Pique: There’s something intriguing about the bipartisan nature of your characters relationship. What inspired you to write these two?
R.M. Campbell: Labels. Every election year, I think of labels—and freedom. No matter how much we wish or think otherwise, labels often govern us. How we vote and act, who we interact and have relationships with—romantically, in my character Maura’s case. Gender, age, marital status, rank—anything and everything—people compartmentalize and are compartmentalized by such labels, creating expectations and stereotypes that can constrain. Even what we read is labeled by a genre, and we stick with what we know and like.
Authors learn to avoid character stereotypes. For once, I wanted to have fun with them instead of prickle or balk. I wanted to embrace certain conventions while stepping out and running with them, to show that party—I mean, labels—don’t matter.
Pique: Ever trust a politician?
R.M.C.: Nope, not even with my purse.
Pique: What’s your favorite part of the creative process? What do you find the most difficult?
R.M.C.: My favorite part is fleshing out the characters. Every character is a mystery to unravel, a secret to uncover, like a Matryoshka doll needing to be cracked open multiple times to reach the small, solid center. Even when I think I know the characters, I glean new bits of each as I write and have to decide how a reader does, as well. It’s either love or hate at first read and only builds from there. Revealing who the characters are, what makes them tick, what they believe and why—all without “telling”—are as important as first impressions, and the discovery is as exciting as falling in love.
Then that moment of doubt comes. Insecurity hits. Too fat in the middle of the narrative? Too frilly a dress for the description? Am I bumping, grinding, flailing in the action sequence like a virgin? What will he/she, the readers, think? No longer are your beloved characters speaking to you; it’s the devil on your shoulder whispering in your ear, disrupting the emotional high and creative momentum. And the angel … the angel on your other shoulder becomes a page-perfectionist.
Eventually, I come to terms that I’m not perfect, that no scene of mine ever will be because of expectations—whether my own or someone else’s. And that’s okay. I’ll push through, steel my shoulders and flick off whoever standing over them so I can finish to the best of my ability and not have the ending, a big “What if,” haunt me. There’s always the next time. There’s always a next time, and I’ll appreciate what and where I’ve gotten so far.
Pique: Were you a reader of erotica before you started writing it?
R.M.C.: Definitely, secretly, and without the intention of trying my hand at it … on paper.
Pique: So, why and how did you start writing erotica?
R.M.C.: By diving in headfirst—writing a few smutty scenes and then joining an online writing group/class. The phrase “Write what you know” … yeah, that isn’t me. I write what I want to know, whether it’s an ending to a kernel of a story (imagined or otherwise) or if it’s a subject I want to learn inside and out and get right. Writing Erotica was one of those things. The prospect terrified me, made me sweat for a whole other reason other than excitement and exertion. But I knew that if I wanted to grow as a writer, I needed to push my boundaries and step out of my comfort zone. So I did, and though I still sweat with every smutty scene I write, I like to think I’m better for it.
Pique: What turns you on?
R.M.C.: Foreign languages, the crackle and warm smoky smell of burning firewood, muscular forearms and watch-covered wrists, vanilla spanks, kilts, a wide vocabulary, quiet confidence.
Pique: Your most shameless moment?
R.M.C.: Showering under a waterfall in the Philippines under the gazes of strangers. My family and I were roughing it on a beach for a week. I had been hiking through the nearby mountains and didn’t trust the dirty, public shower stalls or the surf the locals treated like a sewer. I needed a bath, badly.
Pique: What writers or artists inspire you?
R.M.C.: Is it a cop-out to say all writers of any genre and artists of any media inspire me? Yes, but it’s true. Sharing a passion with others to applaud or criticize take guts and is admirable, but also every author and artist offers something even if I’m not a fan of them.
Ayn Rand inspired me to write about something I care about, with unrestrained fervor. J.R.R. Tolkien and G.R.R. Martin showed me epic world-building. Emily Brontë showed me how to weave words to create a mood. Charles Dickens taught me how to intertwine subtle foreshadowing into plot, dialogue, and action. The book of Genesis taught me not only the strength of a word and the Word but also why I don’t use the words “loins” and “begot”; there is imagery and memory, a weight, in a single word. Stephenie Meyer opened me up to start reading YA Paranormal (sad, but true). Music artists remind me beat and flow matters, how fast and shorter prose can make the heart race with action scenes versus slow and lyrical for dream-like love scenes. Painters remind me which color can evoke which emotion and to use hues often as a device. Artisans or craftsmen remind me every craft, especially writing and storytelling, is a process that can’t be rushed or taken for granted lest I miss a practical, purposeful step.
And I’m also inspired by authors’ mistakes—how not to create a character or characterize, when to start wrapping up the plot instead of dragging it out or forcing it, to self-edit so I’m not butchering a story with the very tool I’m using to tell it—language. Everyone offers something, good or bad, both in many cases and depending how one looks at it.
Pique: What do you like to read for fun?
R.M.C.: I once read “Basic Economics” by Thomas Sowell for “fun.” I’ll read anything and usually enjoy it as long as it’s decently written. If I had to choose a genre for a best-ever boyfriend, it’s a toss-up between Fantasy and Highlander Romances, which is basically Fantasy. I also have a penchant for National Geographic and Architectural Digest; I cannot not pick up an issue when I see one. The most fun I’ve had reading, though, is with my kids—anything Dr. Suess, and whoever-the-morbid-author’s Goodnight Moon as a close second.
Pique: What are you thankful for?
R.M.C.: All the wonderful women I’ve met in the writing community. For their time, guidance, hand-holding, finger-pointing. For being the best mates to a woman and writer’s soul.
And my family. Always. They encourage me, drive and inspire me, ground me. While they support me writing, I would only live through a page, a character, or my computer if it wasn’t for them.