Author Camille Marchetta is touring the blogosphere to promote the release of her latest book, The River, by Moonlight. She was kind enough to give me a few minutes of her time to talk about writing and publishing.
Welcome to Blogcritics! It's nice to have you here.
Thank you. I'm so pleased to have this opportunity to visit with you. It's an interesting site. I've been having a good time wandering around in it.
Why don't you start by telling us a bit about your book, and what inspired you to write such a story?
Friends on vacation wandered into an exhibition of paintings by a young woman artist who had died in mysterious circumstances. They were so impressed by the work that they mentioned it, and her, to me when they got home. I found the story haunting. I couldn't get it out of my head. Finally, I wrote The River, by Moonlight, my third novel, as a way of dealing with the issues raised for me. The book is set in New York City and the Hudson River Valley in 1917, just as the United States is on the verge of entering World War I. It's about the death of a young woman, Lily Canning, and the effect of it on her family and friends, all of whom are devastated by her loss and tormented by questions of how and why. But it's not a "true" story. The setting, the characters, the plot, everything is as I imagined it.
How would you describe your creative process while writing this novel? Was it stream-of-consciousness writing, or did you first write an outline? How long did it take you to write it?
No, I didn't work from an outline. I always find that too restricting. But I did a huge amount of research, and I took endless notes. Then I just sat and thought, really, until I found a way to tell the story, until I found its "voice." Once I had that, I was off. I would write page by page, letting things happen as they did. Frankly, the whole process is a mystery to me. But the writing isn't what I would call "stream-of-consciousness," which has, I think, a more fluid and interior quality than this work. It's been "polished" too much, I suppose, to seem spontaneous. I began actually writing the novel in 2000 and I did the last draft in July of 2007. I wasn't working on it constantly all that time, but I did do a good number of drafts.
Have you ever suffered from writer's block? What seems to work for unleashing your creativity?
I think I suffered from writer's block for all the years before I began writing. Finally, though, all the pent up desire just burst through and I began a screenplay. Since then, I do get blocked from time to time, but it's never crippling. What I do when it happens is play a Mozart CD, get on the sofa with a pad and pen, tell myself I don't have to write if I don't feel like it, all I have to do is listen to the music. Amazingly, I'm writing before I know it. Peanut butter helps, too. I used to think that was insane, but then I read that peanut butter is full of vitamin B, a natural tranquillizer. It seems to help dissipate the tension, the anxiety. Or maybe I just like to think it does because I love it. But every writer has to discover his or her own trick for getting around the block.
How was your experience in looking for a publisher? What words of advice would you offer those novice authors who are in search of one?
My first two books were submitted to publishers by my agent, and both sold within a few weeks, with no problem. This time, it was more difficult. My previous publisher turned down one of the first drafts of The River, by Moonlight, which didn't surprise me much as it was so different from my preceding books. The first two, though I always considered them "literary" fiction, could be marketed as more commercial works, which was impossible for this one. When my agent didn't want to submit it anywhere else without changes, I didn't know what to do, but then I thought, well, I'll just find another agent. (In my experience, editors never read anything unless it's submitted by an agent.) Though I had lots of credits, that turned out not to be so easy.
And after two years of looking, I gave up, decided not to waste anymore time, and to publish the book myself. I can understand someone not wanting to do that. If I were younger, I might have been willing to wait longer, try harder, and who knows but I may eventually have found an agent who saw in the book what I (and, by then, many other readers) did. So, I suppose my advice to a novice author would be to follow the rules, to read the literature, find the agents who handle books like the one you've written, send the query letter, the sample chapters, whatever the agent requests, and hope something good will come of all your hard work. It usually does. It just takes time and persistence.
What type of book promotion seems to work the best for you?
Ask me that a couple of months from now, and I'll be able to give you a more informed reply. I'm not sure what works best, yet. But, so far, I think this online touring is the most interesting and potentially most productive kind of promotion I've ever experienced.
What is your favorite book of all time? Why?
I don't have one favorite. I have lots of them. And each time I'm asked that question a different book pops into my head. At the moment, it's Wuthering Heights demanding a mention. Every time I read it, it just blows my mind. The power of the prose, the mastery of the story-telling, the violence of the emotions. How could Emily Bronte, a nineteenth-century vicar's daughter living in a remote Yorkshire village, know all that?
Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your work?
Yes, I do. I have a website. As well as links to related sites, it's got information about me, and about all my books, including excerpts.
Do you have another novel in the works? Would you like to tell readers about your current or future projects?
I've been so busy first writing and then publishing and now promoting The River, by Moonlight that I haven't really settled on my next project. And I confess that's making me nervous. I need to get back to work!
Thanks for stopping by! It was a pleasure to have you here!
I've enjoyed it. Thank you.