Our final entry into the Vampire Month interrogation suite (four interrogators, no waiting) is Alex Campbell. I’ve known Alex for a few years now but was not aware until I did this interview one thing we had in common – the region we were both born in.
Alex is currently working on her debut novel, Wyrm’s Reckoning which is due out in the summer. We’ll be seeing more of her when that happens.
Oh and if you are wondering where you may have seen Alex before… well, look back at our past fantasy photoshoots with Quattrofoto where she modelled as a psychotic elven Empress and an undead sorcerer. In real life she is not anywhere near as evil.
- What is the earliest memory you have of writing? What did you write about?
I actually still have my first “book”. I wrote it when I was about 3 – probably a little older, but the writing is about one sentence to a page, so not much older. It was a very twee little story about woodland animals going on a picnic. It was genuinely awful.
- When did you decide to become a professional writer? Why did you take this step?
I’ve always wanted to be a writer – I can’t remember a time when I didn’t write, and it’s always made me happy being able to share that writing with other people. Even from the days of GCSE physics class, which I mostly spent writing Pratchett pastiches and passing them round the bench. I made several attempts down the years to go pro, but it wasn’t until last August that I finally managed to find a publisher. I think, in my heart I’ve always been a professional writer, but it’s probably still going to be some time before I’m making enough money from writing for it to be my only career.
- What would you consider to be your greatest strength as a writer? What about your greatest weakness? How do you overcome this weakness?
Greatest strength… probably the fact that I’m an avid reader and always have been. It’s left me with an extensive vocabulary, and also a good sense of the flow of prose, so I can instinctively tell if something feels natural, which helps a lot. As to my weaknesses – an inability to judge subtlety. I either tend to make things glaringly obvious or completely overlooked, and finding a happy medium is a challenge. Overcoming it is basically all about practice.
- Tell us about the place where you live. Have you ever derived any inspiration from your home or from anywhere you have visited?
My current novel is actually set where I grew up, in Northumbria and Tyne and Wear. It’s inspired by a folk-tale from those parts – the tale of the Lampton Worm – and I’ve tried very hard to root the story in the area. Sense of place is very important to me, and almost every scene in the book features, or is inspired by locations from Up North – Penshaw Monument, Belsay Castle, the beach by Tynemouth Priory… it’s a beautiful part of the world, and it’s one that doesn’t get a lot of press. People think of Newcastle as a very grey city, full of football supporters and flat-caps and an unintelligible accent, but like anywhere, there’s far more to it than the stereotype suggests.
- Which book, if any, would you consider to be your greatest influence and inspiration?
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. For this particular book at least.
- What drove you to write about Vampires?
They’re such a staple really. I wanted to include a lot of fantasy elements to the novel, and I couldn’t leave them out. I’ve always found them interesting, and you can do just about anything with them. In my case, that translated to East-European gun-runners, but I’m looking forward to playing even further with the tropes in later books.
- What do you think is the attraction for Vampire fiction? Why is it such a popular topic?
Lots of reasons. Vampires allow us to talk about the big questions of what it means to be human, what it is to be evil, and how the two collide. But I think a lot of it comes down to sex. Vampires (well, the good ones at least) are suave and charismatic and dangerous, and there’s something very primal about them. They look just like us, but they’re not, they’re other. They’re predators, and yet so very seductive and compelling… in a lot of ways they’re a metaphor for the allure of the opposite or sometimes the same sex. They’re forbidden fruit, and so they’re always going to be popular.
- In a fight between all the greatest Vampires of fiction, who do you think would come out on top?
The Old Count Magpyr from Pratchett’s Carpe Jugulum. He might not actually win in a physical fight, but he’d make sure he’d win the war, through patience and knowing how to play the game.
- What about in some other contest such as sexiness or dress sense? Who would win that one?
Sexiness is all about personal preference, but for dress sense I’d go for Lord Akeldama from Gail Carriger’s books.
- How well do you think one of your characters would fare against the winner(s) of the above?
Probably quite badly. They’re currently taking time out from a war, so they’re not in any condition to take anyone on in a fight, and dress sense… well unless refugee chic is a thing…
- Tell us the basic premise behind your latest novel.
It’s a modern-day urban fantasy set in the North East. At his uncle’s funeral, Richard Lampton suddenly finds himself heir to a deadly curse; he is being hunted by the Lampton Wyrm, a monster from the Dark Ages set on annihilating his bloodline. He has a week to shape up and become a hero, with a little help from a packed cast of weird and wonderful characters he meets from myth and legend, and a fledgling Jackdaw called Bobble.
Alex Campbell was born in the wilds of Northumbria, and from an early age cut her teeth on legends like that of the Lampton Worm, which formed the inspiration for her first book, Wyrm’s Reckoning, out later this year..
She obtained a degree in English and Creative Writing at the University of Warwick, then in a shameless attempt to avoid Real Life, followed this up with two Masters Degrees in Science Fiction and in Writing from the University of Liverpool and Liverpool John Moores respectively.
Now, she lives in Portsmouth, at what she insists on referring to as the “wrong” end of the country, with her fiance and a number of dead house-plants. She is a keen gamer and LARPer, for which she makes many of her own costumes. She is not ashamed of being a geek
You can find her on her blog: https://galacticavoice.wordpress.com/ and also on her facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/AJ-Campbell/1525096601059912