Tuesday, February 23, 2021

John R. Cammidge Interview - She Wore a Yellow Dress

Photo Content from John R. Cammidge

John R. Cammidge was born in York, England and has lived in Marin County, California for most of the time since 1979. He is a retired Human Resources executive with two married children and four grandchildren. His life-time interest has been birding, first as an egg-collector and then as a birdwatcher. He was a contributor to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds during the early 1960s and a frequent visitor to Spurn Point Bird Observatory in Yorkshire, England.

His career in Human Resources has taught him to understand people, his passion for birdwatching continues to inspire him, and he is a great believer in women's rights and safeguards in the workplace based on his professional experiences. All are apparent in She Wore a Yellow Dress.
He has previously published Abandoned in Berlin, a true story of investigation into what happened to a Berlin property seized from a Jewish family during the 1930s. His author website is johnrcammidge.com


Where were you born and where do you call home?
I was born in York, England during 1944 and brought up on a remote farm without public utilities. The person I called father was not my biological parent and my upbringing proved rough and tough. I spent most of my spare time away from people birdwatching. Miraculously I attended university, and after graduating with a degree in Geology and Geography in July 1966, I escaped to live near London with a wife from Manchester. My life transformed, as did my writing skills. After 12 years in Industrial Relations with Ford of Britain, my new employer, Bank of America, moved me to California during August 1979, and I have lived here virtually ever since. Home is San Francisco.

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
Unsolicited comments from people I know about my latest book, She Wore a Yellow Dress. One stated “I can’t wait to be reminded of your wife; she was such a lovely person”. Jean-Louise in the novel is based on my wife who died of cancer in 2010. Another said “what a wonderful way to honor your love”. Finally, a lifetime friend in England thanked me for stirring up happy memories. “We need them these days” he added.

What inspired you to pen your first novel?
This is difficult and complex question. The motivation to write occurred when my mother shared with me during her early 80s in 2007 the circumstances under which I was born. “I was assaulted by the lodger living with my parents” she told me, “at a time when I was unmarried and just 20 years old”. “You are the result of that assault. Listening to the playing of Ave Maria as you were being born was my reason for wanting to keep you”. She was very religious. She told me the assailant disappeared shortly after the assault and she never saw him again; he was not considered at fault because of the importance of his job, constructing a new bomber airfield in readiness for the D-day invasion of Europe. Once I investigated my father after my mother died I decided to write the novel that is currently titled Unplanned, to describe both sides of the family. Writing it in turn made me curious about how my life had radically altered as a result of attending Hull University and marrying Jean-Louise. So I moved on to narrate She Wore a Yellow Dress.

Tell us your latest news.
My latest book is published (She Wore a Yellow Dress), the novel is carried on local bookstore shelves, early reviews are good, my university town (Hull in England) has published a story about me in its newspaper, I resumed birdwatching after 40 years of neglect (helped by COVID being birder- friendly), and I live in a perpetual state of being contentedly satisfied.

Can you tell us when you started SHE WORE A YELLOW DRESS, how that came about?
After completing my debut novel Unplanned, I wanted to explore my early adulthood and understand why my career in Human Resources had been so successful. I started 6 years ago. The project gave me the opportunity to reconnect in spirit with my deceased wife. At first the story focused on my career, then it expanded to a coming-of-age love story built around my wife Jean-Louise (real name Lynne), and most recently has incorporated my passion for birdwatching. While it is very much a memoir, I switched its content to become auto-fiction (fictionalized autobiography) because of my periodic failure of memory, a desire not to offend family and friends, and to make the narrative cogent and understandable. It is a love story set in Britain during the 1960s and 1970s.

What do you hope for readers to be thinking when they read your novel?
That while life can be difficult, virtually anyone can be successful if they are determined enough, persistent, care about people and accept hard work.

What part of John and Jean-Louise did you enjoy writing the most?
For John, it was his relationships with early girlfriends and for Jean-Louise it was articulating her opinions towards John at different points in their relationship.

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
I would introduce John to Tara Westover and her book Educated to discuss different ways of escaping poverty and a deprived childhood, and how important other people are in enabling success.

What was the single worst distraction that kept you from writing this book?
Friends calling me on the telephone when either I was in the midst of a piece of research or redrafting a particularly difficult paragraph.

