Sometimes the hardest lesson you have to learn is that you can’t control everything. Sometimes you have to take a leap of faith and trust that it will all be okay in the end.
Camilla Valentini is a planner. Ever since she could write, she would sit down and compose lists of her daily to do’s, her goals, and her dreams. These lists have taken her through most of her life and served her well. She is living in the city that she loves, has a job that pays the bills or at least most of them, and has the best group of friends a girl can ask for.
However when her life gets turned upside down by a fire in her apartment building, she is left with no place to live, piles of burnt manuscripts, and more importantly only one pair of shoes! As far as she is concerned, things couldn’t get worse. Until she gets fired from her job as a copy editor. Apparently, it was a big mistake to not go on that date with the boss’s son.
Faced with some difficult decisions to make, Cami will have to take a close look at who she is and if she even likes that person. Because when it hits the fan, that is when things really start to get interesting and you can become who you were always meant to be.
Five Years After It Hit The Fan
“Damn, these lights are bright. Is it me or is it hot as balls over here?” I cannot believe that I let Mary talk me into doing this. She continues to explain to me how important it is for people to get to know me. How I need to break the fourth wall or some bullshit like that. What she never seems to understand is that I am embarrassed by some of my actions in the past and I don’t want to have to rehash everything for the world to see. My biggest fear is that I will have to lay it all out there. With Aideen interviewing me, I know that this is more of a possibility. There is no pleading the fifth today. I have the sinking suspicion that I will have to explain why I didn’t stand up for myself when I should have, what the reasons are for not thinking I was capable of love, and how I lost who I was for a period of time. Let’s not forget that I hate people staring at me. I am better than I used to be, but being in front of a camera to talk about myself is the equivalent to my kryptonite. Yet, here I am, sitting on a TV news set with twenty people staring at me, wearing more make-up on my face that I wore last Halloween, and sweat pooling in my bra. Glamorous.
“Don’t worry. You will get used to it. Just remember, this is a good thing. You agreed to do one TV interview and I agreed to let you take that vacation instead of starting your next book tour,” Mary chimes in from somewhere off stage.
“You let me take a vacation? Mary, I love you and you have been my publicist for over five years, but if you keep saying crap like that I am firing your ass and hiring Margo instead.”
“Oh please! You threaten to fire me every other week,” she says as she approaches my chair on the set. “Besides, you can’t get rid of me. I know where all the bodies are buried.” She winks.
This woman will be the death of me. No. She is going to drive me to insanity. Though, some might say I am already there. Lately my sanity is hanging on by a thread with all the projects I have going on. I am waiting for the moment when I go completely batshit crazy and run around Central Park with a cape, screaming I am Batman.
Yet no matter how much I complain, Mary Smithson is one of the best publicists/agents out there. She has been there for me from the beginning and I don’t know what I would do without her. But…and this is a big BUT. When she wants something, she holds onto it like it is the last pair of Manolos in her size at the sample sale.
She had been hounding me for months about doing this 10 Most Fascinating Women TV special. I don’t see why people want to know anything about me. My life consists of getting up, putting on my go-to writing uniform, throwing my hair in a bun, and then drinking vats of coffee while I type away at my computer.
“You know. One of these days you are going to have to show me these bodies that you are talking about. So, what is the deal? I just sit here and answer some questions?” I ask trying to concentrate on anything but the butterflies in my stomach.
“You will have a thirty- to sixty-minute session with Ms. Walsh where all questions must be answered,” chimed in a nosy production assistant listening to our conversation.
“Really. All questions, huh?” I say with a smirk. Mary just turns and walks stage left in the most dramatic oh dear lord head shake I have seen to date.
“Yes. Do you need to see the agreement you signed?” she says while never looking up once from her tablet.
“No. I get it. I just —”
Instantly the set is buzzing with people as Aideen Walsh walks in. To this day, she is still one of the most commanding women I have ever known. From her impeccable appearance, to the way that she walks into a room, Aideen knows how to work it. Today is no different. She is dressed head to toe in designer clothes. Gucci, if my memory of last year’s fashion show is correct, and her hair is perfectly styled with not a wisp out of place. I wonder how much hairspray it took to get it to look like that? I have always wanted to ask her if her red hair was natural or if it was from a bottle. However, Paula, her daughter, has had the most gorgeous auburn color to her long locks since we were kids, so it is safe to say it is au naturale.
