Conversing with Mikey Campling is a reward on its own – it’s not only as enriching as reading his books, but is also tremendously interesting owing to the liveliness that comes with the spontaneity. As evident in this published version of the chat, Mikey is very accommodating on questions and very tolerant with different viewpoints. Mikey’s different pursuits that include a free flash fiction subscription series and writing competitions for young writers, are very inspiring and make one want to aspire for doing at least a fraction of what he does.
Here’s how my conversation over a cuppa virtual coffee with Mikey Campling unfolded…
R C Bean Your books have a surprisingly wide range of premises! Would you say the choice of theme and subject depends on your temperament at the moment you begin the book plan? Mikey Campling I wouldn’t say the choice is down to temperament. I have loads of ideas that I’d like to write about and they cross all sorts of genres – it can be hard to choose what to work on and I have limited time to write so I need to choose a subject that I’m passionate about.
R C Bean That’s interesting… How would you typically allot the priorities/preferences when you hit upon multiple ideas all at once? Mikey Campling That’s a great question. I try to decide if an idea ‘has legs’ by scribbling ideas down on paper. If I can’t think of a reasonable number of themes and ideas to pursue, then that project might get pushed to one side. I also have a commitment to existing readers. I don’t want to disappoint people who have read the Darkeningstone books and want to know what happens next, so that gets priority.
R C Bean I understand… I guess there’s a perpetual conflict state that tugs writers between satisfying existing reader base and exploring new boundaries (thus having the chance of attracting new readers)? Mikey Campling That’s very true. It’s often tempting to start a completely new project, but I’d feel uncomfortable about leaving readers hanging. I do compromise by keeping some side projects going, e.g. I’ve got some short stories out in a collection called ‘Changes’ and I have some very short flash fiction pieces with just 100 words each that go out to subscribers on my site. I’ve always loved the challenges of the short story format.
R C Bean It’s surprising that you mentioned just the point I’ve been waiting to ask! Short story format – what would be your strategy to create a bond between the characters, the plot and the readers in the limited time and space? Short stories do not give the authors the luxury of many hundred pages to make the readers fall in love with the characters… Mikey Campling I don’t have a technical formula – I think that would make my characters feel very contrived. It’s more that I try to get inside their skin. It can be difficult at first, but once I start writing the characters come alive to me. I then try and make the action and dialogue true to the characters. I like writing in an economical way so I try and say a lot about a character through their dialogue and actions such as their mannerisms. I avoid explanations and exposition.
R C Bean Oh right… That’s quite a strategy in itself… You leave the interpretation and judgements to the readers as well, instead of thrusting those into their minds, then… Your book “you’ll never get out of it alive” is a wide-turn humour book… And your website is strewn across with a lot of wry and direct humour as well… Mikey Campling Yes, I try and leave a lot to the reader – I think you have to give your readers credit for their intelligence and treat them with profound respect. I think that readers enjoy being surprised and shocked and kept in suspense. There’s a certain amount of fun to be had in playing with the readers’ expectations. And on the humour front – OK, you’ve got me there. I do enjoy making people laugh and yes, I was the class clown at school.
R C Bean Playing with the readers’ expectations… Hmmm… From a reader’s standpoint, I do agree with that… You’d like to be not under-estimated, and for your thinking powers to be given some credit! How does humour get weaved into The Darkeningstone series then? The plot and premise might tempt one to presume that the treatment would be dark with a foreboding sense of doom… Mikey Campling The main character has a slightly wry outlook on life and there is some direct humour in his conversations with his best friend and with his attempts to impress a beautiful young woman. Sounds like I need to change the description and maybe the cover – the story is more exciting than gloomy.
R C Bean Oh, gloomy is certainly not what I meant! I apologise if I sounded that way! Mikey Campling Oh, I didn’t take offence. It’s really valuable to have another viewpoint. Your comment just made me wonder if I’m making the book look darker than it really is.
R C Bean The Darkeningstone has a premise that is slightly spine-chilling in a way… Because apart from what is narrated in the book, it asks the reader to introspect – what might you find when you look into the Darkeningstone? And I would interpret it as not just being made to wonder what I might find – but also, would I be prepared for what I might find? Maybe it’s just me – I tend to read / scan for darker elements in a plot, because I believe those elements add their own depth to the theme.. But all of that said, I certainly didn’t even think of “gloomy” when I said that! Mikey Campling That’s an interesting viewpoint. There’s a fine line to tread between the darkness within ordinary people, which I find very appealing, and the world of horror and dark fantasy, which doesn’t particularly interest me. When I say ‘appealing’ I mean, appealing to write about and explore in fiction.
R C Bean I get it… Although I would think of the genre of dark fantasy and horror as a dramatic stretch and exaggeration of the darkness within the minds of ordinary characters… But I do agree that there’s indeed a line to demarcate the two… Talking about genres, I remember reading on your Facebook page a reader’s question on what age your books are suitable for… Would your natural flair for humour writing lure you into writing children’s fiction any time? Mikey Campling In many ways I’d love to do that – I used to be a primary school teacher, and my great passion was to get the children into reading and writing. It really is a tough field to work in and you need a wonderfully original idea. But now you’ve got me thinking…I just might dig into my files later and see if there’s an idea I could blow the dust from and bring to life.
R C Bean Oh, how super cool! That also explains your interest in running many different writing contests for young writers from school and college Mikey Campling Yes, that’s something I’m keen on pursuing. It sounds a bit corny, but I think it’s important to give something back when you can. I’d like to grow the competition to a national level but at the moment it’s just me on my own so I’m a bit limited.
R C Bean That’s a great thought I’d like to keep talking on about more of your ideas, but I do realise I shouldn’t keep you from attending to your busy schedule for too long! Many thanks for being here today, and here’s wishing you all success with your writing and your writing contest endeavours… Mikey Campling Well thank you for taking the time. I must say that it’s been a pleasure chatting with you. Your questions are very thought-provoking. All the best and cheerio. MC