|Terry Campbell: It Takes Two|
Two heads are better than one. That old maxim certainly applies to the combined creative energies of writers Linda Campbell and Bobbye Terry, who write fabulously funny romances under the pseudonym of Terry Campbell.
Whether sneaking pleasingly plump heroines into fat farms to wreak romantical havoc on hapless doctors or tossing cynical divorce attorneys into the arms of klutzy yet tres sexy CPAs, these two authors always obey the first rule of romantic comedy -- make 'em laugh. Crescent Blues caught up with the two halves of this hilarious whole to ask what makes Terry Campbell rock -- and their readers roll with laughter.
Crescent Blues: First, congratulations on Mr. Wrong winning the ARTemis Award for best traditional romance cover and for Fat Chance being an Eppie finalist. How do you feel about your fiction finally getting public recognition and awards by readers and your peers?
Terry Campbell: It's always exciting when you know someone has read and really likes what you've written. Writers are the biggest critics, so awards such as the EPPIE 2000, are especially satisfying. Additionally, Mr. Wrong was a finalist in Traditional Romance of the Greater Detroit Romance Writers of America's (RWA's) Booksellers Best Bet Award. This was especially thrilling in that the booksellers themselves judged the contest.
We were also pleased for Thorndike Press (the Gale Group) our publisher, because Mr. Wrong was one of two [Thorndike] books which won the ARTemis for best cover art.
Crescent Blues: Speaking of Mr. Wrong, many women consider divorce attorneys as a breed to be eradicated not dated, yet Rourke Hawthorne is arguably one of your most popular heroes. What made you choose a divorce attorney as your hero's occupation?
Terry Campbell: It allows Rourke to be especially sarcastic about the institution of marriage and fidelity and sets up a marvelous conflict with Kat's romantic notion of finding her knight in shining armor. Rourke proves the old adage, the bigger they are the harder they fall.
Crescent Blues: Also a major part of Mr. Wrong's charm, Kat Snow's clumsiness while on dates is a total hoot. Do either of you know someone also so afflicted in real life, or did you use a model(s) closer to home?
Terry Campbell: What are you referring to us? Ahem. We, of course, are well coordinated at all times. NOT! Both of us sometimes have the ability to be accident-prone. Just ask Linda about breaking her nose when she bent over her sleeping son to give him a good-night kiss, or the time Bobbye tripped on the sidewalk and ended up with two black eyes.
Crescent Blues: While it is true that nowadays one finds more plump heroines in romantic fiction than previously, few are as genuinely appealing as Lindsay Michaels in Fat Chance. Did you feel that you were taking a chance writing a heroine who wasn't reed-slender -- especially since by the end of the book she quite obviously didn't give a damn if she ever was?
Terry Campbell: The average woman is not reed-thin. That's where formula romance misses the mark. A woman can fantasize much better if the heroine reminds her of herself. How many women out there have been through yo-yo dieting? Raise our hands. Now, how many wish they could stop fighting the flab? Raise your hands again. See? A majority!
Also, neither of us is reed thin. We love food. As we always say, "We don't eat to live. We live to eat." Linda in particular owns almost every diet book and cookbook published, not to mention videos and at one time or another exercise equipment. She even belongs to the YMCA, pays her months dues, yet somehow never manages to get there. Additionally, she's lived all over the world yet what does she talk about, the great restaurants she's eaten at.
Crescent Blues: Many of the Crescent Blues staff found Lindsay's midnight BBQ ribs/pizza pig-outs behind the F.R.A.T. Farms dumpsters side-splittingly hilarious. Inquiring minds want to know, did either of you ever resort to -- or should that be indulge in -- such desperate measures?
Terry Campbell: W-e-el-l-l not behind a dumpster. But ask Linda about the time she tried to be a vegetarian and came down to Bobbye's house and "pigged-out" on pork, despite the fact her husband said he could smell meat fat through her pores. And ask Bobbye about Super Star gourmet pizzas for lunch when she told her husband she was eating salads. And then there's the chocolate they bring to book-signings but eat themselves.
Crescent Blues: Well meaning matchmakers play a large part in your books, from Kat Snow's daughter Tory in Mr. Wrong, to the "Gang of Four" in Intimate Investor. Have your own children or friends (or yourselves) ever performed the same favor with the same results?
Terry Campbell: Bobbye's cousin introduced her to her husband, Ted. So yes, her family did match-make. Not that it took a lot. Linda brazenly called up her husband John and asked why he hadn't called. (Two weeks earlier she'd refused to break a date with someone else just because he had called.) From then on, he never stood a chance.
