|Home | Newsletters | Interviews | Links | Site Map|
Leena Hyat talked to Stella Cameron about her latest releases, her secret to writing success and more...
Stella Cameron is the New York Times/USAToday/Washington Post bestselling, award-winning author of sixty historical and contemporary novels and novellas. Each of her single-title releases has appeared on the WALDENBOOKS mass market, and romance lists, and on the BARNES AND NOBLE list.
Stella has won the ROMANTIC TIMES Career Achievement Award for Romantic Suspense and the ROMANTIC TIMES best Romantic Suspense of the Year Award. She has been a RITA finalist, and is the recipient of the Pacific Northwest Writers' Association Achievement Award for distinguished professional achievement and for enhancing the stature of the Northwest literary community.
The Personal Skinny: I was born and raised in Dorset, England. While I was editing medical text and working in London's Harley Street, I met my husband, an officer in the American Air Force, at a party. He asked me to dance (The Mexican Hat Dance) and we've been together ever since.
I get a lot of questions about England and whether I still have strong feelings for the country where I was born. Usually my answer is something like this, "I'll always believe I've been very lucky to live in America and I wouldn't live anywhere else by choice, but do I get homesick? You bet. The climate here in the Pacific Northwest is similar to that in many parts of England. As seasons change I can become very pensive. When the scents of autumn and fallen leaves are in the air, I see Hyde Park. Winter rain reminds me of being in some small Cotwolds town, and ducking into a tea shop for a hot cuppa! In spring I am once again in an English cottage garden shere a wak sun shines on new flower, and summer takes me to Weymouth, my hometown, and the sea. Those sensations can make me cry before I remember to smile." Of course, it's only the need to research the next book that takes me home every couple of years...
Stella and her husband live in Seattle, Washington. They are the parents of a son and two daughters, one of whom is married. And Stella and Jerry are "absolutely dotty and doting" grandparents for the first time.
MAD ABOUT THE MAN
Writerspace: Stella, thank you so much for sparing time for this interview. Before we talk about your new releases, could you please tell us a little bit about yourself? I understand you live in Washington State but are originally from England. What part of England was home originally and do you miss it?
Stella Cameron: Weymouth in County Dorset was my home. Black-face sheep, gentle hills spread with patchworks of fields sewn together with hedgerows and one wonderful view of the sea after another. You bet I get homesick sometimes!
Writerspace: What was your profession before you started penning novels? Why/What made you decide to become a writer?
Stella Cameron: When my first novel was published I owned and still ran a mini daycare center as I had for years. Before I married and needed an occupation that would allow me to have my children with me when they were little I edited medical texts. I often say writing chose me and it more or less did. However, there was a moment, the only truly "zap" moment in my life when I made the decision. All in one day I knew I would go for it and immediately enrolled in classes to get myself back into a place where I was focused.
Writerspace: Please tell us about your recent paperback release, TELL ME WHY.
Stella Cameron: TELL ME WHY is the result of turning on the television very late at night (I am the nightowl that takes the prize) and watching a woman jazz performer play the piano and sing. Carolee Burns is an internationally famous pianist and singer who returned from a tour to find her husband, who had insisted she should peruse her lucrative career, was divorcing her. He also sought custody of their only child, Grace, whom he used to control Carolee. Max Wolfe also lost what he loved most, his NFL career in the wake of a serious accident. Max has learned to get on with his life, to build it afresh and make new goals, but he has his demons. This couple face down their demons together, learn to laugh, to accept the things that don't change, and to confront deadly danger on the way to the hope of a future together.
Writerspace: Your newest release is a hardback novel, COLD DAY IN JULY. Could you please tell us more about this one too?
Stella Cameron: Toussaint, Louisiana. Good time living to a zydeco beat. Gnarled cypresses draped with Spanish moss and a whole lot cooking in what seems a sleepy little bayou town. A singer, Bonnie Blue, dies at the base of St. Cecil's belfry stairs. Accident is the verdict. But Dr. Reb O'Brien isn't so sure. She thinks this horrible event may be tied to two past murders, and she also fears the man in jail for those murders may have been wrongly accused while the real villain runs free and could have Reb on the agenda for his next hit. Enter Marc Girard who grew up outside the town and never returned after college. His family still owns a lot of commercial property in Toussaint but he isn't welcomed by many when he returns. The folks imagine all sorts of nefarious reasons for his being there. He and Reb knew each other well once. Meeting again is anything but cool. A race to find a killer heats everythi
Writerspace:In each of your books, I've always been very impressed with the depth your characters have and so many of them have stayed with me long after I have reading the book(s). Max and Carolee, Marc and Reb, both are excellent examples of your talent for crafting unforgettable characters. Could you please share with us how you go about creating your main characters? Do you do in-depth character sketches prior to begining the actual novel or does everything just fall into place naturally as you begin writing?
Stella Cameron: Character sketches would be a waste of time for me since my people come to me in big chunks then grow very fast as I start to write. Marc Girard in COLD DAY IN JULY arrives on scene when he shows up at St. Cecil's rectory in Toussaint. He has Cajun roots. Dark, dark hair, olive skin, tall spare and with one of those swinging walks. I had him visually at once. Then, as he speaks to the housekeeper who is standoffish, he recalls sitting at the same scarred kitchen table when he was a boy and smelling muffins cooking in the oven. He looks out at the grass sloping down to the bayou and the church, white and shining in the sunshine, and his past and present come together because I'm in his mind. I struggle with talking about some aspects of characterization. Perhaps that's the magic seed: getting into the person's mind because this happens again and again for me. And I don't work hard at the process. Pati
Writerspace: What life experiences or individual(s) in particular, have influenced you in the years since you began writing?
