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Friday, September 30, 2016


Mystery author Camille Minichino, who also writes as Margaret Grace, Ada Madison, and Jean Flowers, has been a guest here numerous times, but she’s never sat for an interview. Today that changes. To learn more about Camille/Margaret/Ada/Jean and her books, visit her website and blog.

When did you realize you wanted to write novels?
When my first book, Nuclear Waste Management Abstracts was not a best seller.

How long did it take you to realize your dream of publication?
I spent a couple of years transitioning from technical publications to "popular" outlets. I took classes, joined writers groups, went to conferences. Once I began submitting, it took about 6 months and many queries to find a publisher, then an agent.

Are you traditionally published, indie published, or a hybrid author?
Traditional to start (23 novels, 1 due Spring '17). Lately I'm also Indie publishing short stories.

Where do you write?
In the bleachers in Times Square if possible, otherwise in my suburban California home office.

Is silence golden, or do you need music to write by? What kind?
(See above re: Times Square) My childhood bedroom was less than 10 feet from the jukebox in the pizza parlor next door. I commuted to college, doing most of my homework on Boston's MTA. I'm too lonely to write when it's quiet.

How much of your plots and characters are drawn from real life? From your life in particular?
Roughly, 100%. I'm turning all my careers and hobbies into mystery series: doing physics (the Periodic Table Mysteries); making miniatures (the Miniature Mysteries); teaching math (the Professor Sophie Knowles Mysteries); and even odd jobs, like working in the post office during school holidays (the Postmistress Mysteries). Does it sound like I have no imagination?

Describe your process for naming your character?
I often have a particular reason for my characters' names. Gloria is an adored cousin, Gerry a dear friend who died as I was starting the Miniature Mysteries, Sophie after famed 18th century mathematician Sophie Germain, Cassie and Sunni also good friends. For minor characters, I use the SSA website database of names.

Real settings or fictional towns?
I learned my lesson when I set my first series in Revere, Massachusetts, my hometown. It was very difficult to keep straight which streets were one way, which buildings still standing, and what the city council protocols were. When a reviewer criticized me for putting a Starbucks in Revere, I decided to create my own towns for future series.

What’s the quirkiest quirk one of your characters has?
Anastasia Brent of the Periodic Table Mysteries is a tap-dancing freelance embalmer. That in itself is quirky.

What’s your quirkiest quirk?
I write about freelance embalmers.

If you could have written any book (one that someone else has already written,) which one would it be? Why?
Dante's La Commedia, which dominated my life in 4th year Italian. It has everything – the journey from hell, through purgatory, to paradise – covering religion, politics, crime and punishment, and usually accompanied by astounding art.

Everyone at some point wishes for a do-over. What’s yours?
Always the hardest question. Probably: leave home sooner.

What’s your biggest pet peeve?
Kids these days When did they become in charge?

You’re stranded on a deserted island. What are your three must-haves?
If I were to be stranded on deserted Manhattan Island, I would need a cab, a master key to all museums, and a large supply of black-and-whites.

What was the worst job you’ve ever held?
Working in a small factory (hmm, another series?) while I was in transition from a convent to "the world". The highlight of every day was the food truck, back when food trucks weren't cool.

What’s the best book you’ve ever read?
Another hard choice. Do I go back to Little Women, the first book that made me cry? Or more grown-up choices like Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, a story that has the best elements of mystery, romance, and science fiction. For shear story power, I'll take Mystic River. For a cop, Martin Cruz Smith's Arkady Renko. I know I'm cheating on this question.

Ocean or mountains? 
Skyscrapers. Lots of them together, with museums in-between. I think it's called Gotham.

City girl/guy or country girl/guy?
The city, or why bother?

What’s on the horizon for you?
You'll have to ask my agent.

Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and/or your books?
When I switched from science to writing, I thought I'd be lonely. Science is a team endeavor – no one works on a 128-beam laser alone. But it turned out that writing is also a team endeavor, impossible without a writing community that includes agents and editors, critique groups, conferences, and the many organizations like Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime, that bring us together. A nice surprise.

Cancelled By Murder
A Postmistress Mystery, Book 2

Cassie Miller returned to her sleepy hometown in the Berkshires to start over as the new postmistress. But she soon finds that dead letters are nothing compared to murder victims...

With a massive storm about to hit North Ashcot, Massachusetts, threatening floods and widespread wind damage, Cassie is forced to close up the post office along with the rest of the local business owners and residents, who are battening down the hatches and bracing themselves for the worst. 

Although the storm proves not to be as bad as predicted, fabric shop owner Daisy Harmon is found dead, seemingly killed by a fallen branch. But the police quickly determine that her death had nothing to do with foul weather and everything to do with foul play. After Daisy’s widowed husband approaches her to help solve his wife’s murder, Cassie vows to find the killer before another innocent victim is taken by storm.

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Camille Minichino said...

Thanks for the interview, Anastasia! It makes me feel like I'm visiting New Jersey, which is high on my list of favorite places.

I'd like to take the opportunity this morning to send good wishes to those who are going through the pain and disruption of yesterday's train incident. You have had more than your share of trauma and we're all hoping for better days for you.


Thanks, Camille. That accident was horrific. It's amazing that only one person died and most are out of the hospital already. Still, it's something that could have been prevented. We've had the technology for 40 years. What is it going to take for transportation systems to implement the safety controls that would prevent these accidents? How many more people have to lose their lives or be seriously injured? Lives should matter more than dollars.

Camille Minichino said...

Another area where we are behind so many other countries.