Crescent Blues: Nana Hazel (Intimate Investor), Marie (Fat Chance), Hilda (Fat Chance) and Tory (Mr. Wrong) are some of the most vivid and memorable secondary characters in romantic fiction. What do you think makes or breaks a good secondary character -- and how do you keep them from taking over the book?
Terry Campbell: We had to keep using a bullwhip with the characters you mentioned, because they kept wanting to take over. To be memorable, the secondary character has to be likeable and have some endearing quality. They also have unforgettable lines. Seriously though, the role of the secondary character is to move the plot and hero/heroine forward. So, just as in life our friends and family can't take our life over if we expect to live it ourselves.
Nana Hazel is stubborn and determined. One of her memorable lines was: "Seems to me your natural urges are at war with your mule-headed brain."
Tory is the smartest one in the book, and basically tells the grown-ups that the "emperor is wearing no clothes." But our favorite Tory line is when she tells Rourke, "Mommy said just remember never turn your back on someone, 'specially if he's Peter and he denies you three times before the rooster says 'cock-a-doodle-do'. What's that mean?"
Finally, Hilda is the hopeless romantic and, despite her weight, is the character with the best self-esteem and self-assurance. She tells Lindsey that she's been pinged just like Tinker Bell does with her magic wand. Some secondary characters have been so strong that we've had to promise them their own books like Carol in Intimate Investor and Jason in Mr. Wrong.
Crescent Blues: How about giving Crescent Blues readers a hint or two about your next book and when it'll be out?
Terry Campbell: We recently completed Craig Legacy, a screwball time-travel about a very modern woman, touted by Fortune Magazine as the "21st Century's Financial Wunderkind," who gets pushed by a very determined ghost back through time. She ends up in 1864, and all she wants to do is get back to her time. Unfortunately, she finds out the only way she can come back is if the hero willingly agrees to come with her.
As for when it will come out, that's up to the editors at several publishing houses -- both electronic and print. If they buy it, you'll be able to read it.
Crescent Blues: The two of you -- Bobbye Terry and Linda Deleon-Campbell -- have been writing together for about 5 years. How did you meet?
Terry Campbell: We met at a Virginia Romance Writer's meeting. By the end of the meeting Linda had gotten Bobbye to join the nominating committee with her. Then we started critiquing. That lasted all of one time.
Crescent Blues: At what point did you decide that you wanted to write together? Was there a definitive moment where you looked at each other and said, "Let's do it?"
Terry Campbell: We started writing together two months after we met. We'd agreed to critique each other's work and discovered that each of our individual strengths and weaknesses were complemented in the other person. Although it took almost two years to truly meld our voices into one seamless voice. That we're both alive and off death row proves writing with a partner is possible. Of course it helped that Linda was living in The Netherlands for those first two years. It's kinda hard to kill a person when they're over 3,000 miles away.
Crescent Blues: What's the best thing about writing together?
Terry Campbell: When you write something, you get immediate feedback from the other. This is critical for us since we write comedy. Most really memorable comedy, be it TV, radio or film is written by a team. Comedy requires the ability to play-off someone. We both function -- at different times -- as the straight man. Oh, yeah, and we aren't PC. Also, when the pink slips come in (yes, we get them) we can cry in our spilt milk together. We can also "sell" an idea better as two people, feeding off each other's energy. Plus, when it comes to book-signings, we can be in two places at the same time.
Crescent Blues: What's the worst? How do you overcome the differences?
Terry Campbell: We sometimes disagree on wording, phrases and where scenes should begin. But we have learned a technique that breaks the gridlock. Linda deletes or changes it, then Bobbye yells, and we compromise. Also, we're both of the opinion that if it takes forever to fix something, then it isn't working so delete it and start over.
Crescent Blues: At one point in your writing career, Linda lived in the Netherlands while Bobbye was in Virginia. How did that affect the way you wrote together?
Terry Campbell: As we said earlier, it was fortunate in the early days that we lived so far apart we couldn't kill each other. Linda likes shorter sentences. Bobbye likes the long sentences a reader finds in historical romances. At first, Linda, who writes the second draft, tried to avoid sending Bobbye proof of how much she changed. Let's just say, neither of us kept any emails from those days. After all, if one of us ends up dead, no way do we want there to be any proof the other one might have a motive. The key was learning to trust each other's strengths, giving up some of the power. Now that we've worked together a long time, our disagreements are few.
Crescent Blues: Do you ever disagree with where a book is going or over characters? How do you resolve that kind of problem?
Terry Campbell: If one of us thinks there's a problem with a scene, motivation, etc., we just call the other one and we talk it out. One thing we've done to alleviate this problem is do detailed character development prior to writing the first word. This includes a bio of the character from his/her early years (like three or four) to their mid-twenties when an individual's personality is fully formed. We also plot the major points of the story, which helps keep the story on track.
