It’s my pleasure to introduce author Malcolm R. Campbell. Malcolm is the author of “Sarabande,” “The Sun Singer,” “Garden of Heaven: an Odyssey,” and “Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire,” as well as many short stories. He can be found blogging at http://www.malcolmrcampbell.com
Melinda: I know from previous interviews and blogs that although your career was mainly focused on computer documentation and training materials, you’ve always had a love for creative writing, and your father was a journalist. Was making the switch from the type of writing you did in your career to writing fiction difficult?
Malcolm: The “apples and oranges” difference between the writing types made it easy to write both without having to become re-acclimated each time. Many widely known authors began as journalists, something I learned from my father and the books on his shelves. So, perhaps knowing that journalists often wrote news as well as fiction made the transition seem very natural.
Melinda: You have somewhat of a split personality with your writing, which amazes me. I’m not sure it’s often an author can do that. You’ve authored four books: Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire, which is satire, Garden of Heaven: An Odyssey, which is probably best classified as magical realism, and The Sun Singer and Sarabande, both fantasy. I’m intrigued by the difference in genres; do you find it difficult to write in different genres? Is the writing technique different for each?
Malcolm: Since the satire is about an old time journalist, it was easier to write than one might expect. Jock Stewart grew up in the same world that many of my father’s teachers grew up in, so I heard many of their reporting yarns and stories. To “create” the Jock character, I simply blended my sarcastic, trickster attitude into a person who reminded me of journalists I knew as a kid, and that was that. I tend to see the flip side of everything, so it’s easy to imagine what life on a newspaper would be like if you approached it with a film-noir, devil-may-care attitude.
Melinda: One thing that is very clear from your writing is that you have a deep love of nature. If I remember right, you grew up in Tallahassee, Florida. As a resident of Florida, I’m often in awe of the varieties of wildlife so evident here. Did your childhood in Florida contribute to your love of nature?
Malcolm: Like my friend Smoky Zeidel’s childhood family, my family took numerous family vacations to the Pacific Northwest, the mountains of North Carolina, Mammoth Cave, and everywhere in Florida from Pensacola to Jacksonville to Key West. Outdoor vacations tend to lead one toward an appreciation for nature. My two brothers and I were in a Tallahassee Scout Troop that had a strong program of weekend camping trips. When we weren’t in the piney woods with the Scouts, our family was often at nearby Wakulla Springs and the Gulf Coast. There was a lot of nature and nurture in my upbringing.
Melinda: I’m sure you’ve encountered the “plotter or pantser” question before, so let me word it differently. Mark David Gerson, author of Voice of the Muse, has written that in essence our stories already exist, just waiting until we’re ready to hear them. I find your writing to be multi-layered and nuanced. Do you agree with Gerson’s view?
Malcolm: I like the approach in Voice of the Muse a lot, though I think that the stories that arise when one writes the first draft in a free-form fashion are created in that moment rather than retrieved from some unconscious story bin. All the materials and potentials are within us, and so when we allow them to come forward they form stories that simultaneously meet out conscious goals as well as unconscious intentions that become known while we write. So, we end up being rather surprised at where the stories and characters take us.
Melinda: I’m fascinated by Sarabande, which is next on my to-be-read list. From my research, Sarabande seems to be based somewhat on Inanna, the goddess often associated with sexual love and warfare. Is that a fair comparison? If my hunch is correct, I’m also fascinated that Inanna is often associated with lions, and I know you’re a Leo (as am I). Tongue-in-cheek, is there any connection there?
Malcolm: The Inanna connection in Sarbande stems from the story of her descent into the underworld rather that focusing on her other attributes as a goddess. A woman’s lunar story, at least in fiction and myth, is very much a journey into the unconscious that is linked to the outer world adventure and challenges they’re involved in. So, while fighting a nasty ghost and a bad guy sorcerer, Sarabande comes to know more about herself, ending up as a stronger person. The Leo associations are, of course, a bonus!
Melinda: Before we end, I hope you’ll provide an excerpt from Sarabande. But one last question: What’s next? I know you’ve published a number of short stories in the vein of Jock Stewart, from Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire. Can we look forward to more of Jock? Or the Sun Singer, or Sarabande? Or is something different in the works?
Malcolm: The lack of a Jock Stewart sequel is a lesson in backing up files. When Sea of Fire came out, I wrote the first third of the sequel. I thought it was on two computers as well as a flash drive. Then, after the hard drive of my main computer turned into burnt toast, I discovered the sequel was only on that drive. I can’t bring myself to go back and re-create it. This year, I’ve been working on short stories, including yarns about limpkins, Florida Panthers, and snake birds (the coolest animals of my childhood).
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.
Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of satire, magical realism and fantasy, including “Sarabande.”