Alison DeCamp – a fan of longhand writing, independent bookstores and creator of hero Stanley Slater.
Like Stan, Alison DeCamp grew up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Her family history consists of stories of life in lumber camps and old scrapbooks. A graduate of Michigan State University, Alison is a former middle and high school language arts teacher. She now works at Between the Covers, a bookstore in Harbor Springs, Michigan, and spends the rest of her time with her husband and teenage children. My Near-Death Adventures (99% True!) is her first novel.
How did you become a writer?
I think my first brush with fame was when I was published in Cricket magazine. I was 10 and wrote them a letter relating how I was going to be a farmer, artist, vet, and football player when I grew up. Also, I would own a deodorized skunk. I was over the moon to see my name in print. I, however, would not make a very good fortuneteller.
How do you write? What is your process?
While I love loopy cursive and exact printing on a page, 99% of the time I’m on my computer tapping the keys. I outline a book, begin each day by taking 5 – 10 minutes to jot down where I want my writing to go during that session, I might outline the book again (it’s not unusual for a book to have 3 to 6 different outlines), and then I just try to sit down and write. That’s the hardest part.
Who are your favorite authors?
I love J.K. Rowling and Suzanne Collins, simply because of the worlds they created and the strength of their imaginations. I’m also a fan of Anne Lamott (but only her nonfiction) and David Sedaris. I wish I could sound more high-brow, but I’m not.
What authors have inspired you?
Lois Lowry, but not just The Giver (although I’m in awe of that book), I adored The Willoughbys. Kate DiCamillo, and Edward Eager (these are all children’s writers, of course). I also have always loved Charles Dickens’s The Magic Fishbone and Captain Braveheart.
What books are on your bedside table?
Right now I am reading Kate Atkinson’s Behind the Scenes at the Museum. After that I will read The Game of Love and Death (available 4/15) and The Keepers: The Box and the Dragonfly (available 3/15).
What writing projects do you have planned next?
I’m in the process of revising my second book, tentatively called I Almost Died Again (With a Teaspoon of Truth). It’s mostly the same characters with a couple more thrown in.
What advice do you have for young writers?
Write. Write, write, write. No one cares how old you are if you can write well, and writing is a craft, meaning practice makes you better. Also, have people you trust give you feedback and accept it graciously. And have fun. Go places in your imagination you never thought you could imagine and constantly ask What If.
Her book information
My Near-Death Adventures (99% True!) (Hardcover $16.99, Crown Books for Young Readers/Random House) is set in 1895. Stan is on a mission to find his long-lost father in the logging camps of Michigan. And he’s embellishing all of it in his stupendous scrapbook.
There are many things that 11-year-old Stanley Slater would like to have in life, most of all, a father. But what if Stan’s missing dad isn’t “dearly departed” after all? Who better to find this absent hero/cowboy/outlaw than manly Stan himself? Unfortunately, Stan’s fending off his impossible cousin Geri, evil Granny, and Mama’s suitors like Cold-Blooded Killer Stinky Pete. If only he could join the River Drive, the most perilous adventure of all, where even a fellow’s peavey is at risk.
It’s a wild ride for Stan as he finds out about true manliness. But at least Stan has his scrapbook, full of 200 black-and-white 19th-century advertisements and photos, “augmented” with his commentary and doodles.
Stan’s tale will leave readers in stitches, but not the kind that require medical attention.
It is available at Independent booksellers (which she prefers to promote, of course), randomhouse.com, Amazon, Barnes and Noble.