"Absolutely follow your heart." -- Glynnis Campbell
Glynnis Campbell is a shining example of what heights an artist can achieve when supported by her family and community. Glynnis knew from an early age that creativity was her talent. She applied herself and graduated from college with a 4.0 GPA, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music with Distinction. "My parents were artistic, so they understood the creative drive and didn't stand in the way of anything I tried to accomplish," explained Glynnis. "I'm sure they didn't quite believe a small-town girl could make it in the big city, but they had the good sense not to tell me so! I'd been performing since the age of eight -- ballet, piano, and singing -- and I played in a rock 'n' roll band to pay my way through college. When I graduated, my band moved to L.A. to try to make it in the music business."
While some parents discourage their children with tales of few opportunities, Glynnis was taught to believe in herself. "Sometimes naivete is a great gift! I had no idea I'd have any difficulty with an arts degree. Because I didn't know any better, I was able to approach things with optimism and confidence." Often in life it is that inner guiding light which sends you towards success.
Glynnis does keep a healthy sense of realism in her goals, especially as the internet has become such a powerful force. "It's a whole new world for artists, and in some ways, it's a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the easy access to artistic expression -- artwork on the internet, videos on YouTube, music at iTunes, writers' blogs -- has turned anyone with a Muse into a creator of content, which is wonderful for talented people who weren't able to market their work before. However, that easy access has also put a very low price on creativity, and it's becoming increasingly difficult to make a living off of artistic expression."
Glynnis the Novelist
Glynnis' novels feature strong, intelligent, capable women who love men who are truly worthy to stand by their side. Her drive to write these stories began early on. "My dad introduced me to Howard Pyle's King Arthur books when I was a kid, and I loved the swashbuckling, nobility, and romance in those stories. I started writing little adventures of my own when I was about twelve. In high school, my best friend and I discovered historical romance novels, and years later, that friend convinced me that we should try to get a book written and published. We both loved the Middle Ages, but she quickly realized she hated writing. Since I was having the time of my life, I wrote a mega-sized tome on my own. That tome became my first three published books!"
Writing what you know is always key to an author's success. "When I began writing, my heroine was myself, and my hero was my first crush. I think I still put a lot of myself into my heroines, but I tend to "cast" my books now. I choose actors or characters from film for the leads (and I always credit them in the acknowledgments of my books), because I find it easier to describe their reactions in terms of gestures and expressions when I can visualize them. In fact, if I'm having trouble locking in characters, sometimes I'll re-cast them."
Research plays a key part in crafting a story that draws readers in. "It's challenging, when you love research as much as historical writers do, to leave what you learn out of the story, but it's what you have to do. For 'My Champion,' I spent a day with a re-enactor who not only made her own clothing, but she spun her own cloth, using wool from the exact breed of sheep they would have kept in the Middle Ages! Needless to say, I filled a notebook. But in a story, even though you want to include details to help paint a picture, too much information slows the plot down. The trick is to weave the facts in carefully and casually and, when possible, from a character's point of view."
How accurate does an author need to be, when writing about history? "I'm kind of a stickler for historical accuracy, but that doesn't mean I read a lot of dry history books or took history in college. I get most of my information, not from political history, but from social history -- how did people live, what did they eat, what did they wear? Re-enactors are a wonderful source of social history. Primary source documents (writings of the time done by average people) are often available online and are very helpful. And, of course, nothing beats travel! I would suggest new writers read the successful authors they like to get a feel for how much history needs to be included, how much dialect is colorful versus distracting, and how accurate details have to be."
Glynnis' heroines are never shrinking violets. They take a stand for what is right and are willing to roll up their sleeves to get the job done. This is considered by many to be a much-needed improvement over classic novels. "It seems like women (and men) have become a lot more confident in their roles without having to resort to stereotypes like the big, strong man and the frail, helpless woman. I'd like to think that most men are secure enough to not be threatened by empowered women, and women don't feel like they have to sublimate their anger and sexuality. Since society has made this gradual shift, it's only natural that writers would, too. There will always be old-fashioned readers who prefer that men take the upper hand, and there are certainly authors out there for them, but I'm probably not one of them. I have to write from my own heart, where women and men may have different strengths, but they're equals. I also get a secret kick out of turning stereotypes on their heads, a la Joss Whedon."
Is a smart, self-assured woman a valid historical character? Glynnis strongly feels this type of woman did exist. "I get a lot of criticism from people who insist women in the Middle Ages were little more than chattel. In my research, if you consult documents not created by male priests with an agenda to keep women oppressed, you find that attitudes and opinions are very much the same as they are today. In fact, Vikings and Scotswomen were often leaders in their societies, and there are many records of medieval women taking over businesses, households, and castles in the absence of their husbands. Granted, the laws did show a preference for men when it came to titles and landholding, but anyone who's read Shakespeare can easily see that women wielded great influence in those days. I don't believe human nature has changed much over the centuries, and a good way to test that, interestingly enough, is by researching what people found humorous."
