Autostraddle Book Club: Emily Answers Your “Cameron Post” Questions and We Throw A Feelings-Fest

I would like to know your thoughts on the topic of guilt and contradictory feelings and how you explored those during your writing process.

I’m not sure if I understand the question, entirely (sorry for that—that’s one of the limitations, I suppose, of answering the questions this way and not just getting to be in a room with you chatting. Ah well, I’ll give it a go.) I honestly don’t have much to say about Cam’s feelings of guilt and confusion that’s not already there, in scene or passages of narration, in the novel.

You watch her wrestle with various kinds of guilt throughout the novel, and finally put some of that to rest at the end, there in Quake Lake. What I tried to do was, again, be pretty honest about her guilt and her areas of personal conflict and, as you say, “contradictory feelings.”

Cam, like all of us, doesn’t have everything figured out, and she’s fairly honest about that, I think, throughout the novel. She has desires and attractions that she doesn’t feel comfortable with, or that cause her more guilt, but still she acts on them again and again. And she does other things, too—the shoplifting, the dollhouse stuff—to try to bury some of this, or process it, but it’s all, frankly, sort of a mess and she just keeps pushing through it day by day. Until, of course, her stint at God’s Promise forces her to think about some of these things in ways she was previously good at avoiding.

After I finished the book, in a state of emotional distress/euphoria, I immediately went online to Google everything and see what was real and it was so satisfying to find “Cameron’s tumblr,” pictures of Miles City and so much more on your website. And that Quake Lake is real! My favorite was the video of the dollhouse. I’d love to hear the story of the real life dollhouse and also what inspired you to provide such rich content online.


Thanks so much! I’m thrilled, thrilled, thrilled that you located that extra content and have gotten some enjoyment out of it. Sometimes you put stuff up on the internet, you know, and you think: has anyone other than my web guy and my family ever even seen this stuff? Shouting into the void and all. (And yes, Quake Lake is very real and if you’re ever in Montana you should go. You must: it’s a supremely creepy place.)

At some point, shortly after the book sold, I was tooling around other author’s websites and trying to get ideas for my own, and I was always really jazzed about coming across “bonus content,” when I did, on those sites— especially if the author herself had a hand in it. (Carolyn Parkhurst had—or maybe still has—an entire website or blog written as if it belonged to one of her characters, who happens to be a very successful novelist. I loved that so much.) So I knew that I’d want to do that with my own website. And, I mean, I was as caught up in Cam’s world (for lots of years, while writing the book) as are, now, some of the folks who’ve read it. More so, I’m sure, since I was building it from memory and invention. It’s part love letter to my youth and to Miles City—though a bittersweet love letter, to be sure, so it was really fun to come up with more content for readers. It let me showcase some of my “favorite bits” from the novel. And I’m so excited that it did for you, as a reader, exactly what I wanted it to do.

As far as the “real dollhouse,” it’s not exactly the one described in the novel, of course (that came first, I found this “model” dollhouse for the video long after the book was already in galley form) but I thought it would be fun to offer some visuals to readers who sought them out. I would love it if someday someone would make me a real, scale, as described in the novel, Cam Post dollhouse. That would be one helluva labor of love, but I’d love it. I always wanted an authentic Victorian dollhouse—an intricate one—as child, as a teen, but I never got one.

Cam definitely focused more on the emotional side rather than the political side of being a lesbian, is there a reason for that?

I’m not sure that it’s so easy to reduce it to that binary—the political and the emotional, either or, sides of a coin. If the personal truly is political, then how do we separate those things, how do we extract those one of those from the other? Isn’t Cam making out with another girl in a barn during this time period a kind of political act, necessarily, given the culture around her? Or would it only be “political” if there was an audience—if it was staged as a protest or advertised as such? Does it need to be more confrontational, more transgressive?

For teenage readers who pick up the book today, Cam’s world is not, in fact, their world. I actually think of the book as a kind of historical novel.

My answer is that Cam’s not ready to take any of that on. She’s battling her own fear and shame about her desires and sense of self. I think Cam’s own answer to your question, though, comes on page 99 (and in the pages thereafter), when she’s discussing Lindsey Lloyd’s political passions and influence: as she puts it, she hasn’t “thought much” about any of that. Cam’s “lesbianism” (such as it is) is one born of desire, of her various attractions and actions on those attractions. It’s not that she’s not interested in feminism or theories of gender, of sexuality, of queerness, it’s that she hasn’t yet been exposed to any of that in any real way, and while of course queer desire is necessarily politicized, Cam wouldn’t put it that way. She doesn’t yet have access to that discourse.

I think there are many teenagers today who do have a mastery of those discourses, and Lindsey is an example of a teenager from that time period who, while often more interested in bluster than critical thought, is attempting a role as a kind of burgeoning activist, but Cam’s only real influence of this kind is Lindsey.

This is something that I was trying to “get at” in this novel in terms of its treatment of time and place. While there are certainly some universal themes of adolescence that translate well, I think, for teenage readers who pick up the book today, Cam’s world is not, in fact, their world. I actually think of the book as a kind of historical novel. Cam’s almost entirely cut off from the diverse kinds of queer culture that one can seek out, even if only online, today (Lindsey’s her one lifeline to those kinds of culture—beyond movie rentals, of course) and besides, politically and socially, the landscape of the very early 1990s is not, in fact, our landscape today, even just in terms of queer visibility, those twenty years are a looooong twenty years of change.

