Can you introduce yourself to our readers by sharing three things to help them get some idea about Joan Campbell?
I live in Jo’burg with my husband Roy and a gorgeous golden retriever called Jabori who follows me everywhere (literally everywhere!). We have two daughters, one who just finished studying OT and is doing community service, and the other studying Multimedia at UP. I’ve been a Christian since my teens, but still find it a daily struggle to follow Christ closely and wholeheartedly. I love nature—it’s where I feel the closest to God and I often write outside, unless it’s too cold or wet. I’m an introvert and would rather be lost in the world of a book (either writing it or reading it) than almost anywhere else.
You recently published your 5th book ‘Journeys’. What led you to give writing a go?
It wasn’t so much that I gave writing a go, as that the drive to write wouldn’t let me go. Writing was something I always felt compelled to do. I had dabbled with writing poetry and articles when I was a teenager, but I was in my early 30’s before I realised how discontented I felt not taking this call seriously. I eventually ‘gave in’ and set aside time to write just to get rid of the nagging sense that I wasn’t being true to myself – to who God had made me to be.
You say: “I gravitated toward writing fantasy because it’s a genre I love to read, and it has the powerful potential of merging creativity and imagination with deeper truths.”
What are some of the ‘deeper truths’ you hope to communicate through your fantasy trilogy ‘The Poison Tree Path Chronicles’?
Yes, there’s something about taking readers into a totally different world that gives you the freedom to explore deep themes. The Poison Tree Path Chronicles is set in the world of Tirragyl, quite a dark, dystopian place where there is inequality, exploitation of the poor and the ominous Rif’twine Forest is encroaching. Shara, one of the ‘highborns’, has a growing sense that things are not as they seem in this world and that there is more to her past than she’s been told. She and the ‘lowborn’ Nicho set off on a forbidden quest to discover the truth about her—and Tirragyl’s—past, while the forces of evil try to prevent them from discovering this truth. The books hold up a mirror to our own world where so many people live in darkness, unaware of their remarkable identity as image-bearers of God.
Another theme is the alluring pull of things that are dangerous and addictive. In my story, ‘power rocks’ give their bearers powers such as lie-detection, mind-reading and dreams that foretell the future. These items seem to bring control and fulfilment but actually bring destruction. I hope to get my readers thinking about the tempting things in our own society that promise happiness, but can eventually ruin their lives.
Through the character of Prince E’Shua, my trilogy ultimately shows that there is only one way to find truth, identity and joy, and that is through knowing and trusting Christ.
What role does writing have in the mission of the Church today?
I believe it plays an important role in every area of Church ministry—missions, disciple-making, teaching, equipping and encouraging. Christian writers do this through writing articles, social media posts, blogs, bible studies, devotionals, poetry and novels. We’re so connected nowadays and it’s never been easier to reach the other side of the world with our words. But it can also be difficult to break through the large, loud volume of ‘noise’ online and even in bookstores, therefore we need to ensure our words are God-inspired, creative and ‘nourishing’ to those hungry for truth.
What guidance would you give to someone who is interested in writing?
I would say be true to that calling and don’t wait as long as I did to step into it. Set aside regular time to write so it becomes a habit. Like everything else, you have to master it by doing it. It’s great to read ‘how-to’ articles and do writing courses, but you’re going to truly hone your craft by writing. A lot! Also, try your hand at different types of writing – some will flow naturally while others don’t. This is how you begin to find your own unique ‘writing voice’. If you’re like me that initial drive to write might be rooted in ambition and a desire for popularity and success. Yet, if God is truly going to be able to use your writing gift, you need to surrender it to him. That’s how you come to realise it’s not about the number of people reading your writing, but about God using it in the lives of individuals. Then the calling becomes one of faithfully and obediently using your writing to bless others and not about seeking your own glory through it.
Connecting to a writing community is so important. What opportunities does the LittAfrica conference give in this regard?
I’m involved with an amazing ministry called MAI, which trains Christian writers and publishers throughout the world, particularly in countries with little or no literature penned by local authors. They hold a large publishing conference every three years called LittWorld. Last year they also hosted LittAfrica which drew Christian writers and publishers from across Africa, with the aim of growing the ministry of the written word on our continent.
Besides the amazing teaching, training and mentoring at these conferences, one is drawn into the “LittWorld family” where there’s always an experienced person to ask for advice and guidance. I received valuable input on Chains of Gwyndorr (Book 1 of the trilogy) from a British publisher I met and was introduced to my American publisher through a well-known author who is part of the LittWorld family.
We love your ‘Live your Quest ~ Be a Hero ‘motto’. What words of encouragement do you have for teenagers?
You’re wonderfully unique and God has a calling just for you – your own life quest. Maybe it’s writing or another creative form of ministry. Maybe it’s a vocation in a medical, teaching or administrative field. Maybe it’s a call to full-time ministry or missions. Whatever it is, it takes courage to step into that calling and be the person God has designed you to be. The heroes we admire—such as Frodo and Aragorn—had this courage, as well as characteristics such as loyalty, perseverance, integrity and faith. That’s precisely what you’ll need to “Live your Quest ~Be a Hero.” Be brave!
Writers are always encouraged to be avid readers. What books have been influential in your life?
CS Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia first showed me the power of story to impart deeper truths. I also loved Karen Hancock’s Legends of the Guardian King series, which had quite an influence on my own writing style and themes. My short story collections were probably the most influenced by the writing of Eddie Askew. In my books “Encounters” and “Journeys”, I ‘step into’ bible accounts and take my readers onto the dusty paths of Ancient Israel to experience familiar bible stories in a more personal way. This was what Eddie Askew did so well in his books such as “A Silence and a Shouting” and “Cross Purposes”.
You can find out more about Joan and her books here