Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Welcome Wild Rose Press Author Mary Campisi to AJ's Tattered Pages!

Please join me in welcoming Mary Campisi to AJ's Tattered Pages today, who shares with us her expertise about Hop Scotching Genres. Take it away, Mary!

When AJ invited me to her site and asked if I wanted to talk about crossing genres, I agreed. Then I started to think about it. What the heck do I really know about writing in more than one genre, other than I do it? I’ve had my share of missteps, some might call them blunders, but the different writing is all part of my growth as a writer. This piece isn’t meant to be an instructional how-to because I don’t have the answers or a template. I’ll write about what I did and why I did it at the time, which doesn’t necessarily mean it was the wisest choice but again, it was all part of discovering my strengths.
When I sold my first book in 1999, all I really knew about genres was that they existed and my book fit in the historical romance category, Regency historical to be exact. I wish someone had taken me aside and talked about branding or building readership or something that would knock me on the head and say, ‘One book, like one brick, will not build a foundation’…Okay, I just made that up but you get my meaning. Instead, I had an agent, (sold the book, got the agent) who asked right off if I could write contemporary romance as well. His idea was to switch on and off; one historical, one contemporary. Of course I said yes even though I’d never written a contemporary before other than two short stories. I would have told him I could do a back flip off a balance beam (even though I’d never mastered a plain old cartwheel…on the ground.) I was so excited, so psyched…so darn naive.
Innocent Betrayal came out with Kensington Publishing in 2000 (I recently got the rights back and sold it to The Wild Rose Press. Smoking hot cover- thanks Rae Monet!) I wrote another historical which my editor turned down, (that alone was a depressing shocker) and then I wrote a contemporary which my editor loved. She said this was what I should be writing. It was my ‘blind’ hero story- still one of my favorites. Anyway, I put the historical idea aside, published three contemporaries and then needed to write something bigger. More layered. Just more. My agent agreed. We parted ways with the publisher and I wrote the story. I loved it! It didn’t sell. I cried. I agonized. I questioned my abilities. I took a deep breath and parted ways with my agent. With nothing to lose and no one waiting for my work, I wrote like crazy. First person young adult, contemporary, women’s fiction, more Regency historical. Agent number two entered and loved the YA- it had made the first cut in the Amazon Breakthrough novel contest. Why was I even writing YA? No idea. I didn’t know that’s what it was when I wrote it; truthfully, it was just a story I wanted to write and a desire to play around with first person. I revised the book and it came close to selling, even had a two page revision letter, but in the end, it was a pass. Along the way, agent number two and I parted. More writing and then a sale of the ‘more’ book to a small press! Happy day! 
Buy now  A Family Affair

A Family Affair was published in 2006 but soon after the small press pulled romance production. Now that was sad. I recently worked up the nerve to publish this book myself on Amazon and Smashwords, (okay, my husband did it for meJ) Time and years ticked by and I wrote and wrote (no more YA) but Regency historicals – A Taste of Seduction came out in March with The Wild Rose Press and bigger single title contemporaries. Oh, but there was that contemporary novella  - The Sweetest Deal with Carina Press last September . . .  

What’s the lesson here? My old agent once told me that just because he could drive a milk truck, didn’t mean he should. I think about that every now and again and I see the wisdom in those words. My new agent is more blunt; both are right. Along that line, I recently took a voice class with the very talented Barbara Samuel, who commented on how I might possibly be letting myself become distracted by the possibilities inherent everywhere for a writer of good commercial sensibility. I was flattered she thought I had good commercial sensibility. She had a point. I love writing and I’m fascinated by characters and situations, but that doesn’t mean I should follow every tangent that sparks in my brain….doing so can pull me from what I should really be writing. I look at every book in the past as practice for the next one but the difference with the past and present is that I will focus my energies on narrowing the genres and finding the ME books I’m meant to write. And when I spot that milk truck chugging alongside me, painted shiny red and beckoning, I will wave and move on.

A little about Mary...

Mary Campisi should have known she’d become a writer when at age thirteen she began changing the ending to all the books she read.  It took several years and a number of jobs, including registered nurse, receptionist in a swanky hair salon, accounts payable clerk, and practice manager in an OB/GYN office, for her to rediscover writing.  Enter a mouse-less computer, a floppy disk, and a dream large enough to fill a zip drive. The rest of the story lives on in every book she writes.  

When she’s not working on her craft or following the lives of five young adult children, Mary’s digging in the dirt with her flowers and herbs, cooking, reading, walking her rescue lab mix, Cooper, or on the perfect day, riding off into the sunset with her very own ‘hero’ husband on his Electra Glide Classic.

Mary shares with us her inspiration for A Family Affair...

