I love reading and have dabbled with words over the years in the form of journaling and writing stories, but nothing I would have dared share. Before the Faber courses, I’d had no formal training. I thought myself a fraud, so an online course seemed perfect – hiding behind a computer screen was reassuring. I’d even been hesitant to apply and kept checking for a rejection email!
Who did I think I was, fooling myself to believe that I was capable of writing a novel, let alone a bestseller? But what I did have was an unquestionable belief in my story idea and oodles of enthusiasm and determination.
Finding my feet
Julia didn’t allow us to hide for long. In the first session, she separated us into small groups to present our novel ideas via Skype. Oh no, I thought. I’ll have to face people. That wasn’t in the plan! I was so nervous. But this was when I met my two writing buddies, Bridget Guzek and Charlotte Valentine, who went on to become good friends.
The course was excellent. I still refer to the notes today. I learnt about story structure and arcs, plot and character development, setting, writing style, points of view, research and so much more. Supportive writers from across the globe provided regular peer reviews which were insightful and reassuring. Most of all, the course gave me the confidence to write my story.
As the weeks turned into months, I realised that I could do this.
Who did I think I was, fooling myself to believe that I was capable of writing a novel, let alone a bestseller?
– AJ Campbell
After the course
When the course ended, I undertook some mentoring with Julia. Dubbed the queen of domestic noir, she proved the ideal tutor to help me develop my domestic thriller.
It then took another year of hard graft, while working the day job, to complete a presentable manuscript.
In June 2019, I attended the Winchester Writers’ Festival, having submitted a synopsis and the first three chapters of my manuscript to four literary agents beforehand. During the festival, between workshops and presentations, I attended one-to-one sessions with each of these agents.
The high of the weekend was hearing the opening words from the third agent: “I love it. My first thought was this is someone who really knows how to write.” Things didn’t work out with that agent, but the experience rewarded me with the confidence to takes things to the next level.
I found a brilliant editor, Louise Walters, who, over the following six months, helped me restructure what I had, to tell the story I wanted to tell. During this time, I also looked into self-publishing.
Then, in December 2019, I decided that 2020 would be the year that I would see my debut novel in reader’s hands.
I decided that 2020 would be the year that I would see my debut novel in reader’s hands. In July 2020, under the Code Grey Publishing imprint, I self-published Leave Well Alone.
– AJ Campbell
In July 2020, under the Code Grey Publishing imprint, I self-published Leave Well Alone. Given the pandemic, this was the best decision I could have made.
It’s been tough. Because of lockdown and schools closing, my kids spent almost six months at home during 2020, and I had to learn the skills to homeschool in addition to working part-time and building a publishing business.
This year involved countless five o’clock starts and midnight finishes with many hair-pulling and stomach-turning moments, but it has proved such an empowering and rewarding experience. I know I have only skimmed the surface and have a long way to go.
Still, I have learnt so much about publishing, from editing to cover design, typesetting to printing, graphic design and digital marketing, sales and advertising. People have been so helpful, and I was blown away with how supportive The Faber Alumni were, helping me with feedback, tips and advice as I trekked along the rocky terrain of self-publishing.
On August 1st, 2020, I launched my debut novel Leave Well Alone, via an online launch party. Four months later – the day after I sent the first draft of book two, Don’t Come Looking, to my editor – Leave Well Alone became an Amazon bestseller!