Tara Marlow

Australian author of women's fiction

Interview with an Author: Nina Campbell

Have you ever read a book that stayed with you, long after you put the book down?

That was Nina Campbell’s “DAUGHTERS OF EVE” for me.

I was excited when Nina agreed to do this interview, as I was keen to learn more about her writing process. For many authors, writing a book takes a major toll, mentally and sometimes physically, so I can only imagine how emotionally draining DAUGHTERS OF EVE would have been for Nina. It’s a book that I highly recommend, and I’m eager to read more from Nina as she continues down her author path.

I hope you enjoy this interview with Nina!

1. Why do you write – and why did you decide to write a book?

A great question, and one I’ve spent the last year wrestling with, after making a conscious choice not to write last year. I lost my sister to cancer while I was editing Daughters of Eve and then my cousin was diagnosed with terminal cancer while I was publicising the book. At a time when I should have been celebrating a dream coming true, I felt untethered and a little lost.

Stepping back from writing for a year gave me time to read widely, to sleep in sometimes and to tune into that all important question – did I still want to write.

And the answer was a resounding yes. Through the year, a thousand tiny worlds winked into being in my head and most of them winked straight back to black. But some of them stuck around, some characters gained a foothold in my heart, and started whispering stories, and slowly but surely, a new book started to take shape. And for me, that’s why I write… I genuinely love being the process of crafting a story, of growing it from a spark to a story to a book. 

2. What genres do you enjoy reading?

I read widely. I love crime novels for the puzzle solving aspect, but also because they delve into the darker recesses of the human mind. Science fiction and fantasy light my fire too, along with a good rom com, historical, commercial and literary fiction as well as good YA.

3. A. How long did it take you to write your first book from first word to publish?

I wrote the first draft of Daughters of Eve late in 2017 and signed the publishing contract in March 2021.  But more importantly, I wrote the first draft of my first novel in 2010 and wrote two other full manuscripts between then and 2017, none of these early novels were crime, so they never be published. Publishing is a long game, so it’s best to fall in love with writing!

3 B. If you’ve written or published more than one book, how long does it take you now to write and publish a book?

Each book takes as long as it takes. Some books slip onto the page like you’ve cut a vein and bled words – but others come in fits and starts. The first draft of Daughters of Eve took seven weeks to write, because I wanted to pitch it at a conference, so I needed a full draft to know the ending. It took eight weeks to do the structural edit and another two for the copy edit. Then there was proof reading. My latest novel is taking longer, because I’ve no external deadline, and I’m letting myself enjoy the process.

4. What’s the most challenging part of being an author for you?

I found standing in the spotlight a bit difficult, especially as I was feeling so emotionally raw. I think there’s a transition you need to make, when you go from write to author. I had embraced the sense of myself as a writer, a person who writes, but I found it challenging to step out from behind the keyboard and talk about the book as an author. Having said that, meeting readers at events was one of the best parts of being published, so that helped me bridge that internal divide.

5. What do you love the most about being an author?

Writing is still the best part of authordom for me. I love diving into a world and watching it grow and take shape around me. I love getting to know the characters and there’s nothing quite as special as when they hijack the story and take it somewhere I wasn’t expecting. 

But I so love connecting with readers. Writing a book is an amazing experience, and if no-one ever reads it, the process itself is such a gift, but when you get to talk to readers, that is a real gift.

6. If you could give an aspiring author one piece of advice, what would it be?

Fall in love with writing because it’s the part of the publishing process which belongs just to you. Where you only have to please yourself and where you’re in control. I try to keep writing and publishing separate and it’s the writing that brings me back to the keyboard day after day.

7. What is the best line you feel you’ve written in your published work(s)?

Ooh that’s such a hard question. I tend to write in short sentences, quick lines that build on each other to ratchet up the intensity… but I think this longer line of dialogue, delivered by Detective Emilia Hart, captures her strength, her commitment to protecting the vulnerable and the awful dilemma she faces at the heart of Daughters of Eve, knowing that the law doesn’t always protect the people it should.
“If you or your associates touch this child, I swear to you on my mother’s grave, I will hunt you down, every last one of you, and I will make what you did to Patty look like a fucking picnic and bury what’s left of you in a shallow grave.”

8. What’s the shortest time you’ve ever written a story?

I’ve written a short story from beginning to end in an afternoon. That’s probably my record.

9. What was the hardest lesson you learned in the writing process, and what did you take from that?

The hardest lesson I had to learn feedback is subjective. What you write might thrill one reader and leave the next cold, which makes editing a tricky task.

10. What is the best book you’ve found on the writing process?

I love Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic and Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird for navigating the writer’s life and George Saunders’ A Swim in a Pond in the Rain for story craft. 

