- Gary Dinges American-Statesman Staff
If you’re hoping longtime Austin newscaster Olga Campos Benz’ new book is a tell-all, you’re in for some disappointment.
Sure, after spending a couple decades as a broadcast journalist, there’s plenty of dirt she could dish. But instead, her book “It’s News to Me” is largely a work of fiction. Find it at BookPeople and other local stores, or online at Amazon.com.
The book is, however, set in the TV news business. In it, Marissa Cavelo, a reporter and anchor at fictional KATX-TV right here in Austin, comes across an exclusive story that a group of criminals will do just about anything to keep her from telling.
Campos Benz left KVUE, her longtime TV home, in 2011. Today, she works as community relations director for Austin businessman and philanthropist Milton Verret and was recently named a Woman of Distinction by the Texas Association of Mexican American Chambers of Commerce.
Campos Benz — who is a featured speaker at this weekend’s Texas Book Festival — sat down with the American-Statesman to discuss her new book and what she’s been up to lately.
American-Statesman: What made you want to write a book?
Campos Benz: Everyone always asks what the TV business was like. This was about sharing my creative side – a project – with my friends. It took me five years to write. I even took one whole year off to just put it down. I wanted to make sure, on top of everything else, that it was a fun read. I love to read. That was really the impetus of this – spending all my time in libraries and bookstores.
With all your real-life personal experiences, why did you decide to write a piece of fiction?
There’s so much behind-the-scenes drama in newsrooms. I didn’t really want to get into all the politics. That said, any author will tell you to take from your real life and there are so many things that – more generally – happen in any newsroom in any market. There’s tons of fodder there for juicy fiction. I will say, though, that there are some real-life news events mentioned in there that people who read my book will recognize if they’ve lived here awhile.
Tell us about Marissa Cavelo, the main character in “It’s News to Me.”
She’s a Latina reporter from Houston. The daughter of immigrants. Focus groups (a commonality in the TV business) absolutely love her. She primarily does feature reports, but wants to do more substantial reporting – and stumbles upon a crime ring in action. There’s a lot of irreverent humor mixed in there because that’s just who I am.
What kind of feedback have you been getting?
It has been pleasantly surprising how well received it has been – especially with Latino groups.
You worked in Corpus Christi, Houston and Austin – spending 16 years alone at KVUE, where you anchored at 5 p.m., then mornings and middays. You even met your husband, Kevin, in the TV business. Why’d you decide to leave?
It was a good ride. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. It was an honor to be trusted and welcomed into people’s homes. But, for 30 years, I basically had no privacy. One time I even got recognized while we were camping. This chapter of my life is so much better suited for me. I’m grateful for Milton and my co-workers and the flexibility.
Any advice for people thinking about writing a book?
I’ve been getting a lot of people who say, ‘I admire what you’ve done. I always wanted to write a book of my own.’ I tell them there’s no reason not to take that leap into the literary world. I encourage them to do it, absolutely. The Writers’ League of Texas, in particular, is super supportive with lots of classes and instruction. They’re all about encouraging writers.
Will we see you write another book?
I’ll tell you this … I’m sure thinking about it.