Blog tour: The Last Act of Adam Campbell

Welcome to the last stop on the blog tour for The Last Act of Adam Campbell by Andy Jones.
What has emerged so far during this blog tour is that this is an incredible novel and – if you’re not scared to have your heart broken a little (or a lot) – you definitely shouldn’t miss it. And I’d take it a step further and encourage you to read it regardless… the best things are often found just outside of your comfort zone after all.

But let me get to the best part of this blog as it is with great pleasure and honour that I now share a Q&A with the author himself…

Q: Hi Andy! First of all, I would like to congratulate you on the publication of The Last Act of Adam Campbell! Can you please briefly tell us what it is about?

A: It’s about a group of terminally ill cancer patients that meet in group therapy – a place where they don’t have to wear the brave faces they save for friends and family. Over time – time that is steadily running out – the group begin meeting on their own and decide to put on a performance of Shakespeare’s ‘greatest deaths’. This to raise money for a local hospice and to give themselves a sense of shared purpose – something that the terminally ill are often denied.

Meanwhile, we get to see the personal lives of the cast – seven in all – as they approach the end of life. The main character – Adam – was estranged from his partner, but with only a year to live, he arranges to move back in with her so that he can spend the little time he has left with his 6-year-old daughter.

Q: Did you have the plot entirely figured out when you started writing the book or did it take an unexpected turn as the characters grew on the page?

A: At first, I had only the briefest of outlines, but after writing 150 pages, I realised it was sprawling and the cast had become unfocused. I knew what the book was about, and what I wanted to say, but it had got away from me. So I stopped, threw out the 150 pages and went back to outline. I picked a character to centre on – Adam – and wrote what ended up being a 100 page outline – a kind of hybrid between an outline and a draft, I guess. But even so, I left room for the characters to grow on the page. It’s important, for me, to let them develop and respond to the plot as it expands and deepens.

Q: If this novel was going to be turned into a film, who would you cast in the role of Adam?

A: I think Martin Freeman would be great. Adam is a flawed and tragic character in a desperate situation, but he’s still striving, he’s still a father and he ends up being a father figure of sorts to the group. I think Freeman could get the balance of pathos and warmth that the role needs.

Q: Without giving too much away, can you tell us about a scene in the book that you love or that was particularly difficult to write?

A: Well, this would normally be a spoiler, but given the subject matter, it won’t surprise you to learn that many characters die in this book. That’s established in the first chapter. Even so, I think it’s a shock when the first of the group passes – I felt a great deal of affection for this character – the whole group does, and writing that death was very hard, very emotional. I’ve revisited the scene a dozen times in drafting, redrafting, editing, and it brings a lump to my throat every time.

Q: Is there anything that didn’t make it into the final version of the book?

A: Yes. A ghost! He was in the book for a long time – the husband of one of the cast members. A witness, and objective view on all the events that took place in the preparation for the big show. It felt right – particularly as the play is based around Shakespeare’s greatest deaths... but ultimately, he got in the way. The book is about the characters living, even as they approach death. And the ghost was too large a reminder of their approaching death. So I killed him off, if you can do such a thing to a ghost. 

Q: If you are already working on your next writing project, would you mind giving us a little anticipation of what we are to expect?

A: All I can say at the moment is that it will be for children. I’m very excited about it, and it will be published in 2021. More on that later in the year.

Q: What are you reading at the moment?

A: A book called Magic by William Goldman. Goldman is primarily known as a screenwriter: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Marathon Man, Misery, The Princess Bride – and more. The Princess Bride is one of my favourite movies, so I read the novel a few years back and it’s beyond good. Better even than the film. William Goldman died in 2018, and that prompted me to seek out another of his books, and I’ve just got around to reading it. It was written in 1976, but it’s still fresh, still cool, still shocking – well worth a look.

Q: Due to the popularity of social networking websites, interacting with readers – be it via Twitter, Facebook Instagram etc. – is becoming increasingly important. How do you cope with these new demands on authors and do you think that they somehow disrupt your writing schedule?

A: I find the business of self-promotion a bit awkward, and I don’t do it particularly well. I fluctuate between periods of quiet, and flurries of activity which is no-one’s idea of smart social. But I do love hearing from readers and other writers – writing is a lonely business, so a bit of contact with the outside world can be a welcome break. It’s something I should probably work on. 

Q: What one piece of advice would you give to aspiring writers?

A: I would say hold onto the joy. Keep it fun, write for yourself – for the pleasure and satisfaction it gives you. Be true to yourself, your style and taste and motivation. If your goal is to become published, then write regularly, develop discipline and be professional. Don’t chase trends. And don’t quit. You asked for one piece of advice, I know, but I think all these things are connected. They all revolve around the first point – keep the joy.

Thank you for your time!

— A pleasure.

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