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camille di maio
We recently had the pleasure of talking to one of our SweekStars judges, published author Camille Di Maio, about her books and her writing process. We thought her words might prove inspirational for all you Sweekers looking to participate in the contest, or who are just interested in who your SweekStars judges are! Enjoy!
INTERVIEW WITH CAMILLE DI MAIO
Q: What got you into writing?
A: I wanted to be a writer ever since I was twelve years old and spent recesses at school in the library. I made friends with Nancy Drew, Jane Eyre, Anne Shirley, and so many others. I was fascinated by authors and what it took to write a book. So I wanted to become one.
Q: When did you finish your first book? What were the biggest challenges you had to deal with in order to accomplish this and how did you overcome then?
A: I finished the first draft of my first book in 2009. I gave myself a nice pat on the back and started querying agents. Needless to say, I received a lot of rejections – it wasn’t ready yet! Not by a long shot. I spent the next few years (in between running a business and homeschooling my four children) working on it until it was ready to submit again.
This time, the responses from agents were much better! The biggest challenge was not taking rejection personally and letting it be fuel to make the manuscript better and better. I received an offer of representation from a great agent in 2014 and had a book deal a few months later.
Q: How do you balance your writing with the rest of your life?
A: This is a tricky one to figure out! We all have other life responsibilities, so carving out space for yourself is difficult. And it’s easy to feel like you’re being selfish by prioritizing it. But it’s essential if you want to make it as a writer. Since my husband works from home and my kids are home full-time, I get my best writing done when I go to the library or a coffee shop. But when my kids were little, I just used every spare moment between diapers and dinner to work on it. Someone once told me that you will never “find” the time to do what you want to do. You need to “make” the time. And, honestly, for many years, I carved writing time out of what would have been sleeping hours. I was young enough to do that then.
Q: What’s the hardest part of a book to write, according to you?
A: That dreaded middle. I don’t think any writer loves that part. You get so excited about your beginning and you have a good idea of how it will end. But keeping it interesting in the middle (to yourself and to your future readers) is hard work and rarely inspired. That’s when you need to sit down and just get it done. Then, looking back over your finished manuscript, you can see how to tied it all in even better during edits.
Q: Of the books you’ve published, which one is your favourite and why?
A: That’s like asking me which is my favorite child! I love all the books for different reasons. My first, THE MEMORY OF US, holds a special place in my heart because it’s the one I really learned on. And because it’s inspired by one of my favorite songs, Eleanor Rigby by the Beatles. I actually had a chance to give Paul McCartney a copy of it in person at a concert – I held up a sign saying that I’d written a book about that song and he called me up to the stage to give it to him! And then he proceeded to start reading it to the audience. One of the best moments of my life.
I love BEFORE THE RAIN FALLS because it’s about my home state of Texas. I had a new editor for that one and she was a taskmaster in the best way possible. I learned so so much about writing. It’s also quite different from a lot of books on the market, so I love that it’s not cookie-cutter.
THE WAY OF BEAUTY is set in my favorite city, New York, and really dug into the sacrifices made by suffragettes. The research on that one was my favorite. And, finally, I simply had the most fun writing THE BEAUTIFUL STRANGERS because it was inspired by a ghost story and movie stars.
Q: What’s your favourite place to write in?
A: A beach! A balcony overlooking the beach is definitely most inspirational place to me to write. I wish I could do it more often.
Q: Do you have any pre-writing rituals?
A: Embarrassingly, I waste precious time playing some games on apps on my phone before writing. It kind of clears my head to do something mindless before having to think so much. I especially enjoy word games and card games.
Q: What would be your advice for a writer aspiring to publish a book?
A: My advice would be to not compare your early drafts to finished books. A manuscript goes through many, many, many edits and many sets of eyes before hitting the shelves. First drafts are, by and large, not great. You have to be ok with them being mediocre. It is in the editing – first your own and later your publisher’s – where the greatness is really revealed.
Also – do not be too proud of genuine critiques. If you can’t handle beta readers giving you honest feedback, you will never survive readers giving you poor reviews. And every book, matter how amazing, has poor reviews online. Develop a strong backbone now.
Camille Di Maio
Camille Di Maio is the bestselling author of several works of historical fiction. She has lived all over the United States and currently calls Virginia home, along with her husband, four children, dog, and cat. Her travels inspire her writing and she is often planning her next trip. Weekends find her at farmers markets and the beach. Her books include The Memory of Us, Before the Rain Falls, The Way of Beauty, and The Beautiful Strangers.