Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Interview With Local Authors: Camille Minichino
How long have you lived in the Bay Area? Which parts?
I've been in the Bay Area for one long summer, which started in 1975. I still keep thinking I'll be going "home" soon, to Boston, where it all began, or even better, to New York, where I went to graduate school.
When did you get your first book published?
The first one was "Nuclear Waste Management" in 1982. Not a bestseller, but I got hooked on seeing my name on a spine, so I began writing short pieces, and finally my first novel, The Hydrogen Murder, in 1997. That was the first in my periodic table mysteries.
What type of books do you write?
My novels are cozy mysteries (if murder can be cozy), in the traditional "whodunnit" style. I also write short nonfiction and fiction, samples of which are on my website. I aspire to be like Isaac Asimov who wanted to "never have an unpublished thought!"
Why do you write?
It's that name on the spine. Plus, it's therapeutic, and there's the opportunity to believe you're contributing to contemporary literature.
How involved are you with the community?
I'm involved in writers groups: Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and California Writers Club, and have taken my turn as President of all of them. I'm still on the board of SinC and CWC. I also appear frequently at local libraries, bookstores, and other group events. And I visit local high schools and teach at local community colleges.
What challenges have you faced as an author?
Getting published is the biggest. Even now, with 13 mysteries and many shorter fiction and nonfiction pieces, I can't assume everything I propose will be accepted. It's all about marketing; It's the way the business is today.
Who were some your influences as a writer?
I had some terrific teachers, mainly through UC Extension, as I made the transition from physicist to "commercial" writer. And I am a voracious reader.
What types of books would you recommend for young readers?
I can't answer this, since I didn't read as a child. My parents had very little formal education (6 years for my mother, less than 1 for my father), so reading was not on the list of what I saw or did at home. I read only what was assigned in school. When I was in college, if I did take up a book, from the library, say, my mother would immediately challenge me and ask if it was homework. Otherwise, I should be doing something useful! Of course, since she didn't really know better, I could claim everything was homework. As, in a way, it was.
Can you explain a little how you went from someone who read very little growing up (and it even sounds like you were even discouraged from doing so) to a published author? It sounds like an amazing achievement and I think my readers would really enjoy learning about it.
This was actually the subject of a talk I did at a fundraiser for the new Castro Valley library. It was my own local library in Revere MA that opened the reading door for me. My high school was next door to RPL, and I got a job there after school. It took me a while, believe it or not, to realize that these were books with stories, and that people read them, not for a grade, but for enjoyment. When I figured that out, I started reading "on the side" and that continued, of course through college and on.
Once I began to use reading for comfort (my childhood was not a comfortable one!) and for pleasure, it was an amazing journey. From there, it wasn't a big leap for me to want to be part of that culture and write myself. I think I was the only math major who wrote for the college literary journal, and later the only physics grad student who took lit classes on the side.
I should credit my parents for wanting me to have an education (the way out of poverty as they saw it), although they didn't understand what that would involve. They were suspicious of reading, or of anything that was intellectual. If I told them I "had" to read a certain book to get a good grade, they could understand that, and that's how I pulled it off.
I should also point out that this was a LONG time ago, and reading for kids was not the huge industry it is now. There weren't enormous children's sections in libraries and bookstores, nor were there children's "programs." If you didn't get it at home, you didn't get it.
Who are some of your favorite authors?
I read on the dark side: the Dexter books are my current favorites. Also, Thomas H. Cook, Martin Cruz Smith, and Joyce Carol Oates.
What are some of your favorite books?
I read a lot of current nonfiction. Two of my recent favorites are by Steven Johnson: "The Invention of Air" (a bio of Joseph Priestley) and "Everything Bad is Good For You" (about the effect of technology on our psyches and our brains).
Do you have a website we can visit?
Two websites, which are linked: http://www.minichino.com and http://www.dollhousemysteries.com. The second features my second series of mysteries, based on my hobby of making miniatures. I write this series as Margaret Grace (easier to pronounce, eh?)
Where can we find your books?
Independents, chains and on line. There are links on my sites.