I mean, George H. W. Bush would be Cam’s president in this novel. Can you imagine him saying that he believes gay people should be able to get married? Are you kidding me? (In fact, when the novel opens, Reagan would still have been in his very final months as President.) This was a very different time for LGBTQ rights. Of course there was queer activism then, of course, but in terms of Cam having a real sense of it, given the town and state in which she lives, given her guardians, her age, what she’s told the Bible says about her: Lindsey is really all she’s got. And she’s very young, and she’s filled with guilt— some of that, as I explained in an earlier question, tied to her parents’ death— and it’s enough, I think, just for her to have to acknowledge and act on these desires she is not only told to suppress, but that part of her wants to suppress, to deny, just to more easily “get along” in the world. She’s young, frankly, and she’s just trying to figure shit out as she goes along.

 What made you decide to write a lesbian coming of age novel? Does the book reflect any of your personal experiences?

I think I covered the “personal experiences” part in some other questions, but I’ll say here, too, that I’ve long been wholly enamored of the American literary tradition of the coming-of-age novel. I’ve read these novels since I was a very young reader and I still return to them again and again. I love books that chronicle a character’s initial attempts to make sense of the world and their place in it. I always knew that my first novel would tackle this material in some capacity, that it would be a coming of age novel. There are all kinds of ways to approach this material, to get at these themes, and I didn’t always know what shape mine would take, just that I’d write one. And I really do feel like I knew that early on, I mean, by high school, for sure. Despite that there are many, many excellent coming of age novels, and despite that some of those novels even chronicle the development of queer protagonists, I don’t feel like I’d yet read Cameron Post’s story as I wanted it told. And, as Toni Morrison says, “If there’s a book you really want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”


I had a NARTH therapist for about three months and I know that the religion aspect with the psychobabble can have some long-lasting effects, but I’ve found that music played a huge part in my being okay with myself after my sessions. Cameron seemed to not have ever bought into the nonsense because of what Lindsey told her.

I’m glad to hear that music served that purpose for you, it’s powerful stuff, isn’t it—or it can be, anyway. I think, yes, that Lindsey’s strength, her determination to live some brave new way in the world — even when Cam recognizes it as somewhat performative — is crucial to Cam. Lindsey’s world, though she’s never experienced it firsthand, seems to be this other, waiting, option, basically, away from God’s Promise — Cam knows it’s out there, this one other life, in specific, and that’s important, in itself, but it also helps her realize that if there’s at least one other possibility for “how to live in this world as a girl who likes girls,”  there’s got to be others too, right? It’s not just Lydia’s way or Lindsey’s way, there have to be alternatives to those, too, at that’s comforting to her, it gives her something to hold onto. And then, yes, just Lindsey’s micro lessons about queer history and culture, as insufferable as some of them likely were (if Lindsey got to pontificating, I mean) also gave Cam a sense of a wider queer community, one that she could potentially join if she could just last her time at God’s Promise.


What was the most challenging scene to write?

There were a few, really. The scene with Rick when he’s in Cam’s dorm room explaining the situation with Mark, that one was a challenge, it took some drafts. (Same with Mark’s actual breakdown during group session, actually. That one looked very different with each successive revision until I finally got the shape of it.) The entirety of the scene at Coley’s apartment—The Hunger/ sex/drunken cowboys scene, that is — that one was a challenge because it’s really pretty long—nearly twenty pages of actual, moment-by-moment scene, or close to, from the time Cam knocks on her door. And there were all kinds of things I wanted to get right in my portrayal there—the desire, the tension, so it took some finessing.

Do you miss Wilcoxson’s ice cream and Taco John’s potato oles? (from a fellow Montanan)

Yes I do, fellow Montanan: yes I do. I lived in Nebraska for five years before moving to Providence and I could still get potato oles there — I haven’t really been away from them for too, too long, so the longing isn’t as strong. (I mean, I’m not Jamie Lowry, you know, I only ate them a couple of times a year, at most. But they did certainly turn up with regularity in the eating habits of my adolescence.) But Wilcoxin’s: so good. There’s a toy store in Miles City, Discovery Pond, it’s right on Main Street, and they still serve it, and have a nice variety, so I sometimes get it when I’m back visiting. I’ve undoubtedly since had as good (maybe better) hard ice cream, you know, local stuff, handmade, whatever — but Wilcoxin’s tastes of my youth and always will.


Do you think Margot eventually took Cameron in?

Do you think so? You do, don’t you? I like that. I like you. BUT, in material that I’ve written of Cam once she’s left Quake Lake, she doesn’t actually live with Margot, though she is helped out by her. Margot is the character who gets her this very weird job in this high end maternity mannequin factory— I mentioned that in my answer to a different question, I think. She helps Cam, certainly, she’s there for her, but she does not step in to fill the parental role.

I really enjoyed the Adam-Cameron banter, especially how they addressed (in a tongue-in-cheek manner) the tonkenization of indigenous identity and misappropriation of indigenous culture. Did you struggle with writing about Adam in a way that wouldn’t fall into the same meta-like trap of tonkenization, especially given the demographics of the characters?

What inspired the character of Adam?

Adam came to me in pieces, like lots of my characters, I suppose, but I was excited about the chance to use him to show the ways in which conversion therapy not only fails Cam or Jane, but also fails someone who comes from a culture that offers an identity category not only beyond those being sanctioned at Promise, but those “sanctioned” in much of the larger American culture.

I mean, Adam doesn’t give a shit about Biblical sin— his entire conception of being operates beyond most of the social and political structures of the country he lives in, much to his father’s annoyance/embarrassment. Also, I felt like it was important that every character in the novel not to be a white character, but, frankly, Montana is not a terrifically racially diverse state—according to the 2011 census it’s 87.5% white, and that number would have been even higher in 1991 — so I did worry that Adam might feel, to readers, like the token native character.

