Welcome to Paperback Writer
Thank you. I’m really delighted to be here.
Will you share with us how you came up with the idea for this book?
Ideas can come from anywhere, can’t they? An overheard conversation. An item in a newspaper. An experience in life. In the case of THE RIVER, BY MOONLIGHT, the novel grew out of a story told me by friends. They happened into an exhibition of work by an artist, a young woman, who had died in mysterious circumstances. They were impressed enough by the paintings to mention them, and her, to me. I couldn’t get that beautiful, talented young woman out of my head, not just for days, or weeks, but years. I couldn’t stop wondering how and why she came to the end she did. Finally, in order to find out, I decided to write a novel, not about that particular artist as it happens (not much was known about her), but another, whose life and circumstances were created by me. I called her Lily Canning.
Do you plan your stories first with an outline or does it come to you as write it?
I don’t work with an outline. What I start with is an anecdote of some sort, about one character, not written down, just a few sentences in my head. Then I work out why the story interests me, what it means to me. (Knowing that helps me to stay focused on a central idea, which in turn helps as I build a structure.) Next I decide how I’m going to tell the story, in what “voice” I’m going to write. Once I know that, I can begin.
Do you know the end of the story at the beginning?
Not the very end. I do always know what, in dramatic terms, is called the climax. That’s where I’m always aiming to get to. But the resolution, the final bit of the story, that always surprises me.
Do you have a process for developing your characters?
If you mean, do I sit down and create all the characters before I start writing, the answer is no. As I said, I do know who the main character is, and the defining moment of his or her life. But, as I write, that character reveals more of itself to me. And, as the story begins to gather, I don’t know, let’s call it weight and texture, other characters make their entrances as needed. Once they do, however, I call a time out and try to discover who they are, where they came from, and how they’re going to help me tell the story. This isn’t quite as haphazard as it sounds. My notes for THE RIVER, BY MOONLIGHT amount to over two hundred pages of single-spaced, small-font type.
It is said that authors write themselves into their characters. Is there any part of you in your characters and what they would be?
I don’t intentionally do that. I try to let the characters become who they want to be. But since they’re all emerging from my head, I suppose it’s inevitable that we would sometimes share a quality, a trait, an opinion, something. Lily and I both admire Edith Wharton, for example.
What is your most favorite part about this book?
That’s an interesting question, but one that’s difficult for me to answer. I did so many drafts of the THE RIVER, BY MOONLIGHT, anything I really didn’t like about it is long since gone. But if I have to pick one thing, I’ll say – the structure. Does that sound strange? On a different day, maybe I’d choose something else, the setting (New York City and the Hudson River Valley), or the style, or – I don’t know what. But I’m very proud of the structure. Each of the chapters of the novel (there are ten in all) is told from the point of view of one of the main characters, each moving the story forward. It was difficult to do, but it gives those characters a fullness, I think, so that people have been writing to tell me how much they like (or dislike) this one or that, on a personal level, as if they really know them. I think that’s terrific.
When in the process of writing your book did you begin to look for a publisher?
When I considered it finished. That was after the second or third draft.
What struggles have you had on the road to being published?
THE RIVER, BY MOONLIGHT is my third novel. I didn’t have any trouble at all getting my first two published. Both books sold within weeks of submission. It was only this time, with this one, that I had a problem. My previous publisher turned it down, which didn’t surprise me: it’s very different from both preceding books – for a start, it’s set in 1917 rather than the present. What did surprise me? When we couldn’t agree on changes, my agent wasn’t willing to submit the book elsewhere. While clearly a hassle, at the time I didn’t consider it a major difficulty. I had a long list of credits (in television on series like Dallas and Dynasty, as well as two previous novels of my own, and two co-authored with Ivana Trump). I also had some friends with “connections” to help. I’d find an agent in no time, I thought. I soon discovered how wrong I was. For one thing, after getting the referrals and sending the novel, instead of the three months or so I expected, agents took sometimes as long as a year, or more, to get back to me. What a waste of time! One of them genuinely didn’t like the book, though he gave me ample credit for writing well. The others liked it – some liked it a lot – but thought they couldn’t sell it, that it wasn’t commercial enough. But that wasn’t what I cared about. In the two years or so since I’d started my search, people had read it, all sorts of people, both men and women, young and old, from different backgrounds, in different professions, and all had at the very least enjoyed it, while some had absolutely loved it. (Which surprised me a bit at first, but then I came to understand how universal the themes of the book are. There are very few of us, after all, who haven’t lost a loved one, who haven’t had to learn how to cope with grief, how to rediscover what is joyful in life.) Their reaction to the book encouraged me. It made me unwilling to give up, or to squander another few years trying to find a publisher on my own. I decided to do it myself, which I did through VirtualBookworm.com.
What has been the best part about being published?
Holding the book in my hand. It’s an enormous thrill. What I feel when I hold it for the first time, among other things, is amazement at having actually written a novel, pride in the accomplishment, and hope that it will do well. And when it does, when people read it and let me know they like it, if they do, well, that’s pure joy.
What do you want readers to remember and carry with them after reading your novel?
I would like them to be as moved by Lily’s story as I was.
Do you have plans to write another book?
I do. I want to write a family memoir, as well as another novel. As soon as this tour is over (I hope) I’ll toss a coin and begin one or the other.
Would you care to share with us how the virtual book tour experience with Pump Up Your Book Promotion has been for you?
First of all, the virtual world is entirely new to me, and discovering it has been a great adventure. And then Dorothy Thompson has been wonderful, working so hard on my behalf, getting me reviews, and interviews like this one, giving me an opportunity not just to talk about my book, but to meet a world of new and interesting people. And I’ve been so touched by how welcoming and kind and interested you and other hosts have all been.
Where can readers find a copy of your book?
The book is available, among other places, from: www.amazon.com
www.bookplace.co.uk and by request in local bookstores.
Do you have a website for readers to go to?
Yes, I do: www.camillemarchetta.com There, readers will find not only THE RIVER, BY MOONLIGHT, but information about my first two novels, an extended biography, excerpts from reviews, and links to other related sites.
Thank you, Camille, for sharing your book and characters with us today. It has been a pleasure and I hope you have had a successful virtual book tour.
And thank you. It’s been a challenge, but a lot of fun.