Welcome, one and all, to today’s author interview! This time around, I’m speaking with r.r. campbell.
r.r. welcome to the site! For those unfamiliar with you and your work, can you give us a quick introduction?
Oh, hello! Thanks for inviting me to the site. I’m an author, editor, and the founder of the Writescast Network, a podcast collective for writers, by writers.
I consider myself a bit of a crossover author, writing contemporary works like my debut Accounting for It All alongside my science fiction EMPATHY series, which will have its first installment released in January 2019.
Beyond the realms of contemporary and science fiction, I’m also sitting on a completed manuscript for genre-blending sci-fi romance and a short story anthology that’s essentially old timey westerns with dinosaurs.
Regardless of genre, my writing always seems to come back to the same core elements: highly personal stories with an emphasis on the bittersweet.
We’re primarily going to be talking your upcoming debut novel Accounting for It All, so let’s start there. The book is a contemporary title that follows an accountant and ex-porn star named Robin as she skirts the system and teaches new performers at the studio she works for. One thing that struck me with the blurb was that Robin is not only developing feelings for the man teaching her accountancy, but is also in love with a woman. It’s good to see some more bi rep out there. Did you know that Robin would be bi when you started writing the book, or did that develop as you went along?
My original vision for the novel was to write a lighthearted, farcical story with a modestly emphasized romantic angle expressed through the protagonist, Robin, and the man she enlists to teach her accounting, Dave. As I wrote the first draft, though, I realized two things were missing. One was that too little time was being spent exploring what made Robin interested in the world of adult acting in the first place, and the second was that Robin needed a childhood confidant for this newly integrated timeline, which would take place primarily in the past.
In the very first scene I wrote with Sarah—Robin’s childhood confidant—the unexpected happened: there was a tension to the Robin-Sarah relationship suggesting Robin might have always wanted to be more than friends, and that Sarah, too, might have wanted the same but was never ready to fully embrace it.
For a moment, I considered disregarding the tension since the addition of a new romantic layer clashed with my original vision for a streamlined, what-you-see-is-what-you-get manuscript, but, as most writers will tell you, sometimes (always…) you have to trust your characters—and I’m so glad I did!
The addition of the Robin-Sarah romance dynamic did wonders for the story. It enriched Robin, her worldview, and transformed the novel from a lighthearted farce into the more evocative self-actualization narrative it’s become.
And, of course, it put more bi rep on the page, which I was super glad to integrate as well.
How important do you think it is to see more bisexual characters in leading roles right now? And what makes a good or bad bisexual character?
I think it’s of critical importance we continue to see bisexual characters in leading roles, particularly if portrayed in a way that allows it to become more normalized and accepted in general. Far too often we see the erasure of bi identities both directly and indirectly in the real world and in fiction.
One challenge I find myself confronting when walking people through Accounting for It All’s elevator pitch is the question of “Wait. So is your main character straight or is she a lesbian?”
More often than not, this question comes from people who aren’t especially familiar with the queer community or even really understand the implications of what they’re asking. Frustrating as it is, it does provide me with an opportunity to respond in such a way that it offers a learning moment for those who are unintentionally participating in bi erasure. And though it can certainly be grating to have this same conversation over and over again with different people, I see this as a critical step in a longer journey toward the normalization and acceptance of bi characters and bisexuality in general.
Where good bi characters are concerned, the easy answer would be to say “what makes a good bi character is what makes any good character.” Though true, I think that would come up short in really embodying the vast diversity of perspective and preference that exists within the community.
To build on this, when introducing a bisexual character, one matter a writer might consider is the degree to which the character in question prefers one gender or another. Do they prefer women over men? Men over women? Enby over both, one, or the other? Do they have little to no preference whatsoever? All are valid and all merit representation.
In Accounting for It All, we see Robin as someone who has dated both men and women in more or less equal measure over the years, though she seems to have stronger, longer-lasting romantic bonds with women than she does men. Sarah, on the other hand, despite having had feelings for Robin when they were younger, goes on to marry a man for nearly a decade before she’s finally ready to embrace what it is she might feel and has felt toward women for years.
