Hello everyone, today I am delighted to introduce you to a lovely lady from Scotland. I hope you enjoy reading all about Christine’s life as much as I did. Let the interview commence…
Click on photo to meet Christine!
Hi! I’m Christine Campbell and I’m a writer.
There! I stood in the middle of the circle and owned up. I am a writer: a novelist, in particular. I write contemporary fiction: strongly character-based, relationship novels, with a smidgen of romance and a generous dusting of mystery and detection.
Ever since I learned my ABC in a sandbox, I realised that writing was a wonderful gift. To keep in touch, to describe a well-loved face, to tell a story…
I have learned a lot about my craft since that wonderful night when I held my first completed, printed manuscript novel in my arms. My first book-baby.
I have now completed five novels, two of them published so far, with a third almost ready to leave home and see the big wide world and, even more importantly, to be seen by it. It’s so exciting when your book-babies grow up and leave home. As a mother of five grown-up, married children and ten grandchildren, plus unofficial adoptive mother of one, grandmother of two, I know a lot about babies growing up and leaving home!
I didn’t write for more than a year after my mother died. Just lost the spark. Did a lot of thinking and soul-searching and began to realise the problem. I had spent my whole sixty-odd years trying to gain my mother’s approval and never managing it. I realise now that I had thought to make her proud by getting my novels published. She never read them.
After she died, I seemed to lose the point of writing: I was never going to gain her approval now! But, gradually, I realised that was the wrong reason to be writing in the first place. I should just write for the love of writing. Since that eureka moment, I can’t stop writing and I’m getting excited about publishing my next novel and I’ve started my blog which I’m loving too.
The point I suppose I’m making is…maybe sometimes you need to find your reason to be writing, to find your spark. Yours will be different from mine because we all have our unique history and experience, but, when you locate it, I hope you feel ‘relit’ as I do.
If a star could play you in the story of your life who would you hire? Goldie Hawn.
What genre would your life story be? And do you have a snappy title for your life story? A Rom-Com with an edge perhaps: starts badly and gets better. I could call it, ‘You Gotta Laugh!’ but I don’t know if that qualifies for the description ‘snappy’.
What fact about yourself would really surprise people? Something that wouldn’t surprise my family because they know me and they know the stories, but I like to entertain people apart from through my writing.
Many years ago, I was a member of an amateur dramatic club and I played in the pantomime each year, sometimes in the leading role. I was Humpty Dumpty one year, hidden behind a huge wooden egg until toppled from the wall, whereupon I had to sing and dance my way through the rest of the pantomime until I was put back together again!
That’s me taking my bow as ‘Principal Boy’ at the end of the show.
I can still remember some of the songs: “I am Humpty Dumpty and I’m most annoyed, that I’ve fallen down from the wall. And, if I’m not put toge-ether again, then the worst of disasters will befall, befall, befall. Oh, the worst of disasters will befall!”
Another year, I was one of the Seven Dwarves and had to sing and dance through the entire pantomime on my knees…even though I was pretty small to start with. “Hi-ho! Hi-ho! It’s off to work we go. We work all day and we get no pay. Hi-ho! Hi-ho! Hi-ho! Hi-ho!” Ah! Such wonderful lyrics.
We also played in one-act and three-act play festivals yearly and gained some great reviews.
In my heart, I still love to entertain. It’s unfortunate that the world has been deprived of my talent for so long: poor health and age caught up with me some time ago and I can no longer dance without falling over, sing without running out of puff, or act without forgetting my lines.
One of life’s tragedies: I could have been Goldie Hawn. No-one would have known the difference. She’s not that much taller than I am. Having always had that taste for theatre has helped me to ‘see’ my novels as they progress, each ‘scene’ another part of the unfolding drama.
What assumptions do people make about you that are wrong? And what assumptions are bang on right? Because I’m pretty small, about four-foot eleven, was blonde/now greying, blue-eyed and usually smiling, people assume I am a bit of a pushover. I think there was a time when that was probably true, but now I am feisty and no-one’s fool. I can stand up for myself and my beliefs…and have on many occasions. Feisty, not in the sense of ‘touchy or quarrelsome’, but in the Scottish sense of ‘plucky, frisky or spunky’ or ‘resilient and self-reliant’.
I am, however, a total pushover when it comes to my kids and grandkids. When they were young, I was pretty strict with my kids, didn’t ever say, ‘You wait till you father comes home!’ but always dealt with any misdemeanours fairly swiftly and firmly. Now…they can have anything I own, can do what they like in my house, can and do gang up on me to tease and ridicule (gently, of course) and I am a total pushover for them. I just love them completely.
