Author Interview: Marcella Kampman
Posted by Dianna Gunn
Today’s author is a fiction novelist of the type you’ll usually see around here. Instead, she is a folklorist who collects and analyzes myths from different cultures. Please welcome Marcella Kampman, author of Inanna, Goddess of Love: Great Myths and Legends from Sumer.
1. Can you tell us a bit about your book, Inanna, Goddess of Love: Great Myths & Legends from Sumer?
Thank you so much for asking! I’d love to tell you about my book, Inanna, Goddess of Love: Great Myths & Legends from Sumer. First of all, don’t let the title fool you. Inanna was a lot more than just another pretty face! She was the goddess credited with bringing man out of the Stone Age by giving him the Tablets of Destiny, otherwise known as the Laws of Civilization. She was also a battle goddess and she crowned kings. The book is a collection of myths (the gods of ancient Sumer) and legends (stories of ancient man, in particular Gilgamesh) and how the two (man and deity) are intertwined. Personally, I feel that the legends of Gilgamesh are much richer in detail for being included in a collection of myths involving not only the deities of his time, but his interactions with those very gods and goddesses. Let me share a quote with you from Dr. Gwendolyn Leick, author of Historical Dictionary of Mesopotamia, and The Babylonians: An Introduction: “Marcella Kampman’s skillfully crafted versions of the Sumerian myths, which were written down some 4000 years ago, capture the beat of the original language and allow these exciting stories to delight new generations.”
2. When did you first realize you wanted to pursue writing as more than a hobby?
I have always loved to read, and I still read a lot, and so I believed that in my case writing was a natural progression from reading. My love of storytelling began when I was young, and I would insert myself into the adventure of the current book I was experiencing, and from there the story would morph into something different, my story, and one day I guess I just decided to try writing down my own stories. And here I am! In addition to this non-fiction collection of myths and legends, I am also a published romance author, under the name of Vanessa deHart. I’d love to share with you a quote from one of my reviewers: The Word on Romance is pleased to have reviewed Promise Me! “Fasten your seatbelts because Promise Me will take you on a wild and rocky ride …I really got hooked on the characters …I found myself turning the pages to find out the next plot twist. This reviewer looks forward to reading more unique stories from the pen of Ms. deHart.”
3. What do you consider the most interesting aspect of mythology?
I am so glad you asked that! In a nutshell, a myth is a way of making sense in a senseless world. Let me explain. I regularly go around to the local junior and high schools, teaching students about mythology and giving readings from my book, and with every visit it seems I connect a little more with the class, and I believe it’s because I am able to share with the students (and teachers!) how relevant ancient mythology can still be in today’s society; how man, at his very heart, has not changed all that much in five thousand years. Myths explain things. They are a means of discovery, usually of the human condition, and they can impart understanding, which may even lead to uncovering a deeper meaning of life. Even though the stories may be about the gods, at their very core they are stories about the gods being human and doing human things. Myths are the very foundation of our very human values and ethics. They teach right from wrong, good from bad, they answer basic human questions like: Where did we come from? And what is the meaning of life? Myths are often rich with symbology and metaphor, and to help students interpret these stories I’ve included a brief explanation after each story in the collection. My publisher at Bayeux Arts has this to say about my book: “Beautifully crafted and narrated, this collection of 16 legends and myths comes with a splendid introduction to the Sumerian Civilization. A brief explanation of the myth/legend follows every story – a valuable aid for teaching and learning.”
4. How did you choose a mythology to focus on for your book?
I did not choose these myths, but rather, they chose me to tell their stories! It all began when I was doing some research for a completely different project (I write epic fantasy as well) and I stumbled upon some bits and pieces of these myths. The more I delved into the subject of ancient Mesopotamia, the more fascinated I became. When I went in search of a more comprehensive collection of ancient Sumerian mythology to read for my own enjoyment, I couldn’t find one. So I decided to write my own. Fortunately for me, my publisher agreed! I decided to render these ancient myths into a more engaging style for a younger, modern audience, to make the reading of ancient history more “user friendly” if you will. In a little aside here, even though I wrote the collection for my own ten-year-old self, I have found that many adults who share an interest in ancient history have thoroughly enjoyed reading about Inanna as well.
