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Aug 16, 2011

Chatting To J.L Campbell

Posted by Wendy Ewurum  |  at  7:11 AM

My guest today hails all the way from fabulous Jamaica. J.L Campbell is always on the lookout for story-making material. She writes both fiction and non-fiction and has won several awards in the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission’s Literary Arts Competition, let me let her tell us.

1. Please tell us a little about yourself and your work?
I’m a wife, mother, avid reader and writer. I also enjoy cake decorating and gardening, but these two hobbies have fallen by the wayside in recent years due to time constraints. I’ve been writing since high school, but I stopped for ages and started in earnest again in 2004. I write romantic suspense, family drama and young adult novels, but to date have not had any YA novels published. 
2. Most of us on blogosphere know you by your initials and surname (J.L.Campbell)  which you use on your books as well. Why have you chosen this route rather than using your first name?
I think that happened subconsciously. Whether we accept it or not, gender prejudice exists in the writing world. J.L. Campbell is neutral and reads better than my given name. 

3. Both books that you have published have very strong characters, can you tell us about how they develop into who they are from when you, their creator, first meet them.

Paul, the main character in Contraband,  came to me through listening to news items about drug runners. I wrote a short story, which included him getting caught. Somehow, the story became a novel because his character couldn’t be contained in 3,000 words.  He pulled himself out of poverty through determination and didn’t change much through the course of the novel in terms of his personality. What changed was his lifestyle and attitude to money-making once he met the female lead. 

The male character in Dissolution also came to me first.  He also doesn’t change a whole lot – he’s the same caring man from start to finish.  His attitude does go through some adjustment. He looks at his relationship differently over time and takes a different approach to how he treats his wife. That is, he goes from treating her as a jealously guarded possession to looking at her as a supportive life partner, who is  there for him though all their troubles. 

4. You books also have very different plots. Dissolution’s plot is oriented on family, love, betrayal and even though these do feature in Contraband, the main plot is centered on crime and the underworld. What was the catalyst for these two ideas?
Dissolution’s plot is not far off from situations we experience here in Jamaica.  It’s a spin-off from something that happened to a friend of mine.  Contraband came directly from something I heard in the news.  I started asking myself what would make someone put their freedom at risk and one “whatif” question led to another and I started writing. 

5. How do you develop the story, do you lead the way or do you let your characters develop it?
Some writers will tell you they let their characters determine where the story goes. I work a bit differently.  I have a general idea of what will happen before I start writing. I’ll come up with five or six big things that happen on the novel journey and write around them.  I’m not inflexible, so I do leave some leeway for the unexpected, but I keep control of the driver’s seat.  Some characters do need a strong hand – think Celeste in Taming Celeste. She does some crazy stuff in that novel. 

6. What are your most likely sources of inspiration for writing ideas.? 
My story ideas come from a variety of sources, such as news items, a bit of conversation,  brainstorming on my own or with friends who are willing to play what-if games. Sometimes, it’s a combination of all of the above. 

7. Which of your protagonists would you like to hang out with the most and why?

Without a doubt, it would be Celeste Davies from Taming Celeste. I had the most fun, not to mention breathless moments writing her story. She goes from a spoiled, selfish young woman to someone who realizes that it’s okay to forgive herself for what she sees as her failings. She has a sharp tongue on her and pretty much does her own thing, despite opposition and danger.  She was a minor – but troublesome - character in a novel I wrote about her sister, but she was so vibrant, she ended up with her own story. 

8. What do you want a reader to take away after having read your book?
Apart from being entertained by the story, I want readers to understand my characters’ motivation and choices.  I also want readers to be able to identify the underlying themes in each book and most of all, I want them to have an inside view of my Jamaica. 

9. What kind of atmosphere gets your creative juices going?
I can pretty much write anytime and anywhere. As long as I have a story idea bubbling, then it’s time to sit down and write.  The only thing I insist is not having music. When that happens, I do more singing than writing. 

10. Are you a full-time writer?
I have a job, so no, I don’t write full time.  I would stay home and write all day given the opportunity. I have that many stories to tell. 

Since I’ve been published, time is scarcer because of the marketing and social networking aspects of the job. I am writing a lot less than I used to and would like to get back to writing the way is used to. Not sure that’s gonna happen any time soon though. 

11. How lucrative has writing been for you so far?
The financial rewards aren’t immediate unless you’re published by a big house and your book is a best seller. I’m published with a small press and the market being what it is, I haven’t made money yet, but as you know I am exploring the route of self-publishing.  It won’t be about the money, but about having full control of my work. 

12. What advice would you give to someone who is contemplating becoming a full time writer?
I’m a practical person, so I wouldn't advise anyone without some long-term means of financial support to take on writing full-time.  If I went that route, I think I’d only feel secure if I had plenty of bread-and-butter writing jobs to pay the bills.  

13. You have two thriving blogs as well; tell us a little about them and what role they play on your writing life.
I started The Character Depot a while back just to work on various characters before writing their stories, but I had another, Writer on the Go, that was taken over by a phishing outfit. I used that first blog to catalogue what I was doing on my writing journey. When I lost that blog, I stared using the Character Depot more and it has evolved to cover different aspects of writing.  Matter of fact, just yesterday I was wondering whether I shouldn’t re-name the blog to make it more reflective of how it has changed.  Nowadays, the blog helps me to stay in touch with other writers, plus it’s a place to note what I’m doing in terms of marketing my writing and any good methods I’ve found. 
Lately, I’ve taken a more formal approach to what I do at The Readers’ Suite. I had ideas of sharing what I was reading with my countrymen, but few Jamaicans blog, so that didn’t work. I guess other people have been taking note though, because in the past few months I’ve been receiving requests from writers and their publicists for book reviews.  I believe it is important for writers to read. Reading is what led me to writing and now I read as both reader and writer. It’s interesting to work out in my mind why I enjoyed a particular book and what techniques the writer used to create the best possible novel.  

