Drusilla Campbell, the author of Little Girl Gone and When She Came Home is back with another emotionally evocative tale in the vein of Jodi Picoult that is sure to play “devil’s advocate” and make readers see the shades of gray between the perceived black and white of right versus wrong.
I'm happy to have Drusilla here today to tell us a bit about her newest novel, In Doubt.
Drusilla Campbell is the author of more than fifteen critically acclaimed novels, among them Blood Orange, The Good Sister and When She Came Home. Before she started school she had crossed the Pacific Ocean three times. In her twenties she lived in Europe and Central America.
Today she's happy to stay at home in San Diego with her husband, the attorney and poet Art Campbell, two rescued dogs, and three horses.
Welcome, Drusilla. Please tell us about your current release.
My newest book is called In Doubt. It concerns a defense attorney named Sophie who takes on the case of a young man accused of the attempted assassination of a high ranking politician.
The evidence against Donny Crider is huge and irrefutable, but as usually happens in a Drusilla Campbell book, once Sophie begins her investigation she learns that nothing is as simple as it appears on the surface.
What inspired you to write this book?
Well, I’m always tuned into current events, of course. As I began thinking about In Doubt, the Gaby Gifford shooting and the Jerry Sandusky case were making headlines. In all such cases I’m much more interested in the “why” of the crime than in the crime itself. Particularly I’m curious about the way men and women can go along leading somewhat normal lives or at least lives that are managed, and then, with what appears like suddenness, a terrible crime is committed. Only I don’t think it’s sudden at all. It’s been building for maybe a month, maybe years. Then: something pushes the perpetrator over the edge. The mystery to me is why. That’s generally what inspires me to write.
One of my heroes is an attorney I met once many years ago when she was a young public defender just starting out. In the years between she’s become one of America’s best known and controversial defense attorneys. Judy Clark takes on the clients no one wants, the unwinnable capital cases, Sophie’s a little like Judy Clark.
Excerpt from In Doubt:
For a long time he believed that everyone felt as he did. He assumed that the constant clench of his stomach was part of being human—like the burn behind his eyes and the dreams that woke him, wringing wet and trembling. In school he began to understand that he was different, others were not as he was. Eventually he named what he felt: anger.
One morning a few months after he had left school and begun working at Roman’s Gardens he became aware that the anger had subsided and become no more troubling than a mosquito bite. He felt a new freedom, and for almost two years he was happy.
But now the anger was back and during the hiatus it had put on muscle. His time in the gardens had freed something in him. A fantasy of liberation had slowly taken shape. As the line separating his dream and his reality became harder to distinguish, he was often frightened by where his imagination took him. He swore off violent thinking, but the fantasies drew him back. When he imagined what he could do, what he might do, the tightness in his gut relaxed a little.
Though the revolver was an inanimate metal thing, it felt warm and alive in his hand, a natural extension of himself with connections to his arm and back and shoulders. After he left the garden and moved home, the first thing he did every morning was check to see if it was still where he’d placed it in his bottom dresser drawer, swaddled in a white T-shirt. Since he’d installed locks on the door and windows, his bedroom was perfectly secure, but there was always a possibility that she had found her way in and taken it while he slept.
He tenderly unwrapped the gun, flipped the cylinder and counted six bullets, then laid it on his pillow. The innocuous T-shirt’s metallic odor emboldened him as he pulled it over his head. After checking the safety, he tucked the revolver in the waist of his jeans as he’d seen done on television. Pulled down, his shirt covered it. The steel was hard and warm against his bare skin, a part of him.
Looking at his reflection in the mirror on the closet door, he did not see a handsome seventeen-year-old with his life before him. Looking back at him he saw the anger, which had become like a friend, an ally in an interminable battle.
This excerpt is taken from In Doubt, copyright © 2014 by Drusilla Campbell. Reproduced with permission from Grand Central Publishing, New York. www.grandcentralpublishing.com.
I’ve got a couple of ideas cooking. One is a coming of age story, a departure from my usual thing. The other continues the story of Sophie and Hamp. In In Doubt both of these characters have story lines that never complete. I want to follow up on those.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
The first thing to know is that I’ve always loved to write stories. For a very long time I couldn’t get beyond first chapters, for a whole year I wrote nothing but first paragraphs. In my case, it took a lot of courage to go further even though my head was full of characters and plots.
Calling myself a writer feels presumptuous. For a person who has read all her life and held certain authors in very high esteem, it’s not easy to say “Hey, Allegra Goodman, Ann Patchett, Eudora Welty, Willa Cather, all you brilliant and accomplished women, I’m Drusilla Campbell and I’m one of you!” The honest answer to your question is that I’m still trying to be a writer. Sometimes I feel like I’m making progress. Other times, not so much.
Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I write every day but the shape of that day depends on what stage a book is in. First drafts are a misery for me. Right now, in the coming of age novel I mentioned earlier, I’m experimenting with handwriting the first draft, sitting up in bed while my first cup of coffee is still too hot to drink. It’s too soon to say how that’s working out.
Generally, when I’m doing a first draft, I begin my day at the computer around eight o’clock. There are always a few minutes of mental argument: Will I read my email? Will I check Facebook and Twitter, maybe let the world know how well I slept?
By the time I’ve done that I’m hungry. I make some breakfast and maybe I wander into the garden and observe all the dead-heading I should do. I hunt for the clippers and I can’t find my hat. Dither, dither. I watch the birds, protecting them from our neighbor’s predatory cat, I talk to the dogs. I tell myself to go back upstairs, I bargain with the Muse until finally, I run out of excuses.
When I am rewriting, it’s quite different. I wake up wanting to work and I have to set my alarm to remind me to get up and move around. If writing a novel were all about the first draft, I’d never do it.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I have friends who go through rituals before they write: say a prayer, burn incense, light a candle. They listen to certain kinds of music. Me, I can’t have music on. The melody distracts me. If I light a candle I’ll walk out of the house and leave it burning.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
This is where I reveal that I am hopelessly old fashioned: Going back as far as my memories take me, I have wanted to be a wife and mother, to have a family. I was a little girl who played house by the hour, happily alone with my large family of dolls. I cooked mudpies for them, tucked them in and changed their diapers. When I wasn’t mothering, I lined them up in chairs in front of a little blackboard I got for Christmas one year. I taught them their alphabet and basic arithmetic. Some had to be punished for not paying attention, of course.
When I was eight I had a teacher, Miss Wesson, who encourage something in me that no one else ever had. She told us stories and encouraged daydreaming and imaginative games. I learned to write sentences that were more than nouns and verbs. I loved going to school and grieved at the end of the third grade, not knowing that the next year I’d be introduced to another very different but equally terrific teacher, Miss Williams. In the fourth grade I discovered the dictionary.
Imagination, stories, sentences and words: thanks to those two extraordinary teachers, I found something I was good at. I began to think of myself as being a person in the world who might do things when she grew up. Who might someday write a book.
Thanks for being here today, Drusilla!