Sunday, November 02, 2008

The Sun Singer

Today we welcome Malcolm R. Campbell to our writing blog. He is discussing his novel The Sun Singer.

YVONNE: Tell me something about yourself and your writing background.
MALCOLM: Yvonne, I’ve probably spent more hours working as a technical writer than anything else except for fiction. I’ve documented a fair number of computer programs in addition to those my wife and I created via our own company. I’ve also worked as a grant writer, college journalism instructor and a corporate communications director. Right now, I’m seeking a publisher for second novel while working as a contributing writer for a regional magazine here in Georgia.

YVONNE: I was born and raised in Georgia. It's a great state with a lot of amenities. What is the title of your book? Give us the basic story line so we’ll know what it’s about.
MALCOLM: The novel, a new age fantasy, is called The Sun Singer. My protagonist Robert Adams becomes psychic after stepping into the energy field around a bronze statue of a god. At first, this is wonderful. It’s moment of fame, for his friends call “the soothsayer of West Wood Street,” a guy who has dreams that come true. Unfortunately, he sees his best friend’s sister run over and killed in the street and, though he tries to warn her, he gets there just in time to see the accident happen as a rerun of his dream. Now he becomes unglued and sees his talent as a curse. The trouble is, when he hikes into the shining mountains to finish a mysterious task his avatar grandfather left undone, Robert needs his abilities to tell friend from foe, survive battles in a world of swords, arrows, and magic, accomplish his mission, and figure out how to get home. While in this alternate universe, Robert learns that time isn’t what it seems and neither is he.

YVONNE: This sounds like a very interesting book. I’m intrigued. What inspired you to write this book?
MALCOLM: Fate and/or synchronicity. My grandparents took me to see Allerton Park in Monticello, Illinois. Among the other statuary placed throughout the formal gardens is a bronze statue of Apollo called the Sun Singer. It did, in fact, seem to have an energy force around it. We left the park that night during a thunder storm and the flashing lightning seemed to make the statues come to life in such a threatening way that I had nightmares about all of them except the Sun Singer for years. Ultimately, the experience kept nagging at me until I used it as the basis for my new age novel. Seriously, I seem to have channeled the book one way or another for it was more of a happening than a planned work of fiction even though it came out as a very intricate and mysterious puzzle for both readers and characters.

YVONNE: I see your experiences are somewhat mystical and you were following your inner guidance in writing the book. I appreciate that. Is this the first book you have written?
MALCOLM: It’s the first one I’ve published. I wrote an earlier novel that got lost in a sock drawer or was stolen by librarians to keep it from showing up on their shelves. Now I’m seeking a publisher for a related novel called Garden of Heaven. Several years after The Sun Singer, I wrote a book of political parody called Worst of Jock Stewart. Yep, that’s a pseudonym since I didn’t want to spoil any chances of a political career by satirizing everyone under my own name!

YVONNE: How long did it take to write this book? Any interesting tidbits about your writing method or how the book developed?
MALCOLM: Gee, Yvonne, you really know how to embarrass a guy with a question like this. I worked on it off and on for 20 years. I wrote the first version in 1981 and found an agent to represent me. Then, providence stepped in, though I though it was evil spirits at the time. My agent had a small firm, so when one of her authors’ books took off into the stratosphere, I got dropped because she didn’t have time for all of us. I got ticked off and threw the book in a box, and there it sat until my company downsized my division out of existence in 2001. At my wife’s suggestion—to stop me from wandering around the house with nothing to do—I got the novel out again, rewrote it so that it turned into a very different book, published it in 2004 and was surprised when it became a named fiction finalist in Foreword Magazine’s book of the year awards.

YVONNE: Congratulations on that special honor! How did you publish your book? Tell me about your publishing experience and what you learned from it.
MALCOLM: Traditional publishers in 1981 and 2001 said they didn’t know how to market literary fiction with a teenaged protagonist to both adults and teens. I was told to make Robert at least ten years older. I said “forget it” and so did the mainstream publishers. So, I sent it to iUniverse where I had a very good experience from their editing to their creation of a high-energy cover. Between 1981 and 2001, I learned to have more faith in my work.

YVONNE: Did you work with an agent? If so, how did you find the agent? Was it beneficial to you?
MALCOLM: In the 1980s, I found an agent by stealing samples out of Writer’s Digest and slapping them together into a query letter. In 2001, I more or less skipped the agent step, though I thought about going back to the original agent and asking, “Are you ready yet?” (This kind of thinking usually gets me into trouble.)

