JT: It is my honor to have Mary Camarillo with us today on Writing Under Fire. She is a first-time novelist with this book published in June 2021. But she has had short stories and poems in publications such as 166 Palms, Sonora Review, TAB Journal and The Ear. So, Mary, tell us how you got started in writing.
Mary: Thank you for having me. It’s been a long path. In high school I wrote poems and edited the literary magazine. I considered a career in journalism but went to work for the postal service after high school instead. I eventually earned a degree in business administration, a CPA license, and several promotions. I finished my career writing and editing countless government audit reports. When I retired ten years ago, I started writing fiction. Fiction is more fun!
JT: I totally agree. I see you went with a hybrid feminist press, She Writes Press. Why did you decide to go with them to publish your first novel?
Mary: She Writes Press (SWP) gives the author more freedom in cover and page design. The author invests in the project and the royalties are larger than in traditional publishing. SWP offers traditional distribution, a big advantage over self-publishing.
JT: Speaking of covers. Did you design it yourself? And I have to ask, is there a significance to the rusty looking bars?
Mary: I chose the image from Shutterstock and then Julie Metz designed the book cover. I was intrigued by the image of rusty bars overlooking the empty freeway. It speaks to the trapped feeling my characters have at times. The empty freeway is also reminiscent of the empty freeways on the night of the OJ Simpson slow speed chase. Freeways in Southern California seldom look that way! We’d originally thought about using an image of the infamous Ford Bronco but decided against that idea. The novel isn’t about OJ Simpson. His trial is only the background noise.
JT: OK. Let’s talk about this book in particular. What was your inspiration for this book?
Mary: I wanted to write a story about people like me who work at the post office, shop at Target and back in the 90’s thought the Cheesecake Factory was a special night out. I set the story where I live in Huntington Beach, California. The only other book I’ve found set in Huntington is “Tapping the Source” by Kem Nunn, which is a testosterone filled much grittier story.
JT: I am surprised there aren’t more books with Huntington Beach as the location. It’s a pretty widely known area, even for people like me in Florida. I guess that is good for you. You may do well in local bookstores. What shelf would they put your book on, say in Barnes & Nobels in Huntington?
Mary: The nineties aren’t quite historical (depending on your age) and aren’t contemporary either. I’ve described The Lockhart Women as women’s fiction, but men enjoy the story too. The LA Times Book Club called The Lockhart Women one of their favorite Literary Escapes of 2021 so maybe literary fiction?
JT: How do you market your book?
Mary: I used a publicist when the novel debuted. Now I’m self-promoting on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, sharing every piece of good news. I also run Facebook ads, Amazon ads, sign up for bookstagram tours, participate in giveaway promotions, and offer 99 cent eBook sales.
JT: What do you like BEST about writing or being an author?
Mary: I love editing. I subscribe to the “shitty first draft” philosophy and tend to overwrite. I love shaping the story and bringing my character into sharper focus.
JT: Wow. Most authors hate editing. For me, the first edit is fine, but by the time I get to the 10th (or 20th ) I’m pretty done in. In reverse, what do you like LEAST?
Mary: I’m having fun with promoting The Lockhart Women, but I’ve found it difficult to work on my second novel. Creating and promoting require different skill sets and it’s not always easy to switch back and forth.
JT: So true. We must wear many hats in this business, don’t we? If you were to give advice to a new author looking to get published, what would you say?
Mary: Focus on writing the book first. Find a writing critique group you can trust and learn to trust your own voice. Support your local writing community by shopping at independent bookstores, attending author events, readings, workshops, classes. Write book reviews. Send authors you admire thank you notes. Writers are incredibly generous people, very willing to help you when it’s your turn.
JT: I can’t agree with you more on that. Both my global writer community connections and my local groups keep me grounded. Our writing sister and brothers are the glue that holds us together.
Thank you so much for being a part of Writing Under Fire. Here’s to wishing you tons of success in your writing career. Where can readers purchase your book?