  • I was a goalkeeper at school; I lost our first game at primary school 10 nil but for my last one at high school, when I kept goal for the prefects in charge, we beat the school’s first eleven 3.2.
  • From personal experiences, I don’t get drunk on either cider or port.
  • A sense of humor is a wonderful fixer of conflict at home.
  • Careers are important but so is home life.
  • In addition to birdwatching, I cycled long distances to escape family conditions as a child.
  • I signed up for the chorus of the opera, Pirates of Penzance, to meet girls from the nearby all-female school one Christmas.
  • I realized how self-centered I had become when the Aberfan colliery tip disaster occurred on October 28, 1966 killing 116 children and 28 adults.
  • Cricket as a bowler was my primary sport until I was told that my physical attributes limited my chances of success (short arms, short fingers).
  • I am left a left-handed writer because I almost amputated my right index finger when two years old by inserting it into the hole of a missing handle on my toilet potty.
  • If you enjoy Indian food, I can prepare it spicy.
Your journey to publication
How did I ever get here? An arduous journey. You must be relentless, and as a debut author, expect to self-publish; why not, the world deserves to see your script:
  • First the writing skills; practice, read other novels, join a writers club.
  • Next was development editing; vital but disheartening; all about jargon, door in (go deeper in the narrative), TMI (too much information), RX (add character’s reaction to what just happened, etc.
  • Family and friends react from polite optimism to condemnation that you dare to publish that family incident. Maybe you also need some advance copy reviews from strangers?
  • Book cover design; essential and must communicate the content of the novel.
  • The difficulty of writing in English English when the book is about Britain, and you speak American English. There are different words, phrases, grammar and punctuation.
  • Finding a qualified copy editor to correct your grammar, spelling and punctuation.
  • Contacting selected agents, developing an elevator pitch, preparing a query letter, novel synopsis, and book extracts. Expect to hear that you are not commercial enough; no history of success and the content is not contemporary or newsworthy. Accept defeat unselfishly.
  • You persevere; you look for a means to self-publish and distribute the novel. Do you also do audio and hardback versions of your book or just produce the e-book and maybe a soft cover print?
  • You find the cost of off-set printing, the restrictions on book price for the novel, and the 40% to 55% that book stores will take, causes you to lose money every time you sell a copy. You decide whether or not to rely on direct sales and e-book publishing.
  • Don’t forget the author website that needs your investment if people are going to discover who you are.
  • And finally, how in the world do you market your product. If the readers have not heard about you, they are hardly likely to read your novel. Hallelujah for bloggers, reviewers and the media.
  • Also, expect to hear from scores of businesses that can advertise your book online, republish it cheaper, produce videos to advertise your story, place the novel in book exhibitions and novel award competitions, turn it into a blockbuster movie or make your website more public, all of these for a modest fee!
  • And now we are published, let’s do it all over again, if we can afford it!
What is something you think everyone should do at least once in their lives?
Get up and move to somewhere different to gain new perspectives and develop their empathy skills.

Best date you've ever had?
With a girl I was serious about, who agreed to a day’s outing that involved strenuous hiking and birdwatching; this was my dream girlfriend, or so I thought. When I collected her, she had chosen to bring her closest friend with her and I found myself chaperoning two of the most attractive teenage girls I have ever met.

If you could go back in time to one point in your life, where would you go?
Probably go back to birdwatching as a young child. It was a delightful time connecting with nature and discovering new species of bird.

What are 4 things you never leave home without?
· Telephone
· Key finder
· Suitable clothes for the weather
· Something to read

First Heartbreak?
Waiting for a girlfriend outside a movie theatre, but she never showed. Then having to decide whether to watch the movie and pretend the date happened or return home early and risk encountering embarrassing questions.

Tell me something about you that most people don't know.
A closely kept secret is my activities as a petty thief during my childhood. These include taking chocolate bars from grocery stores, packs of Lucky Strike cigarettes from the supplies maintained by my grandmother’s American lodger, and girly magazines from a newsagent that I sold to my school chums. Only once was my dishonesty discovered. My mother found a Scalexctric toy I had smuggled out of a shop and made me take it back and apologize to the shopkeeper for the “mistake”.

If you had to go back in time and change one thing, if you HAD to, even if you had “no regrets” what would it be?
I would go back to the time of my graduation at university. I regret not accepting the research opportunity in micropaleontology offered to me by the Geology Department. With recent experiences working at Stanford University and the University of California, the opportunity to create knowledge rather than just acquire it or transfer it fascinates me.

A spark is lit on Bonfire Night in Northern England in 1965, but for John and Jean-Louise the fireworks continue to explode for decades to come. An awkward Yorkshire farm boy with few prospects and a sophisticated town girl from Manchester, John and Jean-Louise blossom, grow - both together and apart - and find ways to compromise in this coming-of-age story that goes beyond the wedding where the curtain often drops. She Wore a Yellow Dress by John R. Cammidge [February 16, 2021, Gatekeeper Press] is at once nostalgic and contemporary in the themes it explores so deftly. An autobiographical streak runs throughout that lends authenticity and depth of detail

You can purchase She Wore a Yellow Dress at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you JOHN R. CAMMIDGE for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of She Wore a Yellow Dress by John Cammidge.