As Aideen comes toward me, it seems like forever since I sat in her classroom in college. With a stint on a Bravo TV reality show earning her title of fan favorite, she used her popularity to get a spot on a nightly news program. It may sound crazy that this reality TV darling wanted to be on the news, but people sometimes forget that she was a professor of journalism for over ten years and before that, she spent a brief time as a correspondent in the Gulf War. Now she is the host of Walsh Takes It On and her own primetime specials.
“Cami.” Aideen hugs me. “Are you ready for this?”
“As ready as I ever will be,” I manage to croak out. Suddenly, my mouth is dry and my nerves are kicking into overdrive. What if I say something stupid? What if I reveal something I didn’t want to? What if I say something about my personal life that I don’t want people to know? Then he will be dragged into this and…Oh God…what did I agree to? What was I thinking?
As if she can hear my thoughts, Aideen sits us both down opposite each other. “You are going to be fine. Trust me.”
“Famous last words,” I say with a snicker as we both sit in quite possibly the most comfortable chairs ever.
“Okay, people. We are set to go in Five. Four. Three. Two. One. …”
“Tonight we are here with bestselling author Camilla Valentini. Many of you might know her from her debut novel, Yours, Mine, and the Truth, but in the years since that release she has penned five other novels. Two of which are set to hit the big screen within the next three years. Welcome, Camilla.”
“Thank you for having me. It is truly a great honor to be included in a list with such an amazing group of women.”
The first couple of minutes of the interview is very friendly. We talk about growing up in the Upper East Side in New York City, my parents’ and grandparents’ successes in business, and a little about my education. Then Aideen shifts into news reporter mode as she starts to ask questions about my career.
“Over the past five years you have kept the public at arm’s length.”
“Yes. I try to compartmentalize the different aspects of my life.”
“Some attribute this to you being an eccentric author that embraces your introverted nature. However, others have said that you are an elitist that is looking down on the very people that buy your books. What do you think of that?”
“I’m not looking down at anyone. I love my fans and am appreciative of every single person that has read a book I have written. The truth is that I spend a lot of time by myself or with close friends. I don’t share that much because my life is just not that interesting.”
“I am sure that others may not see it that way. You are with one of…”
I quickly cut her off. I do not want to make this about who I am dating. “I’m not the type of person that puts everything out there or wants to be seen. It took me a while even to get used to being in the public eye or having people recognize me. It is not something that I’m comfortable with at all, but I deal with it every day. Some days I do better than others. It is why I don’t like sharing too much about my personal life on social media. I share what I think people would like to hear about, but most of the time, I just concentrate on work.”
“You don’t think that people would love to see more of what your day is like?”
“Ha! I am sure that they would, but then they would be shocked. People think I have this super glamorous action-filled life of signings, events, and premieres. If they had a chance to witness my day-to-day, they’d probably be more disappointed than anything else. Most of my day is spent locked in my office staring at a computer screen while typing or talking to myself. Admittingly, I talk to myself a lot when I write and clean, but that is a completely different situation.”
“You talk to yourself?”
“Sure. I consider it good conversation with good people.”
“People? Is there more than one person in your head at any given time?”
“It depends on the day. When I write a book, the characters are always talking to me. I visualize them interacting with each other. I hear what they have to say and do my best to represent them on the page. Then once I am done, these people I have created leave my head and journey out into the world. They are inevitably a part of me. However, once I am done with the story, there are new characters that soon take their place. I realize that I sound crazy right now, but this is the only way I know how to create the worlds and people in my books.”
“Is this how you were with your debut novel, Yours, Mine, and the Truth?”
“Partially. Yours, Mine, and the Truth was started over six years ago. The process was different back then and I was different. Luckily for me, when I sat back down with the work the characters just came at me full force. They became these vivid creatures in my head that needed to get out. I owed it to them to let the world know their story.”
