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Interview with Author Camille Marchetta

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Born in Brooklyn, Camille Marchetta received her BA in English Literature from the College of New Rochelle, and later studied fiction with noted writer Anatole Broyard at The New School in New York City. Shortly afterward, on a visit to England, she fell in love with the country, decided to stay, and was fortunate enough to find work with Richard Hatton Limited, a theatrical and literary agency, in a few years becoming a literary director of the company.

The agency was small but powerful, its client list including well-known writers, directors, and actors such as Sean Connery, Malcolm McDowell, and Leo McKern. Among the writers with whom Ms. Marchetta worked were Robert Shaw, author of many award-winning novels and plays (though he is best known in the United States for his acting performances in To Russia With Love and Jaws); the playwright Richard Harris, whose Stepping Out appeared on Broadway; and Anthony Shaffer, who wrote Sleuth, a hit in the West End, on Broadway, and as a feature film.

Returning to the States, Ms. Marchetta went to Hollywood, found an agent, and eventually got an assignment on the Dallas mini-series. Asked to join the staff, she remained until the series soared to the top of the ratings. With that, her career in television was established. She wrote television movies, pilots for new series, produced Nurse, which won Michael Learned an Emmy, and Dynasty in the season it finally crept past Dallas in the ratings and reached number one.

In 1985, Ms. Marchetta took a sabbatical from television, returned to London, and, fulfilling a lifetime ambition, wrote her first novel, Lovers and Friends, which was published in the United States in 1989 and subsequently in England, Finland, Sweden, and Germany. Following its publication, Ms. Marchetta co-executive-produced Falcon Crest, co-authored two best-selling novels with Ivana Trump, and worked as a story consultant on the television series, Central Park West. St. Martin’s Press published her second novel, The Wives of Frankie Ferraro, in 1998. The River By Moonlight is her most recent book.

Welcome to Beyond the Books, Camille. Can you tell us whether you are published for the first time or multi-published? Can you give us the title(s) of your book(s)?

I’m really excited to be doing this. It may be old hat to you, but I’m still a stranger in a strange land on the internet. It seems a wonderful adventure. Thank you for inviting me.

The River, By Moonlight is my third novel. My first, Lovers and Friends was published by William Morrow in 1989. St. Martin’s Press published my second, The Wives of Frankie Ferraro, in 1998. It was a long time between books. I spent the years before and after each one, in television, writing.

What was the name of your very first book regardless of whether it was published or not and, if not published, why?

My first book didn’t get far enough to have a name. Or get published. I started it when I was eight, writing in a green notebook in turquoise ink, with a quill, no less. (My best guess is that I had just seen a film about the 19th century French novelist, Georges Sand. That’s the way she wrote, so I thought I ought to as well.) I got as far as Chapter 5, I think. I can’t remember why I stopped, but final exams probably had something to do with it.

For your first published book, how many rejections did you go through before you either found a mainstream publisher, self-published it, or paid a vanity press to publish it?

I don’t remember any rejections for Lovers and Friends. My agent submitted it simultaneously to several publishers. I don’t suppose all of them made offers, but I’ve forgotten the ones who didn’t. I was too excited by the positive responses for the negative ones to register. The whole process took less than a month. I was very lucky.

How did the rejections make you feel and what did you do to overcome the blows?

As I said, getting Lovers and Friends published was easy. The Wives of Frankie Ferraro was more difficult. Because writing it was taking me so long, I decided at one point to submit only the first section of the novel to William Morrow, something I’d never done before, and haven’t since. My editor was long gone, and whoever took his place turned it down. I was crushed. I sank into a really black mood. I had all the usual dark thoughts. Was it worth going on? All that sort of thing. Ultimately, I did continue, mostly because for me the only cure for the blues is writing. It took a while to finish, but once the novel was done, fortunately, the response to it was good. Within a few weeks, it got a couple of offers.

When your first book was published, who published it and why did you choose them?

William Morrow made the best offer but there were reasons beyond the financial ones for accepting it. The editor at the Arbor House imprint, Alan Williams, who actually bought the novel, seemed to think it was not only a commercial book, but a good one. That mattered to me a lot. It was the right decision. He was a fabulous editor.

How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?

