Monday, January 7, 2013

Blooming Late by Camille Minichino

Camille Minichino, a retired physicist turned writer, has published 18 mysteries in three series: The Periodic Table Mysteries, The Miniature Mysteries (as Margaret Grace) and the Professor Sophie Knowles Mysteries (as Ada Madison). She's written articles for popular magazines and teaches writing in the San Francisco Bay Area. She works at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and teaches science at Golden Gate U., San Francisco.

Her newest Berkley book release, A Function of Murder, is available now.

Camille is also a miniaturist and well known throughout the writer community for her amazing tiny creations for dollhouses and gifts. I'm honored to have Camille (aka Margaret aka Ada) as my special guest today.


Blooming Late by Camille Minichino

Most writers I know grew up with books. If they're mystery writers, they grew up with Nancy Drew or the boy equivalent, whose name keeps slipping my mind.

I remember when I read my first Nancy Drew. It was also my last. I was well into middle age and just didn't get what the fuss was about. I can only guess that it was simply too late for me.

I didn't grow up with books. My mother went to school until she was 12, my father not at all. There were no books in the house except the ones I brought home from school. I seemed to gravitate more toward numbers than words. After all, numbers were free. All you needed was a full complement of fingers and toes and the ability to build relationships with the objects around you. In my mind, I could add, subtract, multiply, and divide to my heart's content; no special purchase needed. I still like to unwind with a little arithmetic.

When I was in high school, I had a job in our city library, and even then I didn't understand what all those books were for. I shelved them, for about $1 an hour, but never read them. I might as well have worked in a hardware store. I had my textbooks and I knew what they were for—grades. I dutifully read Ivanhoe and The Scarlet Letter and whatever else was on the reading list. I vaguely remember enjoying the assignments but it never occurred to me to read other books, ones that weren't homework.

The first book that I read that wasn't for school was a biography of Marie Curie, by her daughter Eve, and I was in college. I had wandered into the campus library, probably to get warm, with a few minutes on my hands before my next class. I took the book from the shelf at random, sat down, and read it, cover to cover. Engrossed. Thrilled. Interested. Moved. I missed my class and haven't been the same since.

Now, like Thomas Jefferson, "I cannot live without books." I read them, I write them, I write in them. I give them for presents; I talk about them through three book clubs; I teach how to write them. I pile them up all around me. My husband trips over them when he enters my office. I read and I write some more.

Sometimes I wish I hadn't gotten such a late start. My three-year-old grandniece has her own bookcase, full already (okay, the case and many of the books are from me); her four-week-old cousin is well on her way to a significant book collection. I see the kids' sections in bookstores and libraries, kids who are read to at least every night at bedtime, kids' books proliferating as franchises.

Would I be a better writer now if I'd learned about books at my mother's knee or in an upscale pre-pre-pre-school? Will these children be better writers as a result of their early start?

Maybe, maybe not. I don't regret my early years with numbers, my education in mathematics and physics. In a way, they've given me content, something to write about, a world view to explore through words.

But I wouldn't mind a few extra years to go back and lock myself in that first library, and start with the A shelf.


Camille, I was an early reader, but I couldn't even get through all the books in my country grade school's mini-library, and goodness knows I tried. So many books, so little time. 

Thanks for being with us today and sharing your experience. I look at your list of books and your busy schedule and wonder how I could ever complain about running out of time.

Learn more about Camille and her mystery series at her website and blog.  She can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.


Anonymous said...

My upbringing was a bit different. I grew up with parents who taught the intelligence of a man was measured by the books in the home. We were avid readers. My dad was a hobbyist writer but a nuclear scientist by trade (that part of my brain-- the math and science part-- is woefully MIA, unfortunately). I grew up on Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys and tore through the Black Beauty series. And yet,I still got a late start with my writing. Choosing an occupation that could pay the bills got in the way. Still, in the end, life winds its paths through my life and here I am, writing. Glad to know about your books. They sound like marvelous reads.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

At least you did finally find books and the joy of reading.
My parents were readers, and I grew up reading books all the time.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I started reading before I was two and can't imagine growing up without books. I liked numbers, but not that much.

Camille Minichino said...

Thanks so much, Pat, for hosting me here today and sharing your readers!

I always find it amazing how many different paths there are, often to the same end.

Thanks for sharing, Julie -- wish I'd met your dad!

Alex, I'm glad you didn't stray from your parents' example.

Diane -- maybe you can switch to numbers now? (Kidding.)

Patricia Stoltey said...

Camille, I'm honored to have you as my guest today. I didn't start writing seriously until I retired from work in the real world although I've been a heavy reader since childhood. My first mystery was released just before I turned 65. There are a lot of us late bloomers out there, many with math/engineering/computer science backgrounds. My field was accounting.

Camille Minichino said...

Interesting, Pat -- I like your observation that many "late bloomers" started out in technical fields (though I think of accounting as SciFi :=))

Peg Brantley said...

There's no such thing as coincidence. You were in that library and grabbed that book for a most amazing reason.

I grew up reading Nancy Drew and Agatha Chrisite and Phyllis Whitney and… but I didn't get serious about writing until I was 50.

In a previous life, I was a mortgage banker. Yesterday, I turned 58, with two books released in 2012.

Ain't life grand?

Camille Minichino said...

Definitely grand, Peg. New technology gives us so many opportunities, for as long as we want them. Happy Birthday week and Congratulations on your books!

Dean K Miller said...

Camille: It is never too late only "I wish I would have..." Look at you now---18 titles and counting. Seems like your timing was perfect.

I, too, am more of a numbers guy, though the reading started early for me as well. But I'm writing as much as I can.

Thanks for being here with Pat today...and thanks Pat for opening you blog to another wonderful author.

Camille Minichino said...

Thanks, Dean. (The only numbers guys I knew in my youth were the bookies on the corner, but you probably didn't mean that!)

And Thanks, Pat, for having me visit today!

Patricia Stoltey said...

You're so welcome, Camille. And by the way, I love reading good sci fi too. Maybe there is a relationship between accounting and outer space. :D

Jemi Fraser said...

So glad you found the books! My mom took us to the library from a very early age and I fell in love then :)

Patricia said...

Camille, you know what a big fan of yours I am. When I was in my thirties with for little ones under foot, I wrote several mysteries and got eight of them published thanks to EQMM and AHMM. Now 71 and retired from teaching, I am trying to get back to writing, which would be easier if there weren't so many books to read.

Lynn Proctor said...

i am sure it was as it was meant to be--i loved reading about you today :)

Camille Minichino said...

Patricia, congratulations on your successes! I hope you do get back to writing; reading is a great start, isn't it?

Lynn, thanks for the affirmation.