by Timothy Pike
It all started with a vivid dream.
An enchantress—picture Cleopatra—enters an Egyptian cave filled with glittering jewels. “Turquoise eyes blazing,” recounts award-winning author Camille S. Campbell, “she said that she would bring about the heart thief’s curse in fifty years.”
That dream, Camille realized upon waking up, would make the perfect opening scene for a novel. Excited, she set about learning more. “I began delving into research of scarab amulets and Egyptian myths,” she says. “I read that scarab amulets were placed on the hearts of the mummies in ancient Egypt as a symbol of renewal for the afterlife. Through doing that research, I came up with the inspiration for the middle-grade adventure.”
That middle-grade adventure is The Wishner’s Curse, Camille’s debut novel and winner of the Purple Dragonfly and Gold Moonbeam awards.
This young author grew up in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and spent many evenings outside, writing in her journal as she took in the mountain vistas and blazing sunsets. She now lives in Arizona, a place that holds much of the same allure. “I love spending the summers in Sedona,” Camille says, “which has great energy and beautiful red rock views.”
Back in town, Camille is active in both the art and education scenes. “I am lucky to engage in the art world of Old Town Scottsdale galleries with my silk painting,” she says, “and nonprofits as an educational activist.”
Through her activism, Camille has already made a tremendous impact on young learners. Her Poems, a children’s book she created that features women poets, is used by teachers across the country to guide classroom discussions. “It has become a book that has showcased strong female role models and encouraged children to express themselves through poetry,” she says.
Another female role model who’s influenced Camille’s writing a great deal is her mother. “She gives me the confidence to pursue my stories,” Camille tells me, “because I know that any flaw in the story can be fixed if I have the confidence to continue.”
Continue she has. After The Wishner’s Curse, Camille published the sequel, The Wishner’s Masquerade. And now she has a new, even more ambitious writing project in the works: a young adult novel. “A few phrases,” she says, “to describe my young adult project: glamorous parties, enchanting illusions, and deceptive appearances.”
“I think the more you immerse yourself in the world you’re creating,” Camille says, “the deeper you will fall into the story.”
On that project, it’s full speed ahead. “I try to do something for my work-in-progress every day,” Camille says. “Even a thing as small as making a notecard or flipping through my dog-eared copy of The Odyssey. I think the more you immerse yourself in the world you’re creating, the deeper you will fall into the story.”
For Camille, this means practically seeing the action unfold in front of her. “I’ve always thought of my stories as a show in my mind,” she says, “which is what makes me write fast-paced stories that are cinematic, a touch dramatic, and very visual.”
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Like a director, Camille has a knack for bringing her visions to life. “It’s like hosting your own little theater,” she says. “You design costumes for the characters by studying how high-fashion garments are made for haute couture shows, and make the ‘sets’ by taking online tours of the Salvador Dalí art museum and other interesting places. For the music, you play whatever soundtrack you want. And for the words, you assign a narrator and speak through the characters’ lines.”
This is how Camille creates such realistic settings—and characters that practically pop off the page. “One of the best feelings in writing is when your character truly ‘speaks,'” she says. “To create dimensional characters, I take Myers-Briggs Type Indicator personality tests for characters to ensure I understand what person they truly are.”
While this upfront work virtually assures a better story, it doesn’t stop there. “I’ve recently fallen in love with outlining books,” Camille says. “It’s fascinating to deconstruct masterful films and books, realizing how the three-act structure plays a role in how the story flows.”
“Things will happen if I follow the stories that sparkle within my heart,” Camille says, “the ones that keep me up at night and don’t let me take a full breath.”
Camille lies somewhere between a “pantser”—an author who writes by the seat of her pants—and an “outliner,” an author who plots out every scene before writing a single word. “I would call myself a ‘poutliner,'” she says, “because I do write out of order and do spontaneous work, but other times I’ll outline meticulously, coming up with exciting ideas along the way. I try to jump into the scene I’m most inspired to write—or revise—to keep the inspiration alive, even if that means writing out of order.”
This approach has worked much better than Camille thought it would. “The reason I didn’t outline before is that I feared it would take the inspiration out of writing,” she explains. “Now, I realize that even more inspiration can come when you do an outline. Through my outlines, I enjoy weaving in a playlist and images to keep me focused on the mood of each scene. It’s remarkably fun.”
This enthusiasm helps Camille stay optimistic about her achievements. “Any success in writing is preceded by a whole lot of quiet work while you’re working toward something,” she says. “I remember I felt insecure that certain things weren’t happening for me in terms of writing last year.”
“Any success in writing,” Camille says, “is preceded by a whole lot of quiet work while you’re working toward something.”
But with all that behind her, Camille is charging ahead. “As I continue to tell stories, I will improve,” she says. “And things will happen if I follow the stories that sparkle within my heart, the ones that keep me up at night and don’t let me take a full breath.”
While she doesn’t have a firm date for the release of her next book, Camille does have an update on her progress, and it even involves—as many of her stories do—a relic of an ancient civilization: “Right now,” she tells me, “I’m on page CXCII of my young adult manuscript.”
Welp, off I go to brush up on my Roman numerals. In the meantime, keep your eye out for the next sure-to-be-thrilling novel from this talented author, whose writing adventures are only just beginning.
Camille S. Campbell is the author of the award-winning Wishner Prophecy series, which has reached readers across the globe. Ever since her debut novel, The Wishner’s Curse, hit the shelves, Camille’s work has gone on to receive the international Gold Moonbeam Book Award and Purple Dragonfly Book Award. Camille is also a blogger, silk artist, poet, and educational activist, and has made author appearances in various schools to promote the love of reading and writing.
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