Friday, July 25, 2008

Interview with Camille Minichino/Margaret Grace

Welcome, Camille! Tell us a little bit about your series.
The Miniature Mysteries are "crafts cozies" featuring Gerry Porter, a miniaturist with a special ginger cookie recipe! She has a 10-year-old granddaughter, Maddie — they become reluctant partners in solving murders in their small town.

How long have you been writing?
Writing all my life; published in the last 15 years.

When did your first novel come out? What was it called? A little about it?

"The Hydrogen Murder" came out in 1997. Retired physicist Gloria Lamerino, lover of affogato, moves back to her hometown and takes a room above her friends' funeral parlor. She signs on to consult with local police and puts herself in danger as she helps solve murders.

Have you always written mysteries? If not what else have you written?
Like most writers, I try everything. I have a mainstream novel, a screenplay, short stories, essays. So far the mystery novels have been most successful, but I do have many personal essays in print and a couple of short stories.

What brought you to choose the setting and characters in your latest book?

I'm a lifelong miniaturist and wanted to write about the hobby in a fictional setting. I made up a town, Lincoln Point, and am now having fun making the town Lincoln-obsessed! Gerry is a retired English teacher, a widow, devoted to her granddaughter. She gets upset when she thinks she might be putting Maddie in danger, but she needs her help, especially with computer searches.

What is the main reason that you write?

From a desire to share the pleasure of reading and telling stories (okay, and having my opinions and slant on things 'out there').

Do you write to entertain or is there something more you want the readers to take away from your work?
Confession: I do like to teach! In the first series, the Periodic Table mysteries, I really wanted to put a female scientist on the literary map …. one who is funny and nice to be around … and to portray science as interesting and fun to learn. In this new series, I'm still interested in giving a female character some stature and intelligence instead of just "busybody" status.

Do you have a schedule for your writing or just write whenever you can?
I still have day jobs, so I write whenever I can. I've learned to make the most of short periods of time. I can get something significant done in as little as 15 minutes if that's all I have.

Do you outline? If not, do you have some other interesting way that you keep track of what’s going on, or what needs to happen in your book when you are writing it?
I use an Excel spreadsheet! I make a graph: say I start a novel today and I need 80000 words by December 1. The software draws a line and tells me how many words a day that will take. At the end of every day, I put the actual number of words I have and see if I'm above, below, or on the line. Also it tells me what percent I have done so I can tell if I'm half way through and not enough is happening, for example.

If you had your ideal, what time of day would you prefer to write?
I'd like to goof off all day — movies, reading, lunch with my friends, TV, shopping, playing with dollhouse furnishings — and write at night. Alas, it doesn't always work.

Day job?
Part time science editor at a national laboratory; college science teacher; writing teacher at various workshop venues.

Did you find it difficult to get published in the beginning?

Do you have a great rejection/critique or acceptance story you’d like to share?
One agent told me that Revere, MA, the setting of my first series, was too small a town to support a whole series! Had she never heard of Cabot Cove, Maine??

What kind of promotion do you find most affective?
Who knows? I try everything — traveling to conferences; signings at bookstores, libraries, and groups; blogs; social networking on all the "Spaces;" and distributing pens and other tchotchkes. It all takes a lot of time. Whoever comes up with the key to what really works will get a Nobel.

Most interesting book signing story?
At my very first signing, a man came up to me and said he'd seen the event advertised in the local paper and "came right over". I was very excited, until he told me why: "I'm an artist," he said. "And I was wondering if you needed someone to do your covers." Humbling!

Future writing goals?
To be like Isaac Asimov, who never had an unpublished thought.

Marie Curie. Besides all the "firsts" in science, she worked with the Red Cross in WWI, invented a way to take x rays to the front and use on the wounded. She drove her "petit Curie" onto the battlefield, her 18-yr-old daughter beside her. She also wrote prolifically and left us her amazing diaries and notes.

Person you would most like to meet dead or alive?
Dead: Tesla, Marie Curie. Alive: Hillary Clinton

What do you read?
In mystery: Dark, though I write light. I like Thomas H. Cook, Joanne Harris. In mainstream fiction: Joyce Carol Oates, Richard Russo. In non-fiction: sociology, psychology, and science. I always have one of each of the above categories going, and read about 3-4 books/week.

What are your hobbies?
Besides miniatures — movies and television dramas. I also follow politics and political pundits very closely. (Reading, too, but I don’t think of that as a hobby, but a necessity!)

Favorite TV or movies?
I love any scripted crime drama on television. Dexter, Prison Break, and 24 at the top of the list. Also Without A Trace, Criminal Minds, and so on. I love crime movies, too, and any adult drama. The Godfathers are #1. A Bronx Tale. Most biopics, too.


Never! I don't want to take care of anything/one that can't say "thank you" and discuss politics.

What part of the country/world do you live in?
Suburb of San Francisco. Where I would like to live: just above Grand Central Station, New York City. Second choice: across 5th Avenue from the Met.

Any advice for aspiring or beginning writers?
The usual: stay with it. The truth: all things being equal, you have a good chance getting published and staying published if you have a background in sales and marketing.

Anything you would like to add?
Thanks for the chance to talk about myself and my books! So few care. (smile)

Web site? and


Marian Allen said...

Good to hear about your books, Camille! There's something fascinating about miniatures. Whenever I can get to Chicago, I love to visit the miniature rooms (er, rooms displaying miniatures, not rooms you have to get on the floor to peek into) at the Art Institute. Do your detectives get clues from or leave messages in miniature rooms, or would that be telling?

zhadi said...

Hi, Camille! Nice to have you here at the Fatal Foodies. THis was a great in-depth interview and I really enjoyed it!

Chris V. said...

Hey Camille, we all care! ha! She's a great lady and has a fun book which I'm almost done reading. She showed off her miniatures on my blog ( a bit ago which was fun.

Camille Minichino said...

Thanks for hosting, Gayle and all! Sorry I wasn't able to get to the link yesterday.

Marian .. the dollhouses and miniatures offer Gerry, my protag, clues and/or inspiration as she solves the murders.

I'm working on number 4 now and still having fun!