Author Spotlight: Camille DeAngelis talks The Boy From Tomorrow
Author photo credit: Anne Weil
Today I'm so pleased to be hosting Camille DeAngelis on the blog! Camille is a seasoned author, but The Boy From Tomorrow is her middle grade debut. It's the supernatural tale of two twelve-year-olds who meet through a handpainted spirit board-----Josie in 1915, and Alec in 2015-----and Kirkus calls the tale 'spellbinding'.
As a writer of fiction and nonfiction, Camille is the author of several novels for adults—each of them as full of impossible things as The Boy From Tomorrow—as well as a travel guide to Ireland and a book of nonfiction called Life Without Envy: Ego Management for Creative People. Her young adult novel Bones & All won an Alex Award from the American Library Association in 2016. Camille is a graduate of New York University (B.A. in Fine Arts, minor in Irish Studies, 2002) and the National University of Ireland, Galway (M.A. in Writing, 2005), and currently resides in New England.
About the Book:
Josie and Alec both live at 444 Sparrow Street. They sleep in the same room, but they’ve never laid eyes on each other. They are twelve years old but a hundred years apart.
The children meet through a handpainted spirit board—Josie in 1915, Alec in 2015—and form a friendship across the century that separates them. But a chain of events leaves Josie and her little sister Cass trapped in the house and afraid for their safety, and Alec must find out what’s going to happen to them. Can he help them change their future when it’s already past?
The Boy from Tomorrow is a tribute to classic English fantasy novels like Tom’s Midnight Garden and A Traveller in Time. Through their impossible friendship, Alec and Josie learn that life can offer only what they ask of it.
And now, here's my chat with Camille!
Hi, Camille! Welcome and congrats on The Boy From Tomorrow. Can you tell us a little about the story and what inspired you to write it?
Thanks for having me, Megan! Out of everything I’ve written so far, this novel is the dearest to my heart, so I’m really excited to tell you about it. Josie and Alec both live at 444 Sparrow Street, but they’ve never laid eyes on each other. The children meet through a handpainted spirit board—Josie in 1915, Alec in 2015—and form a friendship across the century that separates them. We’ve all daydreamed about what it would be like to live in a different time, and it’s a natural human preoccupation to wonder what’s going to happen to us in the future. And because people have always daydreamed along these lines, it makes sense to look at an old photograph and see not someone who is dead and buried, but someone with feelings and desires that were just as real as my own. That’s the head and heartspace I inhabit as a storyteller, so you might say The Boy From Tomorrow is a book that wanted me to write it.
What is your favorite thing about Josie and Alec’s friendship?
I’ve come to believe that the most critical ingredient of a deeply rewarding long-term friendship is reciprocity: you have to love your friend as much as your friend loves you, you have to want what’s in your friend’s best interest even if that means seeing less of them (or saying goodbye for a long time), and you have to articulate the enthusiasm you feel. Josie and Alec show up for each other (in a manner of speaking!), and they don’t hesitate to tell each other just how much they mean to one another. In our culture, boys Alec’s age usually aren’t encouraged to be so candid (and therefore vulnerable) in their friendships, but because his communication with Josie has to be kept secret (because no one would believe them!), he’s able to express himself to her quite freely. They’re helping each other to become braver, more honest versions of themselves.
From a craft standpoint, did plotting (and merging) the two different timelines in The Boy From Tomorrow pose any difficulties, and if so, how did you navigate them?
Josie and Alec’s respective character arcs are pretty neatly aligned—they’re both growing to the point that they can act in spite of their fear and uncertainty, thereby gaining greater agency over their lives—but it definitely took some finessing here and there to position important scenes so they felt timely and proportional in relation to the alternate timeline. But that’s the kind of challenge that makes revision so enjoyable!
Children see the world through a different lens than adults. What are your tips for writing an authentic middle grade POV?
As writers for children, I believe we have to stay very closely acquainted with the people we used to be—to recall exactly how we felt and what we were thinking at each stage of childhood. If we forget, we lose that authenticity. So in this case, apart from wanting to write a spooky story that felt comfortingly old-fashioned (which is what Tom’s Midnight Garden had been for me in fourth grade), I drew on my own childhood frustrations to shape my characters and their motivations. My parents had had a very messy divorce, and I always felt like they were putting me and my sister in awkward situations—I very clearly remember how desperately I wanted to grow up and finally be able to “call my own shots.” I suspect that channeled frustration is a big part of why The Boy From Tomorrow has been so warmly reviewed. Everyone knows what it’s like to want to feel in control of your own life!
Of course, I also think we need to pay close attention to what middle-schoolers are reading and listening to, the games and sports they play, and how they choose to express themselves. I’ve been rereading a lot of middle-grade novels that were first published in the ‘80s and early ‘90s, and I’m eager to hear if my 11-year-old niece would identify with those characters as closely as I do.
What part of the writing process do you find most challenging and how do you tackle it?
I have no shortage of ideas—I seriously have enough book projects to keep me busy for the next twenty years—but some mornings I feel overwhelmed and it’s hard to get started. When that happens, I try to “find a way in”—to warm up with something that doesn’t feel so intimidating. Journaling, a blog post or newsletter, a book project in its very early stages—or this Q&A!
What has been your most rewarding experience as an author?
Experiencing “flow” (that glowy, blissful state in which I truly feel as if I am channeling some sort of divine energy) is my favorite part of being a writer, but as an author it’s definitely been connecting with readers on a profound level—not just “hey, I loved your book!” but “let me tell you exactly how your book changed my life.” And in turn these readers have changed my life for the better; I have many warm, loving, and supremely talented friends who started out as readers who took the time to drop me a line or @ me on Twitter.
What are you reading, watching, or otherwise currently infatuated with?
You might say these are “evergreen” obsessions for me, but I love to settle in for the evening with my knitting and Jim Harold’s Campfire—a call-in podcast with all kinds of true stories of the supernatural. As for reading material, Henry Lien’s Peasprout Chen: Future Legend of Skate and Sword is my latest middle-grade obsession—that book has the most complete and astonishing worldbuilding of any novel I think I’ve ever read. I have to admit, though, that I’m reading more for research lately, since I’m working on a book about veganism and creativity. I have books by Carol Adams, Jonathan Balcombe, and Aph Ko on my nightstand at the moment.
And finally, what’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned so far in your publishing career?
I actually wrote a whole book in answer to this question! It’s called Life Without Envy: Ego Management for Creative People, and the crux is this: the sooner you evolve out of wanting to “prove yourself” into making a contribution—to the culture, yes, and to building a kinder human society—the happier and more productive you will be.
*For more information on (or to purchase) Life Without Envy: Ego Management for Creative People, click here.
Many thanks go out to Camille for taking the time to tell us more about The Boy From Tomorrow, as well as sharing some valuable tips on writing from a middle grade point of view. Be sure to add Camille's middle grade debut your Goodreads list, or (better yet!) order your copy RIGHT NOW from retail sites such as Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. Or you can always request it at your library, or local independent bookstore!
And, as always,