I first met Molly D. Campbell through a Twitter posting. I don’t remember what it was, but it was funny, the kind of funny that sticks with you and plays on your mind so that hours later you remember it and think, once again: Hey, that was funny. And you chuckle to yourself as you’re washing the dishes or smoothing handcream over your sun-parched legs.
Campbell is a two-time Erma Bombeck Writing Award winner in both the humor and human interest categories. She blogs at Life With the Campbells and writes a monthly column at Moms Who Need Wine. She’s also the author of Characters in Search of a Novel, a quirky and original work that released last September. (Check out my Goodreads review.)
I chatted with Campbell earlier this year, where she shared tidbits about her writing process and revealed how she turns on the funny.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for Characters in Search of a Novel?
A: I love names. I used to look up funny names in the phone book and then wonder what those people might be like in life. Then, when on twitter, I began posting a name and a description every day, just for fun. It caught on! And then someone told me I should get an illustrator and write a book of stories about them. Done!
Q: Was it difficult to write and get inside the heads of so many diverse characters?
A: No. Once I came up with the name and one sentence description, the characters took over and wrote their own stories.
Q: Characters is filled with characters sketches yet they are also mini stories. How did you accomplish they? Was it difficult?
A: It was sheer fun.
Q. Can you talk about writing humor? Many people overdo humor until the prose becomes glib. Yet you manage to insert enough contrasting emotion (bits of sadness, regret, melancholy) that the humor never overplays. Was this a natural element of your style or did you consciously work it in?
A: Well, I think that humor is a study in contrasts. The lady who looks like a librarian who is a sex addict. The bus driver who can’t read maps, etc. I also think that it can’t be planned. If you have to think about it too much, then it isn’t going to work. Brevity is the soul of wit, as well. Humor writing is short and to the point. But I also think it is like anything else. Some people are just funnier than others. And in terms of melancholy, again, some of the characters just seemed to have pathos. I am not kidding about the characters writing their own stories!
Q: Do you have a favorite character? If so, which one?
A: That would have to be Loretta Squirrels. She is the one who “made me famous,” although I am not actually famous. She is the character that caught the eye of some rather famous writers, who encouraged me to do the book. Plus, I grew up in West Virginia.
Q: How did you develop so many characters? Are any based, however loosely, on people you know?
A: The Maestro is actually my father. That piece won me my second Erma Bombeck writing award. And Mrs. Mason was actually my neighbor and best friend when I was little.
Q: Let’s talk about your writing journey. When did you first decide to become a writer? Was it an easy transition?
A: I have always loved to type. I guess if you like typing, you have to have something to type about! I was a professional technical writer for years, and all those proposals and things developed my skills. I learned how to be concise and how to “grab the reader with the first paragraph,” I guess. I began blogging after I had to have extensive facial reconstructive surgery due to a great big skin cancer on my nose that somehow escaped detection for years. As a result, I was housebound for weeks, due to my Frankensteinian appearance. I began to journal about it to my friends. One suggested a blog, and the rest is history. This was about seven years ago.
Q: What was your biggest writing blunder while writing Characters in Search of a Novel?
A: Not making the stories longer. So many people have complained that just as they got interesting, I ended them.
Q: What do you do when you’re not writing?
A: I read like a fiend! And I love to exercise. I also have five cats, whom I worship.
Q; Would you consider yourself a funny person in real life or only in writing?
A: Cinthia, I am hilarious.
Q: What is your home live like? Do you play tricks on your husband? Do your daughters consider you to be funny? Are they funny?
A: I am married to a professional accordionist. This has given me so much fodder for my blog, I can’t tell you! My daughters are hilarious as well. But they roll their eyes at me. My husband THINKS he is funny, but he is decidedly not. Unless you love the Three Stooges, in which case you would find my husband amusing.
Q: What’s up next in your writing life?
A: I am writing a novel, Finding Fletch, about a fifteen year old girl who is roped into looking for her Aunt’s missing husband. It is going very well, and once again, I find the characters telling me what to write. It is amazing!
What to know more? Contact Molly D. Campbell at: