said, “Why don’t you write a novel? You’ve never written a novel.”
Never one to turn down a dare (did I mention I was not officially insane?) I wrote Rowena.
David: What genres do you find interesting?
Melodie: Mystery, fantasy and sci-fi. I like all of them to have a little romance in them, but I’m not a big “R” romance reader. In my work, romance shouldn’t be the plot, but romance can motivate the plot. Basically, I like a lot of plot.
David: Supposing you were cast away on a desert island, what books would you wish to have with you?
1. Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams is the kind of wacky I most relate to)
2. The End of Eternity (Isaac Asimov – a perfect blend of sci-fi motivated by romance)
3. The entire Stephanie Plum series (Janet Evanovich)
4. The entire Spellman series (Lisa Lutz)
You will notice that 3 out of 4 of these are comic.
David: And who is your favourite hero (of either sex)?
Melodie: Simon from Mary Stewart’s “My Brother Michael”. A sophisticated classics instructor who actually kills a man with his bare hands when the heroine is attacked. The perfect blend of sexy mind and primitive man.
David: Aside from books, what are you most proud of or satisfied with in your publications to date?
Melodie: Probably the humour columns that got me noticed and invited into the Toronto Press Club. Then I was asked to open the 1999 Canadian Humour Conference. That was a big deal to me.
David: Have you had to deal with rejections, was it difficult finding a publisher?
Melodie: No matter how many publications you have, you always have to deal with rejection. It’s the hardest thing about writing – being rejected by people who can’t do what you do. You have to develop a thick skin, and mine is still too thin.
David: You have a number of awards. Have they helped you into public awareness?
Melodie: Oh yes! Awards open many doors in that publishers will actually read your work. It won’t make the sale for you– your current writing has to do that. But it will put you to the top of the slush pile.
David: What sort of marketing have you used?
Melodie: Facebook, twitter, guest blogging, signings…Rowena has only been out in paperback for a month, so I’m just getting started in a big way.
Melodie: It didn’t start out that way. Rowena was written as a comic fantasy; basically I was trying to do something in the genre of ‘The Princess Bride’, only with a feisty female as protagonist. Then my publisher got hold of it and said: you know, with a little tweaking, we could slide this into the paranormal romance market too.
I don’t like chick-lit, myself. Nothing wrong with it – I just like more plot. Rowena is the sort of book I wish someone else would write so I could read it. A rollicking adventure, and a fast read.
David: Do you think Rowena might establish a new genre, one that will supersede the vampires and werewolves and the angels and demons?
Melodie: I think Vampires will always be here, although maybe more down the erotic line. But boy, I wish there were more fun adventures written today. Pure escape stories with lots of rollicking action, and the spice of romance. Nothing would please me more than to see more of this type of book written. I have asked and asked (on Amazon, Goodreads) for people to tell me about other books like mine so I could read them, and there don’t seem to be many, alas.
David: Would you like to be Rowena… or perhaps you are?
Melodie: I would like to look like Rowena, sure! She is a little spunkier than I am. I grew up in the late 60s/70s, when females were told they had to be good girls. Well darn it, sometimes, we just want to be bad girls! In Rowena, I was able to play with that concept. What if…the morality was taken out of your hands? How would you react? Yes, it’s meant to be a fun book, but there are intellectual concepts I played with in the writing of Rowena. Some people have picked up on it.
David: Rowena is published as an eBook and as a paperback, do you know yet, which is selling best?
Melodie: The ebook. Fantasy and romance are largely ebook now, I hear. Fans in these genres have a strong online presence and they read voraciously.
David: Do you have any thoughts on what the world of books will be like once the competition between eBooks and printed books is over?
Melodie: Scary, David! Oh, can we really live without paper? I decorate with books! I have lovely books in every room in my house. Ebooks are a given now, and make things cheaper to buy, but boy, I love my paper.
David: How many books in a series do you think Rowena might run to?
Melodie: I originally thought three – although other characters could have their own stories. In this biz, your future contracts are based on your current sales. I’m waiting to see if I should wrap Rowena’s story up in the next book, or carry it on to 3. I’ve got plots either way.
David: I know you have family links with Britain, would you like to tell us about them – and how they relate to Rowena?
Melodie: My late cousin Tony was Viscount Clegg-Hill of Shropshire and Shrewsbury. He had that dry British wit I adored, and would regale me with stories about the rakish ancestors. The castle I use in ‘Rowena Through the Wall’ is the original Norman castle that went to ruin in the 1500s. (Hawkstone Park, which still stands, was built to replace it in 1556). The Norman castle, with its rounded turrets, crenellations and merlons, has been in my imaginations for decades. Rowena walks through the wall to her ancestor’s home, and falls in love with it too.
David: Do you think you could write a male lead in future books?
Melodie: No. I’m very firm about that. I don’t think like a man, and I know it. I have a male friend who looks at all my work and gives me pointers. He is always saying to me “Change that. A man wouldn’t act like that. He would be angry.” As a result, some guys have told me that the men sound like real men in my book – not like the ideal characters in a romance novel.
I can almost always tell when a man has written a female viewpoint character. Usually something is off. I wouldn’t presume to write from the head of a man for the length of a novel.
David: Do you listen to music as you write? What are your favourite pieces or songs?
Melodie: With a name like Melodie, you would expect a musical connection, and you’re right. My Dad played sax in a big band. I trained for opera and sang torch. I learned to read music before I read words, so music is my first written language. Like many musicians, when I hear music, I can’t keep it as background; I am fully into it. As a result, I listen to music for breaks only, and not while I am writing.
Classical: Rachmaninoff, Dvorak, Gershwin, Gottschalk, Holst, Elgar
Popular: Ella, Manhatten Transfer, any Cole Porter
Rock: Steely Dan, Moody Blues, Doors, Heart, Pat Banatar, Great Big Sea
David: Do you write with a pen or pencil or straight on to your computer?
David: Do you have abandoned projects? If so, what do you do with them?
Melodie: I’m new to the novel, and have been fairly lucky. I’ve sold both that I’ve written. But – remember I wrote professionally for 18 years and had 30 published short stories before I even tried to write a novel.
David: Apart from writing, do you have hobbies or pass-times? Anything adventurous?
Melodie: I love sportscars. My first car was a Triumph Spitfire, and the second was a Lotus Europa (don’t even ask me about repair bills! I’m in Canada, remember.) Now, I drive a white Corvette. There’s something about the lift-off from start…yum. There is no substitute for cubic inches.
Did I mention I started university in mechanical engineering? Switched to Commerce.
David: If not in Canada, where would you like to live? Or perhaps there’s simply no contest?
Melodie: There’s no contest. I love the south of England. I’m kicking myself that I didn’t get a British passport when it was possible (through your parents). I get off a plane in GB and feel right at home. My brand of humour is much more British than American. And your beer is great, too.
David: Thank you so much for talking to us Melodie. Your CV is really impressive and interesting, I’m sure our readers will join with me in wishing you every success.
A dangerous lady, folks; those sports cars say it all! Aside from that, a really nice person.