I’m on hiatus at the moment from leading a writers’ group. I once compared the job to herding cats and the group loved the description. It became one of my official titles: Jadi Campbell, Herder of Cats.
Try to herd cats sometime; it simply can’t be done. Close your eyes for a minute and imagine a basket in the middle of a long room. The basket opens up and out pop fifteen cats of all ages and breeds. Can you picture them? Long hair, short hair, Manx, kittens, tomcats, calico, tiger striped, Egyptian, Persian, running, sitting abruptly to wash a paw, tumbling, chasing one another, purring, wandering away in all directions. Now, keeping your eyes closed, try to get those cats to all head in the same direction – the one that YOU want them to go in.
You will open your eyes and comprehend it is impossible to get a single cat to do what you want them to, much less a clowder of them.  Not only that: you start sneezing, because you’ve discovered you’re allergic.
 Yet another word to describe a group of cats is a pounce of pussies. Even better is the definition for a group of feral felines: A destruction of wild cats. More definitions to follow!
I’m a little slow sometimes. I recently realized that my new-and-improved wordpress website jadicampbell.com had a birthday in January and is now a year old. (Yes, I’m aware it’s already March!) So, what did I do with a year of blogging?
Last summer I lost my mother-in-law, an old friend, and my dad Bobbo, all within a shocking three-month period. Those were by far the hardest posts to write. But I discovered something: the most personal blog essays are the ones my readers (i.e., all of you) respond to most.
What you can look forward to in the Year of the Rooster: a huge blog thread for my father Bobbo that I’m calling The Animal Kingdom. Occasional notes about my volunteer work with refugees. Lots more quirky posts about places Uwe and I visit. And on-going musings about life, the Universe and everything in-between as I deepen the process of saying goodbye to those who have left.
May you find something here that makes you laugh, creates a spark of connection, and moves you enough so that you reenter your own life with a sense of touching upon mine. That would make the new year of blogging – and all the years to come – worthwhile. As Mae West says, “Come on up, I’ll tell your fortune.” 
I’m more than thrilled to repost the interview I just did with Steve Wellings at Write A Revolution. My thanks to Steve for his terrific close reading of the text and thoughtful questions.
Interview with self-published author Jadi Campbell
Posted by Steve on December 2nd, 2013
This week we are delighted to welcome over talented self-published author Jadi Campbell, the creator of Broken In, the latest collection of stories that we have found extremely hard to put down. Jadi is a well-travelled writer currently residing in Germany who has taken her varied cultural experiences and moulded into her latest offering. We know you’ll love Broken In and our interview with Jadi.
Hi Jadi, congratulations on Broken In, it was a fantastically crafted collection of stories and we thoroughly enjoyed reading through the book.
It is enormously satisfying to be told that you noticed how I crafted the book.
The stories show how you can skilfully develop characters. No lead role is wasted and each has varying dimensions to their persona. What is the secret behind writing such strong characters?
Take the time to get to know them. In Punctured, for example, I knew that Jeremy’s wife Abigail was younger than he and quite shy. But something was missing and the tone (because this story is pretty tragic) felt terribly somber. I set it aside for a while and when I returned to it I had the key: Abby has a wicked sense of humor that only her husband is allowed to see. It gives a needed lightness to their story, and suddenly she became 3-dimensional. If your characters don’t feel real, allow them the time to develop.
Is there any part of the story or side to the characters that is autobiographical or taken from people you know or knew? I like to think that a feisty real life Lisa exists somewhere out there!
Thanks! I want to create realistic characters. One of my strengths (from what my readers tell me) is that as you read, you recognize yourself or people you know. No character is based solely on someone I know in real life… and all my characters are amalgams of who I know and what I witness every day in the real world.
Lisa’s experiences to Bangkok are my own and definitely autobiographical. But I had to express them through the lens of a 20 year old rather than my own adult age. It was fascinating to try and figure out what such an inexperienced young person would make of Bangkok’s chaos and decadence.
You split Broken In into separate, interconnecting stories rather than chapters in a straight-running novel. Why did you decide to approach the book in this manner?
When the Muse started tapping on my shoulder I wasn’t sure if it was she planned to stick around. I took the opportunity to experiment with short stories, a new genre for me. It was great fun and then the idea to base a novel on interconnected tales came from the story Surprises. I realized that I could tell the story of everyone of the characters in it, and the book was born.
Can you explain why you chose to call the book Broken In?
The term is active and passive: you break in new shoes to make them comfortable, and learn the ropes at a new job that way, too. But it’s also what happens to us. It’s the break ins, losses, challenges, and things that intrude on our lives or break our wills. I like the way ‘broken in’ is both ominous and promising.
Do you write elsewhere, like on a personal blog or website where you flesh out ideas and/or connect with readers?
I blog at jadicampbell.wordpress.com and belong to 2 writers’ groups. We share works-in-progress and give each other thoughtful, honest criticism and feedback.
As the passage below shows, the dialogue and prose is often raw, direct and uncompromising. Did you write the stories to fit a particular genre or did you just write naturally and leave in, basically, whatever hit the page? Does this extract generally encapsulate your writing style?