Neither is “better” than the other; they’re simply part of those characters’ individual journeys of self-discovery and acceptance. Ultimately, I think any bisexual character that can give us insight into these experiences is one worth getting behind.
The book has a really nice website set up around it, https://accountingforitall.com , which has a whole host of content related to the piece. In particular, it’s impressive how much research has gone into the societal views on the adult entertainment industry and what the reality of working within it actually is. What would you say is the biggest misconception that the public may have about the industry?
Research was of critical importance for me when writing this book, as I didn’t want to create a narrative that relied exclusively on my own biases and society’s tiresome prevailing narratives about pornography and those who partake in its production.
One common misconception I was glad to see countered in my research is one that suggests the only reason anyone would enter the adult industry is out of economical or emotional bankruptcy. Though it is true that there are individuals who find themselves in this line of work as a matter of last resort (and we shouldn’t discount their experiences), there are also plenty of people who choose the industry for reasons ranging from a desire for sexual development to the entrepreneurial opportunities it presents.
Aside from wondering what would lead someone from a career in adult acting to the world of accounting, one of the primary questions I wanted to explore while writing this book was what if someone had an ultimately net positive experience when doing it?
Using those axioms as my foundation—while still acknowledging the struggles that would come with working in either field—I set off to assemble a narrative that challenged, rather than relied on, some of society’s most prevalent attitudes and opinions about those who work or have worked in the adult industry.
My research challenged so many other misconceptions that I then aimed to include in the book, but I’ll leave it there for now. I’ve got a trove of blog posts about this and related topics at accountingforitall.com for folks who want to learn more!
What inspired you write within this setting, and do you hope that the tale will help put some misconceptions to bed for readers?
Like many novels, the inspiration for this book started with character. In the lead up to the 2017 tax season, a friend and I were cracking wise about how our taxes would’ve been so much easier if we worked in primarily cash industries, which had me wondering: What would lead someone to go from working in pornography to working in accounting? What challenges might they encounter as part of that career transition? What kind of person would go on that journey in the first place?
And that’s the moment a character was born.
I do hope the story dispels or at least chips away at the foundations of some readers’ stereotypes about the industry and those who work in it. By no means could I have ever hoped to encompass the vast diversity of experience any given person might have working in pornography, but I like to think I succeeded in presenting my research in a minimally preachy way while also introducing new perspectives to readers. Armed with this new acquaintance with these topics, I’m hopeful interested readers can then research those subjects more in-depth after they’ve finished reading the book.
How long was the book in planning before you got it read to submit to the publisher? Was it something that you’d intended to write for a while, or did something specific spark you into action with it?
The path to publication this novel’s taken has been extraordinarily different from every other manuscript I’ve written. My upcoming EMPATHY series, for example, has been in development since 2012, and between then and now I’ve started more manuscripts than I can count and finished maybe five of them.
Where Accounting for It All is concerned, once I had the beginnings of character, I threw myself into research and outlining before beginning a first draft a month or so later, and things really took off from there. I think from the time of the book’s inception to the moment it was offered a contract, nine total months had passed.
Do you have a favourite scene in the book that you can share a little about without getting too heavily into spoilers? Or, if not, can you tell us a little about your favourite characters to write in the book?
I loved writing in Robin’s voice, and any scene featuring her and Sarah has something really special to it. Some of the most poignant scenes in the novel are between the two of them, mostly taking place on Robin’s family farm or back home in Kansas in general. There’s a really emotional scene between the two of them in Sarah’s home later in the book, too, but I won’t give too many details on that now for fear of spoilers. J
If you could describe the book’s protagonist Robin in five words, what would they be?
I found it fascinating to see the IRS involved in the plot. I used to work for the UK tax office, and I always found our US equivalents seemed to be a lot more feared. So, how heavily do the IRS fit into the narrative and how would you describe their role? Also, why do you think it is that they seem to have such a scary reputation?