What scares you the most? Unfortunately, I’m afraid of lots of things. Some of my fears are totally irrational, like spiders and daddy-long-legs. I mean, really, they’re hardly going to overpower me, are they? Not Scottish spiders! Perhaps if I was in Australia….
One of my rational fears is dogs.
When I was a little girl, and I mean ‘little’ both in age and stature—I was a frail wee thing, under-nourished and tiny—I was viciously attacked and savaged by an Alsatian dog. I was standing outside a shop waiting for my mum. In those days, it was possible for a mum to leave a child unattended outside a shop, usually without them coming to any harm.
As was my wont, I was hopping on and off the doorstep of the shop, singing a nursery rhyme, ‘One two, buckle my shoe…’ as I remember.
Perhaps it was the movement that attracted the dog, a mangy, uncared for and hungry Alsatian, and it ran at me, snapping and growling. Being only three or four years old and not knowing any better, I screamed and ran. It chased me, still snapping, catching my dress, ripping it as I struggled free. It snapped again, catching my leg this time, pulling me down.
What follows next becomes blessedly hazy in my memory. I vaguely recall being tossed about like a rag doll, thrown in the air, trapped on the road. What I do remember all too clearly, is the huge, slavering face, teeth bared, eyes wild, looming over me as it went for my face.
A lorry screeched to a halt inches from my head when the dog chased me and felled me in the road, and it was the driver who pulled the dog off me before it ate my face, kicking it and swinging at it with his fists…so I am told. With merciful timing, I had passed out as the teeth searched out my nose.
I’m afraid of dogs.
What’s your greatest character strength? Resilience, I think. I keep bouncing back. I had a difficult childhood, desperate teenage, and over the years, I have been afflicted with several chronic, progressive, debilitating conditions but I am not down and out yet.
Why do you write? It’s my way of letting the world know I’m here. I’ve lived a small life in many ways: I’ve never achieved any great thing; haven’t served my community in any wonderful way; haven’t healed the sick, fed the hungry, or changed the world in any significant way. I haven’t travelled the world, won an Olympic medal, broken any records. I didn’t even manage to become Goldie Hawn.
But I have two books on my bookshelf that bear my name, that tell the world I was here; I made a mark, albeit a small one. Even more importantly, there are people out there who have been entertained by my writing, people who tell me they have been helped by it, people who ask me for more. Mustn’t disappoint the fans, so I write.
Have you always enjoyed writing? Yes, ever since I learned how to write, I’ve loved it. Being born just after WW2 ended, things were rationed and consequently hard to get, so I learned to write in a sand-tray when I went to school. We lived near the sea and sand was plentiful, so someone must have come up with the bright idea of making little wooden trays to put it in. The teacher would write the letters of the alphabet, one at a time, on the blackboard and we had to copy them in our sand-tray. She would walk round the class, checking we had managed that correctly, then chalk up the next letter. We would shake the sand smooth and try that one. On going home, I would run out to play, straight across the road, ‘dreepy doon’ the wall to the beach and practice my new-found skill in the sand, unconfined by a wooden tray.
Next, we had slates to write on with chalk and we each had a little duster to wipe the slate clean between efforts. I loved it.
At home, I practiced my writing on the brown paper bags our ‘messages’ or groceries had been in. If the bag had contained something a little greasy, it would be hard to get the pencil to work on it. Gradually, it was not just letters of the alphabet I’d write, but little stories and rhymes. It was hard watching them go up in flames when my mother used my scribbling’s to light the coal fire. But, even then, I loved writing. I loved the feel of it: my hand controlling the pencil as it formed letters, then words, sentences, paragraphs and eventually stories.
My stepfather was a door-to-door salesman and he had pens in his inside pocket that he used to write down any orders he received. They fascinated me and, as a treat, he would occasionally allow me to write with them on any scraps of paper I could find. What joy when he brought home a smooth-papered notebook one day and gave it to me! The flow of the ink across the pages mesmerized me. I was entranced, addicted to writing for the rest of my life.
What motivates you to write? I suppose it’s a need to be heard, but also the joy of creating stories and poems. As a child, I think I wrote to escape the harsh world I lived in. It helped me make sense of it and it helped me create something more appealing.
As an adult, I still sometimes use my writing to help me make sense of that world and the realities of the world around me now. My life is filled with happiness and faith, but I see what others suffer and it saddens me. I write as a way to change the outcome. In my novels, my characters usually overcome the horrors of their lives. They come off victorious, as I have done. One of the things that motivates me is a desire to tell others they too can come off victorious, they too can conquer the world.
