Today we have Joan Campbell with us, one of our newest authors to Enclave. Joan has always been captivated by stories, but it wasn’t until she read The Chronicles of Narnia to her two young daughters that she was inspired to write her own. Through C.S Lewis’ words—and particularly through the character of Aslan—she came to appreciate the powerful way in which a story can convey redemption. That was when she started writing Chains of Gwyndorr .
The daughter of Dutch immigrants, Joan grew up in South Africa and the themes of discrimination and forgiveness are woven through her writing. She also draws inspiration from her country’s vibrant mix of cultures,language, music and folklore.
Joan is a workshop facilitator for MAI, a ministry which trains and mentors Christian writers across the globe, with the aim of producing books that speak to people through their own language and culture.
Please join me in welcoming Joan!
1) Everyone seems to have a “how I got published” story. What is yours?
It started like most publishing stories start. Write book. Send off manuscript. Wait. Get rejection slips. Get discouraged. Rewrite. Send off improved manuscript. Wait. Then one day there was an email from Steve Laube saying he had found the Chains of Gwyndorr manuscript in the slush pile when he took over Enclave and asking if it was still available for publication. The waiting wasn’t over yet because it would be a few more months before Enclave offered me a contract. The re-writing wasn’t over yet either – lots more of that with an editor. But finally here I am just a month away from the first book of The Poison Tree Path Chronicles being released into the world!
2)Tell us a little about your books
The books are set in quite a dark, dystopian world. Tirragyl is a very divided society and a dangerous one for Lowborns because there is a constant threat that they, or their children, could be sent to their deaths fighting the encroaching Rif’twine Forest. The first book, Chains of Gwyndorr, is about Shara, a Highborn girl, surrounded by secrets that she wants answers to. She finds a rare power rock which gives dreams of the past and future, but using its magic comes at a cost. Shara and her lawbreaking Lowborn friend Nicho have to try and survive the magic, the death sentence hanging over Nicho, and the evil forces moving against them.
The second book, Heirs of Tirragyl, is about the royal twins, Alexor and Nyla, who have just inherited their father’s throne. An old Tirragylin belief exists that twins are ‘half-souls’ and that Alexor can only become a great king if Nyla dies and her soul returns to him. So things start getting very dangerous for Nyla and her mysterious protector, Lohlyn.
Guardian of Ajalon is the last book in the trilogy and—hopefully—the grand finale. I’m busy working on it right now.
3) What is the one author, living or dead, who you would like to co-write a book with someday, and why?
Robin Hobb. I adore her characters and the depth of political intrigue she weaves into her fantasy books and I can just imagine how much I would learn in the process of writing a book with her.
4) If you could have dinner with three people, living or dead, who would they be?
King David, Madeleine L’Engle and U2’s Bono. Each of these is a poet at heart and—from what I can tell—a deep and authentic believer. I’d just love to have a chat with them over a steaming bowl of pasta.
5) What do you want readers to take away from your books?
My first aim is to entertain. But there are deeper truths in The Poison Tree Path Chronicles. Ultimately the books explore captivity and freedom. Everyone is in captivity to something until they encounter the source of true freedom – Jesus Christ. It would be incredible if the books stir readers to consider what holds them captive in their own lives and then let God lead them to the beautiful freedom he offers.
6) Favorite place to vacation
The Kruger National Park in South Africa. There’s something magical about the wildness and majesty of the African bush. One of the most beautiful sights I’ve seen there is a herd of elephants slowly making their way through the bushveld as the sun was setting. That moment is imprinted on my soul.
7) Favorite season
Autumn (Fall) in Johannesburg is beautiful. The days are warm while the evenings are clear and crisp. There’s a mellow feel in the air that makes you want to put on a lovely jazz cd and curl up in the sun with a book. I find myself slowing down along with nature—that’s a lovely gift the season gives me.
8) Do you have a particular drink or food you consume when you write?
Coffee. I’m not sure there would a Poison Tree Path Chronicles without it!
9) Do you have a favorite Bible verse
Zephaniah 3:17, because it gives me a hint of how passionately God loves us and that he’s not afraid to show it. That image of a singing, joyful God is so different to the stern, fearful God I learnt about as a child. In fact I love this so much that I even wrote a scene based on it in Guardian of Ajalon.
10) Does anyone else in your family have musical/writing/artistic skills?
My youngest daughter Ashlyn loves art and she drew this amazing map which will appear in all three books of the trilogy. Both my daughters are creative and many a dinner conversation is about mythical creatures, killer plants, magical objects or deadly weapons. I feel a little sorry for my husband. He’s an accountant and I have a sneaking suspicion he’d rather be talking about tax.
11) Who would you most like to thank for their involvement in your writing career?
When I was in Kenya at the LittWorld Publishing Conference in 2012, I had a one-on-one session with a British publisher , Tony Collins. He wore a bow tie, spoke like the Duke in Downton Abbey and asked really, really intimidating questions that left me feeling a little shaky and weepy afterwards. But during the conference Tony read 12 chapters of my manuscript and on the day we left he gave me a note which started with ‘You are getting a lot of things right’… before listing everything I was getting wrong! I did a huge re-write based on his comments and I doubt Chains of Gwyndorr would have risen to the top of the slush pile without Tony’s gracious gift of time and expertise.
12) What have you learned about yourself through your writing?
That I’m not a quitter. I was one of those kids who started a lot of things and always gave up on them. Piano, ballet, gymnastics, guitar… the list goes on. But writing has taught me that once I found my passion, the perseverance followed. In the course of ten years and four books, my desire to write has never wavered.
Thank you, Joan, for joining us. Be watching for the pre-order for Chains of Gwyndorr. Until then, here is where you can find Joan online:
FREE BOOK – Legends of the Loreteller
In Tirragyl history is kept alive through the tales of the loretellers. Hwynn, too old to travel the roads and spin his tales, tells them one last time to the scribe by his side. A collection of short stories set in Tirragyl, Legends of the Loreteller delves into some of the history hinted at in The Poison Tree Path Chronicles and is an ideal companion book to the trilogy.
It is available as a free download when you subscribe to Joan’s newsletter.