Camille Di Maio is the author of The Beautiful Strangers, The Memory of Us, Before the Rain Falls and The Way of Beauty. She left an award-winning real estate career in San Antonio to become a full-time writer. Along with her husband of twenty-one years, she enjoys raising their four children. She has a bucket list that is never-ending, and uses her adventures to inspire her writing.
The Beautiful Strangers by Camille Di Maio is a captivating historical fiction novel full of Old Hollywood, romance and mystery. There’s even a supernatural element, too. But at the heart of the novel is a woman trying to find her place in the world. It’s a perfect read for book clubs! (Be sure to check out my review and discussion questions).
Get to know Camille with the below Q&A where she talks favorite novels, balancing fact and fiction, key takeaways from The Beautiful Strangers, sneak peek into her next novel and much more!
Q: What are some of your favorite novels?
Q: When did you know you wanted to become an author?
I spent a lot of recess time in my school library and became fascinated with not only the books, but the authors who had their names on them. They were my saviors from bullies – people who understood me. I wanted to be one of them. I think that dream took shape around the age of twelve.
Q: What inspired you to write The Beautiful Strangers?
I love San Diego and Coronado. My husband went to Marine Corps boot camp in the area. But a few years ago, I was visiting for the Romance Writers of America conference, making it the first time I was there as a writer. It was my husband who suggested that the Hotel Del Coronado would be a great setting for a book. I already knew about the filming of Some Like It Hot. But when I discovered the ghost story of 1892, I was equally fascinated. I set out to write a novel that could connect these two events, sixty years apart.
Q: From the making of Some Like it Hot and the interactions with Marilyn Monroe plus the amazing setting at the Hotel del Coronado – I just loved all the historical details of this novel! What was your research process like for this book?
I read the inquest of Kate Morgan’s death as well as other books about her. I read several books about the history of the hotel and others about the filming of the movie. I also learned a great deal from Tony Curtis’ memoir about working on that set.
How do you find the right balance between fact and fiction when you’re writing historical fiction?
That is always a dilemma! Whenever possible, I adhere to the facts – I want my readers to trust that what they’re reading is also accurately informing them. However, sometimes, details – like exact dates, weather, etc. do not fit exactly how I need it for the story to be smooth. So I’ll fudge that in favor of the essence of the story. Other times – as in the current manuscript I’m working on – there are big holes between fact A and fact B and I need to create a fictional bridge between them. But even then, I make sure that what I create would be likely to happen given what I know about the characters. And finally, I will wrap up any bigger inconsistencies in my authors notes at the end – and I’ll explain to my readers why I made the choices I did.
Q: What do you hope are some of the key takeaways regarding this book?
The theme that emerged from this book is that what appears to be glamorous usually isn’t. And that what is real is often better than what we imagined. On a big scale, this book tells the story of a girl with Hollywood dreams discovering that all that glitters isn’t gold. But she also learns that love is something more than just a feeling or a romance – real love has more substance than what the entertainment field tells us.
Q: Can you give any hints regarding your next book?
I’ve completed my fifth book and I’m working on edits for it. The working title is The First Emma. It is inspired by the real-life story of a woman who took over her husband’s brewery after his murder, only to have Prohibition hit shortly after. Her ingenuity led her to become the only brewer in the south that stayed in business during that difficult time. There are many wonderful elements to it – affairs (her husband had two mistresses, also named Emma), murder, business, forebearance, imagination, romance, etc.
Q: Which books are you currently reading and what’s on your to be read (TBR) list?
Click here to buy The Beautiful Strangers on Amazon.