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Written by JJ Barnes

www.jjbarnes.co.uk

I interviewed author Sean F Campbell about his career, what inspires his writing, and the work that went into his new book, Defying Humdrum.

Tell me a bit about who you are.

I’m Sean F Campbell, a 33-year-old civil servant living in Norwich. I love where I am now but also have strong roots in the North-West, namely Liverpool and North Wales. I graduated from Liverpool John Moores University with a degree in journalism. When I’m not writing, I love going to rock concerts, reading, gaming and traveling.

When did you first WANT to write a book?

I would say that desire goes as far back as primary school. One of the first BIG presents I asked for as a kid was a typewriter. The ink ribbons cost a fortune but I would sit there and my little hands would type away, trying to create something fun and exciting.

Sean F Campbell, author of Defying Humdrum, interview on The Table Read

The process is the same now pretty much except I use a laptop and am a lot bigger!

When did you take a step to start writing?

I’d tried several times in my late teens but my ideas always dried up. It was around 2014 when I really got going. I’d come out of a bad relationship, my job was mundane and I just thought I would put all of my effort into something positive. This time, the ideas kept coming and so forth came my debut novel!

How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?

Approximately 4 years. I moved to Spain whilst writing it so it got shelved for a little bit before I began to tie it all together and come up with what I wanted to be a quality conclusion. Then there was plenty of proofreading, cover art design etc until eventually, I held my first novel in my hands. It was a fantastic feeling. A life achievement!

How long did it take you to complete your latest book from the first idea to release?

Just under 3 years. I actually had this one completed in the middle of the pandemic but the proofreading and book design took some time again. My first book has been really successful and I wanted this to match that quality not just in terms of creative content, but in terms of grammar,punctuation and design too.

Focusing on your latest release. What made you want to write Defying Humdrum?

My first book turned out to be a great success. I sold a lot more copies than I expected to as a debut author and this left me hungry for more. I’d had the ideas for the second novel in my head for a good while so I knew whereI wanted it to go. My first one was a gritty revenge thriller but with this second book, I wanted to add an element of the supernatural into it.

What were your biggest challenges with writing Defying Humdrum?

There were parts in the story where it could take several directions and it was deciding which of these to take. I always wanted it to have a supernatural element but nothing cliched. I wanted to create something origiinal which the reader would question the reality of, the type of story where they would sit on a bus thinking ‘did all that really happen to George or was he just crazy?’ That took me a lot of time and effort to create well.

Who or what inspired you when creating your Protagonist?

The start of the book and George’s mundane job were based on a vile call centre I worked in many years ago. I’m good at imagining things, different outcomes to life. When I was younger, I knew a few people who found themselves trapped in bad jobs and even worse relationships with no way out. It was something I used to fear and so I created a person from that, George Harris. From there, it became how he would escape the life he hates.

There are a lot of different elements to George’s character. In terms of all the things he likes such as heavy metal, old video games, old sports cars, that is all down to my brother’s influence on my life growing up as I always looked up to him and thought he was into cool things.

Sean F Campbell, author of Defying Humdrum, interview on The Table Read

The person George becomes though is a very selfish guy and I guess that came from me imagining a very hard and bitter individual, someone we could all end up becoming if we allowed our own wants and needs rule everything. He’s not somebody you’d want as a friend!

Who or what inspired you when creating your Antagonist?

There are almost two antagonists in the book. The first is Troy, the idiotic call centre team leader. He is the amalgamation of several superiors I’ve had throughout my employment in the past. Loud, arrogant and incapable of listening.

The main antagonist is definitely Mr Sneed. Funnily enough, his name is down to my brother, Paul. When I was a toddler, Paul would tell me daft things like Mr Mischief had ruined his car because it failed the MOT. I didn’t believe everything he said so one time when his actual boss, Mr Sneed called to speak to him, Mum called him saying ‘It’s Mr Sneed on the phone’ and I shouted ‘Mr Sneed doesn’t exist!’

In terms of Sneed’s personality, he’s a little like Stephen King’s Pennywise the clown in that he almost seems innocent at times yet at his core is pure evil. I always imagine him looking like Dave Hill from the band ‘Demon’ in his robes and creepy white face paint.

What is the inciting incident of Defying Humdrum?

Most definitely when George sleeps with Selena. Prior to this he dabbled with the village of Littlewood and the reader could almost sympathise with him but when he cheats on his wife, there is no going back and it is around about then that the village becomes increasingly sinister.

What is the main conflict of Defying Humdrum?

The main conflict is when George confronts Mr Sneed for the final time. He has turned into a beast of sorts and is battling an ancient deity, Donum. When losing the battle, Sneed tells George that everything he loves about Littlewood will die if he does and George has to make a decision. Even though he has been told that what he loves about the village is an illusion, he still struggles to let it go because after leaving his wife and son behind, it is all he has left.

Did you plot Defying Humdrum in advance, or fly by the seat of your pants and write freely?

I had  a loose plot in mind but I never like to have a storyline set in stone. For me, a large part of what I enjoy about writing is creating a character and seeing where they go, what they do and how they react to things. I let it flow and it’s always interesting to see what characters you can create. George was initially going to be a hero but he ends up almost the complete opposite.

Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did Defying Humdrum need?

My friend and I edited the book between us in a painstaking but worthwhile process. We didn’t change much of the content at all, just chapter lengths, grammar etc It needed a moderate amount of editing but when I write, I type REALLY fast to get my ideas down before they leave my head so there’s a few typos and punctuation errors along the way. When you’re going through 70,000 words, it takes a while to weed out everything.

What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a story?

Just keep going! Don’t stop and definitely avoid the fog of self doubt. Get the content down on paper or in your hard drive and keep building on it. You’ll likely pleasantly surprise yourself.

Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?

I am currently working on the final third of a science fiction novel which is quite different in terms of story to my first two books. I also have another supernatural idea in my head which I’m looking forward to creating.

And, finally, are your proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?

Yes, immensely. I never wanted my writing to just be one novel. Releasing this second book has only increased my passion to write more and build my audience. I would definitely say it was worth the effort and that increases even more so the more people that read it.

Pop all your book, website and social media links here so the readers can find you:

Independently published and available in paperback (£6.95) and Kindle format (£1.99), Defying Humdrum is available on Amazon at https://amzn.to/3ISFJpY and https://amzn.to/3rkC66s respectively

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