The Miseducation of Cameron Post Tour: Author Interview
1. What inspires you to write?
I think the easier question to answer is what doesn’t?I’m inspired by so many things, other novels and stories, certainly, but music, film, theater, art—highbrow, lowbrow, the whole gamut. I think writers must be curious about the world, about anything, about everything, really. I said once in an interview that I could probably find inspiration in a wad of chewed bubble gum in the gutter and want to explore that through language—and I stand by that statement. But, more than those things, I find that inhabiting a piece of fiction is, for me as a reader, a transportational event—the very act of reading is one that takes us to other worlds and places, that allows us to live with characters, often to live directly inside their selves. I write because I want to offer that experience of transport to my readers.
2. If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
On any give day it changes, but for today I’ll say Italy, specifically Tuscany and then on to the Amalfi Coast. I’ve been to Italy once, briefly, with family, but my partner has never been and we’ve never gone together. It’s beautiful, astoundingly so—the landscape, the architecture, the roads and windowboxes and sculptures. And I love the food and so much of the culture: I long to return and this time to stay for much, much longer. But I’ll also say that I so dearly love Missoula, Montana and can’t wait to get back out that way. We were lucky enough to live there the two years I was in the MFA in Fiction program at the University of Montana and we loved it. We loved it completely, from the fresh huckleberries at the farmer’s market to its proximity to Glacier National Park to the beauty of the campus and general loveliness of the local folk. (Speaking of which: if anyone wants to overnight me a couple of mini vegan lemon poppyseed bundt cakes from the Good Food Store I’d so love you forever.)
3. What has the road to publication been like for you?
Well, it feels long, but I wouldn’t call it arduous. While it’s certainly has had its share of peaks and valleys, compared to the stories of so many supremely talented writers I know that I’ve been very lucky. After college I worked for two years at a not-for-profit, making sure that I was committed enough to my writing, passionate enough about it, to warrant going to an MFA program. Because I wrote a lot “on my own” during that time, with no class or workshop deadlines, I decided the answer was yes—I am committed to my writing and I need further training—and in 2004 I enrolled in the MFA in Fiction program at the University of Montana-Missoula. In many ways I’ve never “looked back.” In that program, which lasted two years, I was focused—as were most of my fellow students—on works of short fiction, but one of those short stories did lead me to the character and voice of Cameron Post. At Missoula I was very privileged to work with amazing writers like Brady Udall, Danzy Senna, and Debra Magpie Earling. After graduating in 2006, I immediately entered the Ph.D in Creative Writing program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Because I’d gotten serious about Cam Post the summer before entering, and had 150 or so pages of material toward it, I was able workshop chapters and “chunks” at UNL, which was incredibly useful. (This novel owes so much to Judith Slater’s spring of 2007 Graduate Fiction Workshop at UNL. I think there were only 9 or 10 of us, something small like that, and the intimacy of that group—their genuine support and enthusiasm—along with Judy’s calm/wise instruction, was hugely influential to my progress.)
During my time at UNL I also started working for the Nebraska Summer Writers’ Conference, and really it’s that experience, and the connections I made from it, that helped me find a home for this novel at Balzer+Bray. There are all kinds of wonderful summer writing workshops and conferences, and many of those specialize in YA lit, but I can’t speak highly enough of the NSWC. It’s a warm, encouraging, casual environment and I think vast majority of the attendees leave inspired and ready to put what they’ve learned to work. I met my agent, Jessica Regel, at the NSWC, and her early enthusiasm and advice about the novel was the kick I needed to finish a final draft. It also helped that there were (and still are) lots of talented writers at UNL who were finishing projects of their own—poetry manuscripts, chapbooks, creative nonfiction books, short stories landing in impressive lit magazines, etc, etc—and all of that, while sometimes making me jealous or bitter (if I’m being honest), also lit a fire under me. It made be stop procrastinating and making excuses and really focus on finishing the novel.
Because I’d not originally conceived of The Miseducation of Cameron Post (which was then called Lucky Human) as a YA novel, necessarily, we didn’t send to YA editors or imprints during our first round of submissions. I saw, and still see, my novel as a voice-driven coming of age story, and those have been traditionally published and marketed a variety of ways, though in the past five years or so the shift has certainly been toward YA. And that’s exactly what we heard from editors. Lots of “I really like this but I can’t get away with it: you should try our YA editors…” This was fairly surprising to me, but I was absolutely willing to listen to reason—especially when more and more editors returned with the exact same response. This went on for a couple of months, but once we sent to YA editors, we had an offer within a few weeks. And, I should add: the team at Balzer+Bray—in specific my editor, Alessandra Balzer—but really everyone involved, have all been so wonderful to me and supportive of this book that I’m so glad things worked out exactly this way. Exactly. I couldn’t be more thrilled (nor feel more lucky) than to have this novel coming out with Balzer+Bray.
4. Describe The Miseducation of Cameron Post in 5 words.
Great big coming-of-(g)a(y)ge.
5. What are you working on now?
I’m working on a novel that follows one copy of an infamous, and frequently banned novel, from the day it comes off the production line in London in 1928 to the day it—well, I can’t say what happens to it, but suffice it to say that we follow this copy of the book as it passes hands from one character to the next for 100 years. The characters are mix of fictionalized versions of “real people,” like actress/provocateur Tallulah Bankhead, and also those who are complete inventions. It’s very unlikely that this novel, should I be lucky enough to sell it, would be marketed as YA. But hey: you never know about these things.
Thanks for stopping by, Emily!
But that relief soon turns to heartbreak, as Cam is forced to move in with her conservative aunt Ruth. She knows that from this point on, her life will forever be different. Survival in Miles City, Montana, means blending in and not making waves, and Cam becomes an expert at this—especially at avoiding any questions about her sexuality.
Then Coley Taylor moves to town. Beautiful pickup-driving Coley is a perfect cowgirl with the perfect boyfriend to match. To Cam’s surprise, she and Coley become best friends—while Cam secretly dreams of something more. Just as that starts to seem like a real possibility, her secret is exposed. Ultrareligious Aunt Ruth takes drastic action to “fix” her niece, bringing Cam face-to-face with the cost of denying her true self—even if she’s not quite sure who that is.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post is a stunning and unforgettable literary debut about discovering who you are and finding the courage to live life according to your own rules.