How do you feel when a dream comes true? I was over the moon with joy when I heard the book was accepted for publication. I called my family, my friends. Beyond that, I don’t remember. I was delirious. I’d wanted to be a published writer for as long as I could remember, and then I was.

What was the first thing you did as for as promotion when you were published for the first time?

I threw myself a big party at the Bel Air Hotel in Beverly Hills. My family was in New York, but lots of my friends came, and people I’d worked with over the years, and because many of them were actors, the press showed up too. I had some newspaper interviews and William Morrow took an ad in The New York Times, but nothing was as good as the party. I’m not sure it sold all that many books, but it was so much fun. And a great present to myself.

If you had to do it over again, would you have chosen another route to be published?

No, I wouldn’t have done anything differently with Lovers and Friends. The whole experience was a joy.

Have you been published since then and how have you grown as an author?

I had a second book published in 1998. And of course now there’s The River, By Moonlight, which I’ve self-published. That’s been a lot of hard work, but I have to say I’ve enjoyed it, and I’m very proud of myself for having done it. It’s a huge accomplishment. I loved being in total control of the process.

How I’ve grown as an author is a more difficult question for me to answer. I’m not sure I know. I suppose with each passing year I’ve accumulated more knowledge, more information anyway, and insight, and perhaps my craft is a little more polished. But I’m not really convinced of it, or convinced that it matters. Often I think the whole process is out of my hands. Once I choose a story (or the story chooses me, however it is), the book itself settles on a form, a style, characters. That’s how it feels. But I do work very hard, rewriting constantly, to tell my story in as interesting and entertaining a way as I can. Even if it’s a sad story. I want my readers to have a good time reading.

Looking back since the early days when you were trying to get published, what do you think you could have done differently to speed things up? What kind of mistakes could you have avoided?

I could have worried less about earning a living and spent more time just writing. That would have speeded up things. There would have been less time between books, meaning more momentum going forward (and I think momentum matters a lot). And I could have ignored all the advice I got to leave the publicity for the novels to the publishers, and handled it myself – as I’m doing now.

What has been the biggest accomplishment you have achieved since becoming published?

Writing two more books. I imagine other authors might take it for granted that they’ll just go on writing, that they’ll start and finish book after book, but for me each one is difficult to begin, difficult to keep going, and downright amazing to complete.

If you could have chosen another profession, what would that profession be?

Oh, I can think of a whole list of things, but at the top of it would be diplomat. I would have loved those foreign postings, the chance to live in different countries and experience their cultures at first hand.

Would you give up being an author for that profession or have you combined the best of both worlds?

I don’t think I could ever NOT write. And imagine all the wonderful stories a Foreign Service diplomat would encounter in the course of a day’s work.

How do you see yourself in ten years?

At my desk writing; or if I’m not there, I’m traveling. That’s been my pattern so far, and I like it, so I see no reason to change.

Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?

When I was in college, wanting desperately to be a writer and sorely in need of encouragement, I had an English teacher (let her not be nameless, Mother Marie Louise) who seemed to me to take every opportunity to belittle my talent. No matter how hard I tried, or what I accomplished (getting a story published in the school magazine, winning a prize in a short story competition, having a poem placed in a poetry review) the only thing she would ever say to me in acknowledgement was, “well, you certainly are persistent.” I used to wither away inside each time. It took me years to understand that, though she was right – I am persistent, however she meant it (not kindly, I’m sure), it was, in reality, a great compliment. Persistence is a quality I’m grateful to have. Its importance to a writer can’t be overestimated. Talent matters, yes, and luck, but neither will get you very far if you can’t keep yourself going through the bad times. So, my final words: Be persistent. Never give up.

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4 Comments

  1. Welcome to Beyond the Books, Camille! I’m with you on that one…ten years from now, I want to be exclusively behind this desk!

  2. It’s great to be here. Thanks alot for inviting me. Your questions gave me a lot to think about.

  3. Great interview ladies. This is one of my favorites because you get a better feel for who the author is this way. Sounds like a great Beverly Hills party. After 8 years of Catholic school I understand the whole nun thing too.

    Best of luck with your tour, Camille!

    Cheryl

  4. In all fairness, I have to say that in 16 years of Catholic schools I met a lot of great nuns, too. Many were very supportive and some are still friends. But that one … hmmmm….

    Thanks for stopping by, Cheryl.

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