Camille Di Maio was one of the first authors to directly contact me when I had launched my blog. I was SO excited and quickly read her novel. IT’S AMAZING. The Memory of Us hit me like a train, seriously I cried, laughed, and swooned. I was an emotional wreck by the time I finished. Significant others of bookworms beware.
Anyway, one of the greatest benefits of book blogging is the connections you make with other bloggers and authors. Camille Di Maio has been a wonderful supporter of the my blog and offered to answer some questions.
Her debut of The Memory of Us : A Novel is out May 31st. Preorder now! See on Amazon.
Besides the Beatles song “Eleanor Rigby”, what inspired you to write such a romantic tale?
This will sound funny, but it’s true. My daughters wanted to read the “Twilight” series, but I thought it would be best to pre-screen it. I ended up reading all four books over a long weekend. The idea of a “forbidden love” was stuck in my head. Then, when I was driving around doing errands and “Eleanor Rigby” played on my shuffle of five thousand songs, the idea hit me. Who were these characters – an old priest and a lonely woman. What if they had a history? With the backdrop of forbidden love, the concept a wealthy Protestant girl and an immigrant Catholic seminarian seemed like an intriguing premise.
Additionally, I am influenced by my love of British literature – I’m especially a fan of “Jane Eyre”. Not everything is happy in those books – they are very real.
Were your characters based off the personalities of people you know or have known?
Not consciously, with the exception of a secondary character, Lucille. My dear friend, Myra, always uses exaggerated numbers to describe things. I borrowed that particular gem to give to Lucille. So, that is the inspiration between her overuse of the words “twenty-thousand things”.
My manuscript took a big turn with one event, though, so in that sense, you can say that it was based on someone I have known. My first drafts, looking back, were somewhat flighty. A friend commented that he loved it, but thought I really needed to go deeper with it. Just days later, someone close to me committed suicide. It definitely brought about emotions that I’d never had before. And, I used those emotions as fuel to rewrite that book and give it a more serious tone.
How much research did you do for this novel and for what?
I wrote the story, in a way, with layers. I wrote it out with the plot being the most important part. Then, I did research that fit in to the plot. Some writers do research and have the plot revolve around that. I had an opposite approach. It was great fun, and I’m not sure how writers long ago wrote without the internet! I particularly loved Google Maps. Since I was writing about places whose architecture has not changed much since the last century, I could take that little orange man and “walk” through a lot of the streets of London and Liverpool. I loved researching fashions of the era. One of my favorite parts was studying the geography and history of Wales. The story of the townspeople of Wallasey operating as land pirates. Or, discovering St. Dwynwyn, the patron saint of lovers in Angelsey. Those and many other references came straight from research and were the most delightful parts of writing the book.
What was your writing process like?
It involved many late nights, much Dr. Pepper, and distracting myself with computer games, specifically Dr. Mario. Seriously, I almost considered including Dr. Pepper and Dr. Mario in my acknowledgments. I have four children, and at the time, the youngest was almost a year old. My husband and I also run a real estate business, so my daytimes are quite consuming. That’s where all the soda came in. I stayed up until 3 or 4 every morning for six weeks pounding out a first draft. After that, it took years to revise and revise – the business grew, and the kids grew, and I couldn’t give it all the attention I did in the beginning. But, I think that was a good thing – it needed to simmer, and with no writing background or education, I had to take the time learn more about the craft. Now, I’m more disciplined. I’m trying to hit a thousand words a day on my next one. And – I say a prayer before I touch the keyboard. Nothing we do is merely about ourselves – so I pray that my writing touches other people and improves their lives, even in a small way. I believe that this can be done even through fiction.
Did you ever experience writer’s block while writing this novel?
In the first draft, I had very little writer’s block. I had this idea, and I was driven. But, there is no way I’d want anyone to read that, version ha, ha! The writer’s block came when I knew that it needed a lot of work. All those layers. Perfecting the plot. Deepening the characters. Coloring the details. Doubting myself. Feeling inadequate. Loving it. Hating it. Thinking it was genius. Thinking it deserved to be burned. Ah, all the emotions of being an author!!!
What advice could you give for aspiring authors?
If your goal is to publish – especially to traditionally publish – you need to have a firm understanding that your book is a product. It might be your art, but if you want to publish, there will be many people who have a stake in it – your agent, your editors, cover designer, publicist, etc. They have also been in the business longer than you have – so their advice is usually spot on, with an eye towards making your book the very best it can be. In my manuscript, there were two things that my agent strongly recommended I change. I thought long and hard about it, and they were difficult changes to make, but she was so so so right. It is a better book for having made the changes. Humility is a good virtue to practice here.
Patience is another virtue to cultivate. I know of only one big author who made it where she is without a whole lot of rejections along the way. I had forty-two rejections from agents. I looked at each one as a reason to try to make it better until I had a yes. I did not give up, I did not doubt my goal. It took six years, but it was worth it!
Finally, I highly recommend attending writing conferences or becoming part of a local writing group. Camaraderie, commitment, and craft are my “Three Cs” of becoming a successful and happy author.
What is fulfilling about writing for you?
I have wanted to write a novel ever since I was twelve years old. So, I feel like I am fulfilling my purpose. It’s just in me. Like finally finding that proverbial round peg in a round hole. And, on this side of things, it’s been very fulfilling to make friends with other authors. I have always looked up to writers, and now to be friends with so many of them still takes my breath away. I never want to lose that. I’m a person who loves living in perpetual awe – of many things.
Are there any plans for your next novel?
Yes! I got a contract on my second book in March. The working title is BEFORE THE RAIN FALLS. It is quite different from THE MEMORY OF US. It is set in Texas, in chapters alternating between the 1940s and the present day. I love that my publisher is not pushing me to just produce the exact same kind of book, and is really giving me the freedom to be an artist. It is still historical, and it is still women’s fiction. Here are some hints: A mysterious portrait. A woman accused of killing her sister. A scandal-ridden journalist and an idealistic doctor trying to start new lives. And, a border town desperate for a reason to hope. It should be out in May 2017!