Stella Cameron: The first writer to encourage me was Meg (Margaret) Chittenden. Meg read some of my work and said, "You've got what it takes." When I picked myself up from the floor, I was so excited I felt unstoppable, which I have been from that time on. Jayne Ann Krentz encouraged me to write historical romances. She kept telling me I could do it until I decided to show her I couldn't. Voila! And I've lived in my imagination all my life. I imagine I annoyed lots of adults when I was a child. I had my own world--better by far than the one in which I lived, frankly--and sometimes couldn't be easily reached.
Writerspace: You began your writing career with Series Romances and have since gone on to write Historicals, Contemporaries and Romantic Suspense too. With so much experience under your belt, is there a particular sub-genre you prefer more over the others?
Stella Cameron: It's a tie--romantic suspense (and the romance must be there and strong or I'm not interested) and Regency historical romances.
Writerspace: What's the greatest challenge you've faced in your career as an author?
Stella Cameron: My own determination. I came from a family that only complimented work ethic. The harder one worked, the more likely a little pat on the back or a kind word. I am a workaholic and my challenge has been to balance work and the rest of my life. I'm not sure I know how to relax and do nothing.
Writerspace: I loved the way you wove the setting around the characters in COLD DAY IN JULY. It was so easy to picture the scene and feel I was really there watching the story unfold. There were some darkly sensual yet spine tingling and intriguing moments in the story. Did you travel to Louisiana to do the research for this novel? Do you always try to travel to the destination you plan to use in your contemporary/romantic suspense novels?
Stella Cameron: Oh, yes, I went to Louisiana more than once. I confess, I must have been born in England by mistake. I was supposed to grow up in Louisiana with a Cajun accent. Every scene I set is real. Sometimes I feel a bit like a camera shutter, snap, snap, snap as I look around in my mind. I do always go to the places I write about. I have written books set in places I don't know and become very comfortable with the setting, but I seem to need that personal connection.
Writerspace: I enjoyed meeting Sam, Carolee's father, in TELL ME WHY. And the way he interrogated Max at the Cafe where Carolee worked was a delightful scene. It was also interesting to meet Father Cyrus Payne and Spike Devol in COLD DAY IN JULY. Do you pull your secondary characters from the realms of your imagination or were any of these men based on people you've known in real life?
Stella Cameron: They're whole when they come but I'm sure I pull bits and pieces from people I've known to round out the characters. I allow myself to have fun, but also to get deeply involved. You mention Sam from TELL MY WHY. He had pretty much messed up his family relationship when he was younger but he got another chance and a good part of that chance came from his ability to face his mistakes and try to mend fences. I knew someone very well who messed up spectacularly, got chances to put it all right, but never got there. Sam is what that man would have been if he'd had Sam's courage. Father Cyrus Payne in COLD DAY IN JULY is the brother of Celina Payne, the heroine of FRENCH QUARTER, a book I wrote some years ago. He literally swept into the action in that story and he stayed there, waiting for the right time to reappear.
Writerspace:When you relax between deadlines, what sort of hobbies do you indulge in? And when reading for pleasure, which genre/sub-genre do you find you favor more?
Stella Cameron: Ha-ha, relax between deadlines. As I've already written, I don't really know how to do that. I like to draw--once I painted a good deal but it's not practical now. The theater is a love of mine and my husband and I make sure we've always got a play on the horizon. I like physical exercise because it gives me some down time. Animals, ah well, everyone should be a fool about something and for me it's animals. They make my heart warm and gentle. At this moment I have three looking at me and wherever I move in my office or the house, these buddies follow. I'm pretty good at typing without being able to see the screen because a feline friend sits between the keyboard and my work! And reading? I read just about anything. My favorite stories are always about relationships in their many forms. From really serious books to light-hearted romance, I am made whole by the world of fiction.
Writerspace: Of all the achievements you've had in your life, which one are you most proud of?
Stella Cameron: Surviving when the odds were against me.
Writerspace: What are you working on right now? What can fans expect from you in the next couple of years?
Stella Cameron: KISS THEM GOOD-BYE is the current story in progress. I'm back in Toussaint with most of the characters from COLD DAY IN JULY and a few new additions. Once more danger lurks in strange places. Spike Devol, local law and Vivian Patin, an unlikely transplant with big problems are leading me down lots of twisting lanes! In March, 2003, the fifth Mayfair Square book, ABOUT ADAM will be released. The paperback rollover of COLD DAY IN JULY appears in July, SOME DIE TELLING and PURE DELIGHTS will be re-released and KISS THEM GOOD-BYE is set for publication in November. I plan to start a new historical series once I've finished KISS THEM GOOD-BYE and I have a series of contemporary San Francisco stories built around the sometimes nutty, sometimes irresistible renters in a condo complex near the Haite.
Writerspace: Do you have any autograph tours/book signings coming up in the near future?
Stella Cameron: In March I will tour with ABOUT ADAM and I understand I'm to visit other parts of the country in November when KISS THEM GOOD-BYE is published.
Writerspace: How may fans contact you?
Stella Cameron: Lots. Some may write only once, others contact me as each book comes out. I reply to each one and feel completed by the experience of sharing stories and characters who come alive to others.
Writerspace: Stella, it's been fun interviewing you. Thank you so much for the opportunity. We look forward to reading more of your wonderful novels in the near future.
Stella Cameron: Thanks, Leena.