Without knowing much by way of comparison between the U.S and the U.K., the fear the IRS often instills has to do primarily, in my estimation, with the extraordinarily complicated tax code folks have to confront here stateside. There are so many ways anyone could make an innocent mistake that could lead to an audit, and, based on my understanding, the IRS is pretty relentless in seeking its due—actual or perceived.
Fear of the IRS in the narrative pervades Robin from the moment she learns the audit is impending—and why shouldn’t she be afraid? The whole conceit is that she’s been “working” in accounting for years without ever actually learning anything, and when she suddenly finds herself as the company’s last remaining accountant, well…
The IRS is represented by three Revenue Agents in the book itself, though the procedural ins and outs of the audit are not delved into significantly. Don’t get me wrong: there’s plenty of on-page audit “action,” but one thing I wanted to avoid doing in writing this book was winding up with an accounting or audit procedural. Besides, with a point-of-view character who knows little about the field of accounting in the first place, it would’ve been difficult to write such a procedural through the lens of her limited knowledge.
You also have another title coming out next year, EMPATHY: Imminent Dawn. This is a little different as it’s a sci-fi title dealing with an internet access brain implant. Is tech something you’ve always had an interest in, or was this a new adventure for you in terms of research?
I’ve always had a tangential interest in the world of technology, and writing the EMPATHY series has only further stoked that interest. Unlike with Accounting for It All, EMPATHY was concept-driven from the start, and in 2012 it originally took shape as a short story based on Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes.
As the narrative evolved from a short story into a novel-length manuscript and from there into a sprawling, multi-perspective series, I essentially had to “back my way into” the research necessary to execute the vision I had in place.
It’s a little backward from how I wrote Accounting for It All, but I was a less experienced writer when I started the earliest drafts of EMPATHY: Imminent Dawn. If I ever write a series of this breadth in the future, I’ll certainly be doing as much research and outlining as I can before I start writing.
What can readers expect tonally from the book? The implants sound like they could have a lot of pros and cons to them, with the obvious cons relating to privacy matters.
I would describe the EMPATHY series as Black Mirror meets Game of Thrones, so it’s much darker tonally than anything readers will encounter in Accounting for It All. One earlier reviewer, in fact, actually called the EMPATHY series “freaking sci-fi Game of Thrones,” which to me suggests I got close to executing my vision for the project overall.
You’re right to observe that the EMPATHY implants—which give users access to the internet directly through their minds via what’s called the cerenet—would have a number of pros and cons, which is something I try to put front and center, particularly in book one.
Through the narrative’s multiple perspectives, we have an opportunity to understand many characters’ unique motivations for being in favor of or against the implementation of the nanochip on a broader scale, which in turn plays itself out over the course of the five-book series.
Are the implants progressions of anything we have out there now, or are they an entirely new creation?
The EMPATHY implants are very much an extrapolation of some experimental technology that exists in our world. In fact, I did a general overview of the state of what’s called the “brain-computer interface” over on empathynovel.com. In this post, I detail the efforts of companies including Neuralink and Nuro, which are taking divergent approaches to meeting the same brain-computer interface challenge. As of the date of that post, however, only Nuro has actually achieved some success in creating software one can control through the brain directly.
Nuro, for its part, is primarily concerned with finding ways for their technology to support individuals who’ve experienced traumatic brain injuries; as such, it’s likely their technology will be available to those populations far before it’s ever marketed as a general consumer product.
Judging by https://empathynovel.com , the book is the first of five in the series. How have you found working on such a big project?
EMPATHY: Imminent Dawn is indeed the first in a planned five-book series. Writing the first book was a unique challenge in that I had never written a multiple point-of-view manuscript before, and when I first started penning it, I was vastly underprepared for how tremendous of a task doing so would prove; this might explain why it took five years for me to finally get book one right.
Where the later books in the series are concerned, I was able to knock out a submission-worthy draft of book two (Mourning Dove) in a matter of months, despite the number of points of view ballooning to nine for that installment. Currently, I’m writing the third book (Event Horizon) in that series, and finally feel as though I’ve found a process that works for me and for the story I’m aiming to tell.
