Drusilla Campbell Interviewed by Zoe Ghahremani
At what age did you know you were a writer?
I was taken by words when I was a small child. I loved stories and made them up to entertain myself. Suffering from insomnia at a very young age, instead of fretting about sleep, I used the time to make up adventure stories. But I don’t think I truly realized I was a writer until I sold my first story, “Piper, What Song?” to Amazing Stories.
What inspires you/gives you the idea for a novel?
Anything. A name for a character. Jubal Spry is an example. That man came to me with a name, a personality and a set of beliefs. I’m often inspired by a situation I read about or see on the news or just come up with on my own. Current social issues (postpartum psychosis, domestic terrorism, women in the military) are always important because I am particularly interested in examining how they affect the lives of ordinary people.
Having shifted genres, how do you evaluate your romance novels?
I want to tell the truth in my books and being told something is too realistic for the genre, was one of the reasons I wasn’t happy writing historical romance novels. Looking back, I find some good stuff in them; some terrific descriptions. For example I love the milliner’s shop in The Frost and the Flame. I love almost all the characters in the four-book Hopewell Saga (Broken Promises, etc.) I think the first two thirds of Autumntide is a pretty good telling of the potato famine in Ireland. Unfortunately, I was told to tone down the famine details. When I wrote those books I had done no studying, hadn’t a clue about a novel’s construction. I knew nothing and thought I knew everything.
Suffice to say, I hit a wall, experienced a fortunate and life-altering crisis and was given a chance to reassess my goals. I started writing a different, more serious kind of book, but it took me almost twenty years to sell my next book, Wildwood. Throughout those years, I kept writing despite the waves of ennui my work elicited from New York, and in the process, I learned what it means to be accepting of myself as well as others (thank you, Art Campbell!) It helped me to understand the difference between loving the results of writing and loving the process itself.
What would you be if not a writer?
I might be a landscape architect, a mother all over again - minus about thirty years – a Marine Intelligence officer, or a female Anthony Robbins for under-published writers. And that’s only the top four.
Please tell us a little about your next project.
At the moment I’m finishing a book called Little Girl Gone about a woman who lives with a man who keeps a girl captive in the backyard. I’m researching a novel about a Marine Captain named Frankie Tennyson who sees something she shouldn’t have.
Drusilla Campbell is Board President of San Diego Writers, Ink. Before settling in San Diego, she lived and worked in Australia, London, Central America, California and Appalachia. After receiving her MA she worked for WAMU-FM, the NPR affiliate in Washington, DC where she was an on-air personality. She’s published more than sixteen novels including the best selling Blood Orange and, most recently, The Good Sister. Drusilla is the creator of NovelCram, two day boot camp for aspiring novelists. She frequently speaks at writing conferences and has taught classes in crafting the novel at UC Fullerton, University of California at San Diego, The Writing Center, The Writer’s Room and San Diego Writers, Ink. Drusilla is married to the poet and law professor, Art Campbell. They have two children, two rescued dogs and four horses.