To work against that I did what I always do with main characters and tried to render him as completely and multi- dimensionally as I could, making sure that he was pretty crucial to Cam’s time at Promise, that he didn’t just fade from the novel after a single scene. I try not to deal in caricatures or stereotypes with any of my characters, frankly, but I’m glad to hear that having Adam comment on the commodification/misappropriation of indigenous culture added to his authenticity, and to their relationship. I mean, that’s where I start from, trying to render someone’s humanity in a scene, making him/her feel whole through dialogue and action and concrete, specific details of dress or mannerism.

How long did it take you to write the book and how long did it take to get published? Did you encounter any added difficulty in getting published because of its queer content?

These questions necessitate long, thoughtful answers, I think—but I’ve given them before, I swear. (Lots of people, not surprisingly, have these questions.) So I’ve cut and pasted, here, a lengthy answer that I gave about the publication process during an interview with the Debut Review, and then also part of an answer I gave when Malinda Lo interviewed me for her YA Pride Series this summer on her blog.

I “discovered” Cam’s voice, and some of the elements of her situation, in a short story I wrote during my MFA (at UMT in Missoula), but didn’t actively begin the process of shaping that material into a novel until my first couple of years in the Ph.D in Creative Writing program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. I didn’t work on it consistently during that time—I was also doing course work, writing short fiction, teaching, and so on— but I’d work on chapters or “chunks” and then workshop some of those and let some time pass, then get back after it. By the summer of 2008 I had over 700 pages “toward” a novel, but I wasn’t yet willing to call it a draft (it was missing crucial scenes and other kids of “connective tissue.”)

At exactly that time, in June, I took over duties as the Assistant Director of the Nebraska Summer Writers Conference (NSWC). NSWC director, novelist Timothy Schaffert, had read some sections from my manuscript—including the opening chapter—and he put in a good word with literary agent Jessica Regel, who was attending the conference as faculty, co-running a publishing workshop. (Jessica is at JVNLA, the same agency Tim’s agent is at—this is so often how these things work, these kinds of connections—and so his recommendation had a bit of weight to it, I suppose.) Anyway, I was to drive Jessica from Lincoln to Omaha so that she could catch her flight, and I managed to do a rather absurd job of that easy delivery— nearly running out of gas, getting us a little lost. (I should mention that I was flying to Massachusetts the next day to get married. So, you know—a lot going on.)

During that car ride, Jessica mentioned that Tim had told her a little about the book, and then she asked me to, essentially, pitch it to her. I know that, for a lot of fiction writers, this might seem like a dream scenario, but I was exhausted and therefore hopped-up on caffeine and we were nearly out of gas in the blazing Nebraska sun and I was panicking a little about that—this was not my dream scenario. I remember saying things like, “Well, it’s about this girl who, you know, she’s an orphan and she likes girls and she has this dollhouse and she gets sent to conversion therapy and Jane Fonda is there, but not the real Jane Fonda, and …” Really. It was awful. I mean, what novelist wants to summarize her novel? My standard definition for a novel is that the good ones don’t allow themselves to be very effectively summarized. And since I hadn’t even written a query letter (or anything of that nature), I didn’t have the rhetoric down, the approach.

Anyway, Timothy’s word must have meant much more to Jessica than did my inane blathering, because she told me to send her the first chapter (once I got back from my wedding, of course). So I did, and she liked it lots. But the issue was that I still wasn’t actually finished writing—or so I thought—so Jessica waited for a couple of months and then finally just asked me to send her the material that I was happy with. So I sent her what I then saw as parts 1 and 2 (which was still nearly 500 pages), and soon after we had a couple of discussions about how she actually felt that the novel was complete as is; that what I saw as just the resolution to part two could be finessed into being the actual resolution to the whole of the novel. So this was, you know, both completely thrilling and also took some getting used to. I’d had a particular conception of the arc of the novel for so long that ending Cam’s story any earlier felt rather impossible. But I thought about it, made a few revisions, and ultimately respected Jessica’s opinion, which was, basically, that we give it a go, and if editors passed because they felt like there was no real ending, or that the current ending didn’t work, we’d revisit the pages I wasn’t yet satisfied with.

So then we sent to several first-round places and we got several really nice passes (for various reasons) and even more suggestions that we “try it as YA.” This happened again and again—really, several editors said that they loved the book but that they couldn’t “get away with it” as adult and that we should send it to so and so at their YA division. This reaction was a surprise to me—at least the first few times (not so much by the fifth). This was mostly due to the fact that I just didn’t know enough about the diversity and depth of YA publishing at that time, and also because I’d read so many coming-of-age novels that were marketed as literary adult fiction and I felt like mine could potentially fit in there somewhere. However, ultimately what I wanted was for my book to find an audience, and I was equally excited to think of this book being marketed to and read by teens—especially when I thought of 15- or 15-year-old me and what this novel would have meant to her.

At some point Jessica and I had a formal conversation about all of this. I really hadn’t thought very “strategically” about this part of the process. I wanted to tell Cameron’s story, to create a novel that would allow you to live in her world, to see her wrestle with identity formation (and death and love and sex and …) Other things too, of course, but potential audience and the ins and outs of publication were just not the things that guided me as I’d worked on this book for all those months. Lots of writers have talked about this—about eventually having to take off the creative hat and put on the business/marketing/professional writer hat—but since this was my first book, it was all brand-new to me and I didn’t know exactly where to find that hat. (Or if I even owned it.)

