#sparkchamber 020518 — Malcolm R. Campbell
Maybe the weather is dreary where you are, but the sun is always shining in the #sparkchamber. Today, we are illuminated by the bright light of author Malcolm R. Campbell. Malcolm writes contemporary fantasy, paranormal, and magical realism short stories and novels that feature main characters struggling to discover who they are, often while fighting against unsavory people or groups. His stories often poke fun at mainstream reality and beliefs while offering alternative ways of looking at the world within compelling stories saturated with physical and emotional dangers. Before turning to fiction, he worked as a college journalism instructor, a technical writer, and a corporate communications director, jobs that focused heavily on logic. He considers himself lucky to have escaped from those worlds so that he can focus heavily on dreams, intuition and imagination, the tools of the storyteller. His most recent novels, Conjure Woman’s Cat and Eulalie and Washerwoman are set in the Florida Panhandle where he grew up.
1.] Where do ideas come from?
From my hard-drinking muse, a kahuna (Hawai’ian shaman) named Siobhan, who encourages me to see story possibilities in dreams, daydreams, quantum entanglements, flights of fancy, and psychotic moments. Is she real or a part of my unconscious mind? Since I may never know, I pretend story ideas come out of nowhere and/or parts of myself that I am slowly coming to recognize.
2.] What is the itch you are scratching?
For years I hoped it was recurring chickenpox inasmuch as the alternative — working as an author — looked like one-way trip into a One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest asylum. In short, I hear voices and see what others tell me isn’t there. My imagination is as overactive as an undisciplined child. That nagging “itch” is sufficiently scratched only after I write down the story.
3.] Early bird or night owl, tortoise or hare?
I’m a night owl. While story ideas come to me with the speed of a hare, I move like a tortoise while writing about them. When I begin a story, I have no clue where it will end up. I’m slow because I don’t know where I’m going. The story’s direction is revealed while I’m writing. Suffice it to say, I don’t use plans, outlines or other shackles because they keep a story from developing naturally and going where it wants to go.
4.] How do you know when you are done?
In music, one hears about resolution, generally defined as the movement from an unstable sound to a stable sound. Likewise, a story-in-process feels unstable until the ending appears. I remember early writing teachers telling us to resist the temptation of “writing past the ending” of a story. Doing that is rather like trying to explain the punchline of a joke that a person either gets or doesn’t get. It destroys the joke just as writing past a story’s natural last words destroys the story. When the “itch” goes away, I know I’m done.