On a damp and chilly December first Friday, we are having breakfast with author DeAnna Cameron. DeAnna writes novels featuring feisty heroines transformed by true love and belly dance. Her novels have been translated into Japanese, Polish, and Serbian, and her work has been praised for its “deft prose, energetic characters and . . . colorful images” by RT Book Reviews and called “most entertaining” by the Historical Novel Review. She’s also the founder of O.C. Writers, a network of more than 250 published and aspiring authors in Southern California. And she’s the founder and editor of Lit Central O.C., an e-magazine that showcases the work of O.C. writers. Before turning to fiction, DeAnna worked as a journalist, writing and editing for several Southern California newspapers and magazines. She lives in Orange County, Calif. with her family.
For this December breakfast, I’m having half a toasted bagel topped by fig cream cheese, a boiled egg (provided by a friend’s Americana chicken), and an arugula salad topped with persimmon, blueberries, banana, pecans and Temecula olive oil. DeAnna, what are you having for your virtual breakfast?
I’m having a big, frosty green smoothie, just as I do most mornings. I love starting the day knowing I’ve already knocked out three or four servings of fruits and vegetables, and then I don’t have to think about them. I can think about more interesting things, like how to make life difficult for my characters.
You are an inspiration! I love my green drinks, too. Tell us about your writing process from concept to draft to revision.
My process is cumbersome and inefficient and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone, but this is how my stories tend to come together. It all starts with an idea for a character or two, and then I start to imagine the sorts of trouble they can get into. When I come up with something interesting, something that really tugs at me, I start organizing my thoughts with character sketches and plot outlines and any other tidbits of information that might be relevant to the story. Then, somewhere along the line I start free-writing about the characters, about particular scenes I envision, and pieces of dialogue.
I really love the free-writing part of the process because it feels like anything is possible, and I have a blast discovering new things about the characters and how things might unfold. I’ll write anywhere from 5,000 to 20,000 words before I really get a sense of what the story is, and then I go back to cut away what isn’t relevant. In one instance, I wrote 50,000 words of a story (the one that became DANCING AT THE CHANCE) during NaNoWriMo in 2010, and scrapped 99 percent of them. It may sound like I wasted a lot of time, but I don’t see it that way because all that writing helped me discover so much more about the characters and the world of that book.
In most cases, though, I don’t go quite so long with a pre-write before I really get serious about the story. Once the real writing starts, I write the story straight through in one whole, messy, and embarrassing first draft. When it’s done, I let it sit as long as I can manage, depending on deadlines, and then go to work revising it until I make it as perfect as I can make it. When I’m as happy as I can be with it, then I turn it over to an editor.
Yippee for another NaNoWriMo success story. Now tell us about SHIMMY FOR ME while I pour you a cup of coffee. Why this series, why now?
SHIMMY FOR ME was started at the same time I was writing what became my debut novel, THE BELLY DANCER, which was published by Berkley/Penguin in 2009. THE BELLY DANCER grew out of my research into how belly dancing—an amazing dance form that I find so beautiful and empowering for women—migrated to America (largely attributable to the Egyptian dancers who performed at and scandalized the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair). SHIMMY FOR ME, on the other hand, grew out of my first-hand experiences in local belly dance classes and being part of the Southern California belly dance community for the past 20 years. It focused more on the wonderful women I met through belly dance, and how this dance that is rooted in antiquity has adapted to the modern world.
After I published THE BELLY DANCER, my publisher wanted another historical novel, so I put the story that was an early version of SHIMMY FOR ME away and wrote DANCING AT THE CHANCE, which was a welcome opportunity because it allowed me to explore the amazing vaudeville community of Old New York and the influence the real-life Egyptians dancers had on that world.
But the idea for SHIMMY FOR ME never went away, and I’m thrilled that I’ve been able to not only complete it, but make it the first of a series based on a fictional belly dance studio right here in Orange County, California, and the strong, wonderful women who gather there.
SHIMMY FOR ME was my first introduction to belly dance studios. What did you find fun/intriguing about writing this story and what was difficult?
I loved writing this story for so many reasons, but one of the main ones is that since becoming a mother, I haven’t been able to take part in belly dance classes or participate in a dance troupe as I had before, so it fills a corner of my soul that really misses that.
What I found most difficult was setting deadlines for myself. I did this book without a traditional publisher, so for the first time I was in charge of setting the release date, deciding on the cover, hiring the editors, and all the other assorted tasks that go into producing a book. It was fun and exciting, and I love the freedom, but I’m also the kind of writer who can edit and revise forever, so it was a real challenge to stick to the deadlines I set for myself. In the end, and with a lot of hand-wringing, I managed to stick to my original timeline, but it wasn’t easy.
Tell us about your next project and when it may be published.
I’m in the process of finishing the first novel in the California Belly Dance series, titled DANCE FOR ME. It tells the story of one of the women of the belly dance studio readers met in SHIMMY FOR ME. It’s another sexy, funny romance, with loads of belly dance-inspired love, and it will be published in the summer—if I can stick to my deadlines.
I posted a rave review on Amazon for SHIMMY FOR ME. Lots of fun and an intriguing storyline. I’ll be dancing in the aisles when the novel comes out. Thank you for visiting with us, DeAnna. Let me pour us all another virtual cup of coffee.
Since it’s time to crawl back into my writing cave, I’ll happily take a cup—black, no sweetener, please. And thank you for this wonderful visit. It’s really been a pleasure.
Learn more about DeAnna Cameron and her books at:
Amazon link for SHIMMY FOR ME: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00PJEEJLI
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/DeAnnaCameronAuthor