What writing are you most proud of? When I finished writing my first novel, I held the printed manuscript in my arms and wept. It had been a long, hard struggle to write it and I felt I had given birth to my first literary child. But that one has remained a secret love-child. It may, or may not ever become publicly acknowledged. We’ll see…
When I held my first published novel in my arms, I danced. Such joy! To have a book I wrote, with my name on its cover to place on my bookshelf! Such twirling, waltzing, wonderful joy!
Click on book cover
It may or may not be my best writing, but I am inordinately proud of it. It represents achievement. I saw the enterprise all the way through: from conception to birth, it is my baby.
Sarah’s husband, Tom, disappeared without trace eleven years ago.
Now her son, David, has died.
Tom appears at David’s funeral and tries to re-establish contact, which Sarah refuses but Kate, her daughter, accepts.
Then Sarah finds David’s diary and follows the steps he took in search of his father.
It becomes a journey of self-discovery: what she uncovers forces Sarah to reassess her view of herself, her origins and her certainties.
A relationship novel, but also a detection novel with a difference; this story traces a woman’s drive to uncover and understand the truth about a family she thought she knew… her own.
My second published novel brought the same joy. Much like having children, the joy and the pride don’t become diminished with each successive birth: the first one loses none of your love. It’s the love that grows.
To be able to repeat the process of writing a novel and seeing it published was thrilling.
I want to do it again and again.
Click on book cover
‘Making it Home’ is contemporary novel about three women who want more.
Kate had a home, but her heart wasn’t in it… or in her marriage. So she left them both. Phyllis had a home… and her heart was in it… but she wanted something more. So she shopped. Naomi had no home and her heart was in cold storage, frozen by grief and fear. So she shopped. They found one another in a department store, shopping. The problem with ‘retail therapy’; you can overdose. As friendship grows between these three women, they help one another face up to their problems, realising along the way, that every heart needs a home and it takes more than a house to make one.
Both my novels are available as paperbacks and eBooks on Amazon.
What books did you love growing up? For me, it was the old classics: Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, all the Jane Austin books, the What Katy Did series by Susan Coolidge, the Little Women series by Louisa M Alcott, the Heidi series by Johanna Spyri…
There was a few years when I read everything I could get my hands on about boarding schools: I read all of The Chalet School series by E.M. Brent-Dyer, a long list. I didn’t get on with my stepfather and was constantly in trouble. My mother kept making the empty threat that I would be sent away to boarding school if I couldn’t ‘get along with him’. ‘Please, please, please!’ I used to long to be sent away, far away from his taunts, his smut and his cruelty. Had I realized you have to pay for a place in a boarding school, I would have known how empty the threat was, since we were dirt-poor.
A lot of the books I read growing up were handed down to me from family and friends. My sister and I both loved to read so books were always an acceptable present…or bribe.
What book genre of books do you adore? What genre do books about ‘real’, fictional people living in the ‘real’, fictional world, doing ordinary things, overcoming extraordinary, ordinary trials and loving, hating, living with other ‘real’, fictional people come under? Because that’s the genre I like to read and write about.
What book do you think everyone should read, at least once in their life? The Bible. It is a terrific piece of literature. Although it was penned by so many different people, it has an amazing internal harmony. Some of the stories are so well told, I, as a writer feel I can learn a lot about how to relate a story: the book of Ruth, a story of love and loyalty rewarded; the book of Esther, a story of loyalty and courage rewarded and so many other true-life stories written down well and containing great lessons for life.
The Bible is a book that has fallen out of favour these days and I think that’s sad because it is one of the most profound and insightful books I have ever read.
Location and life experiences can really influence writing, tell us where you grew up and where you now live? Scotland has been my home since I was a new-born baby, though I was born in London of English parents. My mother ‘ran away’ to Scotland with my year-and-a-half-old sister and me as soon as she was able to travel. Things weren’t good at home.
How did you develop your writing? Mostly through practice and from studying other writers: not just reading books, but taking notes of the words the author uses, how they gather them together into sentences, paragraphs, chapters. Some authors use words that melt in your mouth, create sentences that let you smell the flowers, paragraphs that wrap themselves around you. If an author does a good enough job of doing that, it’s possible to be transported to the time and place of the novel: to imagine yourself there, wearing the tee-shirt. That’s how I’d like to write. These are the books I study.
For a few years here and there, I was a member of Edinburgh Writers’ Club and I gained a lot of help and encouragement at those times. I now run PenPals, a small Writers’ Club, from my home and I love it. We gain lots of mutual help and encouragement. I also subscribe to several writing magazines and have a library of ‘How to Write’ books.
Do you plan to publish more books? Absolutely! I have a taste for the sharing part of writing now and love to think that there are people all over the world who have access to my books. Some of them have even read them. I know this because I have had such wonderful letters and emails, comments and postcards.
