Meet John Campbell, a.k.a. Nigel Fields.

Distinguished looking, isn’t he?  After making this photo, he had no choice but to become a writer.

I could get arrested for having this picture.

I stole it off his facebook site without asking.

But enough about me and my criminal activities.

John Campbell writes under the pseudonym Nigel Fields.  He had recently published ‘Walk to Paradise Garden’.  ( http://nigelfields.wordpress.com/ )  I had just finished reading his book.  I read it in 2 days.  It isn’t a short novel.  It wasn’t something I had to do.  I didn’t have a deadline.  It was that I wanted to keep reading.  Here is the blurb for the book:

An epic love.  A horrendous tragedy.  Mental derailment.  And a special-needs boy who shows the way home.

The world goes mad in 1914.  And in the chaos, on the blood-soaked fields of the Ypres Salient, a young humanitarian John Armitage meets a British nurse, Evelyne Grenville, a lady with admirable courage and a secret.  Could they possibly make a difference, offering solace at the Western Front?  Will Evelyne’s secret life bring calamity on them both?

After the war they unite and find purpose in philanthropic activities.  Obstacles abound along the way, the most devastating being the brutal murder of their son.  Just when John thinks Evelyne is about to be completely swallowed by grief, they encounter Brandon Stewart, a boy with learning disabilities.  Together, Brandon and Evelyne help each other triumph.  It’s a ninety-year journey for the Armitages.  It’s a Walk to Paradise Garden. 

By page 5, I was intensely curious about John Armitage, Campbell’s leading character.  By page 12, I’d found another character that claimed even more of my interest.  From the beginning to the end – which was more than satisfying – I walked to Paradise Garden alongside John and Evie.  If you like books that leave you thinking about the characters long after you put the book down, if you like drama, the best of the human race, or the most infamous part of mankind’s colorful history, you will enjoy adding this to your library.

After reading his book, I had some questions I wanted to ask.  Unfortunately for me, this man is cultured.  I am not. I have been known to eat the left-over jelly beans out of my mother’s button dish.  So, being here in the Ozarks, far, far away from operas but right next to 2 Wal-Mart Supercenters, I had to look up the meaning to his replies.  I will post the interview, then post my redneck translations in parentheses for the rest of us.

My first question:  How much of your own personality is reflected in your leading character John Armitage?

–John Armitage is possibly more courageous than I am but we share the same ideals. Personality? Hmm, perhaps you should ask my wife this question.

What was the motivation behind giving Evie such a scandalous secret?

–I didn’t plan this. It was one of those things that simply came from moving my fingers over the keys. I was influenced, however, by something in the book ‘The Kitchen Boy’ by Robert Alexander.  

(This novel, ‘The Kitchen Boy’, was on the New York Bestseller List.  It has had 91 customer reviews on Amazon.  91!  I’m not even sure 91 people have even READ my book.  ‘The Kitchen Boy’ is the fictional story of one of Tsar Nicholas’ servants before the Romanov family was executed by the Bolsheviks.)

What inspired you to place part of the story in Chicago?

–Not only do I know Chicago (my hometown) but it was the center of the meatpacking industry. As a boy, I sometimes rode with my father to his job at Lake Forest College where we would pass by some remarkable estates. The Armour estate, of Armour Meats, really impressed me. And then I read The Jungle.

(Here is a stolen picture of the Armour Estate:

Dang!  It recently sold for 7.2 million.  If I had that much money I would buy an acre on the moon.  Or even get my teeth fixed.)

Without giving away too much of your plot, what is your favorite part of ‘Walk to Paradise Garden’?   (A certain passage, a character and their development, a place, etc.)   And why?

–I enjoy reading those scenes set in gardens, which were inserted after I’d first completed the story. Originally, the book was entitled. ‘Armitage House’, but after writing the big scene where Evie is giving her speech, I decided to play upon her garden metaphor in hopes this would add more strength to the music that had captivated her during her grieving, “The Walk to the Paradise Garden” by Delius. The scene in the Jardin des Tuileries in 1917 holds my interest, but I am especially pleased with the walled garden scene following the war, which serves as a transition for the story, for their lives together.

