My author in the spotlight today is AJ Campbell who has recently released her debut novel Leave Well Alone. You can order a copy of the book here. Thanks for joining me Amanda. First of all, would you tell my blog readers a little about yourself?
Hi everyone! I’m Amanda. I love writing stories with twists and turns, and, on August 1st, I launched my debut novel Leave Well Alone. I’m a mum of three and a full-time carer. In addition to writing, I love reading, walking my cocker spaniel, Max, and drinking good-quality white wine.
What inspired you to start writing?
Nearly fifteen years ago, when my twins were born nine weeks prematurely, they suffered from a rare condition called twin-to-twin transfusion (which is where in identical twins one of the twins takes all of the blood and nutrients, which is life-threatening to both babies). They were both very sick babies, and one of them had severe disabilities. I didn’t realise it at the time, but I was depressed for quite a while afterwards, and that’s when I started journalling. Then, when the twins started school, I wrote some short stories. I enjoyed it so much that I took some online creative writing courses and then began Leave Well Alone.
Tell me about your journey to publication
Leave Well Alone started to take shape in 2017 when I joined the Faber Academy’s ‘Writing a novel course, the first 15,000 words’. After the course finished, I spent the next year completing the manuscript. I then sent it off to three literary agents, only to get a polite thanks, but no thanks. Looking back, they were right. It wasn’t ready.
So, I worked on it some more, and then last year I attended the Winchester Writers’ Festival, where I got to submit the opening three chapters of my manuscript to four literary agents. I was pleasantly surprised to hear positive feedback from all of them, and the second one opened our conversation with, ‘I LOVED it. Everything about it.’ That was quite a surreal moment for me.
To cut a long story short, it didn’t work out with that agent. I felt discouraged and plonked the manuscript into the Cloud and started writing my second novel Don’t Come Looking. From October to mid-December last year, I managed to complete three-quarters of the first draft. Then came the decision with what to do with Leave Well Alone.
During that time, I had also been researching self-publishing, and the more I discovered, the more I felt it was the route for me. So, that’s the route I’ve taken and, although it’s been incredibly hard work, I do not regret it at all. I have learned so much and have laid down a solid base upon which to build my author career.
In a nutshell, what is your latest book about?
It’s a psychological thriller – so guaranteed twists and turns.
It’s set in London and follows the relationships between the protagonist Eva Mitchell and the members of her family, after her brother, Ben, announces out of the blue that he has found their mother, who they both haven’t seen for eighteen years. Their mother, Tammy Mitchell, abandoned them both to a traumatic life in foster care when Eva was four years old.
Eva has no intention of ever seeing Tammy again. Eva’s happy now. She’s turned her life around, put her dysfunctional past behind her and is now a mature student studying for a law degree at university in London. She is also in a loving relationship with rich and dependable Jim Barnes who adores her.
So, without giving too much away, something happens to Eva – a life-changing event, which forces her to face her demons. She starts to find forgiveness and form a relationship with her mother. This triggers off her search for other family members, but as old secrets and layers of deceit emerge, she makes a shocking discovery, leaving her fearing for her family’s life.
It explores the themes of family and forgiveness and the vulnerability and dangers that arise from mental health issues if left unchecked.
How did you come up with the title for your book?
I had another title, The Consequences of Tammy Mitchell, until one day last year, when I was walking my dog, the title, Leave Well Alone, suddenly came to me. I changed it straight away. It’s a perfect title for my story.
How did you celebrate publication day?
Due to the pandemic, I opted for an online book launch party, via Facebook Live, which can be viewed on my Facebook author page, @AJCampbellauthor. And then afterwards, I drank champagne with my family.
Do you have a work in progress just now?
Yes. As mentioned above, I am three-quarters of the way through my second novel Don’t Come Looking. When my children return to school next month, I will complete this draft and send it off to my editor. My third novel is making its way from my mind to my Mac too. At the moment I am busy marketing Leave Well Alone, which is a full-time job!
What’s your favourite book you’ve read in the past few months? Or favourite three if you really can’t choose!
I run an online book club, AJ Campbell’s Reading Corner, and we’ve read some great titles over the past few months. I loved Daisy Jones and The Six, The Whisper Man, and Small Great Things.
What are you reading just now?
I’m reading Gold by Chris Cleave. It’s the story of two elite Olympic athletes, Kate and Zoe, best friends but rivals, training for London 2012. Two very different characters, Zoe is going for gold regardless of the cost, but Kate, married to Jack, another Olympic hopeful, has a very ill daughter. They are struggling to juggle training with caring for their daughter. Who will win gold?
If you were on Desert Island Discs, what one book would you take with you?
I was asked this question at my book launch party. It would have to be To Kill a Mockingbird.
Is there a book you’d love to see made into a film?
Leave Well Alone.
I’m eagerly awaiting The Tattooist of Auschwitz film.
How can people follow you or connect with you on social media?
My biggest social media presence is on Facebook @AJCampbellauthor and Instagram @ajcampbellauthor.
I also have a website http://www.ajcampbellauthor.com
And finally, if you could be a character in any book you have read, who would it be and why?
I think it would have to be Matilda. All that time to read all those books!
From the back of the book
How far would you go to protect your family from the truth?
A broken family. Skeletons in the closet. Lives in danger.
When Eva’s brother Ben announces he has found their mother, Eva is determined to have nothing to do with the woman who abandoned them eighteen years ago to a traumatic childhood in foster care. Eva is happy now, in a loving relationship with rich and dependable Jim, and she is pregnant.
Nothing can change Eva’s mind. Her eyes are on the future, not the past. But when her baby is born with a serious hereditary illness, she is forced to confront both her mother and her past. Eva begins to find forgiveness. But as old secrets and layers of deceit emerge, she makes a shocking discovery, leaving her fearing for her baby’s, Jim’s, and her own life.