Chester Campbell got bitten by the writing bug when he started work as a newspaper reporter while a journalism student at the University of Tennessee. That was more than 60 years ago. He has worked as a newspaper reporter, freelance writer, magazine editor, political speechwriter, advertising copywriter, public relations professional and association executive. An Air Force intelligence officer in the Korean War, he retired from the Air Force Reserve as a lieutenant colonel. He is the author of five books in the Greg McKenzie mystery series and two books in the Sid Chance series. He also has two books out in a trilogy of post Cold War political thrillers. His first Greg McKenzie novel, Secret of the Scroll, won a Bloody Dagger Award and was a finalist for Foreword Magazine’s Mystery of the Year in 2003. The first Sid Chance book, The Surest Poison, won the 2009 Silver Falchion Award at the Killer Nashville Mystery Conference. He served as secretary of the Southeast Chapter, Mystery Writers of America, and is past president of the Middle Tennessee Chapter of Sisters in Crime. He lives in Madison, TN with his wife, Sarah.
What inspires you to write?
I enjoy creating things, particularly stories. I enjoyed reading, mostly magazines, as a teenager but didn’t get into writing until after Army service in World War II. Getting my start in journalism school, I knew writing was what I wanted to do the rest of my life. And I’ve been at it now for nearly 65 years.
Tell us about your writing process.
I don’t outline or plot too far ahead. I start with a basic idea for a story and write character sketches for the main characters I have in mind. I usually have a starting point and a vague idea of how the story ends. Then I start writing and let the characters take me wherever the story goes. Somehow it all comes together. Sometimes I have to go back and add something to shore up what has developed. But that’s the beauty of fiction. You can change things any way you want, as long as it makes sense.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
I know my main characters so well, I feel like they’re close friends. But unlike some writers I know, I don’t consciously talk to them. Since the good guys think a lot like I do, I have no problem knowing what’s in their heads. Frankly, if I heard them talk to me, I’d get a little nervous.
What advice would you give other writers?
To me, the number one rule is quite simple: WRITE. I don’t do it nearly as much as I should, or as I used to. But with ten books behind me, I’m not in as big a hurry as in former times. If you’re fairly new at the game, it’s important to write every chance you get. And read authors you admire in your genre. Notice how they accomplish their goals. If there’s one available, join a critique group and get other opinions on what you write. But, again, finishing the story is your number one goal. The world is full of would-be authors with unfinished manuscripts lying around. Don’t become one.
How did you decide how to publish your books?
I tried the agent route and had several who accomplished nothing for me. I finally went with a small press that gave me a three-book contract. Then I joined a micro press that has served me well. I own my digital rights and put up all my books as ebooks. That’s where I make most of my sales.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
I think the trend will continue toward ebooks, but I can’t see the printed page disappearing. With young people growing up in the digital world, I can’t see any other outcome over time.
What do you use?
Professional Editor, Professional Cover Designer, Beta Readers
What genres do you write?
What formats are your books in?
Both eBook and Print