Interview with Beth Camp

Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grrew up a city girl in a gritty, blue-collar neighborhood in the wilds of Seattle's Magnolia Hill. Today, that's a pretty fancy address, but when I was young, the town dump filled that area between Magnolia and Queen Anne hills. I felt then that one day, I would be a writer. I left home early, worked my way through college, attending many schools along the way. My writing, I hope, conveys sympathy for the underdog, for I yet remember shoving up the sleeves on my sweaters so the holes would not show! College opened my eyes to international travel, cross-cultural issues, and history shaped by how people actually lived (social history, I think), rather than economics and war. I like to think my characters are survivors, regardless of the twisted plot they face, capable of transforming themselves and their world.
When did you first start writing?
I wrote stories and poetry as I was growing up, but not until high school did I slide a short story in a pile of assignments for my English teacher to read. She fanned through the papers and came to a complete stop when she saw my short story. Little did I know then that one day I would teach writing as well.
What's the story behind your latest book?
As I approached retirement, I took a creative writing class (the very first one) from an inspirational colleague. On the first day of class, she stood before we aspiring writers and told us we could write anything -- as long as it wasn't too violent. Since at that time, most of my writing tended to darker stories, I was at a loss. I remember sitting in that class and thinking, "Write anything? Might as well write about mermaids." Thus, my first book, a collection of poems and short stories about mermaids from all over the world, began.

But the rest of the story is this: One of the stories in that collection was about a young Scottish woman who falls in love with a selkie. I began doing research on Scottish mythology and culture. Suddenly the story morphed to the mid-19th Century and became more about the Scottish rural people and how they dealt with the Industrial Revolution that irrevocably changed their lives as crofters (small farmers, called shareholders or sharecroppers in the States). One family came to represent the fishermen, their families, and the crofters -- their dreams, sacrifices, and struggles.
How do you approach cover design?
I always thought as a self-published writer, that I would make my own cover. Very quickly I learned that my skills were not really good enough. What makes a good cover? The cover needs to appeal to the reader immediately. From the writer's point of view, though, I feel the cover should catch the very heart of the book -- as well as introduce the genre. I respect professional designers and absolutely love the cover that Angela of pro_ebook covers designed. While travelling in Scotland to research the locales that appear in STANDING STONES, I was thrilled to visit the Ring of Brodgar (the image that appears on the cover).
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
When I can tell a story that moves readers in some way, whether through a poem, a story, or a novel, that brings such joy. In some way, we are all connected, perhaps best by the written word or a work of art that reveals the essence of our thoughts. Writing every day also brings structure to my life; somehow I feel the day is unfinished unless I write. When I meet other writers and look past the doubt and uncertainty we all face, I see hope in the act of creating something new, something that will inspire others. I do believe that writing at its best should inspire us -- whether to a greater understanding of what others have experienced or an appreciation of what we can accomplish in our own lives. In short, writing is a daily process, not always an easy one, rather like peeling an onion. Sometimes, I encounter many layers (even tears) before reaching the heart of the onion. But, in the end, good flavors enrich us all.
What are you working on next?
I'm fully immersed just now in the research and writing of Book 3 of The McDonnell Clan. This story is based on a historical nugget: A young Scotswoman took on the disguise of a boy and followed her lover when he was hired by the Hudson's Bay Company in the mid-19th Century into the wilds of Canada. She was discovered when she became pregnant (no birth control then). RIVERS OF STONE began to take shape when I saw a sign on the grounds of Fort Vancouver, here in Washington state, stating that once in these fields, Scots, Hawaiians, and Native Americans worked together to grow crops. What a melding of history and culture. Typically I spend about three years writing a novel, so perhaps this story will be ready by the end of 2015.
What do your fans mean to you?
I meet weekly with quilting friends for several hours of sewing and talk. This last week, one of my friends was late. She said, "I almost didn't come today, for I'm in the middle of Standing Stones and didn't want to stop." I appreciated that comment so much. Someone liked my writing for the sheer story of it. I'm not established quite enough to have so many fans, but how could I not appreciate someone who likes my stories?
Published 2014-02-08.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

My Selkie
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 2,850. Language: English. Published: June 29, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Short stories, Fiction » Historical » United Kingdom
(5.00 from 1 review)
Set in a small island in northern Scotland in the 1840s, this short fantasy tale introduces Maggie, a young woman who falls in love with a supernatural creature from the sea, and her brothers who make their living as fishermen.