Fancy that I met James Campbell a month ago online! James is a writer and an old-hand about Taiwan. I admit that I did not expect to cross paths with a writer online at the time when I launched my blog, but James’s more than 3-year stint in Taiwan and his unique first-person experience of interacting with Taiwanese people from all walks of life have qualified him as a “person of interest” who merits a place of honor on my blog. I trust you’ll welcome this special write-up and join me in giving a big hand to this aspirant writer.
Typhoon Season is James’s debut novel. He spent over three years in Taiwan researching the complexities of Chinese/Taiwanese history and culture, and how the current political stalemate affects not only each country but the day-to-day dealings of locals and expats alike.
“I hope the book shows not only what it’s like to live as a foreigner in Taiwan, but also how different Taiwanese from different levels of society live and work and play, and how they relate to the foreigners in the country as well,” he says. This statement alone guarantees that the novel is worth its weight in gold.
James graciously took the time to answer five questions from me:
SJ: How did you get involved with writing and writing as a profession?
James Campbell: I’ve been reading for as long as I can remember. My first big love was the Hardy Boys series of mystery novels when I was seven or eight years old, and from there I went on to read a lot of fantasy and adventure books. But then one day when I was sixteen I was reading something and suddenly thought to myself, “this is what I want to do for the rest of my life.” Accordingly, I attended York University in Toronto, Canada, in the Creative Writing programme, and earned an Honours BA.
SJ: I understand the making of Typhoon Season was an odyssey of fact-finding research. Can you give us a brief account on that long process, from conception to fruition?
James Campbell: I began developing the idea for Typhoon Season during my final year of university, but at that point I really wasn’t ready to write it yet. Over the next few years the story grew and changed and grew some more, and I made many notes and character sketches, just waiting for the right time to do it. Finally, after working a few years at boring jobs and feeling I wasn’t getting anywhere, I just decided it was ‘now or never,’ sold as many of my things as I could (and gave away the rest) and moved to Taiwan, not really knowing what to expect when I got there or how the writing process was going to go.
My first six months living in Taipei were extremely busy with getting into my new job (teaching English at ELITE language school) and accumulating information for the book – things like settings and cultural/political/historical information. At that point I was ready to begin; from Monday – Saturday I woke up at 7:00 am and went to the Dante [a cafe chain] near my house, eating breakfast and writing for around two hours (or more if I really felt into it that day). This routine was very important for me as it kept me on track and constantly thinking about what I wanted to say, not allowing me to fall into any slumps or bouts of writer’s block.
It took a solid eight months of this process to finish the first draft. After that, I put the book away for a couple of weeks and just relaxed. Then I wrote the second draft. After that, I gave it to friends of mine to read and edit, after which I had to go back and make changes based on their edits. After five full drafts, the book was completed, and I then had to focus on how I could get it out into the world.
SJ: Why the digital version instead of a printed book?
James Campbell: My initial attempts with traditional publishing methods failed, unfortunately. I mailed out introduction packages to around 60 agencies in both the U.K. and Canada, but it’s extremely difficult for new authors to get discovered, especially now with the publishing industry in a bit of a decline. If you don’t have the next ‘Harry Potter’ they basically don’t want you.
Then I found out about the Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing programme and decided to take that route. The Kindle app can be downloaded onto iPhones, iPads, iPods, Android phones and tablets, Windows and Mac computers, or even used through a web browser, so you can take all your books with you and read them whenever or wherever you like. So that’s where I am right now – in the first stages of promoting and marketing my book and an independent publisher.
SJ: Of all the countries, how come you chose Taiwan as the setting for your novel?
James Campbell: When I first decided to set the book in Taiwan, I really knew nothing about the country at all. After a bit of initial research, though, I found that Taiwan was simply the best place for the book based on its unique history and the unique political situation with China. I ended up living there for more than 3 years, and aside from some minor complaints (like: scooter drivers are crazy!), I really did quite enjoy my time there and I often miss Taiwan – the scenery, the friendly people, the hot springs, and of course the food (I love stinky tofu!).
SJ: What’s the goal you set for this first novel of yours?
James Campbell: My goal with Typhoon Season was to present an honest accounting of Taiwan and its people through the eyes of the fictional main character, Daniel Mason. The book shows what it’s like to live as a foreigner in Taiwan, with many of the things that happen based on my personal experience (but of course many things are fabricated in order to tell the story). My hope is that both Westerners and Taiwanese could read the book and see things in it that they recognize.
Outline of Typhoon Season:
Daniel Mason, British trade representative, moves to Taiwan with his young son Tyler, trying to put the tragedies of his time in Shanghai behind him. But when Tyler falls strangely ill, eating away at the fragile routine Daniel had constructed to simply get by, he finds himself sinking into a darkness that, the further he goes, he may never be able to atone for. Ultimately the question is not whether you like Daniel Mason, but rather, can you understand him.
Where to purchase:
The novel is conveniently available at Amazon Kindle
Don’t have the Kindle app? It can easily be downloaded HERE.
“LIKE” James on Facebook
Follow James @jamesccamp
Sooper Jerry’s Note:
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