So then we eventually sent the book around again, this time to some YA editors. This is going to sound a bit new-age-y, but the energy really was different, better, this time around, and soon thereafter Alessandra Balzer at Balzer + Bray made an offer. We spoke on the phone and she was charming and funny and really “got” all of the things about Cam’s story that were important to me. This will probably sound a bit naïve, but really it was that she talked about this book—about my book—the way I talk to people about novels that I love. There was something very genuine there, in her response, and I knew that she was the person, and Balzer + Bray was the imprint, to make all of this happen. No question. And really, everything since that decision has been a dream. It’s all been new and whirl-windy and sometimes quite overwhelming, but I feel pretty damn lucky about it every single day. (And if the many email messages I’ve received from teenage  readers are any indication, this novel was absolutely published with the correct “designation.”)

And as for its queer content as a YA book, in fact, the specifics of Cam’s “miseducation” — her time in conversion/reparative therapy, that is — actually probably made the book more saleable than less, simply because it’s an intriguing and unfortunately timely topic. My experiences with everyone who worked on the publication of this book were overwhelmingly positive and supportive, and never once was I asked to tone down or change content because it was too controversial or risqué or what- have-you. There was simply no pushback regarding the queer content anywhere in the process (as I’m aware of it, anyway).

Was it difficult to end the book at Quake Lake?

How did you decide to end the book where you did? Would you ever consider writing about what happened to Cameron later in life?

How did you go about writing the ending? Did you have a couple options you tested out, or did you know from the beginning this was how it needed to end? When you get to know a character like Cameron, it’s hard to say goodbye as the reader. As the writer did you want to just keep going?

Well, fact is, I did “keep going.” There are another two to three hundred pages of Cam’s (mis)adventures filed away on my hard drive. I actually began the book at what I thought would be a place much closer to its ending and then worked backward from that, though not in a linear fashion, it’s just that I discovered Cam’s voice and some elements of her character while writing a short story that I later thought would become a scene that happens after Cam leaves Quake Lake.

It’s complicated, all of this, and probably too much to go into here, but while I knew pretty early on that Cam would eventually visit the lake, absolutely, and have some sort of ritual there — try to find some peace from that experience — I initially thought that might be the end of the second part of the book, and that it would be a four part book. So part one would have been everything in Miles City; part two would have been God’s Promise; and part three would have been this life she leads after leaving Promise — it involves a maternity mannequin factory in southern California, that’s all I’m saying; and then part four would have been her return to Miles City to deal with Ruth, who by that time was very, very sick with complications from her NF.

But, I mean, that novel would have been 1000 pages, easy. And it became clear to me at some point—through the advice of my agent, mostly—that that novel was not going to end up being this novel. But that this novel could still work. So, all of that is to say: the final chapter, the final moments, in fact, of that scene, went through many, many revisions (both before they even got to my editor and then with her—it was a section we worked on quite a lot) and material was cut and material was added and finally we got to something that I’m very proud of and that I think works for this novel.

But, I haven’t fully said goodbye to Cameron. I’m very happy to be writing something else right now—a completely different book, no traces of Cameron Post to speak of—but she’s still around on my hard drive. I don’t know, for sure, what will become of those pages, but perhaps, someday, a companion book — “the rest of her story.”

emily m. danforth in a canoe via

Now it’s your turn. Did you have a Lindsey Lloyd? Do you think Coley Taylor is queer? What happens next? Were you struck by how long ago the 90’s are in queer years? Had you heard of The Hunger before this book and if not have you checked it out since? What was your favorite part? What are all of your feelings you’ve ever had about this book? Don’t you think Emily Danforth is amazing for answering so many questions? You guys, she started answering questions at 9AM EST and now it’s 10PM EST, just saying.

Oh and, Sonia F., email carrie [at] autostraddle [dot] com with your full name and shipping address, because Lindsey Lloyd has a care package for you!

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Riese is the 41-year-old Co-Founder of as well as an award-winning writer, video-maker, LGBTQ+ Marketing consultant and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and now lives in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in nine books, magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. She's Jewish and has a cute dog named Carol. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 3228 articles for us.



    Thanks so much for taking the time to answer all the questions, Emily!

  2. This whole piece is now one of my top five favorite Autostraddle articles, oh my goodness.

    Thank you AS & emily for making this happen!

  3. So, so much love for this book. The only thing I wish was different was that it had been around in 2007 when I was sixteen. And as a YA novel it could really make a difference to some little bookish, Christian kid’s life, the kind of kid who wouldn’t pick up Ruby Fruit Jungle, but would pick up Cameron Post just to see how other people live, and might find it hitting a little close to home (i.e. me at sixteen.) Thanks, Emily, for the time you spent answering all these questions. You should definitely, if you feel led to at all, write a sequel. You have me really curious as to what the hell a job making maternity mannequins has to do with anything. XP

    • Thanks to you for sending those questions in–or one of them, I would suppose–and I appreciate the goodwill toward a second book. I, too, wonder what the hell working in a maternity mannequin factory has to do with anything, tell you what. (But I promise there’s some weird, sexy stuff going on in that factory. And, Cam continues her dollhouse-diorama building in the mannequin bellies. In secret. Shhh: don’t tell anyone.)

  4. Dorothy Allison! Audre Lorde! Fannie Flagg! Rita Mae! So many of my favorite things are mentioned in these questions; I’m dying a little. Thanks so much for taking the time to do this. It’s a really great supplement to the book I just finished reading like an hour ago.

    I found it interesting that Riese initially said this book “felt like home” to her, because I felt something similar. I even visited my mom–someone who probs would’ve sent me to God’s Promise in a previous decade–with the book in tow, and she noticed the cover and said, “Funny, I thought that was here for a minute.” Here being rural Georgia. She had no idea what the novel was about. Just that it looked like home. I feel like people relate to the setting just as much as they do to the story, if not more.

