Monday, January 30, 2012

Apocalypsies Love! Book Review: The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth

Apocalypsies Love is all about me telling you what I loved about a 2012 debut book written by one of the amazing Apocalypsies. I also chat with the author to gain insight into their very favorite parts of their creation.

Today I am spotlighting THE MISEDUCATION OF CAMERON POST, a YA realistic fiction novel about a girl growing up in Montana. When her parents die suddenly in a car crash, her shocking first thought is relief. Relief she’ll never have to tell them that, hours earlier, she had been kissing a girl.  As she pushes down her guilt, she becomes good at blending in - until she falls in love with the most beautiful girl in school.

Normally, when I pick up a book of 466 pages I think "there must be something the author could have cut - why does it have to be so long?" But after reading Cameron Post, I can't think of a single passage I'd want to scrap. I wasn't even able to skim over anything, the story and writing were so compelling.

The subject matter isn't easy - there is a lot of drug and alcohol use, sexual situations, bad language - but all of it was integral to the story.

I loved so many of the supporting characters: Irene and her dinosaur farm, Jaime (so understanding), Jane Fonda, Adam. They all felt so real, like entire books could be written about them too (ones that I would read, without question).

Luckily, I had the chance to interview the author.  Not surprisingly, her answers are quite long and illuminating.

Welcome Emily!

What is your favorite scene in the book?

There's a scene fairly early in the novel with Cam and Irene at the Custer County Fair and it was one that I wrote early on in the drafting process, when I was still figuring out these characters, this novel, and I remember thinking, this one does what it needs to do. You know? That the mood and sentiment, the voice, all of it was working. A few lines from it are featured in the book trailer, actually--so you know it's a fave of mine. But, I don't know, it's so hard to pick, right? I would assume it would be hard for any novelist. There's also a scene between Cam and Coley, out at Coley's family's ranch, during Bucking Horse Sale, that I think does just what it's supposed to in terms of establishing attraction and longing and adolescent awkwardness, all of those things at once. So, I'll say those two.

What is your favorite line in the book?
Well geeze: that's like asking someone to choose just one of their favorite children. It's a horrible, horrible wretched thing. Lucky for me, I guess, my sentences are sometimes very long, so what I've tried to do here is pick one that gets at several of the themes explored throughout the novel. However, I would never call it my favorite, it's just one that I like. From the bottom of page 178:

We lay flat on our backs, our feet planted and our knees in the air, the just-setting sun coloring the remaining clouds in plum and navy with Pepto Bismol-pink underbellies and the sky behind them every candy-colored shade of orange, from circus peanut to sugared jelly slice.

I agree - there were so many you could have chosen. What setting was most fun to write?
I think that sense of place is so crucial to Cameron's experience--and thus to the novel--that it's hard for me to really think of setting without thinking of Montana as a whole, and specifically of eastern Montana, which has large stretches of badlands--strange sandstone rock outcroppings and tumbleweed and juniper bushes--it's a very memorable landscape. And certainly the small(ish) ranching town of Miles City (a fictionalized version of the very town I grew up in) was fun, too--the street dance scene and the scenes at Scanlan Lake and the movie theater, the county fair. But the one specific locale that comes to mind is the abandoned hospital--Holy Rosary. This is a location, a setting, I pulled right out of my own adolescence and built from. The old hospital in Miles City really did sit abandoned for a number of years before they renovated part of it and tore down the rest and it was, just as in the novel, an incredibly appealing place to break into and cause mischief if you were a teenager. This is a photo of what the courtyard and old section looked like before they did major renovations and landscaping in recent years. 

Spooky! Who is your favorite supporting character - one you could see getting a spin-off book - and why? I personally would love to read more about Irene, Jaime, Jane Fonda and Adam.
 Well, my "favorite" supporting character and the one I could see getting a spin-off novel aren't necessarily one in the same. I think my favorite supporting character is probably Grandma Post, but I don't think I'd have either the interest in or ability to write an entire book about her life, at least not at her present age; maybe the the younger version of her character, but not as is.

Um, spin-off, spin-off, let's see. I think it's a tie between Irene Klauson and Margot Keenan--the longtime friend of Cam's mother who comes to visit Cam in Miles City and then is in contact with her a few other times throughout the novel. I wouldn't have necessarily said Irene, initially, but I was discussing this question with my wife and she was saying how she'd like to read about Irene's adventures in boarding school, her future without Cam and without Miles City, and all of that did sound like excellent material to explore. And as for Margot: I love Margot. She's really a relatively minor character in this version of the novel, but I could easily see myself devoting a whole book to her. In fact, in one of the early drafts of The Miseducation of Cameron Post--one of the much, much longer drafts, we're talking 800+ pages--Margot does return to Cam's world and there are several scenes with the two of them and also some other characters that never even made it into this version. Margot has a past, no question, and that cool job with the sportswear company. Yeah, I'd like to follow her around for awhile, no question.

What has been your favorite part of your publishing journey so far?
Oh gosh: so many things. It's been such fun working with the team at Balzer + Bray, especially my fantastic editor, Alessandra Balzer. And seeing the cover for the first time was incredible, because it was just so perfect--and it's certainly something you worry, or at least wonder, about. I did, anyway. Will I like it? What if I don't? Will it "work" for my book? I remember that it was sent to me and I had to download it onto my phone and wait for it to open, section by section, because I was standing in a hotel room in D.C. at a conference. And it was such a great moment to have it load fully and to just love it. I also had a great time working with a local RI filmmaker--Trevor Holden, nicest guy ever--on the book trailer, which I'm very proud of. But, you know, the reactions of so many readers thus far has just been incredibly meaningful, too. It's so touching when someone who has read and liked your book takes the time to shoot you an email or post a blog or even tweet you, whatever, it's really wonderful every single time that happens. So that's been pretty darned fantastic.

Thanks Emily!


THE MISEDUCATION OF CAMERON POST comes out on Feb 7, 2012. Watch the trailer, visit Emily's website, and add it to Goodreads.

FTC disclosure: I received a review copy from the publisher.


Sarah said...

I ordered this for my library. I admit, I'm a tad wary just because you mentioned there's a lot of drug and alcohol use, sex, as I live in a very conservative community. But given there aren't enough stories featuring lesbian characters I just have to have it for my collection.

Zibilee said...

Oh, this book does sound interesting, and rather complex emotionally, which is something that I really adore. I am off to see where I can grab a copy and will have to let you know what I think. It sounds like it might be the perfect read for someone I know, and for myself as well. Thanks for the spotlight, Lenore!

Unknown said...

I was not sure if I wanted to read this book, but 400+ pages where you cannot imagine any part of it being cut - that is one hefty recommendation you got there! :) Consider me lined up for a copy when it comes out!