thank you so much for joining me on my Meet&Greet platform, it is such a pleasure to have you!
Thank you for thinking of me, Chantal! Hello, everyone!
We connected a few years ago via instagram, and it was, of course, over a book. I had read „Life without envy – Ego Management for Creative People“, and it was such an eye- opener for me. As humans, no matter what our profession (but as artists maybe even more so), we have a tendency to always look to those we perceive as „more successful“ and wish we had what they have. Your book completely turned that thinking model around for me, giving me an unexpected freedom I hadn’t known before, a sense of „I do me“. It was the beginning of a process that taught me to stop obsessively comparing myself to others, which I wish I had learned much, much sooner, preferably as a teenager. What made you write „Life without Envy“?
My second novel had gone out of print, so after a couple years of early success I was feeling like I’d done everything wrong after all. I felt “hard done by” even though intellectually I understood that most publishing careers are stymied by poor sales figures, and most authors are “underappreciated” no matter how much quality work they produce. Eventually I realized I had to put myself through the mindset upgrade you’ve just described if I were to reach a state of creative equilibrium—to recognize the absurdity of hinging your happiness on factors beyond your control. After that, it was a matter of writing the book I wish someone else had written for me!
So you taught what you needed to learn 😉? (I’ve only ever written fiction, but still, I do the same thing: My main characters often struggle with limitations I have inside my life, or, more accurately: inside myself.)
It seems like I only ever teach what I’ve most needed to learn! It’s a good thing, though: a teacher who is only a few steps ahead of you still remembers what your current experience feels like. They’re more empathetic and therefore more effective.
As for authors exploring our own challenges and foibles inside our fiction, that’s the clarification that turns “write what you know” into a useful (though still trite) piece of advice. Aspiring authors yearn to write something “original,” and they assume they have to look outside themselves for a premise or perspective that is truly unique. Ironic, right? To grow out of this, a writer can begin a list of everything that concerns, baffles, and infuriates them, everything that is unresolved in their mind and heart. What haunts you? What has the potential to “ruin” you? What are the things that keep you up at night that no one else seems to be worrying about? (“Seems” being the operative word.) This is the gold inside yourself, the starting point of many stories worth telling.
(I’ve actually put together a series of worksheets to aid in this process, which arrives in your email when you sign up for my newsletter.)
You are a writer of both fiction – for children and adults – and non-fiction. I have read and loved both types of your work and would have trouble deciding whether you are more of a teacher or more of a storyteller. Do you feel like your weight as an author is distributed equally between the two vocations?
To answer that, let me circle back to the central message of Life Without Envy: to attain creative fulfillment, we’ve got to evolve out of the desire to “prove” our talent, focusing instead on what we’re contributing to the culture and to each other. The best teachers intuitively understand this. After a certain point I realized that spending all my time novel-writing would result in a life that is rich in imagination but not especially generous. That’s why I believe teaching and mentoring are (or should be) as much a part of the job as the writing itself, though I’m not talking about vague encouragements or overly-analytical craft talk. I try to be one of those authors who remembers just how hard those early years are, and always creates a safe space (be it virtual or in person) for aspiring writers to plumb their own emotional depths.
Let’s talk about „The Boy from Tomorrow“! I fell in love with the book literally at first sight, before I had even read it. The vintage-style cover illustration by Agnieszka Grochalska was at once endearing and the promise of an exciting story – especially as I have always loved time travel adventures! In my opinion, the cover art is super important. I have seen books of mine go completely under because of a bad cover. How did you feel when you first saw the cover or cover sketches?
When my publisher decided on Agnieszka, they sent me the link to her website, and she is such a versatile illustrator that I had no idea what to expect. I was thoroughly delighted by the cover and interior illustrations—they still make me smile whenever I have reason to pull out the book!
In my opinion, the book more than kept the promise its cover made. I love your language, I love the story and its somewhat Dickensian quality, I love the characters. „The Boy from Tomorrow“ is the tale of a boy and a girl who live in the same house, a century apart, and make a connection across time. What was your greatest challenge in writing „The Boy from Tomorrow“?
It took me some time to slay the personal demons standing in the way of a fully-actualized plot and characters. I spent my childhood feeling completely out of control of my life—the result of an acrimonious divorce and a very manipulative parent—and after a couple early drafts in which Alec found himself waiting for the adults around him to take action, I realized that I had to give him and Josie and Cass a sense of agency that I hadn’t felt at their age.
How much historical research was involved?
Lots, and all of it was fascinating. I started by reading up on Spiritualism, and while there were plenty of charlatans associated with that movement, there were enough tantalizing mentions of mediums with legitimate abilities that I felt I could channel (pun intended?) some of these historical figures into the fictional Mrs. Clifford.
After that came the research on everyday life (particularly for girls and young women) in 1910s America and the women’s suffrage movement, including the nasty white-supremacist elements that very few historians seem willing to discuss. To learn more, history buffs can download the classroom reading guide on my website:
If you you could write only one more book in your lifetime – what would it be?
You know I am going to cheat on this one! I have another book of “practical philosophy” in me for sure, though it’s too soon to give you a hint. And I have two adult novels that have been “waiting in the wings” for more than a decade: the novel I’m working on now (a time-travel adventure with sister-and-brother protagonists) and a historical fantasy set in 18th-century Edinburgh. Naturally, both novels have vegan (or “Pythagorean”) characters! (Camille is vegan like me, something else we have in common 😊! Note Chantal)
I’m glad this was just a hypothetical question, as I’m looking forward to reading many more of your books, Camille, fiction, or non-fiction! It’s been an honor and a joy talking with you, you are such an inspiration, and I’m proud to be calling you a friend, across distance if luckily not across a century! Will you please let my readers know where they can find you online?
I echo your sentiments, Chantal—thank you so much for having me! My website is www.cometparty.com, and as for social media, I’m most active on Instagram (@cometparty).
Now to our give-away!
If you want to win one of three copies of Camille’s „The Boy from Tomorrow“, an adventurous time travel tale for young people (10-13, but as I said, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, and I’m a teensy bit older ;-)) , please send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org by the end of April and tell me the title of the first book by Camille DeAngelis I’ve ever read. The answer is in the interview, as usual!
Each winner will not only receive a copy of the book, but also a personally inscribed book plate from Camille!
Good luck, everyone!