11. Are you self-published, traditionally, or hybrid-published, and why did you take that publishing route? Would you choose that route for your next book?

I’m traditionally published, primarily because I struggle with technology, and you have to get your head around a lot of tech to be Indie published. I know a lot of self and hybrid published authors who love the control you get with self-publishing. I sometimes think about self-publishing my earlier novels, which aren’t crime.

12 What drew you to the subject of your latest novel?

I’m usually drawn to a subject by strong emotion. Daughters of Eve was inspired my anger about our inability as a community to address gendered and sexual violence. The book I’m writing now was inspired by my concern for the next generation, who are facing the impacts of climate change, social fragmentation and increasing mental health challenges.

13. What did your discovery path look like, in choosing the genre to write in? (i.e. If you chose to write chick-lit / feel good fiction, why did you choose that genre? If you chose hero-fantasy, why?)

Before Daughters of Eve I had written across several genres, and would love to be able to give you a clear and rational explanation as to how I chose each, but I think that choice is made somewhere in my subconscious. For example, Daughters of Eve is crime fiction because the voice of Emilia Hart arrived in my head as a police officer and the story unfolded from there. 

14 What does your typical day look like, when you are working on a book?

 I usually try to write in the morning, as that’s when I’m clearest. I will stay off social media and emails until I’ve done at least 500 – 1000 words and will often reach out to writer friends so we can write in sprints. That helps me push through the first draft.

Having said that, with no clear deadline at the moment, I’m often easily distracted, but that is the goal. As I get closer to the end of a novel, the word counts tend to get higher as real life fades into the background.

15. Do you put yourself into your characters, or are they completely fictional?

My characters are fictional and they tend to arrive, fully formed. In retrospect, however, I will often recognise an aspect of myself or someone I know in part of a character. 

16. How much of your own life, and your own experiences, have affected your storylines?

I often lean into things I’ve experienced, read or heard about to bring a scene to life, but I don’t like taking direct aspects of life to use. For me, the fun is fiction is that I’m able to decide how things will unfold and what will happen when.

17. What’s the most interesting book you’ve read in the last year? Or at least, one that kept you thinking about long after?

The Last Love Note by Emma Grey will stay on my repeated reads list, and has been invaluable as I’ve navigated my own journey of grief over the last two years. Emma is a dear friend and it was a truly terrible privilege to bear witness to her strength and wisdom as she navigated the soul crushing loss of her soul mate.  Still, I was completely unprepared for just how amazing this book would be. When I felt lost, it was this book that reminded me that life is always there even in the midst of the whirlwind of emotion that is grief. 

The Last Love Note reminds me that life is the light and the dark, the snort laugh out loud and the snot crying tears. It’s living the moment you’ve got with all your heart and soul, and never turning away from the truth of it. It’s a book that reminds me to squeeze the hell out of every precious experience while you can.

18. Have you ever read a book outside of your usual genre – and found it surprising?

I read widely but a book that surprised me recently was Chai Time at Cinnamon Gardens by Shankari Chandran. From the title and back cover blurb I wasn’t expecting such an incredible, all-encompassing deep dive into systemic racism, the contested history of Sri Lanka and the experience of Tamil refugees and migrants in Australia. This book covers a lot of ground, wrapped in a heartwarming story of hope. 

19. Do you write what you want to write, or what you feel is sellable?

I have always written what I wanted to write and what I want to read and it turns out that was a good choice. 

It takes a long time to write a book and longer to edit it. If you are lucky enough to find a publisher you will then have to reread and rewrite that book more times than you can imagine, so you are going to want to like it. Also, trying to predict what will sell is notoriously difficult!

20. Would you still be an author if you knew no one would read your books?

Absolutely YES! I love the feeling of words slipping around in my mind and the joy of finding the perfect sentence to capture a moment, or an emotion. I love meeting the characters and watching a story take shape. The whole process of writing is intoxicating to me and it’s only as I’ve emerged from a year of not writing, that I realise how important it is to my mental health. I’m not sure if writing makes me happy, or if it’s when I’m happy I write, but either way, I know I would write even if I was the only person who would read it.

21. What’s the best book you feel you’ve written?

That’s like asking a parent which of their children is best. I love each of the books I’ve written because each one is a piece of my heart, carved out and spread onto the page. But for writing craft I would have to say it was Daughters of Eve, because it’s the book that has been professionally edited. Jane Palfreyman and Ali Lavau helped me polish the book and in doing so, they stretched my craft in wonderful ways. They are stitched into the tight seams of that narrative and I will always be thankful to them.

You can find Nina here:

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/NinaDCampbellwrites

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/nina.d.campbell.author


You can also find my review of DAUGHTERS OF EVE here.