Today we’re welcoming author J L Campbell! I caught up with her to ask a few questions.
1. What does the term “Diverse Books” mean to you
When I pick up a book and it takes me to another country and there are marked cultural differences, I identify it as being ‘diverse’. It’s even better if I learn something new.
2. You clearly have a strong link to the Jamaican literary community and live on the island. Can you tell us a little bit about this and how the culture has influenced your writing?
I do know a few local writers, but I’m not deeply involved in any one community. It might sound strange, but my first couple of novels did not have a heavy helping of things Jamaican. My online critique partners drilled it into my head that although they enjoyed my stories, they were most interested in seeing the cultural differences. Since then, I ensure that the island is a character in my novels. I don’t paint Jamaica with a heavy hand though, just enough to convey what it is like to live on the island.
3. You write YA, amongst other categories. How important is it to have diversity in books for youths and children?
In my mind, it is great for children to be able to pick up a book and find out how others of a similar age live. It helps them to be more aware of the things that affect other children and also helps them to be more grateful for their situation and the things they take for granted. Seeing into another culture also fosters understanding of why others do they things they practice.
4. You present writing workshops and offer editing services. What piece of advice would you give to an author trying to find an authentic diverse voice in their work?
Study people, note their similarities and differences, the way they express themselves, the way they carry themselves, what they wear, how they speak. We learn so much more when we take time to observe how people behave and interact with each other.
5. Please share with us some of your favourite diverse authors and/or books.
I’ve read a lot of Caribbean-born writers including Colin Channer, Roger Mais, V.S. Naipaul and Samuel Selvon. I’ve also been introduced to a fair number of writers who are new to me. I’ve enjoyed books by Monique Roffey (The White Woman on the Green Bicycle), Amy Tan (Snow Flower & The Secret Fan) and Kiru Taye (any of her books, which are set in Africa), who have taken me to different parts of the world and exposed me to other cultures.