Author, award-winning real estate agent, and fourth generation San Antonio resident Camille Di Maio will make an appearance at The Twig Book Shop at the Pearl on Saturday, June 18 from 11 a.m.-1 p.m., to sign and discuss her new book, The Memory of Us.
Di Maio’s appearance will coincide with the popular Pearl Farmers Market, and copies of her book will be available for purchase.
Although Di Maio has been a realtor for almost 10 years, her book has nothing to do with real estate.
The Memory of Us is a historical fiction novel set in pre-World War II England, and follows the life of young Julianne Westcott as she navigates family secrets, her parent’s expectations, a busy social calendar, and a new love that challenges her life as she knows it.
While Di Maio finds joy in assisting people find their dream home, she also enjoys the entire writing process. It took six years, from start to finish, for The Memory of Us to get published.
For Di Maio, the dream of writing came before real estate; ever since she was 12 years old, Di Maio knew she wanted to write a novel but “just took a while to do it,” she said.
“I’ve always been a voracious reader, so my favorite part about writing and getting published has been seeing how the whole process works,” Di Maio said. “Knowing how difficult it is to publish now makes me appreciate everything I read all the more.”
When she is not reading, writing, or buying and selling homes with her husband, Di Maio is homeschooling her four children and traveling. She has been to four continents, and has lived in Texas, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and California. But even after all of the places she has lived in and visited, Di Maio and her husband decided to make San Antonio their home, at least for now.
“Moving from San Francisco to San Antonio came at a time when our first two children were young, and we needed to decide where to raise them,” Di Maio said. “San Antonio had the right combination of family and budget friendliness to make it work for us.”
And of course, like many of the places Di Maio has been to, San Antonio and its sites have certainly affected her writing.
“There are some beautiful places to write here,” Di Maio said. “I love sitting in the riverside amphitheater at the Pearl Brewery, and also having a salted caramel cupcake at Bird Bakery. These unique San Antonio spots, as well as others, are so inspiring to me.”
The Memory of Us, however, is not set in San Antonio, Texas, or the United States. Drawing inspiration from the Beatles’ song Eleanor Rigby, Di Maio wanted to write about the lonely priest and the lonely woman mentioned in the song, but when they were younger, bringing her to settle on England during WWII, which she believes to be a fascinating and dramatic time to research. Ultimately, the novel is not about the song, but there are certain similarities, she said.
“I had heard (the song) many times before, but it struck me differently…and a bunch of questions came to mind,” Di Maio said. “Who was Eleanor? Who was Father McKenzie? What if they knew each other and had a history? The song doesn’t tell you too much, but I started imagining the scenario.”
When Paul McCartney was at The Tobin Center for the Performing Arts in 2014, Di Maio had the opportunity to give him a copy of her manuscript.
“He actually brought it on stage and started reading it to the audience,” she said.
Despite everything she has going on – a career in real estate, a husband, family, friends, and travel – Di Maio does not plan to stop at one book, and has plenty of encouragement behind her.
“My husband is so supportive on all fronts,” Di Maio added. “He helps me make time for the writing since he knows that it is my dream.”
Of course, getting published was not a quick or easy process, “it can be frustrating to get rejections from agents, and there are many times when it’s tempting to quit,” she said.
The author didn’t want to self-publish and opted to stick with the traditional route. She sent out several rounds of queries to literary agents, and her 42nd query resulted in a request for the first 50 pages of the book, and eventually, the entire manuscript.
“When (the agent) called just a few days later with an enthusiastic offer of representation, it was one of the best days of my life,” Di Maio said. “I kept improving it and just decided that I wasn’t going to give up. Hard work and dedication pay off, and I am happy to encourage anyone to do that, no matter what their field.”
And that is primarily the message she wants to send out to other aspiring writers.
“If your goal is to publish, you will face lots of rejection – it’s part of the gig – but just endure, and always be willing to be critical enough of your own work to see why it might have been rejected,” she said, “then, hone your craft, taking seminars and joining critique groups, knowing that everything is about making your writing better.”
Her second novel, Before the Rain Falls, is scheduled for publication on May 2, 2017. This one will be set in Texas, but will also fall under historical fiction, alternating between the 1940s and the present day.
“I loved delving in to a particular part of our state’s history and bringing my love for Texas to the page,” Di Maio said.
Having read The Memories of Us myself, I recommend it to any lover of historical fiction, particularly love stories set in WWII England.
Top image: Local author Camille Di Maio. Photo courtesy of Camille Di Maio.