An Interview with Michelle Cameron, Author of Beyond the Ghetto Gates 

Beyond the Ghetto Gates  is Silver medal winner for Historical Fiction, The Independent Publisher Book Awards (IPPYs)

“A gripping peek into a bygone Italy and an astute look at the era’s prejudice.” Kirkus Review

What is your book about?

Beyond the Ghetto Gates (She Writes Press, 2020) is a historical novel that takes place during the young General Bonaparte’s military campaign in Italy in 1796-7. When Napoleon’s French troops occupy the Italian port city of Ancona, freeing the city’s Jews from their repressive ghetto, two very different cultures collide. Mirelle, a young Jewish maiden, must choose between her duty — an arranged marriage to a wealthy Jewish merchant — and her love for a dashing French Catholic soldier. Meanwhile, Francesca, a devout Catholic, must decide if she will honor her marriage vows to an abusive and murderous husband when he enmeshes their family in the theft of a miracle portrait of the Madonna.

Can you tell us about your path to publication?

My path to publication was sadly typical of many writers these days, particularly those who published with the Big Five previously. My erstwhile agent, who loved the novel and worked hard to get it into the best possible shape, kept being told that publishers were only interested in “contemporary historicals” – which is why the front tables in bookstores are crowded with World War II historical novels. A good friend encouraged me to check out the hybrid She Writes Press, and I was thrilled when they accepted the book as “ready for publication” – though I did avail myself of their editorial expertise. My experience with them has been different from when I published with Simon & Schuster’s Pocket Books – I’ve been much more involved in cover design, for instance, as well as some of the backend marketing data. I must say I’ve enjoyed being part of the process!

Where were you when you heard your book tour and/or launch party was cancelled and what did you do?

This wasn’t a single moment of despair, since my book tour extends for three months, from April-June. Because of the Jewish content in my novel, a great deal of that is visiting local synagogues – which was a successful part of promotion with my last novel. I was so proud of having more than 25 events scheduled in that three month period!

My publicist advised me to keep the dates on my website, since no one knows how long this crisis will last. But I did put up a message online that I was expecting postponements and cancelations, so I wouldn’t look utterly foolish. I noted that I was prepared to reschedule and offered to visit groups virtually via Zoom interface, allowing me to visit participants in the safety of their own homes.

The messages about holding off or cancelling are coming in as a slow trickle, with each one a pang to the heart.

Are you and your publisher doing anything special/ different instead of a book tour to promote your novel? 


I have been heartened by so many authors and others reaching out and proposing interviews, blog posts, and videos – you included! In addition to pivoting to social media, I also held a Zoom get-together rather than the party I’d planned to host at home on my launch date, to thank those special folks who contributed in some way to the novel’s publication. I did have the forethought to order some book plates and will be announcing that anyone who posts a photo of themselves with the book can request that I mail them one. So there will be some signed copies out there!

Do you have any quirky writing rituals? 

Does coffee count? Because there’s no writing without it. I do my best writing in my study, surrounded by my research books, with my document set to page width – because I’m getting old and my eyesight is not what it used to be! (Not sure if that’s quirky or just old…) 

What was the hardest thing you had to cut from your book, your favorite Dead Darling?


Oh, there were so many! She Writes Press has a strict limit of 120,000 words, including front and back matter, and my initial manuscript clocked in at 135,000. So I did a ton of cutting, which I describe in a blog post, “Making Every Word Count.”

But the one I agonized over the most was when I described the French Revolutionary calendar. I did a lot of research on the subject, making sure I got the complexities right – and hated excising it! But I have always had simple criteria by which I judge any “darling” – does it add to characterization or plot, or does it help paint the world? While this passage did help with my world-building, it wasn’t essential to it. So out it went.

Where can we buy your book?

Please DO support indie booksellers at this time – and always! They can easily order a copy. In addition:

IndieBound

B&N

Indigo

Amazon Kindle

Amazon Paperback

BAM!

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