Hello, and welcome to the August Book Talk! This month I am happy to introduce you to Camille DeAngelis, author of many books including The Boy From Tomorrow, Life Without Envy and Bones & All, the winner of the 2016 Alex Award. In addition to being a prolific author, Camille is also a dedicated vegan, writing mentor, and a kindred creative spirit. Settle in and discover what's on Camille's bookshelf!
What books are currently on your nightstand?
At any given time my bedside TBR pile is a mix of research reading and novels for younger readers (since that’s what I’m writing these days; I’m also a member of a debut group called the Electric Eighteens, so I’ve been reading and reviewing my colleagues’ work as part of that). Dora Mitchell’s The Haunted Serpent is my current EE read, and another author I admire, Celine Kiernan, recommended Rumer Godden’s The Dolls’ House, so I’ve checked that out of the library. As for research reading, I’m still working on my book coming out in 2019 (the tentative title is Tenderheart: Veganism for Creative Growth), and I’ve got a very eclectic stack including Sunaura Taylor’s Beasts of Burden, Aph Ko and Syl Ko’s Aphro-Ism, David Macdonald’s Running With the Fox, and James Hillman and Michael Ventura’s We’ve Had a Hundred Years of Psychotherapy--And the World’s Getting Worse.
What book first got you hooked on reading as a child?
When I was little my mother read to me every day, so I feel like there was never a time before I was hooked. I can tell you the novel that most inspired me to become a writer, though, and that’s Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce (I’ve blogged about that book here).
How do you choose what to read?
Fiction-wise, if it’s supernatural, “timey-wimey,” or any flavor of gothic, I’m in. I enjoy historical fiction too--Catherine Gilbert Murdock’s The Book of Boy, set in medieval France, is one of my recent favorites. Research-wise, I enjoy nothing more than falling down an Internet rabbit hole, and that includes combing through the catalog of the Providence Athenaeum (my favorite library and primary writing space). I rely on intuition and serendipity, like when I overheard a librarian recommending We’ve Had a Hundred Years of Psychotherapy--And the World’s Getting Worse. The library doesn’t have a copy, but that was just as well--this is the sort of book I want to make notes in!
Has a book ever changed your mind about something? What was its title and how did it change you?
Your readers may remember a series of New Age books published in the 1990s called Conversations With God. In high school I worked at Waldenbooks, and I’d always sniffed at those books whenever I had to restock them. But I came across Book 1 again in college, and this time something nudged me to take it more seriously. When I read the passage in which “God” tells the author that “highly evolved beings” do not eat other animals, it was the most wonderful epiphany of my life. I’ve been vegetarian ever since.
Do you reread books? Which ones and why?
There are so many delicious books to choose from that I don’t often reread, but I make an exception for Sarah Monette’s The Bone Key--a most excellent collection of occult mysteries featuring a painfully introverted archivist, a white-haired young man named Kyle Murchison Booth. And my childhood favorites make good comfort reading: Anne of Green Gables, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, and of course, Tom’s Midnight Garden.
If you could force every person you know to read one book, what would it be and why?
I prefer the word “persuade” (ha!), and I truly wouldn’t be able to choose ONE title--I’d just recommend any book that explores the connections between human health and factory farming, animal suffering, and the environment, because I believe that training ourselves to see inconvenient truths is the greater part of our work here on Earth. The first book I remember picking up after going vegan is Gristle: From Factory Farms to Food Safety (Thinking Twice About the Meat We Eat), edited by Moby and Miyun Park. Other life-changing books on my shelf are The Sexual Politics of Meat by Carol Adams, The Lost Religion of Jesus by Keith Akers, and The World Peace Diet by Will Tuttle. If you’d prefer a book that feels like having a conversation with a dear friend, I recommend Victoria Moran’s Main Street Vegan and The Good Karma Diet (which is not a diet book).
If you could be a literary character, who would it be?
Definitely my own heroine from Petty Magic, Evelyn Harbinger, a 150-year-old witch and WWII spy who makes herself young again for nights out on the town. I wanted to create a saucy and supremely confident character so I could revel in her adventures--letting her say and do things with the courage and panache I can only dream of having in my next life.
Are there any authors whose work you have read completely? What about their writing appeals to you?
I guess I’ve read almost everything by Neil Gaiman and Philip Pullman--both master world builders with a highly developed sense of compassion for their characters. (Come to think of it, I have reread Stardust and the His Dark Materials trilogy in the past year!)
Which three authors (living or dead) would you invite to join you for dinner and why?
This would be a splendid opportunity to cook for some of my favorite vegetarian authors: Mary Shelley, Dick Gregory (who is primarily known as a comedian and civil rights activist), and Brigid Brophy. I’d do a light summer meal, I think: gazpacho followed by a vegan salmagundi platter (with marinated tofu, pan-crusted oyster mushrooms, avocado, pistachios, pomegranate seeds, and a lemon-dill dressing), and a lime coconut milkshake for dessert. (Dick Gregory was often on a liquid diet, so I might need to figure out an extra soup for him in lieu of the main course.) Scarlett Thomas and Henry Lien are two more favorite vegan writers of mine, but I’m hoping we can have dinner in real life someday.
Are there any books on the craft of writing that you recommend to others?
In college, when I was first getting up the courage to write, I must have read dozens of books on craft--but I was actually writing very little, if at all. I was learning, sure, but I was also procrastinating! The one book I’ve carried with me from those early days is Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird--not a craft book per se, but full of candid advice and hilarious (and comforting) anecdotes.
Camille DeAngelis is the author of several novels for adults—each of them as full of impossible things as The Boy From Tomorrow—as well as a travel guide to Ireland and a book of nonfiction called Life Without Envy: Ego Management for Creative People. Her young adult novel Bones & All won an Alex Award from the American Library Association in 2016. She lives in Providence, Rhode Island.
I hope you've enjoyed spending time with Camille and hearing about her readerly life. I definitely have added many of her book suggestions to my to-read list! Thank you, Camille, for taking the time to visit with us!