Several years ago, I read an article about a man who’d kept a secret family for years without anyone’s knowledge. I was fascinated that someone could and would actually do this. That one small article lived in my subconscious for years, emerging occasionally as I considered how a person might achieve this, the effects on the primary family as well as the other family, the pain, the grief, the anger, the emotional, financial and psychological entanglements between the two, and the ultimate question; which was the real family? I became so engrossed with the emotion of the situation that I knew I had to create my own characters and my own story and so emerged...
A Family Affair
When Christine Blacksworth’s larger-than-life father is killed on an icy road in Magdalena, New York, a hundred miles from the ‘getaway’ cabin he visited every month, she discovers a secret that threatens everything she’s always held to be true. Her father has another family which includes a mistress and a daughter. Determined to uncover the truth behind her father’s secret life, Christine heads to Magdalena, prepared to hate the people who have caused her to question everything she thought she knew about her father. But what she finds is a woman who understands her, a half sister who cherishes her, and a man who could love her if she’ll let him. The longer she’s around them, the more she questions which family is the real one.
Excerpt...
In another week or so he’d be able to get back to his own place, back to seclusion, where the loudest noise at night was a flip between a screech owl and a log crackling on the fire. Just the way he liked it. The majority of the human species was nothing but an annoying intrusion on his state of mind and other than the times when he had to interact with them, he preferred to be alone.  Of course, family didn’t fit into that category, just everyone else.  His mother said he was afraid to open up after what happened three years ago.  She was wrong; he didn’t care about Patrice anymore, didn’t even think about her, not since the day the sheriff delivered the divorce papers. Nate heard she was remarried to some bank president in Palm Springs, drove a Lexus now.  Probably silver; she’d always had a fondness for silver.
The doorbell rang again, twice, rapid staccato.  “Hold on, hold on.”  Damn intrusive busy bodies. He reached the front door, preparing the same speech he told all the well-wishers.  She’s fine . . . needs her rest . . . she’ll be in touch when she’s up to it.  She’d be furious if she had an inkling that he was blowing off people like Father Reisanski and Judge Tommichelli, but hell, did she have to be best friends with half the town?
He opened the door. 
It was her.
“Hello.  I’m looking for . . .”
Her voice was softer than he’d imagined, more breathy . . .
“. . .  this is a bit awkward . . . ”
Her eyes were bluer than her picture . . .
“Lily Desantro.  Is she here?”
That brought him around fast. “Who are you?”  Stupid question, but damn if he’d let on he knew who she was.
She hesitated, a split second extra air exchange.  “Christine Blacksworth.  I’m . . . are you Nate Desantro?”
He said nothing.  Let her squirm.
“Is Lily here?”
“No.” 
“May I come in?”  She tried to look around him, into the house, into their lives. 
He blocked the door.  “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
“You . . . you know who I am, don’t you?”
He stared at her, refusing to acknowledge the man or his daughter as hatred seeped through him, brought back the days, months, years, his mother spent alone; four damn days a month for fourteen years. 
“You called my mother’s house . . .  about my father.” 
Her voice wobbled. Good, feel it, Christine Blacksworth, feel what I’ve felt for the past fourteen years every time I saw your father’s bathrobe hanging in my mother’s closet, saw his razor in her bathroom, his glasses on her nightstand.  Let it strangle you . . .
Contact Mary on the web at:  www.marycampisi.com

12 comments:

Jennifer Jakes said...

Very good post, Mary! Loved the excerpt too. Putting it on my TBR list;)

AJ Nuest said...

Thanks so much for being my guest today, Mary! I'm so happy to have you here!

Mary Campisi said...

Hi Jennifer! Thanks for stopping by - I just looked at the time of the post...ummm...I was still in bed!

Mary Campisi said...

Hi AJ:

Glad to be here! I'm off to walk Cooper in the rain but then I'll be back to hang around and chit chat about anything...books, writing, dogs, how the deer and rabbits are eating all of my tulips:) the very cool kitchen counter compost pail I got yesterday . . . why my husband did not listen on Sunday and ended up with poison ivy - again! Oh, all sorts of trivial information . . .
See you soon!

Ann Yost said...

Wow, Mary - Your blog really spoke to me. After ten years of writing I still can't seem to choose - contemp mystery or Regency? Your advice sees right on - wonder if I'll follow it!
I love the excerpt and concept for Family Affair.

Mary Campisi said...

Hi Ann:
Did you happen to see this month's RWR? Mine came in the mail yesterday and I didn't pick it up until last night, after I'd written this post. J.R. Ward is interviewed in the Writers on Writing section and talk about speaking to someone! She tells of being 'fired' by her publisher and starting over. Her advice to writers was to put aside what you think you should do, what the market is doing, what friends say you should do and just get quiet and centered and listen to your inner self. She did this and came up with what she really wanted to write . . . bestseller stuff. Excellent article.

AJ Nuest said...

I love that, Mary. I so whole-heartedly agree! Write what speaks to you, and your words will speak to the reader.

wlynnchantale said...

I'm learning to write what's in my heart, and re-discovering my voice. One thing I do know, is I'm going to keep writing.

Mary Campisi said...

Thanks for having me, AJ!

AJ Nuest said...

Thanks for the great post, Mary. Please come back any time!

Sarah Grimm said...

I'm in total agreement. Write what speaks to you.

Rebecca J. Clark said...

Great post, Mary and AJ. I'm still following the proverbial milk truck LOL. Writing what I want to write. It's working for me right now, but I know eventually I *should* pick a path to follow.