Why do you write?
I have a lot of stories in my head and crowds of characters clamoring to have their life on the page.
How did you come to writing?
I’ve always been book mad. It seemed natural to move from being a consumer to a producer. I started my first book in grade three – a rip-roaring thriller about horse-napping. I fiddled with various stories after that but never finished anything, until I wrote a historical romance in the holiday between finishing grade 12 and starting at Queensland University. I then spent 27 years as an unpublished writer (partly my fault – I didn’t submit anything to a publisher for 13 of those years!) before I sold to HarperCollins in New York in 2006. I’ve been a full-time writer ever since, and that definitely counts as a dream come true.
What were your greatest obstacles starting out? How did you overcome them?
Finishing a manuscript was a big deal– there is still a pile of bleeding stumps of around 100 pages each under the bed, lingering from where I gave up when the going got tough. I needed to find the courage to submit after trying to write for Mills and Boon and getting eight rejections. Eventually my shame at my wimpiness about approaching publishers outweighed my cowardice. Luckily in the 13 years I didn’t submit, I kept writing, so I had developed a strong voice when I finally went back to the market, and I sold reasonably quickly.
How do you keep yourself motivated and disciplined?
My electricity bill! Seriously, when you’re writing for a living, you write for a living.
Where do you write? How do you arrange your working space?
I spent a lot of years writing in the corner of my bedroom. These days I’m really lucky and I have an office with a garden view. It’s lovely having a designated workspace.
What are your essential writing tools?
A cup of tea, a notebook and a couple of blue Energel pens. And music. I like to have classical music or soundtracks on when I write.
What’s the one thing you wish you’d known when you were starting out as a writer?
That it’s all lies when at the 100-page mark of a new book, a devil voice whispers in your ear and tells you about a FABULOUS story much better than this one you’re working on. You need to stick to the current project and finish it, not start something new. Because 100 pages into the new story, you know just what happens – another devil voice does its thing.
What do you read and how do you read as a writer?
I read pretty much everything. Lots of nonfiction which I find often sparks ideas for stories. Lots of mysteries. Classics. Ghost stories. Basically anything that takes my fancy. Over recent years, I don’t read as much romance – I think it’s too close to what I do for a living to seem like leisure. I find myself editing when I’m reading romance, and that’s definitely not relaxing!
How do you overcome ‘writer’s block’?
When words aren’t coming easily, it helps to take baby steps. Sometimes the block is because I’m seeing only the big picture of writing a whole novel and it’s a bit daunting. I need to lower my sights to the novel’s building blocks. Anyone can write a sentence or a paragraph or a page (pick your poison). Or I tell myself I only need to sit down for 20 minutes or half an hour and set a timer. Again, anyone can do that, and often I’ll find by the time I’ve done that, I’m back into the story.
What one piece of advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Finish a manuscript. There are things you’ll learn from plugging through from the first word to the last that nothing else will teach you. Plus imagine your sense of achievement when you have a whole book under your belt.
Anna Campbell has written 10 multi award-winning historical romances for HarperCollins and Hachette. She has also independently released 14 bestselling novellas. Since selling her first published novel at auction to HarperCollins US in 2006, she has written full-time. Her next release is Charming Sir Charles (Dashing Widows 5), out February 2017. annacampbell.com