Today I’m excited to share another Author Spotlight feature with you! We’ll be chatting with Ryan R. Campbell, author of the recently-released anthology, And Ampersand, as well as science fiction and contemporary fiction.
I’m Ryan! I previously wrote science fiction under the pen name R.R. Campbell, but I’m now publishing contemporary fiction under Ryan R. Campbell.
Outside of writing and reading, what do you like to do with your time?
I’ve recently started raising money to plant trees by streaming on Twitch. Yes, that’s right, you can cheer me on as I attempt to meet challenge goals while playing games like Super Mario Kart, Donkey Kong Country, and The Legend of Zelda: the Wind Waker! Every time we meet a challenge goal, I plant more trees with OneTreePlanted.org.
The gaming is a hobby, yes, but it’s one I like to use to do some good when I can. If you want to check it out, you can find me at twitch.tv/hence_fort!
Tell us a bit about the earliest story you remember writing.
The earliest story I remember writing was about this horribly sad boy with no friends who lived in a small town in Washington state that had a population eerily similar to the population of the town where I grew up in Wisconsin. Yeah, I was going through a time.
The good news is the second story I wrote was quite the contrast, as it was mostly a ripoff of Weird Al’s song “Albuquerque.”
Coincidentally enough, there’s a parallel in this anecdote that lives on to this day. The novel I’m working on write now has an emotional core, but it’s also got a real humor streak in it. And Ampersand, on the other hand, is a little more in line with the very first story I ever wrote way back in early elementary school. I mean, the collection of short stories definitely isn’t as angsty, but it leans hard into the emotion, to say the least.
Do you have any writing rituals or habits?
I do! Every weekday morning at 5:15 a.m., my alarm goes off, commanding me to my office. It’s there that, after pouring myself a cup of coffee (yes, I have a coffee maker in the bathroom adjacent to the office), I sit and write until about 7 a.m.
Cultivating this habit has helped me feel as though no matter what happens over the course of the day, I’ll at least have given myself that time to write.
To some extent, I keep up with this ritual on the weekends, too, though I normally get out of bed an hour later. Normally. Maybe.
Tell us a little about And Ampersand. What inspired this project and how did it come together?
And Ampersand is an unusual project for me in many ways. For example, I’ve never considered myself an especially prolific writer of short fiction. Historically, any short fiction I write comes in short, intense bursts that tend to happen several years apart.
This is likely why a number of the stories in And Ampersand have their origins in stories first written years ago. Many of them have undergone substantial transformations over time, though there are some pieces, including the titular And Ampersand, that sort of fell out of me as they ultimately appear in the final collection.
Writing is strange like that sometimes.
This collection is also unusual in that it’s my first independently published book. Rather than invest time shopping the individual works around, I thought I would use the time to learn the ins and outs of self-publishing with help from writers who have been there before.
Overall, the process has been immensely rewarding. I never thought I’d design my own cover (and be quite pleased with it) or follow through with actual seeing the book to publication. Where the latter is concerned, it’s not because I don’t believe in the collection; on the contrary, I love it!
I doubted myself, however, as I have this tendency to become enthralled with the idea of a thing before failing to see it through or having my interest wane sooner than expected. This did not happen with And Ampersand, and I’m very grateful for it.
I know it’s like selecting a favorite child, but is there a story that really stands out for you in this anthology, and why?
If I had to pick, I’m hoping you’d let me pick two.
“And Ampersand”—the piece with which the collection opens—speaks to me like none of the others do. There’s something about the interplay between the abject abstraction of its surface and the deeper, more-felt-than-stated meaning that underlies the piece that really draws me in.
And then there’s “Glassed,” which, though seemingly abstract, is another very personal piece for me. It’s one of those pieces where you write it unsure everyone will get it, but those who do will *really* get it, and “Glassed” is written for them.
Some of the stories in And Ampersand are pretty emotional. Were any of them difficult to write and how did you manage it?
Given its personal nature, “Glassed” was challenging to write, but it was even harder to embrace as a piece that would be published.
And there’s “A Final Gift,” too. This is the last piece that appears in the collection, and with good reason, as I think readers will agree. This one will, I suspect, be relatable for anyone who’s lost a loved one. Though tough to write, that it ends on a positive note should, I hope, give readers the nudge forward they need to acknowledge the past while still embracing the present.
What has been the best part of working on these stories?
The best part has really been reader reaction at every stage of the process. I love hearing from readers about what they took from a given piece, what their favorite selections were, and how they’ve recommended it (or plan to recommend it) to friends and family. Those connections are why I write.
In addition to writing, you’re involved with the Kill Your Darlings Candle Company. What inspired you to combine writing and candles?
Well, my wife, Lacey, loves handicraft, and it just so happens that I’ve found the writing community to be quite good to me.
It was only a matter of time before the two aligned.
In late 2019, Lacey took to candle making, and I, impressed as always with her work, knew the first candle she made, once perfected, would enchant many of the writers in my circles.
And so, with origins in a common cause and a desire to share this bit of ourselves with the world, Kill Your Darlings Candle Company was born!
What bit of writing craft or advice do you take most to heart?
I’ve been in a real “write what you know” mood as of late. This is a commonly misunderstood bit of advice, in my view, so let me explain what this means to me.
“Write what you know” has been, for me, a blessing. It’s been a reminder to make it okay for bits and pieces of me to bleed into my characters more explicitly than otherwise might have been the case. It’s been a reminder to write what I *like* to read, not just what I *will* read.
So many writers, I think, take “write what you know” and see it as a limitation, some sort of warning to not tread where they themselves have not tread. I don’t believe that’s the case at all. Instead, I think “write what you know” is an invitation to lean into the most *you* bits of who you are, to share with others the world as you see it and might like it to be seen.
What bit of writing advice drives you up the wall?
Adverb purists will forever be the worst. If you’re going through your manuscript and eradicating every -ly word you find, you’re doing it wrong.
If you could share one tip for self-publishing, what would it be?
Keep at it! It can be a daunting process, but you’re on your own schedule, remember. You’re your own boss. Make it fun and make it work for you; that way, you’re sure to enjoy it from start to finish.