5. What did you find most challenging about writing Inanna, Goddess of Love: Great Myths & Legends from Sumer?
The most challenging part for me was in doing the research. Retelling ancient myths and legends is something most creative writers can do, interpreting them in their own way, but I wanted my versions to be as authentic as possible. I had to read hundreds of hours of dry history texts, and most of these manuscripts only had portions of the stories available in them, and so I had to piece together the myths and then choose those which fit together best into a comprehensive whole. I know I succeeded when I read the following quote from Professor Andrew R. George, author of The Epic of Gilgamesh from Penguin Books: “Marcella Kampman’s tellings of ancient Mesopotamian myths are vividly rendered and faithful to the spirit of the originals.”
6. You’re also a multi-published romance author and you’re working on a fantasy novel. How is writing a novel different from writing a non-fiction book?
With regards to writing non-fiction, it requires hours of meticulous research (as you can tell by the extensive bibliography at the back of my book!). To be taken seriously by the academic community, there is no chance of letting your creative writing side take off on a tangent. Having said that, I believe that by the very fact that I am a creative fiction writer I was able to take those dry, dusty historical tomes and turn them into something new and fresh again. As Dr. William Ryan, author of Noah’s Flood: the New Scientific Discoveries about the Event that Changed History states: “Marcella Kampman skillfully brings the ancient world of myth and legend back to life in a child’s imagination through her inspiring interpretations of favorite Sumerian texts.” On the flip side of having written, and published, a non-fiction collection of myths and legends, I feel that I have learned some valuable tools which will aid in me in the writing of my epic fantasy novels. I now know how to do proper research, and where no true facts may exist for my imaginary universe I know enough how to create a solid foundation to give my world credibility.
7. If you could go back to any moment in your career and do things differently, when would it be and why?
I am where I am now because of the journey that my writing has taken me on. I look upon this particular journey as my “apprenticeship” years. Each step led to the next. I struggled, I learned, I grew. I could never have bypassed any one stage and gone onto the next without significant consequences. I have enough rejection slips to wallpaper a good size room, but those rejection slips (as much as they were not pleasant to receive!) were necessary for me to grow as a writer, and as well, they show my commitment to my craft, and the fact that I did, and still do, take myself seriously as a writer, enough so that I would submit my stories whenever I felt they were ready to go out into the world. As far as doing things differently, I would rather state here for the record that aspiring authors should not be afraid of making mistakes, or of feeling foolish, or of taking things too personally. I’d like to share with you something personal, from my own writing history; my first novel, No More Lies, was actually the third of my romance books to get published. In its earliest version it garnered the most rejection slips, so I set it aside and continued with writing two others, which were successfully published. Then I returned to the first one, saw all that was wrong with it with new, wiser eyes, rewrote it, and last year I saw it finally get published and since then it has garnered some very positive responses.
8. What are your favourite things about being a career writer?
I get to live in my “dream world”, doing what I love day in and day out, and never get bored doing it!
9. If you could give an aspiring writer any one piece of advice, what would it be?
Never give up! The published author is the aspiring writer who never quit!
10. What are you working on next that readers can look forward to?
I am having a brilliant time right now working on a fantasy trilogy called the Daughters of the Moon. Over the scope of three novels I plan to take readers on an exciting epic journey from ancient Celtic Ireland to Regency England, weaving in Irish mythology (a great use for my research skills!) with a blend of the real world and a touch of a magical, mystical realm.
Bio: Marcella Kampman is the author of i>Inanna, Goddess of Love: Great Myths & Legends from Sumer, and shares her gift for both learning and teaching through the art of storytelling and the understanding of myth with students and teachers alike through her free classroom visits in the local Ottawa, Ontario area. For those not living in Ottawa, you can find her free online lesson plans available on her website to use in conjunction with her book, Inanna, Goddess of Love (which is also available online). In addition to her non-fiction collection of myths and legends, Marcella is also a multi-published romance author, an aspiring children’s book writer, and is currently working on an epic fantasy series. She resides in Ottawa, Canada, with her husband of thirty-one years in their dream home designed by their architect daughter, Tessa, who is also the illustrator for “Inanna, Goddess of Love: Great Myths & Legends from Sumer.”
For more information about Marcella and her work, please check out her website at: http://www.marcellakampman.webs.com