    VIKING FUCKING ERIN. Out of all the secondary characters in the book, she was the one with whom I was the most fascinated. That nuanced little heathen. I feel like she was the antithesis of Coley in so many ways, but still plagued by the same demons.

    I’ve had more Margots than Lindseys, I think. (Maybe Lindseys grow into Margots?)

    • i know as i was putting in this interview i was like THIS SHIT IS SO FAR UP FONSECA’S ALLEY IT’S PRACTICALLY IN HER BACKYARD

      my favorite part of Viking Erin was that obviously she was a Highly Skilled Top — when Cam noted Erin’s bedroom manner I was like OH DUH FOUR FOR YOU VIKING ERIN

    • The Viking Fucking Erin, indeed. (Nuanced little heathen is fantastic: I might make myself a T-shirt with that across the front. I really might.)

      I’m not sure if Lindseys grow up to be Margots, though. I like the idea of that, very much, but I feel like this particular Lindsey–Lindsey Lloyd, that is–she’s got a little too much punk rock in her for it to be so fully eclipsed by corporate dykehood. (Someday, maybe, once she finishes not making a very good living touring around with her band, The Molly Bolts.)

  5. So we read this book this month for our queer book group (BOSTON LADIES, y’all up in here? I feel like I sent out five million reminder emails about the Autostraddle Q&A), and this ranks up there on my list of favorite books ever. It was actually the second time I read it, and I sort of devoured it just as breathlessly as I did the first time around. It’s the queer YA book I always wanted when I was a teenager, but I can’t say that I regret it emerging in 2012.

    I think mostly what we talked about at our meeting was just how many intense feelings this book evoked in us, and how true it was for all of us, even those of us who didn’t grow up in rural towns where you had to be closeted. We kept talking about how this book got into our heads and we couldn’t stop thinking about how visceral and raw it was, how it wedged its way in. That whole section when she’s at Coley’s apartment, I remember not being able to BREATHE because of how tension-filled it is (way to go, Emily, I think you really accomplished “getting the tension right”).

    I really love hearing about the speculation on Coley’s future. I think I wrote a whole fanfiction in my head about how she’s so committed to not being gay, but still feeling so guilty, and “kissing her boyfriend and pretending to like it” (like Irene Klausen), and then going off to college and having a lesbian experience. And eventually tracking Cameron down through Jamie or Ruth or someone and being able to say sorry (years and years later). But I definitely also see the rancher’s wife, SUV-driving future too (that makes me sad; I’d like her to be happy!). I would be all over a short story about her. Or one about Irene Klausen (maybe she ends up having a torrid affair, like the one that trophy wife in Best in Show does with Jane Lynch the dog trainer). Or one about Aunt Ruth (goddddd, knowing that Ruth gets sicker and sicker makes me depressed).

    Lastly, now that I’ve written an essay, I’m so glad to know that Cameron makes it away from Quake Lake. That was probably our biggest complaint in our meeting — that we didn’t find out if they made it to civilization okay. I hope 2012 Cameron Post has a wonderful partner that she loves and a few cats, listens to the Indigo Girls and Chris Pureka, and still loves movies. THANK YOU, EMILY DANFORTH, for this amazing book that I can’t stop thinking about, and for answering these questions. Thank you so much.

    PS. We’re all on the same page that Margot was in love with Cam’s mom, right?

    • I’m on board with the Margot and Mom theory! I mean, her suave metro style, cool cocktails at steak dinner, cute bff pictures, CAMPFIRE GIRLS?? Forgive me if I so choose to read deep and far btwn these lines. It makes me happy.

      also +1 for sequel.

    • yes to margot and cam’s mom!! i totally got that vibe as well.

      also i am intrigued by the idea of cameron post fan-fiction. personally i think i’m more curious about a cam/irene reunion than a cam/coley reunion.

      • I said it before, I’ll say it again. Damn Coley. I never thought I’d be so satisfied with a total non-encounter as I was when they never said another word to each other ever again.

        I hope Emily Danforth DOES write from Coley’s measly and sniveling perspective one day! Trapped in her hetero life, where no one would dote on her the way Cam had. Yowza, was she hot for that ultimately unrefined cowgirl.

    • Your post made me realize something: That, out of allllll the lesbian films and novels which have been made, we still don’t have a “the one who got away years ago and then came back!” story.

      I’d like one of those, I think.

    • Thank you, Alex, for this most excellent rundown of your Boston queer book club’s take on CAM (we’re practically neighbors, you know, me here in PVD: holla New England). And thanks, too, for saying that I got the tension right in the Coley apartment scene. That’s very, very nice to hear from a reader who felt, well, tense whilst reading it. Consider me here, waiting, for you to take that Coley Taylor fanfiction out of your head and onto online, my friend–I’m ready to read it. For the record: 2012 Cam is doing very well for herself (and yeah, she probably has some playlists with Chris Pureka on them.)

      • Um, yeah, my friend who I co-run the book group with and I realized today over Facebook that maybe we could’ve emailed you or something…….oops. BUT HERE YOU ARE, answering all the questions we could have hoped for! (If you’re ever feeling like you want to pop up to Boston, our queer book group would be very interested in having tea! Or brunch! Is that a weird invitation? I don’t know. I’m just going to PUT IT OUT THERE.)

        My reaction to that whole section about the Coley + Cam Summer of LUV was saying “ALL THE FEELINGS!!!!!” to my friend over Gmail, so… I guess that writing was effective or something.

        HAHA, yeah, maybe that Coley fanfiction will come to fruition. I see that people are discussing all sorts of fanfiction for baby!dyke Irene Klausen.

