“Seven minute to go, Billy dived in front of the goal, Pip’s heart hammering, he slid along the AstroTurf, Pip’s eyes glued to the screen, he stretched out his stick, Pip’s mouth opening in a scream, he gave the ball the slightest of touches to send it into the back of the goal. There where yells around them, Nadine’s face up close to Pip’s, mirroring her euphoria. Four-two to Germany.” – excerpt from No Number Nine, by Jane Campbell
Interview with FJ Campbell
THF: How did you come up with the story and the characters of your book?
FJ Campbell: I was on a long boring car journey from Munich, where I used to live, to Corsica, where I was going on holiday. I grabbed a pad and pen and started scribbling. The whole story just unfolded right there in that car and I knew I really wanted to write it. The characters were there straight away, too, although I didn’t decide on their names until a while later. I knew I wanted Pip to be young, and insecure, and naive, and that she should find herself living with a hockey family in Germany, although she wanted nothing more to do with hockey at that stage in her life. I found it funny to write about a character who thinks she hates hockey, when I love it so much!
THF: Why did you pick the hockey world to set your characters there?
FJ Campbell: Because I know it so well. I’ve been playing hockey on and off my whole life, and have played at school, university (Manchester), at clubs in Canterbury and London (Wimbledon, Battersea Wanderers, Richmond), in Germany (Rot-Weiss Munich) and Zurich (Grasshoppers) – and I’ve stopped roaming now and live in St Albans in the UK. It’s a world that is full of interesting characters, both at the elite level and the ‘social hockey’ level – which is where I belong.
THF: For what I’ve seen in your Instagram account, you’re sports person. But what made you attracted to hockey?
FJ Campbell: I played at school but it was when I left school and started playing club hockey that I knew I wanted to play for ever. Hockey clubs are special places – I can tell you from experience that you walk into one and have a load of instant new friends, wherever you are in the world. It’s the same feeling when you watch international matches. The crowds are friendly, relaxed, and I love listening in on their conversations about the game or the players – much like Pip does when she watches her sister play.
THF: In your book you mention the Olympics in Sydney, but what are your best memories about sports and hockey?
FJ Campbell: Well, Sydney was a great Olympics to go to, and I also went as a fan to Barcelona and Atlanta and loved those too. Good times. But my favourite memory has to be staying up late into the night to watch the GB women win gold in Rio 2016.
THF: Have you played hockey before? And if so, why did you stop playing?
FJ Campbell: I’ve always played except for a break in my thirties and am still playing, although very s-l-o-w-l-y and not as often as before.
THF: In your acknowledgements you mention Helen Richardson-Walsh, Simon Triggs, Philipp Crone, among others. How did you manage to get those great players to help you with your book? And how valuable was their opinion in the process of writing your book?
FJ Campbell: So, I know these players or am friends-of-friends with them and they were all fantastically helpful with various aspects of the book. Helen helped me specifically with how everything was organised for the athletes in Sydney – it was her first Olympics. Trigger is a friend from Canterbury days and he’d saved some of his training schedules from the late 1990s and helped me dredge up some old memories. Philipp, who is at Rot-Weiss, and a couple of other people I know who play in Germany, helped me organise my thoughts about the training schedule for the German national team and answered loads of quite random questions. So it was really interesting to talk and email with these people and they gave me some great ideas about what happened in the time running up to the Olympics. I wanted to write a book that was fictional, but that would be accurate enough not to annoy die-hard hockey fans. It has to be realistic, but doesn’t have to stick exactly to the truth. That’s what I think, anyway.
— FJ Campbell (@fj_campbell) May 20, 2018
THF: Which are your favourite players, man and woman?
FJ Campbell: Not sure about the men at the moment because I’m more into women’s sport. I thought Lily Owsley was amazing in the game I watched on Sunday (GB-USA FIH Pro League) – I could watch her all day.
THF: In your book, Pip’ sister dies because of an accident in the pitch in the middle of a game. Also we have seen lots of real injuries during important tournaments. Do you think hockey players aren’t protected enough? And if so, what do you think it can be done in order to improve this?
FJ Campbell: I’m just an author and it’s not my place to comment on this issue. Sorry if that’s a cop out but I have no experience and don’t feel comfortable giving my opinion. What I would say is that I thought long and hard about including such a horrible accident in what is supposed to be a fun, entertaining book, and decided to go for it because these things do happen and it’s important to me to be a writer who reflects reality. I concentrated, not so much on the accident of Pip’s sister Holly, but on the aftermath of it – how Pip dealt with her grief and how she tried to move on and live her life. Hockey helped her do that.
THF: Do you have other books about sports you would like to recommend?
FJ Campbell: I love reading books about sport and there are loads of fiction and non-fiction books about at the moment. Sarah Juggins and Richard Stainthorpe’s non-fiction books about the Olympics and World Cups are excellent. On the fiction side of things, there’s Barracuda by Christos Tsiolkas (about a swimmer); Gold by Chris Cleave (about cyclists), Beartown by Fredrik Backman (about ice hockey players), Double Fault by Lionel Shriver (tennis players) and The Power of One by Bryce Courteney (boxer). All of these books use sport as a backdrop to their stories – it’s the added drama and pressure that makes these books so enjoyable. Also, when you write about sporty people, you’re writing about their determination and focus and the hours of pain and sweat they put into their sport
@TheHockeyFamily🏑: it’s @WorldBookDayUK, so put down your stick & go online to your favourite book store (or @totalhockeyni) and buy a copy of this novel, with plenty of hockey action and a finale at the Sydney Olympics that will blow your socks off.
Please RT #WorldBookDay pic.twitter.com/LbdV5aQIpY
— FJ Campbell (@fj_campbell) March 7, 2019
THF: Are you going to write a sequel of your book? Maybe about Pip following the steps of her sister?
FJ Campbell: I was thinking about writing a sequel, and it would be interesting to see if Pip could make it as far as her sister, or if she wanted to. So watch this space!
So there you have it what better way to finish the interview than to find out that FJ is considering on doing a sequel to her great novel ‘No Number Nine’!
If you haven’t read it yet, what are you waiting for? I can assure you: This book will leave you longing for a sequel.
You can find FJ Campbell on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads and in her website http://www.fjcampbell.net