13 September 2014

Tagged and Bagged! This Writer of Mob Comedies Spills the Goods

I should have known there would be a price. 

Back in 2012, when Steve Steinbock reviewed The Goddaughter in Ellery Queen’s Jury Box, I was ecstatic.  <So was my publisher.  Ellery Queen ROCKS!>

Steve called my book hilarious. I called Steve my hero. Little did I know, two years and three books later, that he would be tagging me on SleuthSayers.

Oh Steve, thy devilish one.

Many of you remember Steve from the days of ‘Criminal Brief, the blog.’  <There are a hundred ways in which I want to play with the word ‘brief’ right now, but I will refrain.>  Steve and I met years ago at a Bloody Words Mystery conference in Toronto. We discovered that, as teens, we shared a mutual pash <lovely Brit expression there> for Dark Shadows, the original series.

I like and respect Steve.  I also fear him slightly <EQ and all> so hastily accept the tag.

What Am I Working On?

The Goddaughter Caper.  Or A Coffin for the Goddaughter.  Or A Body for the Goddaughter.  Or The Goddaughter’s Coffin Caper.

Somebody help here!  Book 4 of the Goddaughter trilogy <sic> is nearing completion, and I need a title.  I started with the 3rd example in the list above.  I’m leaning toward the first.  Of course, Orca Books may throw all those out and come up with their own, but I’d still like to hear from readers in the comments below.

Gina Gallo and her inept mob family are back in biz.  This time, bodies are showing up in all the wrong places.  The second book in the series, The Goddaughter’s Revenge, won both the 2014 Derringer and Arthur Ellis awards for best crime novella. <author is over the moon>  The third in the series, The Artful Goddaughter, came out last week.

For those new to the series: Gina is a mob goddaughter in the industrial city of Hamilton (The Hammer.) Try as she might, she can’t seem to leave the family business.

How Does My Work Differ From Others In The Same Genre?

Library Journal said it well:  “Campbell’s comic caper is just right for Janet Evanovich fans.  Wacky family connections and snappy dialog make it impossible not to laugh.” 

When people ask what I write, I say ‘comedies.’  Then I give the genres (crime capers and time travel fantasy.) My books are comedies first and foremost.  I look for plots that will lend themselves to laughs.   
Why Do I Write What I Do?

A Greek Mask

Some people are born beautiful.  But most of us aren’t, and we look for ways to survive the slings and arrows of life.  Sometimes we choose to hide behind a mask.  That Greek Comedy mask was the one I picked way back.

Comedy is Tragedy Barely Averted

My younger brother is autistic.  Our home life was stressful and at times, sorrowful.  When I was a teen, as a means of self-preservation, I looked for the ‘funny.’  More often than not, I made fun of myself.  This was easy to do.  I knew the target well and there was a wealth of material.  And it didn’t hurt anyone else, so people liked it.

When I left school and had a ‘real’ job, I started writing stand-up on the side.  I rarely delivered it – usually I wrote for others. That led to a regular newspaper humour column, and more.
So when it came to writing novels, I fell back into ‘safe mode.’  Write it funny. 

How Does My Writing Process Work?

I teach Crafting a Novel at Sheridan College in Toronto, so I’m pretty immersed in craft.  Not surprisingly, I’m a plotter. I don’t start writing until I know the ending.  But I’m a forgiving plotter.  I don’t plan out every scene.

Sometimes a plot idea will trickle around in my mind for a year.  When the ending clicks in, I sit down to do a basic three-act plot diagram.  I teach this method, and I use my own books as examples.

So… once I have my inciting moment, first, second and third crisis, and finale firmly in my head, I sit down to write.  I start with the opening/inciting moment.  Then I usually skip to the ending, and write the climax and finale.  Then I go back to the beginning and write forward.

For me, it’s important to know that I like the characters and plot enough to stay with that story for the months to come.  That’s why I write the beginning before I spend much time doing outlines.  I need to know that I can live in that world, and enjoy it.

Advice to aspiring writers:

It's not romantic.  But it's the truth.  If you are going to be a writer, you have to love the actual act of writing: by this I mean, hands on keyboard, butt in chair, all by yourself, pounding out stories that the characters in your head are demanding you tell.

Of course, coffee and a wee dram o’ whiskey help.

Melodie Campbell drinks coffee and single malt somewhere south of Toronto.  The Artful Goddaughter is now available in stores and online.


  1. Melodie, I don't have a clever name (at least yet), but with your working titles, I'm thinking your Goddaughter ought to meet Fran Rizer's Callie Parrish!

  2. Callie is reading one of Melodie's books as we speak and enjoying it very much!

  3. I love your humor... wild and frank and hearty! I'll read you anywhere, any place! Thelma Straw in Manhattan

  4. Leigh and Fran - I have a book about Callie just waiting for the flight to Bouchercon! Looking forward to getting some time when I can read things I really want to read. Thanks for commenting!

  5. Thelma, "wild and frank and hearty" is probably the best description I've ever heard to describe what spills out of me. I'm going to be quoting you now, all over the place! Thank you for that comment, and for coming into my life.

  6. What the Goddaughter Knows
    The Goddaughter's Secret

    Give me time I'll come up with more....

    Goddaughter Time

  7. Melodie, you fear me? Really? That will be my new tagline: "Instills Fear in Melodie Campbell."

    For book #4 of your trilogy I like the title A Coffin for the Goddaughter. It has a nice ring and it echoes Eric Ambler (A Coffin for Dimitrios). Only problem that you already used the ideal cover design on your third "Gina Gallo" book.

    Regarding humor (that's "humour" for you, Melodie), I think of it in two flavors ("flavours" for you, Melodie): the witty, and sometimes introspective type that makes you think and sometimes even makes you cry, and the laugh-out-loud variety that causes me to blow coffee out of my nose. Melodie's humor - which she demonstrates nicely in today's column - is both.

  8. Why is it when I enter a friendly match of words with Steve Steinbock, I always end up feeling vaguely outdone? But in such a nice way.

    I am copying and saving the two types of humour which seem to me brilliant descriptors. How *does* one define humour? A post on that will come, for sure.

    And I'm saving the last line of your post, Steve, in my "Happy file." You are generous in all you do.

  9. I'm afraid I have no idea what to suggest for your title. But, cursed (as I am) with a pun-ish mind, I find myself twisting an old joke:

    Man 1: How do you know when your goddaughter is sick?

    Man 2: Just listen to her coffin!

    (Sorry . . . couldn't help it.)


  10. Dixon!!! OUCH!
    But so very fitting :)


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