        (2012 Cam should also listen to something happier once in a while, because Chris Pureka is mostly good for when you’re sad and drunk.)

  6. thank you, emily, for answering all of these questions! i loved reading the book itself, and really enjoyed reading about your writing process and thoughts on the characters here.

    and riese, your words made me realize that autostraddle – so, you (and everyone else here) – have absolutely been my lindsey lloyd. i never had a person like that in my life before.

    i really did wonder about what happened to coley taylor. i found myself nodding my head in agreement when i read your (emily) wife’s description about being a rancher’s wife. it seemed to fit, which made me sad for coley.

    in short: thank you for writing this book. i’m so glad it exists, and wish i’d been able to read it about 10 years ago.

  7. Thank you so much for doing this, Autostraddle and emily danforth! This will go down as one of my favorite posts on AS. I loved this book and Cam’s character, and it’s so rare to get a chance to really pick an author’s brain about their work.

    I had a pretty numbing day, full of boards studying, and I was consistently refreshing this site, dying to see the post appear. I was so amazed by the thoughtfulness of all the questions and the answers. Thanks for answering my question about Adam and tokenization (I kind of love that the moderators took the time to retype the questions out, resulting in totally endearing things like tonkenization, which I will now use forever and ever). I enjoyed the book so much, along with the bonus web content. ALSO ALSO so excited for a mix tape, seeing that my car does not have a CD player. You have no clue how freaking happy I am to finally have something to listen to on long drives instead of, say, the bible/Jesus-heavy radio of the Fresno/Bakersfield area.


    • I’m so glad to hear that your car still has a cassette player: it was meant to be that you win, I think. You’ll now get to make use of Linds’ mix just like Cam might have back in the day–if she’d had her own car, that is. (I mean, Grandma’s Bel Air did not have a tape player.) (And tonkenization is pretty fantastic. I probably should have just answered the question assuming some awesome new definition for that word and going from there. Next time.)

  8. So, you know that old Indigo Girls song about reading Virginia Wolf that goes, ‘I know it’s alright, cause I just got a letter to my soul’? Autostraddle and Cameron Post and awesome features like this are totally that to me.

  9. I think I cried for a solid hour after I finished the book, but I laughed a few times too and felt like a teenager again. I have Perks of Being a Wallflower feelings for this book because I guess it is the first time other than camp where I felt connected to something because it spoke to similar places and events in my life that while I am not totally okay with now, I am trying to process and believe for myself.It is like everyday I wonder if I’m really the brave lesbian I have been working to become or are the NARTH workbooks correct and it is Same Sex Attraction Perversion and I need to just get through it? Cameron gave me something to hold on to on the harder days when my isolation created these kinds of doubts with my faith versus what I really want from my life.

    Thanks for writing this wonderful book, thanks for doing this amazing interview, just thanks.

    • Lanie, thank you for posting this (and for reading CAM, of course that, too.) I’ve no doubt that you’re every bit as brave as you need to be. (NARTH workbooks, by the by, make excellent, excellent kindling and or cat box liners.)

    • I have the most ridiculous urge to make a wholly inappropriate–and really completely passe–that’s what she said joke, here. (I mean, when else am I gonna get a comment so perfect for doing so, asks lesbian Michael Scott?) But, you know, now I’ve just written this comment telling you about the potential for that comment instead of actually making it: best of both worlds.

  10. This post is amazing. I love how critically the author thinks about her characters and the story and the setting. I think it made the book what it is, which is great. I loved it.

    I can’t wait to read more from her. And hopefully more about Cameron Post.

    • Glad to hear you’ll read more (hang tight until Winter 2014, yeah?) And maybe Cam Post again someday, too: definitely potential for that.

  11. I read “The Miseducation of Cameron Post” all in a heady four or five hours on a Monday afternoon, haven been given the day off after driving home all night from a work trip. I had sensibly planned to structure my day around sleeping and eating peanut butter toast, but I literally could not bring myself to stop reading. Instead, I wandered from bed to sofa to floor to patio to floor to bed, and I would set it down from time to time, thinking some moment was just “too much right now,” on this day when I was exhausted and lonely with my heart lodged firmly in the base of my throat. But I would immediately pick it back up, and go through whatever it was that felt like “too much,” and sob and laugh and be so glad I didn’t leave those feelings for another day.

    And this interview! It was like getting a visit from someone you think about often but aren’t sure if you should call. emily, thank you so much for the time and care that you took with answering these questions. It was incredibly enlightening and satisfying, and (not for the first time with AS) I almost wished it had been in print just so I could circle certain things with a pencil and write “YES!” in the margins. I’m sure I’ll have more comments when I reread the post, but what a great way to wake up. I can’t wait for more from emily, Cameron Post or no!

    • You, my friend, are the definition of a power-reader, and I salute you. (And I’m very glad that you kept picking the book back up after all those times you put it down for awhile.) Thanks very much for your very kind comments.

  12. Pingback: November Book Club: The Miseducation of Cameron Post | Epic Reads

  13. and was it just me or was there an entire chapter missing on Irene Klauson’s baby dyke opportunities at her all-girls school??

    Or just more fan-fiction? I’m envisioning tube socks and cardigans, Either way, point me to it.

    • You point ME to it, please. I’m also now waiting for the tube sock laden fanfiction set at Irene’s boarding school. (Tube socks, huh? Tube socks? Okay–works for me.)

  14. Emily, I was a little anxious to read this post– over the course of the book Cameron had become *mine*, but she was also yours, and what if I didn’t like how you treated her? I’m relieved and delighted that you feel for her the respect and care and affection that she deserves.

