Thu | Sep 28, 2023

Rusea’s head boy publishes first novel

Published:Tuesday | January 17, 2023 | 12:36 AMPaul H. Williams/Gleaner Writer
Rusea’s head boy Christopher Campbell recently published his first novel.
Rusea’s head boy Christopher Campbell recently published his first novel.
The cover of Christopher Campbell’s first novel.
The cover of Christopher Campbell’s first novel.
Rusea’s head boy Christopher Campbell displaying a copy of his first novel.
Rusea’s head boy Christopher Campbell displaying a copy of his first novel.

In the Jamaican high-school system, there is a consensus that boys do not like literature, for various reasons. And, as such, literature is one of the least popular subjects among boys. Moreover, not many sit external literature exams, such as those administered by the Caribbean Secondary Examination Council.

There is also a general feeling that boys do not aspire to be fiction writers. In either case, Christopher Campbell, head boy at Rusea’s High School in Lucea, Hanover, is not one of such boys. He speaks Spanish and French fluently, is a lover of English literature, and has recently published his first novel, The Ambitious Woman of The West, now being sold on Amazon.

“In this fascinating thriller, we see Amy Vargas with big dreams of becoming the most prominent woman in Jamaica. Amy is blessed, but more so when her mother gives her a mysterious candle that has been passed down through generations. This lethal candle possesses the power of eradication that Amy wields in her rise to fame, wealth, and power. Who will plot Amy’s demise and downfall? Will all her ambitions be realised? Or will her enemies extinguish her flame?” the blurb reads. To find that out you have to delve into the 30 chapters, 278 pages for the paperback, and 218 for the Amazon Kindle copy.

It is a significant accomplishment for the 18-year-old aspiring journalist, who has 10 CSEC passes, including English language and literature, and four Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination Unit 1 passes. He will be sitting his Unit II exams in May/June this year. Journalism and Spanish will be his focus at university. He is also a mentor who spends his leisure time playing sports, learning new things, reading and writing. He is very passionate about books, writing, and literature, and also hopes to become an entrepreneur.

At age 12, he found his “passion for writing after accumulating popularity while writing online”. And he has been harbouring thoughts of being a published writer since he was in grade nine. He researched publishing companies and their price ranges, and even entered writing competitions, and met a mentor that offered him some guidance. “I could say now that my thoughts were mostly positive about being a published writer, but there were times I had doubts about accomplishing it,” he told The Gleaner.

What then was the inspiration for writing this his first novel? He said it came from Kamorr Stewart, Alicia Hammond and Hadiya Richards, three of his friends who always encouraged him to “write more”. He was into writing short stories in his account on the online platform, Wattpad. He was also inspired by Jamaica and his parish of Hanover.

“There are a lot of unexplainable things that happen in Jamaica. I wanted to shed light on some of that in a fictitious manner. The inspiration came pouring out from how much Hanover is overshadowed. It is a parish hardly mentioned unless something enticing happens, for example, the [recent] ‘gold rush’ saga,” he said.

The novel has now manifested itself, but the production process had its challenges, and “moments of frustration”, especially before he found his publisher, Judith Taylor of JamJuds Publishers. There were twists and turns along the way. Writer’s block, headaches, self-pressure, laptop crashes, all welcomed him to the world of novel writing.

“As a writer, finding a suitable publishing company in Jamaica was difficult, and that can be frustrating. Most companies said they only did textbooks or poems, and others were difficult to get in contact with. I learned a lot from the experience. Most significantly, I learned that God is in control and in the end, He comes through for us. I was perturbed but, in the end, it all worked out,” he explained.

It has been accomplished, and, of course, with the support of his English and history teachers, principal Donna Anderson, and the library staff at Rusea’s. The feedback to this his maiden published work has been generally positive, and he has been “commended a lot for accomplishing something like this at such a young age”. Next up will be “a small motivational book for students doing upcoming exams” and a second novel later this year. “I want to continue impacting the world through literature,” he shared.

On the issue of boys disliking literature, Campbell believes that they “are not given a chance to express their emotions or thoughts, without a lot of judgement from society”. He said further, “I think they are not interested in literature because they are pressured into feeling like literature is not for males. You will hardly find a male student doing literature or reading a book. I feel if the stigma surrounding this was removed, then a lot more males would be interested in literature. Reading is for everyone, and literature is open to everyone.”