Melodie Campbell interview with David Alan Binder

Post date: Sep 11, 2016 3:35:01 PM

Melodie Campbell interview with David Alan Binder

Bio from her website: The Toronto Sun called her Canada's "Queen of Comedy." Library Digest compared her to Janet Evanovich. No surprise, then, that Melodie Campbell got her start writing comedy.

Melodie has won ten awards for fiction, including the 2014 Derringer and Arthur Ellis. She was a finalist along with Margaret Atwood for the 2015 Arthur Ellis (Atwood won.)

In 1999, she opened the Canadian Humour Conference. She has over 200 publications including 100 comedy credits, and 40 short stories. Her eleventh book, a mob caper entitledThe Bootlegger's Goddaughter (Orca Books) will be published in Feb. 2017.

Melodie has a Commerce degree from Queen’s University, but it didn’t take well. She has been a bank manager, marketing director, college instructor, comedy writer, and possibly the worst runway model ever.

Melodie is the past Executive Director of Crime Writers of Canada.

Catch Melodie's humour column for The Sage, Canada's magazine of satire and opinion.

Also read Melodie on Sleuthsayers, the Criminal Blog, every second Saturday.


Facebook: Melodie Campbell, Author, on Facebook

Twitter: @melodiecampbell


1. Where are you currently living?

Hi David! Thanks for having me on here. I’m waving from Canada, where we are currently in a heat wave (90 plus, and humidity like the deep south.)

Give me Winter!

(Oh yes. Answer the question, Mel. I live in Oakville, a suburb of Toronto, Canada)

2. What is the most important thing that you have learned in your writing experience, so far?

Writing is work; hard work. Somedays it doesn’t feel like work, and those are the days we live for.

3. What would you say is your most interesting writing, publishing, editing or illustrating quirk?

I actually turned down a lucrative Big 5 publishing contract because they wanted me to make changes to my first book such that it really wouldn’t have been the same book. To me, writing is so much work that I’ve really got to love the story I’m writing. Happily, I now have two publishers that love my zany comedic style.

In fact, it worked out better than I could have hoped. The second publisher heard about my rep and came to me asking if I wanted to write for them. My 6th book with them, WORST DATE EVER, comes out next year.

4. Tell us your insights on self-publish or use a publisher?

The thing with traditional publishing is your book has gone through the peer-review process. It’s not just ‘you’ saying the book is good. Someone else – the publisher – believes in your book so much that they are willing to put *their* money into getting it published.

I’ve been writing since 1989, and I appreciate all the work a publisher does to edit, produce covers and marketing materials, plus market and distribute my books. For me, this is important, because I want to spend my time writing!

a. Who is the name of your publisher and in what city are they?

I have two publishers:

For crime: Orca Book publishers in Victoria, BC

For fantasy: Imajin Books in West Kelowna, BC

5. Do you have any secret tips for writers on getting a book published?

Don’t publish too soon! Take at least one good novel writing course. Take the time to learn your craft. And then – be fearless.

Try small to medium publishers. And get writing the second book as soon as you finish the first. Part of this business is having a book coming out every year. Publishers expect it.

6. How did you or would you suggest acquire an agent? Any tips for new writers on getting one?

Agents make 15% off the top of what you earn. So until you are making advances of at least $5000, they probably aren’t interested in you. Even an advance of $1000 – a common amount these days – will only earn an agent $150. Not worth their effort.

So alas, it’s very hard to get an agent until you have already published with a smaller house, and proved yourself.

When is it necessary to have an agent? If you want to submit to the Big 5 publishing houses. Also, if you have been approached by film companies re optioning your books for film or TV. I have an agent because of this. Cross fingers, everyone!

7. What was one of the most surprising things you learned your creative process with your books, editing, publishing or illustrating?

Ah! This was a surprise and really important. I have to love my main characters. I mean, I have to be CRAZY about them, or I get bored and the writing peters out at around page 80.

So my advice to new writers would be: Create characters you can’t stop writing about.

In The Goddaughter Series, Nico would be an example of this. He’s introduced in The Goddaughter’s Revenge (which won two awards) and has been central to the series since them. I adore Nico. He’s loopy.

8. How many books have you written? Any Awards?

12 books, 40 short stories, over 100 comedy credits

10 Awards, including the 2014 Derringer Award, and the 2014 Arthur Ellis Award for Excellence in Crime Fiction

9. Do you have any tricks or tips to help others become a better writer (please be as specific and information as you possibly can)?

READ! I read at least an hour a day before I go to bed. That means over 100 books a year.

I am stunned by the number of fiction students who tell me that they don’t read for pleasure. (I teach Crafting a Novel at Sheridan College.) As a professional author, I can tell you that reading the work of others is our professional development. We get better by seeing how other people write well. You MUST read a lot to become a good writer. Stephen King nailed it.

10. Do you have any suggestions for providing twists in a good story?

Okay, my way of writing might not be for everyone, but here goes. Here’s what I do:

Don’t even start your story until you know your ending. I let the whole book percolate in my mind for months or even years. When I sit down to write, I already know my inciting moment, a minimum of three crises, and my climax. I don’t even start the book until I know I’ve got a bang-up ending.

11. What makes your books stand out from the crowd?

The comedy. The Toronto Sun called me Canada’s “Queen of Comedy.” Library Journal compared me to Janet Evanvich. I got my start writing standup, and opened the 1999 Canadian Humour Conference.

So most of my books are crime comedies (like The Pink Panther) or humorous fantasy (like The Princess Bride. Only racier.)

12. What are some ways in which you promote your work?

Social media is so important these days! Yes, our publishers create catalogues and go to book fairs to sell our books. But I am very active on social media.

1. My blog runs primarily comedy columns, including standup monologues from my earlier days. It gets a good following.

2. I’m on Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter.

3. In addition to my own blog, I’ve done 147 guest blogs in the past 4 years.

4. I’m a once a month regular on Sleuthsayers, a popular crime writers blog.

13. What is the one thing you would do differently now (concerning writing or editing or publishing or illustrating) and why?

Oh brother – here goes! (The story to end all stories)

In 1993, I had a play produced in Toronto. A producer from HBO was in the audience, and he said to me after, “You are completely nuts. Would you like to come to LA and write pilots for us?” I said no, I didn’t want to move. Because – of course – who was this guy? Who had ever heard of HBO in 1993??

This has to be the worst mistake ever made by someone not legally insane.

14. What saying or mantra do you live by?

Write the book you wish someone else would write so you could read it. (This is also my best advice to new writers.)

15. Anything else you would like to say?

I would just die if I wasn’t a writer. It’s like this little door I open to go into another world, where I control the characters, the setting, the action, the endings – it’s glorious, unfettered control! I can’t control the real world. Writing fiction is a delicious escape from reality.