Overall, though, this series has proven to be a labor of love. The concept has had me in its grips for the better part of a decade, and with the prospect of finally seeing the full, five-book arc make its way into readers’ hands by the end of 2020, I couldn’t be more thrilled.
This title, much like Accounting For It All, is set to be released by NineStar Press. How did you end up working with them on these projects?
I first encountered NineStar Press through other authors who’d had success in approaching them with their own projects. Through online acquaintances and fellow NineStar author friends including Brianna Kienitz, Mel Gough, Kevin Klehr, and M. A. Hinkle, I was able to get a good feel for what NineStar was all about as a press, and after having some time to do additional research on my own, I thought NineStar would be perfect for my projects. And, as it turned out, they seemed to agree! The rest, as they say, is history.
Do you have any advice you can give to authors just starting out in the industry?
Perseverance is the one trait I cannot recommend new authors embody enough. As your work begins to reach readers’ eyes, there are going to be tremendous moments of success followed by what feel like long droughts of little to no momentum in any discernible direction. This is normal, and it, like much of the often inexplicable malaise that grip authors everywhere, shall pass.
If you’re ever doubting yourself or your work, this, too, is normal. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve flirted with abandoning my projects or writing altogether, and that’s not including how often I’ve found myself ready to jump ship on my podcasts, blogging, or my freelance editing services. At no point, however, have these feelings been due to a lack of love for these endeavors; they’re simply a product of everyone’s favorite occasional visitor, impostor syndrome. If this is a new concept for you, I definitely encourage you to research it further. Developing a strong understanding of what impostor syndrome is, what its sources are, and what can be done to combat it will go a long way in helping you address it in a healthy, meaningful way.
It’s also incredibly important to take breaks from time to time. For as much as I believe making time to write every day has had an extraordinary impact on my efficiency and confidence as a writer, it’s easy to become burnt out writing on this (or any) schedule. It’s crucial you always find joy in your work, so if it’s ever stressing you out, sometimes a break truly might be the best thing for you (and your writing).
Moving away from writing for a moment, you state on your site that when you’re not reading or writing, you tend to be playing Mario Kart on the SNES. Seeing the SNES mentioned made me smile, because I absolutely love retro gaming. Did you end up consciously picking a side in the console wars of yesteryear with Nintendo and SEGA, or was the SNES just the console you ended up getting?
Growing up, I was always a Nintendo kid. One of my earlier Christmas memories is actually unwrapping the original Super Nintendo Entertainment System before settling in to play hours of Super Mario Kart with my dad. To date, that’s the game I’d say I play most on my SNES Classic, though after recently having beaten Super Mario World for the umpteenth time, I’ve been giving Kirby Super Star and Yoshi’s Island some playtime as well.
Do you tend to stick with the SNES, or do you play newer consoles too? If you prefer one over the other, why is that?
I stick mostly with the SNES when I need a quick break from writing, but recently started playing The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess after having bought it when it was released in 2006 only to never actually play it. After I found my Nintendo Wii when going through the closet recently, though, I decided twelve years of fermentation were enough: it was time to plug the system in and see what Hyrule had waiting all these years.
Where newer consoles are concerned, I did have an Xbox 360 that served me faithfully for the better part of a decade, but the Red Ring of Death will come for us all someday, and that 360 was no exception.
Finally, I wanted to thank you for stopping by today. Where can readers go to find out more about you and your work? Feel free to link to anything you want.
I’m online (almost) everywhere and anywhere as @iamrrcampbell, including Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. My author website is rrcampbellwrites.com, and the sites specific to my releases are accountingforitall.com and empathynovel.com. Writers who are interested in my podcasts, can find all of those at writescast.net.
Accounting for It All is also now available on Amazon, through NineStar Press, and with Barnes & Noble. It’s also on Goodreads, for readers who might be interested in adding it to their want-to-read pile or leave a review.
And thank you, Matt, for having me on your blog today. I’m really glad to have had the opportunity to explore these topics and books with you and your readers in further detail.