Alex Campbell announced she was going to be a writer at eight years old. But no one took much notice. After a nomadic education daydreaming in back rows across Luton, Chester, London, Sheffield and Middlesbrough – and one English degree later – Alex moved into the world of PR and copywriting. Here she worked on getting other people noticed instead.
Now, living near Bath with one husband, two children and an armful of untold stories, Alex’s eight-year-old self’s ambition has finally been realised with the publication of her debut novel, LAND. When she’s not gazing dreamily out of windows, Alex can usually be found, notebook at the ready, in dark art-house cinemas, propping up coffee bars, or worse.
Follow Alex on Twitter: @ACampbellWrites
Why did you want to write Land?
For a number of reasons really. I wanted to answer a ‘what if’ question that has played on my mind since reading Anne Frank when I was ten. I also wanted to work out what it means to really survive in a society that has no room for compassion. And I wanted to somehow bring in the Moonies’ mass weddings! The Moonies hold this ceremony where they get married to a stranger they meet that same day, all together in one big room. The imagery from that – I just really wanted to use it.
But reasons aside, ‘Land’ sort of just charged into my head one day, half-formed already, and demanded I write it…or else. So I did!
“Stay silent. Fix a smile. Keep on walking.” If you lived in Land, would you?
Oh my, that’s such a good question! This was the question I was trying to find the answer within myself by writing ‘Land’ – would I? Would I just keep my head down and do everything to keep my own family alive or would I look around and help strangers? Before I had children, yes, without a doubt, I hope, I would have helped others and risked my life. After having children though, something shifted in me. This lioness instinct grew – the idea that first and foremost I must protect my babies. I think, again – hope, I would find a way to do both – help others while protecting my own. I really hope so.
How did you celebrate your book deal?
I was in fact already out celebrating my when-we-first-met-each-other-in-the-seedy-nightclub anniversary with my husband when I got the message from my agent that I had a deal! So it already involved fizz and chocolate – and tears (always the tears)…
What did you do the first time you saw Land in a bookshop?
Best thing about being a writer?
All I heard at school was ‘stop daydreaming’ and now I’m being paid to do it! So that has to be the best thing…floating off into other worlds and meeting new people and living a life in stories that develop in your own head – to me, that’s paradise.
And the worst?
Knuckling down and sticking with one idea (rather than skipping happily through fields of many), and after that, the part where you have to rewrite and rewrite and rewrite, until you get a story right! I always liken it to climbing a mountain – you really want to get to the top but there are many times when you think I should give up, it’s too hard.
Changing the subject, apart from writing what do you love doing?
Err, that’ll be drinking fizz, eating chocolate. I have to admit I’m not sure I’ve done anything in my life much besides read, watch films (cinemas – I live in them) and make up stories. Other than that, it’s time spent with friends and family (especially involving fizz and chocolate).
I’m giving you a free platform to talk about anything – GO:
Ooo, thank you. Okay, three things. Imagination: We squash children’s imaginations too much in this country with rigid curriculums and it worries me. I think we need to bring the tradition and rituals of age-old storytelling back into the classroom.
…Salted caramel. I can’t get enough of it – I strongly believe it should be spread liberally over everything.
And lastly, Ryan Gosling. I mean…Ryan. Gosling.
What do you think are the differences between UK and US YA?
I always feel like I’m escaping to a different world when I read US YA, whereas UK YA always feels more raw because of its familiarity (voice and setting). It’s fantastic to have both to swap between. However, I do think UK YA is emerging as incredibly bold at the moment. Many of its writers are pushing at the boundaries and challenging traditional storytelling far more than writers across the ocean. I think these are really exciting times for UK YA.
So what happens next?
My next YA novel, ‘Cloud 9’, comes out September 2015. It’s contemporary with a twist: the nation are addicted to a wonder drug that cuts off bad emotion. Told from both a boy and a girl’s point of view, it’s a conspiracy thriller with plot twists and turns and a theme built around lies vs truth.
Luna: Ohh… I want to read this. 🙂
Tea or coffee?
What word describes you best?
Bridget Jones (sorry, that’s two)
Do you ever re-arrange book displays in bookshops?
Not yet, I’m too shy, but I must confess my mum’s started doing it!
The last book you read?
‘Eleanor & Park’ by Rainbow Rowell. Amazing. Loved it.
When no one is watching do you dance?
Yes! (and David Brent manically) How did you know?
If you could, what would you want to ask your readers?
What could I do better?
What superpower would you like?
Have you got your own place to write or can you write anywhere?
I like writing in cafes; I like a buzz of chatter around me.
What’s the perfect cure to a bad day?
Fizz/chocolate – there’s a theme developing here and it ain’t pretty
And finally, what is the question you wish people would ask and never do?
Your no. 2 above came close to it.
SIGNED copy of Land by Alex Campbell
To enter click HERE
Giveaway is for UK only.
Closes 19 October 2014.
Edit: The winner is @TheBookMoo