YVONNE: That’s definitely a good way of learning: follow the examples of experts! Where is your book available? Do you have a Web site or blog where we can learn more about you or your book?
MALCOLM: The Sun Singer is available online through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other booksellers. The book can also be tracked down via my author’s website at and at my Sun Singer’s Travels weblog at

YVONNE: As far as marketing, do you do more online publicity or print/radio/TV promotion? Tell me some ways you have promoted your book. Give examples and links to any sites you feel might help other authors.
MALCOLM: Almost everything’s been done online via Google ads, banners and banner exchanges, and related blog references including the one in my profile on Amazon. Circle of Seven Productions made a great trailer earlier this year which appeared around the net and can now be seen at my freelancer’s website. I ran a print ad in the local newspaper prior to the book’s launch which, unfortunately, coincided with the remnants of Hurricane Ivan coming through town. (Surprisingly, 16 crazy people showed up anyway.) Later, I participated in a Foreword Magazine co-op in the New York Review of Books after the 2004 award winners and finalists were announced.

One of the best ideas, which wasn’t mine, came at a now-defunct blogging community where we had a club that discussed—via posts and comments—various books. Mine was one of them. This, of course, doesn’t work until enough people either have, or go out and buy, copies of the book so they can discuss overall impressions, plot, themes, characters, settings, etc. I’ve subsequently seen this done elsewhere, the angle being that folks can discuss an author’s book with the author taking part.

YVONNE: Have you hired a publicist to help promote this book? If so, what was your experience like?
MALCOLM: No. I always worried that the cost of the publicity would exceed the book sales it generated. However, that ended up happening a lot anyway, so when the next book comes out, I’m not doing a roll-your-own on marketing plan.

YVONNE: From my experience, online book marketing is much more effective and less costly than traditional print publicity. Any other comment you would like to share?
MALCOLM: The Sun Singer illustrates for me the value of writing what you know. People tell me the settings seem so real to them. While I changed most of the place names to keep from spoiling the fantasy approach with known locations, Robert Adams’ boyhood home is my grandparents’ former house on Wood Street in Decatur, Illinois. The mountain settings fit hand-in-glove with the trails, mountains, and lakes of Glacier National Park, Montana, where I worked as a seasonal college student employee at one of the historic hotels. The detail, I think, makes the fantasy more believable, a technique we can all use through heavy research and/or with locations we know well.

YVONNE: I love novels that have a historical component or a setting that makes the book seem more believable. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to get to know you and learn about your book. I wish you well in your journey as an author.


MaAnna Stephenson said...

Malcolm, good to see you here on the WITS blog. I was certainly happy to see that you honored the process of manifesting a book in its own time and in a season that would let it flourish. It seems that you were ready for the message of the book twenty years ago, but it took a little time for the populace to be in a place to receive it. Congrats on having it named in Foreword Magazine. I see that as an acknowledgement that you released it at exactly the right time.

I too have been sitting on a novel that I wrote years ago and appreciate that you were willing to go through a rewrite and bring the original manuscript up to your current level of knowledge and experience. What a trip that must have been.

I'll keep following your Sun Singer's Travels. Very interesting.

Elizabeth Grace said...

Thanks for posting this interview, Yvonne. I thoroughly enjoyed The Sun Singer and it's nice to have a little background on the book. A few months ago, I lent my copy to a friend who asked to read it -- she liked it so much that she then passed it on (without my permission) to her mother. Last I heard, Robert Adams was being toted along on a trip that my friend's aunt was taking to visit friends in Florida.

It's starting to look as though I'm going to have to buy another copy if I'd like to see The Sun Singer on my shelf again. :O)

Sun Singer said...

Hi MaAnna: The saga of this book has been strange, but in a good way. I was much more impatient 25 years ago. Perhaps your novel is on a schedule planned by the universe. I do think that The Sage Age has come out at a good time and only wish that I had specified express shipping when I ordered my copy rather than pony express. I'm looking forward to it.

Hi Beth: Nice to see you made the journey over here from MySpace and Communati. Gee, that's too bad about your copy wandering off like that. Glad you enjoyed the book, Maybe somebody will get you a fresh copy for Christmas.

Howdy Yvonne: Thanks a lot for hosting my visit at your cool place here.


Family Fun & Faith said...

Nice interview, Yvonne. Reading the Sun Singer was a joy, but one of my favorite times as a blogger was in being part of the discussion of the book that Malcolm referenced in the interview. We spent several days really digging into the work, and hearing from the author about our observations.

Sun Singer said...

Hi FF&F,

Thanks for stopping by. While you were leading that discussion, I thought you had a second career as a literature professor ready and waiting.


silken said...

nice interview. it is always a great asset to be able to "hear" the author and find out the details that went into making the book!

Sun Singer said...

Well, silken, it stands to reason Madam Blogalot might stop by a blog and make a comment! :-) Thanks for the visit even though I already forgot what I said. It could have been anything.