“It was Steve, naturally, back with the same old bullshit. How he didn’t want to live life without me, and how he hadn’t slept in weeks. That part was probably true. He looked awful. At first I felt bad for him. But I was pissed. Who the hell did he think he was, sneaking around my yard waiting for me to come home, looking to see if Freddie was downstairs or not? Was he turning into a stalker? The little bubble of emotions I had left for him dried up right then and there. I owed him nothing, as far as I was concerned, nothing. Stalking behavior cancelled out the slate and left it dry.
“Here Judy’s words took on the cadence of a carefully rehearsed speech.”
This is a great question. I wish I could leave whatever hits the page, but find constant revisions are the way to hone down to the true heart of a story. This particular passage is someone speaking, and dialog has to sound natural. I’ll write conversations and then read them aloud, looking for the rhythms of speech. I hope that the naturalness of this passage does reflect my characters when they are talking. As far as my writing being raw, direct and uncompromising (and thank you for that!), I shape scenes until I find their essence. I love writing descriptive passages, and seek the beauty in a moment or emotion perfectly described.
In JJ’s, the bartender and a teenaged patron plan exotic trips. JJ’s chef meets several men who’d kill for her. Valuables and peace of mind literally get stolen. Couples celebrate, or split up. In a rainy night accidents happen and people vanish. These are the stories of people whose paths cross – or crash. The tales begin in a bistro and move on to Bangkok, a carnival midway, and the bottom of a lake, among other places. Broken In: whether totally random or according to plan, after tonight life will never be the same.
What are you reading at the moment and what could you recommend to us?
I just finished David Eggers’ book Zeitoun about Hurricane Katrina. For fiction, anything by Geraldine Brooks is a feast. I recently reread all of Ray Bradbury.
What are you currently working on or what can we expect next?
I’m about 3/4s finished writing my next book. I’m at the hardest stage of the writing, and that’s figuring out both what to cut and how to join any still disparate parts together. It’s tentatively titled ThanksGiving. I have a third book in the works as well: a short story collection.
What are the major challenges that you have faced in your writing career?
Marketing. I did the writing first and the self-promotion afterwards. Aspiring writers (and all artists) need a marketing plan, or a manager. Preferably a manager…
What do you advise new writers to do? Best practice, writing tips, etc.
Join a writers’ group! The feedback of your peers is invaluable. And you’ll realize that you aren’t alone with your fears and hopes. Most writers create in isolation, so discovering others who think and feel like you do is a lifesaver in a sea of self-doubt. An added bonus is if you can find a group that likes to write together, the combined creative energies will inspire all of you! I meet every Friday with a group at a café and something wonderful happens when we’re all typing away on our laptops…
What is your background away from the writing desk and how did you get into penning novels?
I earned a B.A. in English Literature but wanted experience working in the real world for a while. I spent time in a San Francisco corporation in Marketing and Underwriting, and then became a massage therapist. I wrote as European Correspondent (great title, little dough) for a massage magazine for a decade. Took some years off from writing after that. Then the Muse returned stronger than before, and I’ve been following where she leads ever since. I still love massage work, so I’ve kept my hand (sorry, couldn’t resist) in a very people-oriented profession. It’s the perfect foil to the isolation writing demands.
Getting a self-published book noticed and into the hands of readers can be tough. Could you offer our readers any tips/hints or advice on promotion or marketing?
Send out emails to everyone you know. Start a blog and find your voice. Join a writers’ group that does public readings. Work to get your book reviewed: those reviews in turn allow you to contact fine websites like this one. AND – take the long view. It requires a year or longer to write a book; don’t expect to experience overnight success. It’s all baby steps and frustratingly slow… but each success builds on the prior ones.
What is your opinion on the power and potential of social media? Do you use the likes of Facebook, Goodreads, Google+ etc to connect with fans and promote your work?
I link my blog posts to Facebook. As for the power of social media, I find it’s a fine line to walk between developing a public presence online and giving away details about my private life. But yes, with the right amount of care the power of the Internet and social media can – and in many cases, do – help me promote my work effectively.
Who did you get to do your cover design, eBook formatting/conversion to Kindle and the like? And editing…was this all outsourced or did you do some yourself?
For the cover artwork I turned to Walter Share, an artist in Seattle. He has a website at Waltercolors.com. I am hoping he’ll agree to do all my covers! My husband did all the formatting work. I edited a guidebook for a trusted friend, and she returned the favor and edited Broken In.
Do you read self-published work yourself and could you recommend any independent authors’ work that we may enjoy reading?
Valerie Davies is a British woman now living in New Zealand and writes a gorgeous blog filled with her meditations on life. Valerie’s stories are collected together in Chasing the Dragon: An Addiction to Living.
Where can readers pick up a copy of your books from and what formats are available?
Broken In: A Novel in Stories is available on Amazon all around the world in paperback and eBook forms. My blog provides a link to the books as well. Jadi Campbell
Where can readers find out more about you, and/or get in touch?
I invite readers to visit me at jadicampbell.com. I’m also on Facebook.
Many thanks for talking to us Jadi and best of luck with your future projects!
Thank you so much for featuring me. It was a pleasure to answer your questions.