Mark Camilleri: 'Nobody can make you happy until you are happy with yourself'

Executive Chairperson of the National Book Council and crime novelist Mark Camilleri tells all in our Q&A

Mark Camilleri is a crime novelist and the mastermind behind the world of Victor Gallo, a police inspector working in contemporary Malta. He is currently the Executive Chairperson of the National Book Council, a public entity which caters for the Maltese book industry. The NBC is organising the Malta Book Festival, which is taking place at MFCC, Ta’ Qali, between 18 October and 22 October.

What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?

Grab the book lying on the nightstand and read another chapter or two, then switch on the wifi and check my mobile.

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

‘Nobody can make you happy until you are happy with yourself.’

What do you never leave the house without?

House keys, car keys, mobile, wallet, book and Air Pods.

Pick three words that describe yourself

Hardworking, honest and determined.

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?

Publishing a series of four crime novels centred around Inspector Gallo when locally the crime fiction genre had been dormant for years.

What is your guiltiest pleasure?

Listening to Britney Spears’s Everytime. It is a pure beauty though my friends highly disagree.

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?

Never judge a book by its cover. There are people fighting daily silent battles you might not be aware of.

Property and cars aside what’s the most expensive thing you’ve ever bought?

Probably my solo trip to the American East Coast last May!

What is one thing you wish you knew when you were younger?

The importance of being fluent in as many languages as possible.

Who’s your inspiration?

My mother. She taught me to never give up notwithstanding the hurdles life throws your way and to always treat people with respect.

What has been your biggest challenge?

To juggle the demands of work and finding time for myself to write my next book, which at this point is still at embryo stage.

If you weren’t a chairperson, what would you be doing?    

I would still be an educator.  I spent 22 years of my career in the educational system.

Do you believe in God?

I have a very conflicting relationship with faith.

If you could have dinner with any person, dead or alive, who would it be?

Andrea Camilleri – no relation – the Sicilian author who created one of the most memorable fiction detectives in Il Commissario Montalbano.

What’s your worst habit?

Oh, definitely overthinking – on a situation or a word someone has told me. Lately I have come to realise it is all futile, you should just look ahead, so I am doing it much less than before.

What are you like when you’re drunk?

I have not been drunk since my teenage years now, decades ago, thank heavens. I am happy with a sole pint.

Who would you have play you in a film?

Colin Firth – not physically, obviously – but his facial expressions when he is either sad or worried or angry are frequently a mirror reflection of mine.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?

Hypocrisy and backstabbing, they go hand in hand, and both utterly disgusting in my view.

What music would you have played at your funeral?

Simon & Garfunkel’s Sound of Silence. “Hello darkness my old friend...”

What is your most treasured material possession?

My library.

What is your earliest memory?

Sunday afternoon, in autumn, going with my ma and the whole maternal clan to my grandpa’s fields in Mosta. Talk about getting to seventh heaven.

When did you last cry, and why?

Watching another mediocre performance by Juventus, out of sheer desperation.

Who would you most like to meet?

Ian Rankin in an Edinburgh pub over a pint. He is the reason I am a crime novelist nowadays.

What’s your favourite food?

Carbonara or imqarrun il-forn, as long as it is pasta!

Who’s your favourite person on social media right now?

Stanley Tucci. His cooking reels on Instagram are a work of art.

If you could travel in time, where would you go?

Malta of the 1950s. The post-war period fascinates me: the reconstruction of our country, the politics of the era, a younger version of my grandparents.

What book are you reading right now?

Paul Auster’s Moon Palace. One of the best 20th century American authors.

If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

The ability to read one’s mind. Now that would be delightfully insightful.

What’s one thing you want to do before you die?

Travel to as many different countries as possible. I would love to cover the whole globe.

What music are you listening to now?

Oppenheimer’s original soundtrack by Ludwig Göransson. I love soundtracks, they help me focus on my writing or reading.

In the shower or when you’re working out, what do you sing/listen to?

Spotify’s daily mixes. But it depends on the mood, too.