Camille Pagán on Finding One’s Self Again

March 1, 2018
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By Camille Pagán

On-sale February 27, 2018

Camille Pagán has a remarkable talent for crafting deeply affecting novels about the human condition. A friendship is tested following an accident causing memory loss in The Art of Forgetting (2011). A woman receives a shocking cancer diagnosis just as her husband announces he’s leaving her in Life and Other Near Death Experiences (2015). And a struggling novelist writes to his daughter at the end of his life about his complicated relationship with her mother in Forever is the Worst Long Time (2017). Her work has been called “Gut-wrenching” (Associated Press), “Compelling” (Chicago Tribune), and “Unforgettable” (Woman’s World). And Life and Other Near Death Experiences was optioned for film by Jessica Chastain’s production company Freckle Films.

Now, with her fourth novel WOMAN LAST SEEN IN HER THIRTIES (Lake Union Publishing; on-sale February 27, 2018; hardcover, trade paperback, e-book), Pagán delivers a witty and satisfying story about the life-affirming self-discovery that can only come in the wake of devastating heartbreak and change.

In this recorded conversation with Authorlink®, Camille talks about how this book was the hardest she has ever written, and how she always strives to make her next novel better. She admits there were times after her first published book that she felt she should quit trying to write, yet her very next book became an Amazon #1 Bestseller.  She also provided useful advice for writers trying to break into the publishing world. 

About Camille’s Latest Work

When your one sure thing in life fails you, where do you turn? That is the question Pagán’s endearing protagonist, Maggie Halfmoon Harris, must face after her husband of nearly thirty years announces he doesn’t love her and is leaving her for another woman. Adam was her one sure thing, which for Maggie was everything after an unstable childhood left her perpetually anxious. So when Adam walks out the door, everything that makes Maggie secure goes with him. Only then does she realize that while she’s been so busy caring for everyone else, she’s become invisible to the world—and to herself. Determined to recognize herself in the mirror again, she slowly begins to rebuild her life with a trip to Rome, an unexpected friendship, a new career, and even a rebound romance. Just as she’s feeling empowered and settled in her new single life, a fresh crisis strikes—leaving her future more uncertain than ever and forcing her to decide: How much will she risk to remain the woman she’s just become?

With poignancy and humor, Pagán’s WOMAN LAST SEEN IN HER THIRTIES is a wonderfully human illustration of marriage and identity in mid-life, the coming and going of love, and the redemption to be found in claiming your independence.

Camille Pagán is the author of four novels: Woman Last Seen in Her ThirtiesForever is the Worst Long TimeThe Art of Forgetting, and the #1 Amazon Kindle bestseller Life and Other Near-Death Experiences, which was recently optioned for film. A journalist and former health editor, Pagán has written for ForbesOThe Oprah MagazineParadeReal SimpleTime; WebMD; and many other publications and websites. She lives with her family in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Visit her at



Why I Wrote Woman Last Seen in Her Thirties

By Camille Pagán

Established writers are known to tell new and aspiring writers to write what they know. It’s good advice. But on the verge of the publication of my fourth novel, I’ve begun to realize my own pattern veers left of this suggestion: I don’t so much write what I know as what I’m afraid of. Broken friendships that reveal deep secrets; an incurable disease and the dissolution of an anchoring relationship; leaving the world before my children have grown. And now, with my latest novel, Woman Last Seen in Her Thirties, the fear that as a woman turning the corner on her youth, that the world will soon render me irrelevant.  

At first glance, it’s a ridiculous worry: as long as you’re alive, you can be useful, needed, and seen. But ads for wrinkle creams and articles for rejuvenation regimens and a daily onslaught of various memes suggesting a woman’s worth lies in youth and beauty say otherwise. One can barely turn on the television without being reminded that a woman over 40 seems to have but two options: turn to the scalpel and syringe and stay in the scene; or accept her cellular fate and fade into the background as an extra.

The fear of irrelevance must have been lurking in my subconscious for some time, but an incident one afternoon brought it vividly to light. I was standing in Whole Foods when a college-aged man bumped into me. He was busy talking to the friend he was shopping with, and glanced up at me with a look that said he had just looked right through me. Then he continued on his way. Maybe he was simply rude, but it made me wonder if I had just been given a glimpse of my future. In that moment, the premise of Woman Last Seen in Her Thirties was born. 