“Recently, this book has been optioned to become a movie and there is a lot of buzz around who will be playing the characters and if the screenplay will be true to the novel. It has to be exciting to be in the center of it all, no?”
“It is. I am thrilled that it got optioned, but it is a lot more work than I thought it would be. We started out by having people I didn’t know write the screenplay. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out as well as I would have hoped. They tried to change key parts of the book to make it more Hollywood, and I wasn’t comfortable with it at all.”
“This was around the time that the studio’s emails were hacked which lead to the leak of their emails to you about your response to the script. Some of their executives said that you should shut up and learn your place.”
“Yeah. They also called me a brat, whiny, and diva with no real talent. It was harsh to read, but honestly they can call me whatever they want. This is my book and they signed the contract granting me final approval of the screenplay. At the end of the day, this whiny brat got what she wanted.”
“So there are no hard feelings with anyone from over there?”
“No. Not that I’m happy with what took place behind closed doors and my back, but these emails came out after everything was already figured out. They had already agreed to bring me and Layla Undine Chisisi in as two of the writers.
“Layla Undine Chisisi?”
“Layla has been my editor since my first book. She feels just as strongly about the outcome as I do. I don’t think I could do it without her by my side at the writing table.”
“After all of that, is the movie moving forward with your stamp of approval?”
“Things are progressing much more to my liking now. I think that the fans of the book are going to be happy with the way that it will turn out.”
“It seems that you are a bit of a control freak when it comes to this part of your life.”
“I try not to be, but I think that old habits die hard. Especially when it comes to my words.” I laugh, knowing that she has experienced my writer’s meltdown once, twice, or fifty times during college. “I like being the one to make the decisions and having the final say. I’m having a difficult time letting go. I know that I have to allow the director and the actors to make it their own, but still…”
As the interview progresses, we touch on a few more questions and topics concerning the movies in the works. Aideen tries to pry out of me some of the casting decisions, but I am happy to say that I did not give anything up. Eventually, she changes topics a bit. “What is it like working with the notorious bad boy of publishing, Patrick Lord?”
“Working with Patrick is a lot of fun. If he believes in you, then there is no stopping how far he will go to help you get where you need to be. The team over at Patty Publishing is an eclectic group, but they have all been amazing. I have been so lucky to have the same designers, editors, and publicity people since the beginning.”
“But you do have a history with Patrick Lord, do you not?” Aideen leans forward a bit.
“Yes. We have known each other for a while. In fact, Patrick was the first person to read the book, Yours, Mine, and the Truth, after I finished.”
“Yes. I reconnected with Patrick six years after first meeting him. He was the one who gave me the original manuscript for Yours, Mine, and the Truth. I thought I had lost it.”
“Reconnected?” Aideen says, trying to see how far she can get me to go with this. It obvious, she wants more personal information and I am afraid to give it to her. Can I do this?
“Well, more like we bumped into each other at a restaurant, which started to put us back on each other’s radar. He was even there for me at a difficult time in my life.”
“This difficult time in your life, that you just mentioned, is it when you lost your home and your job within days of each other?”
Gritting my teeth, I don’t want to go there. I don’t want to have to explain this.
“Yes. I mean, there are people who have gone through far worse than what I have, but for me, I was truly lost. It started with my apartment going up in flames and soon after completely crumbling because of a small explosion in the neighboring building. I was left without a home and it completely threw me off balance. Then I was fired from my job as a copy editor just days after. The back-to-back incidents left me with no control over what was going to happen next. I had always thought that if you had a plan and worked hard you could achieve anything. But what happened sent me into a complete mental spin and down a path where I had to decide which road to take, as cliché as it sounds.”
“Can you tell us more?” Aideen’s eyebrow raises.
At that moment, I know that I just opened up a can of worms. I am going to have to tell it all. I am going to have to talk about what happened six years ago and the events that occurred which rocked me to my core. What happened put me in a place that I never thought I would ever find myself in. A place where I was not in charge over what would happen next. No list-making or trips to the Container Store were going to fix it. I was left with my to-go bag and the clothes on my back standing at the front door of my best friend’s apartment praying that she would take me in. With a deep breath, I start my story.
“I suppose that if I am going to tell this story, I should start at the beginning…”