MEET JOANNA CAMPBELL, AUTHOR OF TYING DOWN THE LION
as she pops the hood on the inspirations behind her new novel

Has your childhood influenced your writing?

 

My childhood has influenced my writing a great deal. I was a painfully shy child and would hide if anyone rang the doorbell! Sometimes I still do! I immersed myself in books from age three and taught myself to read. I loved being alone. My friends complained that when I visited them, all I wanted to do was look at their books! So I decided instead to entertain them by making up my own stories and plays. I also invented song lyrics and sang them in different accents (strumming a cardboard guitar made of cereal packets) in a re-enactment of the Eurovision Song Contest. If my parents took me to visit relatives, the only time I spoke was when I stood on a chair and recited nursery rhymes. 'Performing' seemed easier than making conversation because the crippling shyness always prevented me from being myself.


Being a silent observer, I was able to remember the things people said, the way they sat or ate or smiled and all their mannerisms. I would store up this information and use it for creative writing. My first novel - sadly unavailable - was written in green pen on my mother's typewriter paper, bound with sellotape and had a cover embellished with our budgie's cast-off feathers, which I stuck on with Gloy paste. I charged my parents sixpence for the first, and only, edition.


 

You started off writing short stories. What made you decide to write a novel?


I still write short stories and have a collection due for publication soon. However, I now love writing novels too. I find it a completely different process which requires more planning, but both kinds of writing bring me equal pleasure. I love writing for its own sake and can't imagine life without it. I am blessed with ears that stick out enough to keep a pencil permanently tucked behind one of them. You won't often see me without it.



Do you have a routine?


My routine is always the same. I wake up early - sometimes as early as 4am, but always by 5am - and start writing. I carry on throughout the day, breaking off only for essential housework, which is why our cottage has a lot of cobwebs in it. My husband works from home as an IT consultant and I did cast myself in the role of secretary at first. But I was hopeless at answering the phone and left all the filing in the in-tray for a year. He sacked me and I've written fiction ever since.



What made you come up with the title, Tying Down The Lion?

 

I discovered that the silk dragline spun by spiders has properties that make it similar in strength to high-grade alloy steel. If you could weave many of these threads together, you would create a strong enough rope to tether a lion. In TDTL, the family is at its strongest when the individual members are united and bind together.

 

What inspired you to write Tying Down The Lion?

 

I wrote TDTL because one of my short stories, 'A Temporary Uprooting', kept being shortlisted in competitions and attracted some very kind comments from judges. I couldn't stop thinking about the story, which was a snapshot of the Bishop family all waiting with baited breath for Dad to come home from his latest driving-test. It is essential that he pass this time because they have booked the ferry and are set to go to Berlin. We meet Grandma and discover how much she loathes her daughter-in-law Bridget for being too foreign. In this original version, Grandma has to stay with her friend, Elsie, because she is too scared of 'Abroad' to travel with the family. The story's theme was how people are often uprooted from their homes and long for the chance to return, even though home can often be a battleground! I loved the characters so much I couldn't stop thinking about them. In the end, I took 'A Temporary Uprooting' and completely re-wrote it, unable to stop until it became a novel.

 

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