What do you hope people will take away from your writing? How will your words make them feel? A whole range of emotions, I hope. When I write, I laugh, cry or sing as the mood of the part I’m writing takes me, so I like to think it might affect my readers that way too. Life’s like that, isn’t it? There are times when it deals us a rotten hand and everything feels very heavy and dark. But, if we’re strong, we can weather those times and hang on in for the better times. Joy and laughter feel so good: worth fighting through for. No matter how hopeless we feel, if we dig deep and seek out help, we can find the tiniest chink of light behind the dark clouds. Head for that light. Aim to walk in the sunshine.
More than anything, I’d like my writing to give hope to my readers.
What colour represents your personality the most? Primrose yellow.
What’s your most embarrassing moment of your life? Oh dear! There have been so many! That’s the trouble with being an enthusiast: you get into all sorts of silly situations.
I’ll tell you about one that happened when I was the School Hockey Captain. (Yes, I was very sporty too in my younger days.) That’s me in the middle of the front row, surrounded by my team, a mixture of ages 13 to 16. I’m not sure, but I think my seniority was a factor in my selection as Captain, as I was the oldest by a fair bit!
As you can see, we wore gym slips to our hockey matches. What is not so visible in the photo is that we had to wear black stockings and suspenders under them. No such thing as tights in those days.
One Saturday morning, in my eagerness to get to our match, I rather too hastily donned the uniform and ran for the bus. All went well until the bus arrived and I stepped up onto the platform to board it. Ping! One suspender came undone. Oops! I brought the other foot up to join the first. Ping! Another suspender came undone. Double oops! I reached to pay my fare to the conductor. Prang! The whole blooming lot fell apart and I was left standing with the suspender belt and stockings down round my ankles and a busload of people roaring with laughter.
What’s your next project? I’m currently editing and rewriting what I hope will be the last draft of another novel. This one is about a young woman who overcomes the horrors of the abuse she suffered in her childhood. I don’t dwell on the abuse, nor do I describe it graphically. It is inferred and referred to rather than recounted in detail. One of my recent short stories on my blog was inspired by her background and may well be included in the book. You can find it on http://cicampbellblog.wordpress.com and it was my ‘Story a Day for the Month of May’ story number 5, posted on 23rd of May. The story is called ‘Best Served Warm’ and it will give you an insight into how I handle the subject. The working tile for the novel is ‘Flying Free’ but that might yet change.
If any of your readers have suggestions for a suitable book cover, I’d love to have them as I haven’t decided on one yet.
How do you feel about self-publishing? All for it. Whatever works: whatever lets your work be seen. The publishing industry has changed almost beyond recognition in my lifetime and I think that’s a great thing. It needed to change.
***More about Christine…
When Christine was a girl at school, she started winning essay prizes, so was encouraged to write short stories, which she continued to do, as time permitted, throughout her adult life, winning some short story competitions along the way.
When she married and began having her five children, she turned to writing articles for a small newspaper. Now that they have grown up, left home and have families of their own, Christine is able to indulge her passion for writing and has had two novels published as well as writing a regular blog.
Christine home-schooled her youngest daughter from the age of four right through, and, English being one of her daughter’s strong subjects, she too had a couple of poems published while in her teens.
Brought up in Gourock, on the Firth of Clyde, in Scotland, after a few years of marriage, Christine and her husband moved across country and have lived near Edinburgh ever since, and that is where her writing is mostly set.
Apart from raising her own children, Christine also became an unofficial adoptive mother to another, a young girl who lived with the family for a year or so while in her teens and who Christine and her husband regard as one of their children.
As a sixty-six year old mother of five plus one, grandmother of ten plus two, Christine feels she brings a lot of life-experience to her writing. She’s certainly had her share of ups and downs, pleasure and pain, and feels well qualified to write about life and relationships.
Thanks so much Christine. I had a scary episode with the exact same breed too, nothing as terrifying as you endured. In the wrong hands, some dogs can become savage. What happened to me was – the neighbours dog was trying to eat my pet rabbit. He was determined to eat my bunny. I was thrashing it over the head with my skipping rope, crying and screaming. It had just minutes before ripped open my spaniel’s neck as she had tried to stop the beast. I was about four. I was lucky it never turned on me. My Dad came running out and kicked it hard in the ribs. It yelped a bit but it took a good few kicks from my Dad! I guess some people are mental and so are some dogs. Very scary for you. I’m so glad you were saved! My bunny and spaniel survived. We were very lucky. I found your answers a brilliant and inspirational insight into your life and what motives you to write. I wish you every success!