14. One of the things I love on your blogs are the tidbits you share about Jamaican life. Please share with us a favourite recipe from your Jamaican that you once shared on your blog .
My favourite dish is ackee and saltfish. I'm not sure a lot of people will be able to identify with it, but I do know they can get it in a can in America.There's a pretty good recipe here ==> (find recipe at the bottom of the page)

15. And lastly J.L, where can we find your books? 
Contraband and Dissolution are available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. 

Thank you very much for coming by to chat to us J.L, it was so lovely to spending a moment reading about your life and loves. I look forward to your videorized session here on Fabulosity Reads this coming Thursday.

NOTE! to the reader.
.J.L will be talking to us about and reads from one of her books. Yay! Can't wait. So stay tuned.
In the words of the great Mr. T: ' I pity the fool, who misses J.L..... this Thursday.' Did that come of as intimidating as I meant it to? 

Ackee and saltfish is Jamaica's national dish. This recipe is Americanized but still delivers great taste.

Serves: 4

1 Can of ackee, drained
1/2 lb boneless salt cod
3 tablespoons oil
2 onions, sliced
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 scotch bonnet pepper skin finely chopped up
1 small tomato, chopped
3/4 teaspoon tomato paste
1/2 sweet pepper chopped
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Soak the salt cod in a pot of water overnight to remove most of the salt. If the cod is still very salty, boil in water for 20 minutes. Drain cod and cut or break into small pieces.

Heat oil in a frying pan. Add the onions, thyme and scotch bonnet pepper, tomato, tomato paste and green peppers. Stir for a few minutes. Add the cod. Stir. Simmer for 5 minutes, then add the can of drained ackee. Do not stir because this will cause the ackees to break up. Cook for a few more minutes then sprinkle with black pepper.

Best served with bammy, roast breadfruit, fried or cooked dumplings, or fried or cooked plantains, cooked yams and Jamaican sweet potatoes.

About the Author

Most know me as the author to Fabulosity Reads and in actual fact, that is the previous name of this blog. I have since then moved my books to a Wordpress self-hosted blog so that I can have a place to show a different side of me which I am equally passionate about and that is marketing and personal development. I hope you will love being here, watching me grow as I share and learn. My highest hope is that we will grown and learn together in all disciplines affecting our lives. I'd LUUURRRVE to hear from you, so don't be shy...


  1. Thanks for having me, Wendy. It was a pleasure chatting with you!

  2. Great interview! I haven't planted either of my gardens since I started working with my editor. (2 summers now!) And the neighbors have noticed! I need to learn that a writer (well, a lucky writer) spends her life under deadline and must make time for the things she enjoys. (Although, to be honest, I don't love gardening - only the end result!) Thanks for sharing!

  3. Anytime JL.

    Hey Wendy...that such a great name :D - at least you do it. I love the end result and yet have never tried. Hoping that will change soon. LOL

  4. So true, Wendy. It takes effort to remember that life does go on while we're under deadline pressures. Thanks for stopping in!

  5. I have read the Celeste book and I loved it! She's a great writer and you really get a feel of what Jamaica is like. Buy her books, people, help a writer make some money! ;) Thanks for the interview, JL.

  6. Thanks for the endorsement, Clarissa. Celeste was fun to write!

  7. Hi J.L., I met you at Under The Tiki Hut. I'm now a follower at The Character Depot and Celeste is on my TBR list. Wishing you great success and many happy sales!

  8. Isis, yes, I liked your excerpt on Carol's blog. Thanks for following. Celeste's book isn't published as yet, though complete. I'm interested in reading yours, but my Kindle fell into a coma so I gotta hold on a while.

  9. A great interview. Thank you Wendy for sharing it.

    JL, It's great to see I'm not the only writer who the male lead comes to first. It's also great to read what inspires your stories. Thank you.

  10. Lovely interview JL, I learnt a lot from some of your responses. Thanks Wendy for hosting, and the great questions.

  11. I enjoyed this peek into Joy's writing process and novels!

  12. I was just reading a post by Cynthia Chapman Willis about ripple effects that come from things we do for others. Thanks very much for taking the time to stop in with us so we don't get lonely around here.

    Kiru, yes, the men definitely show up first. Dunno why.

    Myne, I also like seeing into the mind of other writers.

    Laura, thanks again! Really appreciate the visit.

  13. This is one of the best author interviews I've read, because of your questions, Wendy, and your answers, Joy. Thank you! I'm glad to be a new follower.

  14. Thanks for your continued support, Michelle.

  15. @ Clarrisa, thank you so much for the vote of confidence in our writer here...much love
    @ isis thank you ever so much for coming bye and visiting.
    @ Kiru, just so you know, i have my eye on you. I have every intention of Fabulasizing you very soon.
    @ That means so much about the great question. Thank you.
    @ Laura thanks for coming by and I'm glad you enjoyed it.
    @ Michelle, You sincerely have just made my day Michelle. Honest and Truly. Hugs

  16. I just love the decor of your blog Wendy. This was a great interview. I'm going to have to note both JL and you Wendy for upcoming events I'm planning.
    I'm going over to purchase one of the books now, oh ghez, my computer will probably shut down by the time i decide. lol. Oh, i got that recipe and shall make it Sunday. thanks for including it.

  17. Bless you heart Sidne, that is such a wonderful compliment. You make me feel like I know what I'm doing on all accounts (and I'm honoured and I'm sure J.L is too) by your desire to include us in your activities.

  18. Thanks, Sidne. Hope you enjoy!


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