Thursday, January 26, 2012

Get to Know Author Bill Campbell

Hello readers! I hope you are all doing great.
Today we have author, Bill Campbell, joining us to talk about his new book, Koontown Killing Kaper, and answer a few questions for us. So please check it out, and leave comments or questions for Bill.

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It’s a hip-hop satire. All the rappers in Koontown are being murdered, and the police think that it might be vampire crack babies are doing the killing. Stymied, they reach out to ex-supermodel/ex-homicide detective/private detective, Genevieve “Jon Vee” Noire, to solve the case. Basically, I wanted to take different negative portrayals and stereotypes promulgated by popular culture and study them, eviscerate them, to make as much fun of them as is humanly possible. It’s basically as though one combined The Boondocks with The Family Guy, if Aaron McGruder and Seth McFarlane didn’t have to deal with TV censors.
Interestingly enough, readers have found the book either hysterical, offensive, or hysterically offensive. Some have told me they couldn’t put the book done. While others have said they became physically ill and couldn’t put the book back up.
As a satirist, who could ask for anything more?

Who or what inspires your writing?
Good question. I don’t know. What doesn’t? I’d almost have to say everything around me. People are funny. What we say, how we act, what we believe. I always want to examine my fellow humans—and sometimes make fun of them. As well as myself. But what really inspires me would probably be good writing and good music. When I come across a really good writer, I don’t want to be able to write like them, but they make me want to be better. As far as music goes, if I listen to, say, a Coltrane solo, I want desperately to be able to express those kinds of emotions with the written world. If I ever come close, I could definitely hold my head up with pride.

When did you know you would be a writer?
My mother used to make industrial films for Westinghouse—these high-quality productions touting the virtues of circuit breakers and nuclear missiles. Once, when I was 9, she took me out of school for two weeks and took me to Hollywood so I could see the process. I can’t quite remember exactly what happened during that entire trip, but it must have been monumental. I came back wanting to be called “Bill” instead of “Billy” and I wanted to become a writer. Hollywood is one powerful place.

How long did it take you to write your first novel?
I had a rough outline for Sunshine Patriots sitting around for months. Then a weird confluence of events happened: I was laid off from my job, a freak electrical storm knocked out our television, and my girlfriend at the time (my wife now) went away to Tanzania for three weeks. I had absolutely nothing else to do. I wrote the novel then.

What is the hardest part of writing for you?
Authenticity, probably. It’s so easy to fall into common tropes and pat scenarios—to basically “sitcom” it up. So, I think the hardest part for me is to not fall into routine when I’m writing. I’m not trying to be unique necessarily—to come up with something that nobody else has done before. I don’t even think that’s possible. But I definitely don’t want to be pat. I don’t want the reader to be like, “Oh yeah, I saw that coming.” So, for me, I always want the characters to be as “real” as possible and for everything they go through to make sense. I don’t mind happy endings, but I don’t want the ending to be happy or sad simply because that’s what I wanted to happen all along. I want it to be whatever it turns out to be because it makes sense. I had to change the endings of my first two novels, Sunshine Patriots and My Booty Novel in their second drafts for just that reason.

Do you have any writing rituals?
I usually end up smoking too much while I’m writing, but that’s not a ritual. It’s an addiction.

Have you written anything else?
Aside from Koontown Killing Kaper, I’ve written two other novels, Sunshine Patriots and My Booty Novel, and a collection of essays, Pop Culture: Politics, Puns, and “Poohbutt” from a Liberal Stay-at-Home Dad. Sunshine Patriots is an experimental, science fiction satire where I really wanted to examine the role of the hero in our culture and the true meaning of patriotism. My Booty Novel is a lot more light-hearted. It’s about a 32-year-old writer who gets dumped by his fiancee after his first book tour and has to jump back into the dating scene while writing a second novel, which everyone thinks should be a “booty novel.”

Any advice to aspiring writers?
I don’t remember who said it, but I once read that writers are the product of what they read. So, I guess the only advice I could give is Read!!! Read voraciously, read everything. I actually read books for a living, and sometimes it is painfully obvious when I come across a writer who’s not much of a reader.

Who are your favorite Authors?
Too many to mention. But, since you asked, I’ll mention a few: Toni Morrison, Ishmael Reed, Ralph Ellison, Kurt Vonnegut, Anais Nin, Joseph Heller, Richard Wright, Junichiro Tanizaki, Milan Kundera, Franz Kafka, Octavia Butler, Samuel R. Delany, Chinua Achebe.

What are your favorite books, or which book has impacted you the most?
When I was a junior in high school, I came across the Black Poets anthology edited by Dudley Randall. As I said, I’d wanted to be a writer since I was nine, but that book told me what kind of writer I wanted to be. In college, Chinua Achebe’s Anthills of the Savannah really opened my eyes. Evan S. Connell’s The Diary of a Rapist also blew me away. I couldn’t believe that an author would go to such a dark place. That and Tanizaki’s The Key made me want to write an epistolary novel. I came close with My Booty Novel, which is written as a collection of blog posts. Octavia Butler’s Wildseed and all of Delany’s early works convinced me that I wanted to become a science fiction writer (which I kinda am). After living in the Czech Republic for a year, I became obsessed with Kafka and Kundera, which was soon replaced by Nin.
Ishmael Reed’s Mumbo Jumbo has probably been my biggest influence, though. It made me want to be a satirist (which I, also, kinda am). You can pretty much draw a straight line from Invisible Man to Mumbo Jumbo, The Life and Loves of Mr. Jiveass Nigger, and Negrophobia to Koontown.
Of books I’ve read in the last few years, though, I’d say that Lawrence Hill’s Someone Knows My Name, Jennifer Egan’s The Keep, and Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore really wanted me to up my game, and Dalton Trumbo’s Johnny Got His Gun reminded me why I wanted to become a writer in the first place.

What are you currently reading?
Mat Johnson’s Pym. I’m loving it so far.

How do readers find out more about you?
Well, I’m on Goodreads, of course:

I also have a podcast, which is mostly good music and the occasional rant, called The Bill Campbell: Misanthrope Show:

Then there’s the Koontown website

And, of course, there’s always Twitter:
@bcampbellauthor

4 comments:

  1. Hi Bill,

    I remember you from Goodreads. Congratulations!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Oh hey, Tea. Long time no ... whatever it is we do here online. Thanks. Hope all is well.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Very nice interview. It was nice to meet you! I added your book to my Goodreads list to read!

    ReplyDelete

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