    Thank you, also, for putting so much time and effort into answering these questions– it absolutely shows.

    While I enjoy hearing these details of what happened to Cameron next (and please do write that sequel or short story!) I appreciate the novel ending where it did. Having the conclusion be Cameron coming to terms with her parents’ death drove home the point that this was a coming of queer age story, not a coming out novel, and that Cameron’s identity and journey are influenced by but not limited to her being gay (not that there’s anything wrong with coming out novels, there’s just a lot of them already, and I’m a little too old to enjoy them as much anymore). Also, what a powerful, intense scene. I was shocked that it was over and wanted to hear more, but since narrator-Cameron clearly made it out of the wilderness and into an ok emotional space, I was able to calm down and stop worrying and appreciate all of the possibilities for what happened next.

    I’m not one of the readers whose experience was much like Cameron’s– it took me a while to realize I was gay, but I never felt bad or guilty about it once I did, and so many people were indifferent or supportive that cutting the few homophobic people I knew out of my life was not a hard decision. Some of my friends have had very different experiences, though, and I’m hoping that reading this book, with it’s nuanced and compassionate portrayal of Aunt Ruth and Grandma and all of these people who love Cameron to the best of their ability, but still treat her in such a horrible way, will help me to be more supportive of my friends who are facing similar quandaries.

    In summary– thank you, Emily, for writing this incredible story and for putting so much effort into telling us more about it.

    • I’m very glad to hear that my answers alleviated your anxiety, and I’m touched that you were prepared to stick up for “your” character : that’s pretty fantastic. Thanks for reading, and for sharing your thoughts about the final scene at Quake Lake–much appreciated.

  15. thank you SO MUCH for not killing off her grandmother. i kept waiting for it to happen, and i was ready — i mean i was coming to terms with how terrible it was going to be and how her life would spiral down pretty quickly and we’d have to hold our breath down there with her at the bottom while she clawed her way back up — but i was really, really hoping we could avoid it and then WE DID. just thank you. you have no idea how glad i was that we didn’t have to bury grandma.

    i found myself really hating irene klauson without meaning to, or even understanding why. like she just irritated me to my core and i felt almost embarrassed for her, and embarrassed that we (cam and me via cam) had even associated with her at all. and then i realized: i was irene. i was the girl who did really gay things with another (fairly dykey) girl when we were 12, and then freaked out, did a full 180 re: the way i carried myself, who i hung out with, etc (though without the piles of fossil money or an all-girls’ school). and i definitely stopped hanging out with the other girl, and i stopped thinking about being with the other girl and i started looking for boys to make me a person and i did, in fact, kiss most of them while wishing i could be kissing a girl.

    so what i’m saying is, maybe irene got married to a man, had a baby or two, was miserable, realized she was in love with her best friend, got a divorce then started working at a big queer website with a bunch of other queer women and now she has two dogs and a girlfriend.


    this interview is SO SATISFYING. definitely one of the best things we’ve ever published. i would give so many monies to read the rest of cam’s story.

    • Oh for sure, no worries: it was never in my plans, ever, to kill-off Grandma Post (or Ruth, for that matter.) Cam has already been burdened with enough tragedy, right? And thanks, too, for sharing the story of your personal connection to Irene. (Two dogs, huh? I like it, I like it. We’re also a two dog household.)

      Save those monies for a few years, please, and don’t forget about Cam.

  16. I HAVE to read this book. I have to. I’m going to buy it today and probably forget the world exists this weekend so I can finish it and come back to reading this article all over again.

  17. This book meant A LOT to me because I grew up gay in the mid 90’s in Southwest Wyoming so I’ve consumed massive amounts of Taco John’s and Potato Ole’s and I felt a lot like Cameron Post sometimes. Thanks to Autostraddle for introducing me to the book and thanks to Emily for answering all of these questions and posting here. I love everything about this.

    • So yours was the Wilcoxin’s/Potato Oles question, then? Nice. Thanks for reading the book and commenting here and think of me the next time you’re eating an apple grande, yeah? (Do they still have those. Or a churro. The churro, yes, the TJ’s churro.)

  18. This is just to say thanks again to everyone who commented here, or who sent in a question, or who maybe did neither of those things but read the book just the same. I’ve felt very lucky/honored recently to have had CAM POST picked for few a other book clubs, online or otherwise, and they’ve all gone very well and have been a lot of fun for me to participate in. But, truth is, this one will always be special to me because y’all are my people, you know? So thank you for reading and logging in and saying hi, thanks for sharing your funny and smart observations about the book–that all means a helluva lot coming from this audience, and I wanted you to know that.

  19. How have I not heard the term “Coming of GAYge” before? What was my life before now?!

    Also I kind of want Emily Danforth’s hair and in a really serious way.

  20. I just wanted to share something about how I felt about this book. It gave me a chunk of my childhood back. Growing up in a repressed, religious, rural clan, as a safety mechanism, I locked down my true self. After many years I have been able to recognize and take action on my true heart’s desires. Reading The Miseducation of Cameron Post was healing for me because through Cam’s experiences I was able to have many experiences that I thought I’d never have. Thank you so much for writing this book, it is beautiful and magic. This is totally great this whole post. Thanks.

  21. Aww, I wasn’t able to have my AS fix at all this last week, and was pleasantly surprised to see this Q and A today. I bought “Miseducation” after Riese’s (I think? Books I Read?) recommendation and devoured it within hours. Autostraddle publicity really works! It’s so nice to see some insight into the writing process on here.

