An Interview with Jill Campbell-Mason, Author of Mario of My Life


Author: Atmosphere Press

Jill is a collectible artist, published photographer, mother of two, grandmother of a dozen, great-grandmother of who-knows-how-many, kayaker, explorer, learner, pilot, and, as an author—a gymnast of words. Her writing grounds itself in the cultures and world views she’s discovered in her wide-ranging travels. She is a licensed psychologist and former inner city school counselor who received her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees at Michigan State University. During her years of counseling, she and a colleague developed and patented the card game Esteem Architecture to help adolescents develop a greater awareness of themselves and greater respect for others. It has sold several thousand copies over the past twenty years.

Jill has authored several books in her field, including Lightning Bolts to Light Bulbs, a practical hands-on participatory workbook to transform negative, angry impulses into positive actions. Along with it, a companion book, ANGRRR! validates one’s emotions in short vignettes. She produces limited-edition photographic books, as well as children’s books and short stories—both fiction and non-fiction.

Jill is a published author with a MESSAGE. Positive, uplifting, and fulfilling. Her debut novel, published in 2022, has won the Literary Titan Award as well as the Firebird Award for Social Justice and Equality. She speaks to everyone in both novels and non-fiction. Currently she is writing a memoir of her four years spent living under the fascist dictator Francisco Franco in Spain.

UNIQUE, free, intuitive, spontaneous, intense, colorful, explosive, sensitive, impetuous, bold, temperamental, energetic, pure, intimate, passionate, unique, warm, exuberant, luminous, impulsive, genuine, happy, vibrant, and unpretentious, Jill is as invigorating as a polar plunge.

Who/what made you want to write? Was there a particular person, or particular writers/works/art forms that influenced you?

The vagaries of life which began at an early age made me long to share some of the unique, heart-breaking, heart-bending, and uplifting events that occur in every human life, but particularly poignant in my own.

When, at the age of twelve, I was asked if I wanted a pony or a brother at about Christmastime, I longed for a pony but knew “a brother” was the best answer. Within a year, we had adopted the first of my two brothers, a Japanese-American. The second came less than a year later, pure Cherokee. A white family in the Midwest did not have multiracial children. But my parents’ acceptance and love of them transformed our suburb, as well as my view of the world.


And so it began. And so it continues. Books hold love over generations. I wanted to be a part of that.

And I am beginning. Aren’t we always?

What inspired you to start writing this book?

This book begins with a true story, one that happened to me at the foot of Macchu Pichu twenty years ago when a ragged shoe-shine boy shined my tennis shoes and then turned his eyes upon me with the question, “Will you be my godmother?”

How could I refuse? But how could I accept?

Tell us the story of your book’s title. Was it easy to find, or did it take forever?

The title of the book came unintentionally, but truly from the heart. It grew, as Mario did, in my imagination, and in my memories. That boy, who would be thirty-three years old today—what became of him? Where is that purest of souls? I wondered and I wrote.

The book itself tells how one life expands, contracts, and then touches all the shores of the ocean. Nothing can contain a life such as his. Can it?

If your book had a soundtrack, what are some songs that would be on it?

El Condor Pasa. That condor flies overhead, over the Andes. That condor casts a shadow over all beneath it.

What books did you read (for research or comfort) throughout your writing process?

I read about other cultures to develop an understanding that surpasses our own small viewpoints. I read for both comfort and research. Historical novels tell us history from the intimate viewpoints of people living in times that we cannot retrace without the words from the ‘Marios of our Lives’, his pure truth, though the story is fiction, expands our lives exponentially.

I am reading the series written by the Scotchman Alexander McCall Smith about the Number 1 Ladies Detective Agency, set in Botswana with people whose lives are simple, yet deep. For each, I choose a 4×6″ photo I’ve taken in the past as a bookmark. As I read, I noted passages that were summative, wise, or surprising. When I finished reading, I wrote that quote which best described the “feel” the author gave, the title, author, page quoted in the book, and date read. Hundreds of these notes have been written over the past ten years. Most are carried in my mind. They are saved in yearly clumps, often resurrected.

What is one thing you hope readers take away from reading your book? How do you envision your perfect reader?

The simplest things can be the most heartening. Gratitude is inherent in giving, not in greed or acquisition. Hope itself can never be stomped out. It is an integral part of the human spirit. Understanding other cultures is the beginning of wisdom. The beginning of letting the sun shine into your life.

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