|Josephine Cameron, photo by Maggie Adolf|
Josephine Cameron is the author of Maybe a Mermaid, a new novel for kids. She teaches music and songwriting, and she lives in Maine.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for Maybe a Mermaid, and for your character Anthoni Gillis?
In all honesty, with a lot of trial and error. I started knowing that I wanted it to be set on a lake in Northern Wisconsin (where I grew up), and that I wanted it to be about friendship. Specifically, I wanted to build an interesting multi-generational friendship. But it took a lot of brainstorming to find Anthoni’s story.
At first, I was going to have her be a local kid who takes a summer job at an antiques store. And at that point in my mind, she was a boy (Anthony). Ha! I guess I’m a lot like Anthoni’s mom (who says “Gillis Girls Always Stick to the Plan”)—even though I left that storyline far behind before I started writing the first draft, I still loved the name Anthony Gillis. So I put an “i” on the end and stuck to the plan!
Q: The novel is set at a lake. How important is setting to you in your writing?
A: I often get the idea for where I want a story to take place before I even know what the story is going to be!
For Maybe a Mermaid, I knew the setting well—the lake, water-skiing, summer relationships between townies and tourists, even the mosquitos—and all of these specific, place-related things helped shape the story and the characters in my mind.
I grew up near a once-famous resort with a boat-shaped building called Marty’s Showboat where ex-vaudeville acts used to perform. Once I decided to bring that place into the book, the character of Charlotte Boulay started to form. She was the piece I was missing, and I wouldn’t have found her in another setting.
Q: Did you know how the novel would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?
A: I do a lot of pre-writing. Like, months of figuring out the story and characters before I start writing scenes. So I had a general sense of where I was going before I began drafting.
I knew the climax and resolution I wanted to build towards, but lots of the details changed along the way. And how Anthoni got to those final moments definitely went through many revisions. Luckily, I love revising almost more than I love pre-writing.
Q: What do you hope readers take away from the story?
A: A sense of wonder. Hope. The knowledge that you can find True Blue Friends even in the most unlikely places…if you remain open to the possibilities.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I’m currently working on another book for the same age group that has a LOT of dogs, and a LOT of silliness. I’m having a ridiculous amount of fun with this one, and often burst out laughing while I type. Either that’s a good sign, or I need to start getting out of the house more!
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: It’s incredible to me how many people are involved in getting a book into the world. I am so grateful to everyone who has read, edited, designed, marketed, publicized, and otherwise helped shaped this manuscript into a real, live book. My agent, John Cusick, is a rock star, and my editor, Grace Kendall, is a creative genius. There are whole days where I feel completely overwhelmed with gratitude.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb