What Led to My First Book and Five Fun Facts – Jess Interviews Camilla

I’m chatting with Jess about my weird aversion to doing anything the typical way, how the ending of my 10 year marriage led to my first book, and imposter syndrome. Join us …

Today I had the honor of sitting down with author, book blogger, and the face behind Meeting The Authors, Camilla Downs. In addition to being a generous voice for authors and a powerful force of positivity, Camilla has a number of books of her own, and we’ll talk about that in a bit.

JF: Let’s start out with five fun facts about you. Go.

I swear a lot!
I love having solo dance parties.
I’m finally cleaning photos from my iPhone. I had about 10,000!
I haven’t had a television since 2008.
I’m actually a very lazy person!

JF: Do you have a day job? If so, what is it? What other jobs have you held? Have they influenced your writing?

Before I became a mom, I was a paralegal for 10 years and before that I worked in the mortgage industry. My attention to detail and tenacity to figure things out in these previous careers is part of my personality. This carries into my life experiences, including my writing.

My day job for the past 18 years has been being mom to my two kids, 18 year old Lillian, and 14 year old Thomas. I’ve homeschooled (well, unschooled them) for the past 5 or 6 years, with Lillian graduating in June 2019. Lillian is special needs, having a chromosome deletion called 18p-, so I’ve been her caretaker too.

Throughout the past 13 years, I have had many “jobs” so that I could focus on being a parent, being in charge of my own schedule. I’ve made jewelry, been a social media consultant, been a substitute teacher, Reiki practitioner, mentor, delivered newspapers, dog walking, and cat sitting.

JF: Wow! That sounds like a lot of material right there! What experiences in particular have inspired your writing?

Life. Pain, heartache, sorrow, joy, accomplishments, learning and growing … My life experiences paired with a walking practice and nature photography are my inspiration.

JF: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I like to go for walks, capturing nature with photography. I love to lounge around the house (my sanctuary), in comfortable clothes, reading or having a movie night with my kids, at times having a solo movie night. When inspiration is sparked, I like to create artwork using items from nature; rocks, twigs, branches, sea glass. It’s fun and empowering to see what I can create using beauties I’ve collected on walks.

JF: Is there a particular place you’ve been that gives you inspiration?

Fallen Leaf Lake, Mount Tallac and Lake Tahoe were the catalyst for poetry to begin. When I visited Fallen Leaf Lake with Mount Tallac in the background, it woke something that caused me to sob with knowing. On the drive home, I made several stops around Lake Tahoe. By the time I arrived home, I had written my first poem titled, Earth Dance.

(Lake Tahoe – photo taken by me)

JF: That is powerful! Can you tell us about your writing process?

I am something altogether different. I mean, my first book was titled, D iz for Different! I have this weird aversion to doing anything the typical way. I write as I’m inspired. My life is the plot.

JF: Do you read your reviews? How do you handle ones that are not so great?

Yes, I read reviews. I don’t have a thick skin. I completely fall apart with not so great reviews. Although, the older I’ve gotten, the less I care what others think.

JF: What inspired you to take the leap and write that first book?

In 2006, my 10 year marriage fell apart. I became a single parent to one year old Thomas, and five year old Lillian. Lillian had been diagnosed just 2 years earlier with 18p-. Beginning in 2009, I openly shared my life experiences through my blog and social media, including how I was processing events, handling things, or not handling things. The feedback received solidified into a gut knowing that I was to write a memoir of my experiences. D iz for Different – One Woman’s Journey to Acceptance was published in February 2012.

JF: Are you traditionally published, self-published, both or neither? Why did you choose that path? What are some of the good things and bad things about doing it that way?

I began as a self-publisher. Now, with 4 published books, I’m an indie publisher under my own imprint of Loving Kindness Books. The good: having control and freedom. The bad: not having a larger publishing company’s support, guidance, and marketing assistance.

JF: What is the one thing you wish you’d known about writing before you started doing it seriously?

I wish I’d known about imposter syndrome before I finally figured out what that was, and how it affected me. It still happens, but I’m better at recognizing it, and not letting it stop me.

JF: That’s good advice for all of us! Now, what about your books?

My latest book, Words of Alchemy, is a collection of free verse poetry from the past six years. It’s a memoir of life experiences, how I view them, and how I moved forward, or didn’t move forward! It’s not what I expected my next published book to be, yet, my intuition kept pulling me back to it. I’ve learned to listen to my intuition, that there’s a reason.

Since I’m the main character, I’d say my emotional arc throughout this collection is one of a steady, ongoing rise. I’ll be completely honest. Since I write non-fiction, I had never heard of the term emotional arc. I researched it, and whether or not it’s proper to assign an emotional arc in a non-fiction, I’ve done it. HA!

JF: Where did you get the idea for the title and book cover?

Every time I had an idea for the title, I would note it in a “Thoughts for the Title” file. Words of Alchemy was one of those ideas. Being that writing has been therapeutic for me, helping me to alchemize my experiences, this seemed a perfect fit. In the longer poems, you can see how by the end of the poem, the experience was alchemized, changed. I also check to see if the title is an available domain. If it is, I purchase it right away, redirecting it to a page on my website.

The photo of the dandelion, or puff ball, as I’ve seen it called, is one I took on a walk. It was a sunny day, I walked by a patch of puff balls, picked one to make a wish and blow the seeds. I had a thought, wondering what it would look like if I held it just so, where the puff ball covered the sun, and took photos. It turned out pretty good, in my opinion!

JF: What idea would you like your readers to take away from this collection?

I feel each person’s take away will be a bit different, depending on where they are in life. It blesses me when a reader is inspired, when their appreciation for life, for nature, for experiences is rekindled, when they find a poem or two that truly speaks to them and their experiences. When a reader feels a camaraderie, a knowing that they are not alone, that’s the reason I began sharing my life and writings. No star rating can top that.

JF: What’s next for you?

I’m taking this year for rejuvenation. I’ve been on a 13-year healing journey, of diving deep into myself. It’s been exhausting, overwhelming, unlovely at times; balanced with many times of joy, success, and peace. It’s been completely and utterly worth it.

The beginning of 2020 was the tipping point. I’m on the other side of it now, ready to relax and regroup. I’m being very relaxed about writing. If I write, good. If I don’t, good. Now that my mental and emotional health have been looked after, I’m looking after my physical health this year.

There will be more books. I’m just not sure what they will be. I know there will be at least one more memoir, and would love to write a creative non-fiction. I also get the feeling there’s a fiction in me waiting for the perfect time.

In short, I plan on enjoying the fruit of 13 years of laborious healing.

Go here to read the full interview …

Meeting the Author: Camilla Downs

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