Julianne Westcott was living the kind of life that other Protestant girls in prewar Liverpool could only dream about: old money, silk ball gowns, and prominent young men lining up to escort her. But when she learns of a blind-and-deaf brother, institutionalized since birth, the illusion of her perfect life and family shatters around her.
While visiting her brother in secret, Julianne meets and befriends Kyle McCarthy, an Irish Catholic groundskeeper studying to become a priest. Caught between her family’s expectations, Kyle’s devotion to the Church, and the intense new feelings that the forbidden courtship has awakened in her, Julianne must make a choice: uphold the life she’s always known or follow the difficult path toward love.
But as war ripples through the world and the Blitz decimates England, a tragic accident forces Julianne to leave everything behind and forge a new life built on lies she’s told to protect the ones she loves. Now, after twenty years of hiding from her past, the truth finds her—will she be brave enough to face it?
Some Q & A with Camille:
Tell us a little bit about yourself, and how you started writing.
I was the kid who went to the library at recess, and by age twelve I knew that I wanted to be an author. I wrote a few short stories as a teen, and some blog posts as an adult. But, I decide to really go for it a few years ago, and start a novel.
What are some things you enjoy when not writing?
First, I'm a reader, which fuels the writing. Second, I'm a traveler. I'm a bit addicted to travel. I've been to four continents and most of the states, and my bucket list is endless. I enjoy farmers markets, local artisan crafts, and anything with chocolate.
Do you have a ‘day job’ as well?
My husband and I have been in real estate for seventeen years, originally as property managers and then as Realtors. We've recently brought on a few buyer's agents so that it can free me up for more writing time. I also homeschool our four children.
Where do you get your ideas?
I am most inspired to write when I'm traveling, but inspiration can come from just being a good observer of life. Once I'm working on a story, I'm pretty focused, but if something crosses my mind that would be great i a book, I keep a list of notes and observations to draw from in the future.
Is there a particular author or book that influenced or inspired your writing or decision to write?
Here's the long answer. I was most blown away by a debut novel called Olivia and Jai by Rebecca Ryman. In my opinion, it's perfect in every way. It made me want to write. I have also been intrigued by the British classics for years, particularly Jane Eyre. I love its bittersweet ending, and made me love books that are not always perfectly happy. Finally, I was greatly influenced by the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer. Not so much the books, but the author's process. She wrote them while she was at swim team practice with her kids, and I thought, "If she can do it, I can do it"! She also wrote scenes as she was inspired to do so, and did not write chronologically. I thought that was fascinating, and used that technique myself.
Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
I queried my first draft, just so excited that I had written a whole manuscript. I knew very little about the craft of writing, and I had tons of rejections. But, I did have a goal to be traditionally published, so I went to conferences and took classes and learned how to make it better and better. When I felt (years later) that it was finally ready, I queried six agents, and two were interested in it! The lesson in that is to keep editing until you get your yes.
If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you’d change?
This is the kind of answer that we can all give in hindsight, but I don't want to change anything because it got me to where I am. It was not easy, and I would not look back and wish that it had been easy - there is no growth in that.
How do you market your work?
My publisher is a marketing dynamo, and their philosophy is that writers should write. However, I do love interacting with readers, so I'm on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Instagram, and various reading sites. That is certainly good for some sales, but I really enjoy those for the relationships.
What are you working on now?
I am turning in my second novel, BEFORE THE RAIN FALLS, to my editor this week, so in the time before I get that back, I'm plotting my third book. It will be set in New York City between 1900 and 1960, and follow a very interesting part of the city's history. I can't wait to dig in to it.
Is anything in your book based on real life experiences?
There are a few tidbits that came from my life - squeezing hands three times to say "I love you" silently, baking cinnamon rolls, and a few other things. But, the plot and characters are not.
Do you have a favorite chapter or scene?
My favorite scene is one in which my main character, Julianne, gets in to a heated argument with her father. There are many deceptions and hypocrisies that are revealed, and I feel that it's my most authentic dialogue. When I read that scene, I forget that I wrote it.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Be humble. I understand that this is our art, and that a piece of us is put in to these book babies. But if you want to be a successful, paid author, you have to be humble enough to admit a few things: 1. This will ultimately be the work of many people - you, your editors, your cover artist, your publicist, etc. 2. Those in the business have been it longer than you have - listen to their wisdom. 3. Brainstorming is your friend - others may see a possibility in the story that you don't - be open to suggestions!
What are the downfalls of your writing career? The best parts?
I wouldn't call this a downfall, but I would say that writing the second book on a deadline was a different experience than writing the first book, when it was only for me. It definitely gave it a sense of urgency that the first one didn't. The best part is that I feel like I'm doing what I was meant to do - I've found my vocational purpose.
Is there anything you’d like to say to your readers and fans?
Thank you so much for your enthusiasm and support. It means a great deal to keep in touch through social media, and I'm appreciative of the reviews. The reader/author relationship is one I value greatly - both as a reader and an author!
Camille Di Maio - Author
THE MEMORY OF US (May 2016)
BEFORE THE RAIN FALLS (May 2017)
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