(Here is my stolen photo of Delius:

 He is an English composer that died in 1934. 

‘The Walk to Paradise Garden’ is a piece of music he composed: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SVeaAhYluOc 

I couldn’t download a picture of the Jardin des Tuileries.  The FBI must be on to me…)

A writer usually has some kind of inspiration that they utilize to prepare their mind to write and heighten their creativity.  Sometimes it is a ritual, or a favorite place to sit and write, a work of art, or a piece of music, another piece of literature, etc.  Did you have one while writing ‘Walk to Paradise Garden’, and if so, what was it?

–My inspiration pulls from a lifetime of things, many of which I hold dear. To a large degree, these include things that I’ve read. Our home, built in 1916, has a few nooks that many a writer would likely find conducive to such literary inspiration: a sunroom facing our garden, a leather chair near the fireplace, but I really just need to be at a computer keyboard with a measure of quiet. I visualize scenes and pull from the reservoir life’s experiences offer us. I have a musical background but when I write, I go rather deaf—just ask my wife. So, it doesn’t really matter what’s playing at those times. I did try to capture the bucolic tones of the Delius, but that was after I was already on that type of path.

(A musical background?  An understatement.  This man even has a music tab on his website.  It’s says things like: “This bucolic intermezzo plays into my novel. I hope you enjoy it. Note the performers.”  Then he has a link where all you have to do is click on the arrow. 

I’m still rocking to The Cure …)

Writing a full length novel is completely different from writing short stories.  A writer discovers the weak points that he or she has to work on, the strengths, what the most enjoyable part of the process is, etc.  What secrets about yourself or about writing have you learned?

–That I’m no good at writing short stories. Everything turns into an epic, and I have no idea what this says about me.

I don’t know if this is a strength or a weakness but I try not to overstay my welcome with any given scene. I fear jeopardizing a scene’s power by overdoing it. And I’m only aware of this because, as a weakness, I’ve found this to be so when I’ve talked too long on a topic. The beauty of writing is that you can fix something before it’s ‘out of your mouth.’

(I have nothing to say to this except he has read my book.  Uh-oh.  That means he has read the scene where Rayvyn’s breast falls out of her blouse and into the fountain… ‘Like an apple in the toe of a very long sock’, I believe I’d said… )

If John Armitage had only one important message to tell others after living his life, what would it be?

–To respect people regardless of their disadvantages, their lack of social tools or despite their personal baggage.

(This explains why he talks to me…)

I understand that you are working on your second novel.  What is it about?  Is there a tantalizing blurb you can give us that will whet our appetite for another work from Nigel Fields a.k.a. John Campbell?

–I will continue to work with the era surrounding 1914. And my second novel will play upon another British composer’s work: A Lark Ascending by Ralph Vaughan Williams. This story begins during the main character’s boyhood. He witnesses a crime, has serious issues with his father’s shellshock and, as a result of the latter, he comes to live in a very bohemian setting. The boy will eventually become an investigative journalist, which should get him into all kinds of trouble.

(I am looking forward to it.)

Thus ends the interview of John Campbell, part 1.

Thank you, John Campbell Nigel Fields.  Thank you for ‘Walk to Paradise Garden’.  And, oh, yeah, thanks a lot for making me cry more than once when reading the book.   Don’t think I won’t get you back for that…

Part 2 of John Campbell’s interview coming soon…

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5 Responses to WALK TO PARADISE GARDEN – Part 1

  1. snuffygump says:

    Whets my appetite. The Edwardian Era is my favorite period, so many changes came about, especially marked by the date of 1914. Thank you, Thea, for an excellent review. Am looking forward to part II!

  2. Thea says:

    He spans over 90 years of their lives. It moves very quickly, but it’s fun.

  3. cabinneta says:

    I’m not sure if he’s as intelligent as you are funny. I enjoy reading anything you write and the interview is no exception. And yeah, I might read his book. It sounds mesmerizing.

  4. Thea says:

    Wow, cabinneta…
    We should be friends :)

  5. Slarty says:

    Great questions, Thea! Great interview.
    And, yes, you are quite funny!

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