    Loved the novel, which is a seminal “coming of GAYge” indeed (Bulldykesroman? Stop me now lol). I especially love THE HUMOUR in it, which hasn’t been touched on extensively yet. Really you guys, parts of it were so hysterical I nearly peed. Emily D has a way with comedic phrasing and detail that is very special indeed.

    I’m glad the interview touched on characterization. While reading, I was constantly imagining what I would personally have done with “baddies” like Ruth and the Promise people. The line between stereotyping and being too lenient in portrayal is a fine one. Aunt Ruth was especially begging for some kind of religious wack-job evil stepmother trope, wasn’t she? But this runs the risk of dehumanization and I am GLAD that Emily was aware of those pitfalls. I also think that editorial differences of opinion about “how bad” to make the evangelicals could very well stem from regional and personal experiences. If you have seen “the worst of the worst”, you will be more likely to accept that as an accurate characterization. I would have been very tempted to make Ruth significantly more villainous, but I can see why that wouldn’t have appealed to a more moderate audience.

    The death of the parents at the onset suggested a fairy-tale scenario to me very strongly, with Margot as a sort of fairy godmother come to rescue Cam. I saw subtle lacing of this throughout which made the folklorist in me quite happy :) Incidentally, I wonder why Jane Fonda had a wooden leg? Was that some kind of interesting symbolism? lol.

    I LOVE that there was a Lakota winkte character!!! Especially with the setting in Montana, referencing the (real, longer) history of the land and people, whose attitude toward non-binary genders was so positive, seemed very at home in the story, and was a nice contrast to the senseless Christian pseudoscience of the camp.

    Must stop writing now or will go on forever… Wonderful job Ms Danforth!!

    PS “Virginia Woolf” by Indigo Girls IS awesome and apt, and not even their best song by far. They’ve grown immensely as songwriters in the last decade or so- see anything Emily’s written from “All That We Let In” onwards for evidence. Pure unadulterated genius, swear to god(s).

  22. Oh this is wonderful. And now I want to read all about Cameron’s life post-Quake Lake. I want to read the book again and then I want to read more. More Cameron, more Margot, more growing up.

  23. as a queer teen who lives in NC, this book was amazing to see circulating the local library’s teen book club. I’m impressed by such an honest portrayal of a younger lesbian. most books that we read, aimed for teen audiences are utterly awful. and almost never gay. but anyways, Emily, if you read this, know that this book is being passed around between a bunch of closeted baby gays in the south. this is something that quite a few of my friends really needed, I think. so thank you.

  24. I just downloaded this book on my Kindle and I paid for it. I never do that! I’m excited to read it. I had not heard of it before this article so I look forward to reading it and then reading this article. I haven’t read the interview yet because I don’t want any spoilers! I also haven’t read the comments. I better get to reading!

  25. so happy she answered bunch of questions i had in my mind and so did some ppl. this novel is amazing, i loved it, and read it many times. i love Cameron Post as a character. brilliant ….

    i did have a Lindsey, a girl who teached me many stuff, including kissing and beyond… a Coley who rocked my world in high school, a straight girl who fell in love with me.

    im a big fan of this book

  26. i’m a bit late to the party BUT i finally read this book – in two staying-up-till-4-am sessions – and now i am sad it has ended, i want there to be more pages (although i liked that it ended where it did, coming full circle). i don’t usually read YA, but this book club post and a certain friend’s insistent recommendations made me change my mind, and i have to admit, it was indeed really incredible

    also, it was greatly satisfying to re-read this post after finishing the book

    i totally had an irene klauson as my best friend when i was 12. i was completely infatuated with her and then she ditched me and i never understood why. nothing really ever transpired between us, other than some hand-holding and excessive letter-writing, and it took another full decade for me to realize i was, in fact, really gay, but there was all this tension between us and i was so oblivious. i really needed this book back then, is what i’m saying.

  27. I just finished reading the book and I thought I’d do a search to see if AS had any articles on it – thrilled to discover not only is there one, but it’s basically the greatest thing ever published.

    I can’t get over how brilliant the book is.

  28. Pingback: The Miseducation of Smalltown USA | Libreview YA

  29. I finally (3 years later, yikes!) read this, and it is my favorite book I’ve read in years, no doubt. Thank you so much for recommending it! And thanks for this amazing interview too!

  30. My theory has always been that Cam’s mom was queer and her and Margot were totally together and then broke up and then Cam’s mom got with her dad and Margot and Cams mom became best friends with a side of tension.

    Just putting it out there.

  31. I (finally!) just finished reading this book and DESPERATELY want to hack that hard drive and get another few thousand pages of Cameron Post’s life. Great interview! Even if I did find her Coley answer frustrating because I also want a Coley-centered sequal. Sigh.

  32. Oh, I just finished this and it’s going to haunt me.

    It kind of makes me wonder what it would have been like to realize things earlier, all the things Cam knows and feels and does as a teenager instead of trickling into them in my twenties. But I’m also so, so grateful for a softer and gentler coming out and coming into.

    I didn’t cry while I was reading it but I’m crying now and I don’t particularly know why, but thank you and also to echo Katie O above, thank you autostraddle for being my lindsey.

  33. Pingback: Review: ‘The Miseducation of Cameron Post’ (Book) by Emily M. Danforth – The Fairy Dust Book Blog

  34. I cried reading this book, sad tears and angry tears. Then I cried reading this Q&A.

    I am two years younger than Cameron, but I didn’t have these coming of age experiences, because I didn’t kiss (and the rest) a girl until I was nearly 21. I think I am drawn to LGBT coming of age stories because I missed out, obviously I’m glad I didn’t have the God’s Promise experience, but I wish I’d kissed and fallen in love for the first time much younger, I feel like heteronormative/homophobic society kind of stole that from me.

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