Over the following months, I began to examine the world around me more closely. Not always, but often enough, I saw women of a certain age overlooked and undervalued. A cashier chats up a middle-aged man—but not the same-aged woman who checks out just after him. Doors are held open for the young and the old—but rarely for women in the middle. Job postings tout a desire for candidates with experience, gravitas, and knowledge—only to be filled by bright young men clutching degrees whose ink has not yet dried.

As a journalist, though, I knew that if you only look for one thing, that’s all you’ll see. So I challenged myself to look again, deep and wide, and this time I saw women of all ages doing incredible and exciting things. Women who refused not to be seen. Women who didn’t care if they were. Smart, savvy, wonderful women making waves, loving and being loved, and living damn good lives.

Those latter observations informed the slow and steady rebirth of Maggie Halfmoon Harris, the protagonist of Woman Last Seen in Her Thirties. As Maggie mustered the courage to reinvent herself and draw boundaries in the new life she never saw coming, I realized—as is so often the case when I write my books; writing is nothing if not a form of therapy—my fears of irrelevance had disappeared. Like Maggie already knows but finally learns to put into practice, you can’t control the actions of those around you, but you can control your own reactions—and in doing, craft a life with meaning and purpose. 


“Pagán has created a winning character in Maggie. Watching her wake up to the world around her and realize that there’s more to life than a dull marriage is exciting and relatable.”


 “[Pagan’s] writing is fun and engaging. Maggie is a wonderful character, and readers will identify with her struggles and successes in rebuilding her life.”


“With her usual precision, Pagan breaks down the barriers of thought and how we can find the strength that is within everyone of us…Tie in drama and romance and this will also intrigue those more interested in finding a silver lining.”


 Woman Last Seen in Her Thirties is a life-affirming story about what it takes to find yourself after decades of marriage and mothering have made you fade into the wallpaper.” 

Julie Lawson Timmer, bestselling author of Mrs. Saint and the Defectives

“Camille Pagán does it again! In her new novel, Woman Last Seen in Her Thirties, she takes readers on a journey from heartbreak to hope, all the while making us feel like we are hanging out with our best friend. I could not put this book down!” 

Elizabeth LaBan, author of The Restaurant Critic’s Wife and Pretty Little World

“Camille Pagán knows women, relationships, and the complexity of the push-pull involved when a love is both old and new. In Woman Last Seen in Her Thirties, Pagán writes with the kind of confidence and warmth that makes you feel like you are in very good hands all the way to the final word. Do yourself a favor: take a deep breath and dive into her world. You won’t regret it.” 

 Ann Garvin, author of the USA Today bestselling novel  I Like You Just Fine When You’re Not Around

“With her characteristic wit and elevated writing style, Camille Pagán gives us a candid glimpse into a tale as old as time: woman marries man; man leaves woman; woman sees her solo image in the mirror and wonders, ‘Who on earth is that?’. Woman Last Seen in Her Thirties is a life-affirming story about what it takes to find yourself after decades of marriage and mothering have made you fade into the wallpaper.” —Julie Lawson Timmer, bestselling author of Mrs. Saint and the Defectives

“Her husband is looking for something better. But so is Maggie and she won’t stop until she finds it. Camille Pagán shines a light on the girl Maggie Halfmoon left behind and her memorable journey to move forward. Woman Last Seen in Her Thirties is a page-turning and engaging tale that I read in one sitting.” —Marilyn Simon Rothstein, author of Lift and Separate

Woman Last Seen in Her Thirties is a beautiful, heartrending portrayal of involuntarily exchanging a life you loved for one that feels foreign and adrift. Maggie’s journey of self-discovery postdivorce is completely relatable and totally realistic—how do we find ourselves again after we’ve devoted our prime years to the care and upkeep of others? She’s equal parts vulnerable and brave; Maggie is the woman we all want to be after life kicks us in the shins. Loved every minute.”

—Eliza Gordon, author of Dear Dwayne with Love



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This post was written by Doris Booth

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