Author Name: Michelle Cameron
Genre: Historical Fiction. Jewish historical fiction, to be more precise.
Books: In the Shadow of the Globe – a verse novel about the life and loves of William Shakespeare
The Fruit of Her Hands: the story of Shira of Ashkenaz – about my 13th Century rabbi ancestor
Beyond the Ghetto Gates – about Napoleon’s freeing Italy’s Jews from their restrictive ghetto during his 1796-7 military campaign. Awarded a Silver Medal in Historical Fiction from the Independent Book Publishers Awards.
Are you a full-time author? If not, what’s your side gig? I wish I could be a full-time author! Maybe when I retire…. But my side gig complements my own writing – I am a director of The Writers Circle, a NJ-based organization that offers workshops and events in creative writing to children, teens, and adults. With the pandemic, we’ve gone completely virtual, so our instructors and students come from all over the world.
Favorite author/books: I read (and re-read) daily, so this is a tough question. I am the ultimate Jane Austen fan, however – with the t-shirt to prove it, bought during a Janeite pilgrimage to Bath! And since I wanted to immerse myself in that time period while writing Beyond the Ghetto Gates, I happily re-read every book she wrote while working on my own.
What experiences or people have influenced your writing the most? I learn something from every book I read ever since I began to “read like a writer.” And the fact that I attended high school in Israel means I received a far more in-depth education in Jewish history than I would have in the US, something that comes in handy while writing Jewish historical fiction!
Do you keep a writing journal and if so, how do you use it? I don’t keep a writing journal. My limited writing time goes to my current project.
Do you belong to a writers’ group? If so, describe your experience: I used to belong to a writer’s group when I was just getting serious about my writing and was very much encouraged by my fellow writers. Now that I’m working at The Writers Circle, I don’t have time for a writers’ group myself. However, I have many writer friends who are willing to beta read my work – and I’m happy to return the favor!
Are you up with the sun or do you burn the midnight oil? Up with the sun, definitely! When I was still working a full-time job and had a young family, I would wake up at 4:30 am to write – and did that for some five years. These days, that’s not necessary, but I do try and fit in some writing first thing every morning.
How do you get over a writing slump? By sitting down anyway and writing terrible, terrible prose. I call these my “chipping rock” days. Whether I find a kernel of goodness inside that I can further develop or end up throwing the entire section out, I still keep my date with the muse.
This, by the way, is a phrase borrowed by my youngest son, who is himself a talented writer. He called his muse Angela and had a set time of day when he kept his own date with her. Sometimes she’d stand him up, but he always kept faith.
Do you prefer writing dialogue or descriptive passages? I’m definitely a dialogue girl – it comes naturally to me and I love when my characters speak to one another (and to me). Description comes harder and in fact, I always add a descriptive pass during revision, when I focus on more fully fleshing out the setting. As a historical novelist, getting the place right is critical.
What are you working on now? A sequel to Beyond the Ghetto Gates. Napoleon’s next adventure was a curious military and scientific expedition to Egypt and Israel, mainly undertaken to harm British interests in the region. He gathered some 126 savants – artists and scientists – and brought them along with his loyal troops. He triumphed until he reached Acre (Akko) when a combined Turkish and British force handed him his first defeat.
What advice would you give to someone thinking about writing and publishing a book? Find a community of like-minded writers to share the work with and get it into the best possible shape possible. Publication can be a hard and discouraging road these days, so it shouldn’t be the only goal. Loving to sit down and write (or, at the very least, to paraphrase Dorothy Parker, loving have written) has to be any aspiring writer’s ultimate reward.
Do you listen to podcasts? If so, which podcasts do you find the most interesting? I love podcasts about books and craft in particular. And a dear friend, Susanne Dunlap, is recording an amazing series about historical novels, It’s Just Historical. I was honored to be one of her early guests.
Favorite escape: Reading. Best done while soaking in a tub.
Have you ever tried Kombucha tea? I have not.
Do you prefer a couch with pillows or no pillows? With just enough pillows so I can recline comfortably. Not too many to prevent me from sitting up.
Would you rather rake leaves, shovel snow or weed? I used to love raking leaves on a sunny autumn day, but I don’t do it much anymore. I do still shovel snow out of sheer necessity, but I don’t enjoy it. And I never liked weeding.
Favorite mask – disposable paper, plain fabric, colorful print or something else? I have all three and wear them interchangeably. I think my plain fabric masks feel the most comfortable and cover the nose and mouth most securely, but they do fog up my glasses, which the disposable paper is less inclined to do. So it depends on what I’m doing out in the world. But I’m fortunate that I’m an introvert anyway and all my work and promotion these days is done virtually. I don’t go out except for walks and to the supermarket.
Biggest writing challenge since Covid-19: Ironically, time to write. This is because a lot of planning went into moving all of The Writers Circle’s in-person workshops, summer programs, and events virtual all of a sudden in mid-March. TWC’s response to the pandemic was to offer even more writing programs – an entire new schedule of shorter-session virtual workshops to help combat isolation. Coordinating all of this took a great deal of planning and was complicated by the fact that my novel was published in April. So all of my promotional events had to be either offered via Zoom or rescheduled, and I had to invest much more time into my social media efforts.
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