I’m delighted to be welcoming the talented author Marie Campbell to the blog today to talk about her debut novel, Baby, which was released by The Conrad Press on 13 July 2016. In addition to being a writer, Marie is also a trained proofreader and a fellow alumni of writingclasses.co.uk. As readers may recall, I recently reviewed Marie’s novel for Lothian Life. If you’ve not yet read my review you can do so here: http://www.lothianlife.co.uk/2016/08/baby/
Firstly, could you please tell readers about Baby?
Thanks so much for having me, Kendra. My book, Baby, is a psychological thriller, based in Edinburgh, where I live. In it, Michael Stanton, goes to work one day and doesn’t come back. Everyone thinks his pregnant girlfriend, Jill, should accept that he has left her. But she just won’t believe that Michael would walk away from her and their unborn child. Increasingly desperate and alone, she is determined to find him.
What Jill doesn’t know is that Michael’s beautiful ex, Anna, wants him back, and won’t take no for an answer. And it isn’t just him she wants…
Where did the idea for the novel come from?
I like to explore the dark side of human nature, and look at the lengths seemingly-ordinary people will go to get what they want. Although this is my first book, I have also written many short stories, and in the main, they tend to have a dark side. I like to think ‘What would happen if…’. In the case of Baby, I thought about what would happen if someone believed they had an absolute right to something, and what they were willing to do to achieve that. I wanted to include strong, believable characters, and also to explore the flaws that exist within them.
The premise of the story is quite frightening. Being a mother yourself, did you find any of the scenes difficult to write?
To some extent, yes, but I find that I do tend to write about things that scare me, perhaps as a way of confronting them. Being a mother is a massive part of who I am, and I hope that I was able to convey the genuine, deep emotion that comes from that.
The novel is written in such a way that I couldn’t help but turn the page every time I got to the end of a chapter–I literally read the novel in two sittings, which is unusual for me. Was this purposeful on your part and, if so, how did you achieve this?
That’s amazing to hear – thanks so much. That’s what I hoped for and I’m really pleased that you think I’ve been able to achieve it. I think telling the story from the alternative viewpoints of Michael and Jill helped to maintain the momentum – hopefully readers want to read on because they want to find out what is in store next for each of them. They are both experiencing very different, but often equally traumatic, things at the same time.
Michael is still attracted to Anna, though he tries his best to hide it. There are many points in the novel where I found myself wondering why he didn’t try harder to escape. At times it almost felt like Michael didn’t mind having been abducted—as though he were suffering from some form of Stockholm syndrome. Why did you decide to write the story in this way?
Although Michael is utterly committed to Jill, he does, as you say, still find Anna attractive. I wanted to get across the fact that he is entranced by her, and that, throughout his captivity, he becomes dependant on her, almost to the point where he is so confused that he thinks maybe he doesn’t want to leave. I added the sexual elements to intensify his confusion and desire. Anna is a complicated, dangerous, but strong character, and I wanted her to be in control of the situation and to maintain her belief that what she was doing was the absolute right thing for all of them.
Could you talk us through the writing of the novel?
Five years ago, after having a baby, taking a career break from the Civil Service and moving house, I wondered what I could do to fill up all of the free time (!) I had. Writing was something I have always had a passion for, and I had dabbled with short stories, diaries and journals for years. So I decided to embark on an online writing course, as you mentioned above, with writingclasses.co.uk. Another course followed, by which time I had quite a portfolio of short stories. I started entering competitions and was even successful in a few of them. But what I really wanted to do was write a novel. Something that maybe someone would actually want to buy and read. A novel-writing course followed. As you know yourself, this was serious stuff – posting large chunks of previously private work and awaiting the critique of fellow students and tutors.
I loved doing the course though, and by the end of it I had the makings of a book – only around 40,000 words, but it was a start. My tutor from the course became a very good friend, and she supported and encouraged me to complete what I’d started.
By March 2014, I had a version of my book that I was happy with. And then all I had to do was find an agent. And then a publisher.
How did the novel come to be published?
Well, as I mentioned earlier, the first step was finding an agent – I knew that traditional publishing didn’t lend itself to unsolicited manuscripts from unknown authors. I armed myself with a copy of the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook and began working my way through the list of agents. Some wanted an email, some wanted a letter. Some wanted a 100-word synopsis; others 300 words. Three chapters or fifty pages – I gave them what they asked for and waited for a reply. And some of them did respond. But it took six long months before James Essinger of Canterbury Literary Agency agreed to represent me. And then we began the process of tweaking, deleting and adding new chapters.
When it was finally as good as we both thought it could be (and very different from that rough first draft), James started the submission process. Some publishers responded, offering feedback and comments but saying they weren’t taking new authors. Others asked for more, and said they wanted to read it again, but it took a very long time, and many changes and amendments, before The Conrad Press, a publishing company based in Canterbury, Kent, took on my book.
What advice would you give to a new writer who is just starting out?
I’m no expert, but I would say just go ahead and write. Writing every day, or as much as possible anyway, is key to honing your craft. There have been many periods of time in my life when, for various reasons, I haven’t written, but I know now that practice is hugely important. I also remember my English teacher telling me not to ‘hide my light under a bushel’ when I wasn’t keen to read out my work in class. It’s taken me many years to heed this advice and be less secretive about what I do.
Doing courses has also been a massive help for me. And joining online forums and groups, where readers, writers and bloggers can connect and talk about all things books. Joining a local writing group is another great idea. Oh, and never leave the house without a notebook and pen (hard back A5 and blue rollerball for me, or, on the rare occasions I forget, a Minions notepad and broken crayon from the depths of my handbag…). You never know when inspiration might strike.
Do you plan to write any more novels?
It’s my intention to always write novels, from now on. I’ve started work on my second, another psychological thriller, this time exploring revenge.
Finally, how can readers keep in touch?
In lots of ways. One of the things I’ve really enjoyed doing is setting up a newsletter, which lots of people have signed up for. Receiving replies to these has been a great way of connecting with readers, and I’ve taken on board one of the suggestions I received via this route, in that my next book will be set in the North East of England, where I was born and lived before moving to Edinburgh eight years ago. If anyone is interested in signing up for the newsletter, they can do so here. Baby also has a Facebook page, Baby – Marie Campbell, and you can also find me on Twitter @mariecampbell72. I also have a website Marie Campbell – Writer.
Thank you for the interview and a big congratulations on the publication of Baby!
Thanks for having me Kendra, it was an absolute pleasure.
Readers can obtain Baby from Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Baby-Marie-Campbell-ebook/dp/B01IEB920K
Baby can also be purchased directly from The Conrad Press website: http://theconradpress.com/our-books/
The print copy is also now available on Amazon: