Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Author Interview with CHESTER D. CAMPBELL

Chester Campbell has an interesting and varied background; he was so busy living his life, he didn't publish his first novel until age 76! Chester served in the Army Air Forces, worked as a reporter for The Knoxville Journal, wrote feature stories as a freelancer, and held other jobs in public relations, for the Tennessee Department of Revenue (he was a speech writer for the then governor), at an advertising agency, and managing a trade association before retiring at age 62. THAT'S when he began writing novels. The most recent book in his Greg McKenzie mystery series netted this review: A top rate mystery by a gem of a writer.


You’ve done all kinds of writing over the years: newspaper, magazine, short stories, freelance, speeches, and mystery novels – in addition to being a magazine editor. What do you like writing best, and why?

I enjoy writing mystery novels as it gives you the freedom to tackle any subject in any location, even create locations that don’t exist. You get the opportunity to let your imagination run wild.

Series books are hot right now. Tell us about the pros and cons of writing a series.

One of the main pros is that most readers enjoy series books. You can continue to develop the characters as the series progresses. And you can add secondary characters who flit in and out of one book or another. You can also “brand” a series protagonist and have him become a familiar name, like Lee Child’s Jack Reacher. On the cons side, you have the necessity of guarding against falling into a plot rut, creating formulaic stories. You also risk alienating readers if you change too much of what they’ve become accustomed to.

Who is your favorite author and why do you like his/her work?

I have had several favorites over the years. Two of my current favorites are Robert B. Parker and James Lee Burke. I love Parker’s dialogue style and Burke’s colorful descriptions. He can paint a picture as dramatic as that of a classic artist.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer?

One of my biggest challenges currently is making time to write. The familiar phrase is “find time,” but that’s a joke. We all have exactly 24 hours in a day. It’s having the moxie to spend it the way we should that counts. I get tied up with blogs and social networks and things that seem necessary to promote my books, but if I don’t learn to limit my time on the Internet I won’t have any more books to promote.

What is the title of your most recently published book? Briefly tell us what it’s about and let us know where we can buy it.

The Surest Poison, first book in a new series, came out in April. When the state and outraged neighbors come after a small company over a toxic chemical spill, Nashville PI Sid Chance is hired to find who created the pollution before the current owner bought the property. A former Green Beret in Vietnam, National Park ranger, and small town police chief, Sid quickly finds all his leads point to dead ends. A night-time explosion behind the home of his associate, Jaz LeMieux, threats, and three possibly-connected murders turn up the heat. Sid finds a task that looked routine has turned deadly. As the tension mounts, he encounters the unsavory people responsible for malicious accusations of bribery that brought his police career to an untimely end.

What are you working on now and when/where do you expect it to be available?

I’m currently about 15% into the fifth book in my Greg McKenzie mystery series. It involves a controversy over attempts to bring an NBA franchise to Nashville. It should be available early next year.

Writers, especially new writers, are always looking for tips and helpful information. What is the single most important “tip” you can give to a new writer?

Never give up. Persistence pays. I started writing novels after I retired from a long career of writing in other fields. The eighth book I wrote was the first one published. I was 76 when it came out. I would advise getting started a little earlier than I did. But keep at it! It’s never too late.

What writers organizations claim you as a member? How has membership helped your writing career?

I worked in association management for several years and preached to volunteers to get involved. When I took up mystery writing, I began joining organizations. I’m currently Secretary of the Southeast Chapter of Mystery Writers of America, President of the Middle Tennessee Chapter of Sisters in Crime, and Director of the Mid-South Region for the Military Writers Society of America. I also belong to The Writers Guild and Tennessee Writers Alliance. I have made numerous contacts in these organizations that have helped my writing career.

Do you have any upcoming book signings or appearances? If so, give us all the details.

I have a signing on Sept. 5, noon to 3:00 p.m., at the Cheatham County Public Library in Ashland City, TN (site of much of The Surest Poison); signing Oct. 3 at the Main Street Festival in Gallatin, TN; Sisters in Crime booth and panel at the Southern Festival of Books, Oct. 9-11 in downtown Nashville; Bouchercon, the World Mystery Convention, Oct. 15-18, Hyatt Regency, Indianapolis, IN.

Here’s your opportunity to tell us anything else you care to share.

The first three books in my Greg McKenzie series are out of print but available on and my website. Enter Chester D. Campbell in Amazon’s search bar and it will show all my books available in both paper and ebook format for the Kindle.

What are the addresses of your website(s) and blog(s):

Mystery Mania:
Murderous Musings:
Make Mine Mystery:


  1. Thanks for the interview, Linda. I hope it inspires some yet-to-be-published writers to keep at it.

  2. You're welcome, Chester. It was pleasure!

  3. Chester,

    Just a quick note to let you know that, as I viewed the blog for a couple of updates, your smiling face shone out at me like few photos have done. What a great publicity pic!

  4. You really are an inspiration, Chester. Younger writers should learn from your example and never give up.

    Another excellent interview, Linda!

  5. Chester. Great interview. It was a real pleasure meeting you last weekend at Killer Nashville. You're an inspiration to us all.

  6. Enjoyed your interview, Chester! As others have said, you're an inspiration.

  7. Chester, out of popular demand I will be having "more adult" men authors on my column. email me if interested in giving out sage words of wisdom for writers with lots of energy and experiences to inspire other writers!

  8. A little late to the party, but thanks for all the nice comments. For me, writing has been a ball.