New authors seeking to achieve Glynnis' level of success can take heart if it takes a few tries to break into the industry. "The only challenge I faced getting published was dealing with rejection letters. Weathering criticism when you're an emotionally vulnerable artistic type is always difficult. The one thing I might have done differently is tried to get an agent sooner. For months, I sent out dozens of letters directly to publishers, but once I had an agent, she sold my manuscripts in two weeks! Of course, with all the print-on-demand and electronic publishers around now, you don't always need an agent to get your stuff in print, but the major publishers still like to see an agent's endorsement."
Along the same line, authors need to work closely with their editor to tailor the book for the target market. "If an editor buys a book, they've already approved the storyline, so it's unlikely there will be big alterations. Once in a while, if the editor changes midstream, or the publisher is bought out, or some real-world incident could have a negative impact on sales, bigger changes might be requested. The bottom line? When a major publisher is financing a book's promotion and distribution, it's important to respect that investment and recognize that the company probably has more experience in worldwide marketing. Usually, it's possible to reach some sort of agreement that doesn't compromise the author's integrity. If the author is constantly running into brick walls with the publisher, then perhaps what the author is writing is more suitable for a niche market or a different publisher."
Glynnis the Voice Actor
Glynnis had been a member of "The Pinups" in the 1980s, a band which achieved chart success with "Just About a Dream" and "Song on the Radio." She brought her vocal talents into the world of computer gaming with the release of Diablo in 1997. Considered a classic by many gamers, Diablo earned near-perfect scores for its gameplay, graphics and sound. Glynnis' character, "Rogue", was one of the first playable female characters in computer gaming to attract such affection and acceptance. Glynnis had no idea this part would bring her into millions of homes. "Again, naivete is a wonderful thing! Since I hadn't done any video game voices, I used the same acting techniques I'd used for the animation and audio-book work I'd done in the past. For me, The Rogue and Gillian were strong female characters with back stories and goals (just like the women in my books!), and with the writer in the studio to coach me on where they were coming from, I was able to "inhabit" their bodies for the recording." Her talents brought the characters to life and allowed gamers to connect in a way they had not done before.
Glynnis managed to outdo herself when she took on the role of Sarah Kerrigan in the StarCraft series. Released in 1998, StarCraft sold over 10 million copies, with Sarah Kerrigan becoming a central figure in the storyline and mythology. Gamers became deeply invested in Sarah's changes over the game's storyline. "I owe a lot to great direction by the writer/producer, who knew the story backwards and forwards. As far as voice acting, I think the fact that I came from a musical background has helped make me aware of the power and nuance of voice as a medium of expression. Aside from that, good voice-over work takes a willingness to surrender to the emotion of the moment unself-consciously, which is also how to write good stories!"
Glynnis is always looking for ways to expand her horizons, to flex her creativity in new areas. "I'm under contract for two books set along the Borders in the time of Mary Queen of Scots, which is interesting for me, because they have more political intrigue twisting through the plot. If the world is ready for my California Indian Gold Rush trilogy (it's a tough sell), I'd love to get those books published. And I'm thinking about writing a few truly different books for me -- a novelized biography of Simonetta Vespucci, a contemporary romance featuring a female roadie, and a women's fiction book about a group of ladies who frequent estate sales. My dream would be to have one or more of my books turned into a film. As far as voice-over, I'd like to do more of that, too. I love hopping into different characters, whether it's with my writing or my voice."
There are always fresh opportunities arriving in Glynnis' life. What would she do with a year off? "I can think of a hundred things I'd like to learn...pottery, zumba, screenwriting, archery, organic gardening, photography, yoga, horseback riding... A whole year? Well, at the risk of sounding like a woman stuck in the kitchen, I'd probably take cooking courses. I'd love to be able to whip fresh ingredients into something amazing without having to consult a recipe book. And hey, playing with knives and fire is pretty empowering!"
For Aspiring Artists
"Absolutely follow your heart. But my practical advice would be to make sure you can do something lucrative to support your arts habit until you can get on your feet. On the other hand, I'd say a good 50 percent of people who get a degree in one field end up working in something else, so don't let your major limit you once you're out in the real world. I have a degree in Music, but most of my work has been in voice-over, graphic arts, and writing."
"I have a favorite piece of advice I give people who are interested in pursuing a career in the arts. Don't do it unless you HAVE to. By that, I mean if you would write or paint or make music, whether or not you ever saw a cent for it, then by all means, do it. But if you can go for months without creating, if there aren't ideas nagging at you to bring them to life, if you don't feel a little bit unfulfilled when you aren't expressing yourself, then you may not enjoy the artist's life."
Glynnis Campbell writes under the name Sarah McKerrigan and can be found at: