CAMILLE AUBRAY is a former Edward Albee Foundation Fellowship winner and writer-in-residence at the Karolyi Foundation in the South of France. Aubray studied writing with her mentor Margaret Atwood at Humber College in Toronto, and was a finalist for the Pushcart Press Editors’ Book Award and the Eugene O’Neill National Playwrights Conference.
Name: Camille Aubray
Literary agent: Susan Golomb of Writers House
Book title: The Godmothers
Publisher: HarperCollins/William Morrow
Release date: June 15, 2021
Genre/category: General Fiction, Historical Fiction
Previous titles: Cooking for Picasso
Elevator pitch for the book: The Godmothers is an irresistible, suspenseful novel about four remarkable women from very different backgrounds who are united by marriage in an elegant, prosperous Italian family, and then must take charge of the family’s business when their husbands are forced to leave them during World War II.
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What prompted you to write this book?
Having worked in television in Manhattan, I fell in love with the city and its locales rich with history—the Copacabana, Bergdorf Goodman’s, Balducci’s Market, the Majestic apartments. I was particularly entranced by that special period of the 1930s to the 1950s, when the city went from the Great Depression to great prosperity. With The Godmothers, I also wanted to write about four very different women, each with her own devastating secret, who become sisters-in-law. How do they learn to pull together to protect their family from the notorious Five Families of gangsters?
How long did it take to go from idea to publication?
It took about a year and a half of actual writing, overlapping with research. But for me, a novel begins even earlier than that, when I start gathering my impressions, bits of dialogue, characters onto little scraps of paper and Post-It notes. I write things down in the middle of the night sometimes. My advice to new writers is, make sure you write it down! You think you’ll remember those gems in the morning, but you probably won’t.
Were there any surprises or learning moments in the publishing process for this title?
It is such a delight to see the various responses you get in the process of publishing—first with your agent and your editor, then the art department for the cover, and later with publicity and marketing. These are your very first readers, and when they tell you things that they see and feel about your novel, it’s so wonderfully enlightening! Your “message in a bottle” has been received and understood, and it gives you back a deeper sense of your own characters.
Were there any surprises in the writing process for this book?
Writing The Godmothers was like having a navigating system in a car: I knew what the destination was, and I’d mapped out the roads that could take me there, but once I started my journey, my instincts were like warning systems—Don’t go there, because there’s too much traffic that way; make this turn instead, because even if it curves and twists, it’ll get you where you want to go, in a better way.
What do you hope readers will get out of your book?
I hope that people will understand the particular strength of women when they decide to team up. My heroines don’t have to be loners who karate-chop their way through life to become “empowered.” Their power comes from their ability to see past their own differences and grudges, to reach out, not only to one another but to the world at large. They seek harmony, cooperation, fair play. Together, they find a way to make it happen.
If you could share one piece of advice with other authors, what would it be?
Do your best to understand the nuances of human nature. You have to see past your own frame of reference. Really try to imagine how others think, feel, experience life. Don’t get too autobiographical—reach for the universal in a drop of human existence. You just may find out that there are lots of other hearts that pulse to the same beat as yours.
Whether history is a backdrop to your story or the focus of the story itself, this workshop will provide you with the tools to find the facts you need, organize the data in a functional manner, and merge that data seamlessly into your novel.