I was delighted that Margaret Cameron agreed to join us and answer some questions about her recent memoir Under a Venice Moon.
Have you secretly longed to do something different? Could you throw it all in and start somewhere new? Would you risk it and would you want to? Maybe it’s something you dream of? Reading this memoir may just give you the inspiration you need!
Thank you so much for joining us, Margaret. We will explore a little more about the memoir, but first some quickfire questions
Late nights or early mornings? Late nights, most definitely.
What’s for breakfast? One slice of mixed grain toast with avocado and three cups of tea. It never varies. I don’t like decision-making as a start to my day.
Night out or Netflix? Night out. G&T or Tea/Coffee? Tea.
Perfect Weekend? Catching up with friends for a meal or a game of bridge one day, working in the garden the other.
What did you want to be when you grew up? My plans varied at different ages and stages, ranging from a cloistered nun to an air hostess (as they were then called). In other words, I had no idea – the future seemed so far away.
What is for dinner tonight? Can you cook? What would you rather be eating?Dinner tonight will be pasta with tomatoes, chilli, garlic and lots of fresh herbs from the garden. Perfect for a cold night: there’s nothing I’d prefer. If pressed, I can whip up some half-decent meals, but I’d rather be reading a book – or writing one.
What brings you joy? Lifts your spirits and chases away a down mood? Small things, I guess. A day of sunshine after rain, a kindly word, doing something that’s been languishing on the must-do list. Or persuading someone else to do it.
Your hero? So many to choose from. I’ll go with my brother-in-law David, for his courage and unrelenting good humour through seventeen years of health adversity. An everyday hero.
If you could ask three people for a dinner party (dead or alive) who would they be and why? I don’t mean to be controversial here but: Jesus Christ. Did he really say what we now attributed to him? And, if so, did he really believe it? Or was it like the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Superstar suggests, and things got out of hand? That concept has always intrigued me. I think it would be such a compelling conversation I wouldn’t need /want other guests.
Questions about Writing.
Can you tell us a little about your background?
I grew up in the Perth foothills and my childhood was idyllic; riding my bike with my mother and sister, playing in empty paddocks with the children next door, pinching apricots from the trees when I knew my mother wanted them for jam.
School was a treat – learning turned out to be fun, homework was never a chore (what a nerd!) My eventual career in nursing brought huge satisfaction; I worked as a senior RN in the busy intensive care unit of a public hospital. It was my husband who suggested I undertake a university degree program. I thrived on it. I completed a research-based degree at the University of Western Australia, and my love of reading, writing and words returned after years of taking a back seat to a career.
Have you always written? Apart from letters to magazines and the like, no. But I’ve always thought about it. I remember reading Nancy Friday describe an afternoon walk she took in New York’s Central Park, to clear her mind and prepare for the next chapter of her book. I thought ‘How cool would that be?’ Now I walk through Bold Park for the same reason. Fortune smiled, and I’m grateful.
What inspired your new book? How long did it take you to write it? Inspiration came during my second visit to Venice in 2014. I couldn’t believe the changes – and not for the better – since my initial trip there forty years previously. Tourists! Everywhere! But I found an off-grid neighbourhood, reminiscent of the city I’d loved on that first trip, and decided to return the following year for a one-month stay. I wanted to find the Venice of the Venetians. And by then I’d done a bucket-load of research and was totally caught up in the quirky stories from the city’s history.
I met Rossano (caro mio di Venezia) during that 2015 holiday and started writing straight away. I was smitten; love-struck. With him. With Venice. I decided to weave my adventures in Venice around the broader story of Venice itself. The book was completed on my last trip to Venice, pre-Covid, in 2919. So four years of writing, were interrupted by a year away from the keyboard as I struggled to improve my French language skills. Rossano spoke no English but fluent French; I spoke no Italian but (I thought) reasonable French. It made sense to build on what I had.
After the writing came another two years of manuscript assessment, submissions to publishers and the whole editorial process. Writing the original manuscript – and those annual trips to Venice – was by far the most enjoyable part!
In memoir writing, is it about selecting what is interesting to others or making it interesting? Both, I think. I wrote about what I found interesting, reasoning that if I found it interesting, then my readers would too. A clear notion of my readership demographic allowed this. But a story still has to be told with a certain voice, a certain energy, that makes it engaging
Do you have a writing routine? No. It tends to be late at night when all the household tasks are done and I can relax.
Are you an ‘edit as you go’ type, or do you go back and do it later?
I’m attending a series of writing workshops by David Allan-Petale; excellent, by the way. He endorses the ‘get it down’ approach, as do just about all the writer-presenters I’ve come across. I see their point: why spend time perfecting something which may later be omitted? Author Portland Jones said in a recent talk that she perfects – polishes to a high sheen, really – each chapter as she goes along. I fall halfway between, in that I take pleasure in getting the first chapter the way I want it, and then I just write.
What is the best and worst advice you’ve received as a writer? The best advice ever came from John Harman. The nine rules of writing, he maintains, are read, read, read; write, write, write; edit, edit, edit. And I so agree. Worst advice? I’m not sure I’ve had really bad advice. Writers are pretty canny folk, I find.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers? Just to reiterate John Harman’s advice. And to believe in what you are doing: persevere, and be kind to yourself during the journey.
Are you working on anything now? I’ve delved into that bucket of research I mentioned earlier and decided to go down the historical fiction path. The plot follows a braided narrative of three sisters living very different lives. It’s set in late sixteenth-century Venice and has as its theme changing fortunes and circumstances. To quote one twentieth-century icon ‘You don’t always get what you want.’
Now that sounds intriguing! I will look forward to reading it.
Here is information about Under a Venice Moon.It’s on my TBR pile and it should be on yours!
Life isn’t a sort of practice run, something you can afford to play around with. They don’t offer second and third chances to get it right. Use it better. Live it fuller.
A week in Venice ignites Margaret Cameron’s interest in the private city behind the tourist facade and the obscure tales from its history. Tantalised by stories of this lesser-known Venice she returns the following August for a month-long stay, determined to uncover the Venice of the Venetians.
Stepping out from her comfort zone, Margaret finds that friendships – unexpected and spontaneous – blossom within palazzi walls and she makes a discovery: life can lead you along rewarding paths, if you let it.
As each day passes, her time in Venice becomes more than just an interlude; soon, the city feels like home. Could she leave her satisfying life in Perth and start anew in Venice? The question becomes urgent when romance waits where she least expected to find it . . .
Published February 23rd 2022 by Hachette Australia
ISBN0733648312 (ISBN13: 9780733648311
Available at good book stores and on Amazon.