Crescent Blues: What advice would you give to budding co-authors?
Terry Campbell: You have to learn to be unselfish. Both partners own the story equally. That means giving your partner full credit at all times and accepting the cost, both in time and money, on a 50/50 split.
Crescent Blues: Your first books were electronically published, but now the Gale Group, a "traditional" print publisher, has picked up Mr. Wrong. What is the difference between working with and selling to the two different medias?
Terry Campbell: In electronic publishing, your book can be packaged and published quicker, although Thorndike released Mr. Wrong in six months from the date they bought the rights and Fat Chance in five months. Not too shabby. Of course, there are usually more resources available to you from a print publisher, like liaisons with booksellers, etc. And for the time being, the royalties are better. But we believe that's about ready to change.
Mr. Wrong is also available as an audio book from Books-in-Motion.
Crescent Blues: Do you plan to continue selling books to electronic publishers as well as print?
Terry Campbell: Absolutely. E-publishing is standing at the precipice of becoming a viable and lucrative venue. We are pioneers if you will in a new media and will be recognized entities in the future. Why do we think e-publishing will fly? Because Bill Gates, Warner Books, Random House, Harlequin, and many others have invested heavily in it in recent months. They aren't going to pursue a fading market.
Crescent Blues: There's been a lot of controversy in romantic writing circles, most notably the RWA, over acceptance of electronically published authors as "real" authors. What are your feelings on this issue?
Terry Campbell: We think that their stand is unfortunate. The organization should be protecting the rights of the author, not the author from the rights. We believe RWA was founded to assist writers in the pursuit of a viable career. This move to recognize publishers based on criteria only divides the interests of writers everywhere and does not allow for a unified voice in the industry. That weakens the credibility and political power of romance writers.
The biggest problem is with publisher recognition. Once they recognize a publisher it stays recognized. That means no matter how egregious the publisher's behavior toward their authors, the organization takes no action.
Crescent Blues: What do you think would be equitable criteria for defining a professional author?
Terry Campbell: Why would a writer join a writing organization if he or she weren't interested in writing? We don't think we're going to get a lot of members who just want to "hang-tight" with published authors.
A professional anything is someone who acts in a civilized and directed manner toward the pursuit of a career. He or she may obtain credentials to that end. But we don't believe that it's the responsibility of a trade organization to police the credentials of its members. Bobbye works for a home care trade association. They don't ask their members to send them proof their actually proving services to patients.
Crescent Blues: Do you think electronic publications will ever attain the same status as print publishing?
Terry Campbell: As we said before, absolutely. It's coming. By the end of this decade, it may well be the preferred method of reading. An internal study was completed in 1999 for one of the major print publishers. It said that within two years e-publishing would be 10 percent of the market -- within one year it's become 5 percent of the market. The report also said that within a decade e-publishing would be the market. In our opinion, this depends upon the cost and ease of use for e-readers.
Crescent Blues: In what directions do you see romantic fiction going in the next decade?
Terry Campbell: We think you'll see more mainstream, non-formula books. We also believe romantic comedy will continue as a trend. And for that we are glad, since it's what we are writing and don't plan to stop.
Crescent Blues: There are rumors floating about that Linda was once affiliated with the CIA. Tell us, Bobbye, does that mean she's sneakier than you?
Terry Campbell: Without a doubt. [Smiles.] No, Linda's about as up-front as they come. What you see is truly what you get. But she does know when to keep silent if she has to, even if occasionally it takes my jabbing her in the side. [Grins widely.]
Crescent Blues: Okay gals, here's your soapboxes, free of charge, for you to use to tell our readers what's close to your heart -- or makes you see red -- these days. Fire away!
Terry Campbell: Our biggest thrill right now is beginning two new series which we hope readers will enjoy. One is a quasi-fantasy series, the Maxwell Magic series, about an eccentric recluse who matches unmatchable people. He has an assistant who is somewhat of a Sad Sack. You'll have to keep reading the books, because he will eventually get his due,
The Jordan Ashley Davis series is a comedy mystery series. Jordan is the owner and operator of a funeral boutique called Last Wishes. It's located in Lynchburg, Va., which is a small Southern town where almost everything takes place behind a façade of normalcy and exquisite manners. Jordan often gets jailed trying to fulfill a client's last wishes and is disturbed when her clients keep ending up dead from unnatural causes.
Linda figures we've got may be four books in this series before she gets run out of town. You see, Linda lives in Lynchburg.
Click here to learn more about Terry Campbell.
Teri Smith (nee Dohmen)
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