This past weekend I went to watch Book Club – The Next Chapter. It was a fun ride catching up with the four main characters again. For me, the best part was enjoying the three Italian cities they visited. It is many years since I was there, but the memories came flooding back. The essence of Italy still holds a special place in my soul. I visited Venice, Florence and Rome and hope to go back at some point. It was interesting that the book they were reading this time round was Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist.
I finished an intriguing novel, The First Time Lauren Pailing Died by Alyson Rudd.
Review:This was an exceptional narrative, especially as its theme is a subject I love. Imagine you live more than one life in parallel? Most of us never knowing about the other life, oblivious to it. But Lauren does know and that is what makes this book so remarkable. It is captivating.
I have now begun reading a new book – The Shadow Sister by Lucinda Riley, only to find it is book three of a series. However, it is a separate story of one sister’s experiences, so I’m good.
Would you read one book of a series or not?
Literary Birthdays this week include:
May 19th is the birthday of Nora Ephron who was an American journalist, essayist, playwright, screenwriter, novelist, producer, director, and blogger. She is best known for her romantic comedies and was nominated three times for the Academy Award for Best Writing (Original Screenplay): for Silkwood, When Harry Met Sally…, and Sleepless in Seattle. These are exceptional movies, I think you will agree.
Another author sharing the same birthday is Jodi Picoult with an impressive 25 novels (and counting) to her name, including My Sister’s Keeper, Nineteen Minutes and Sing Me Home.
My daughter asked me to find certain photographs for her recently. As I went though hundreds of photos (not the digital kind either!) in this large tea chest, that belonged my Mother, it was quite apparent that the numerous family day trips and vacations all had one common thread – nature and wildlife. We went to zoo’s, safari parks, wildlife parks, and even family walks ended up at farms or in fields and forests. This interest has been passed down from parent to child and grandchild. It is a family interest to this day.
My narratives reflect this fascination, even if a location is ‘off world’ there are always references to the natural inhabitants of that world. In Ockleberries to the Rescue, although there are magical woodland sprites caring for forest animals, it is based on Earth. Each chapter allows a child to learn about a specific animal or bird on Earth. These sketch’s by J.E. McKnight illustrate some of the chapter headers.
In Clickety Click there is a hidden world within our own and in Creature Hunt on Planet Toaria there are fantastical plants and animals of my imagination. The initial spark for the story behind Creature Hunt was a chance encounter with this enormous mullein plant on one of my road trips. As can see it was taller than me! You will have to read the book to find out what character it plays.
In The Twesome Loop, an Italian olive grove is a fundamental part of the story. Olive trees can grow for hundreds of years and their gnarly trunks give them character. The story is set between England and Italy, two places I love very much, having lived in one and visited the other.
I used my new found knowledge of my new home, Canada, for the setting of my novel, Life in Slake Patch, which has a prairie location. And The Commodore’s Gift has my protagonists living in a forest cavern, while I take my readers back to medieval England in The Rython Kingdom and Rython Legacy.
As you can see the settings for my stories are as much a character as the protagonists are. It allows my dear readers to imagine the surroundings and the flora and fauna. I personally love discovering the natural world, while letting nature relax and inspire me. There is always something new to learn and see from a bug to a bison, from a flower to a tree.
3 – Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
4 – What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
I won’t name names; I might leave someone out. I can rely on them to be honest with their criticism regarding plot, style, tone, and character development. I am also inspired and encouraged by the authors I have met through Goodreads and Facebook.
5 – Do you want each book to stand alone, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
My first book is a World War 2 drama that will not have a sequel. My work-in-progress is a diamond caper set in Venice, Italy with an amateur sleuth protagonist who, if she is well received, may find herself in future novels.
6 – What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
$6.95 for a copy of The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White.
7 – What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
In 8th grade when I began public speaking.
8 – What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
History by Elsa Morante. It was a success in Italy, but the English translated version didn’t receive the recognition it deserved.
9 – As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
Pinocchio is my favorite “Guy.” I love his fearless, curious nature, his sense of joy, and most of all, his unwavering love for his father. I have an assortment of Pinocchio figurines and dolls that I have collected during my annual visits to Italy. Located throughout my home, they never fail to make me smile.
10 – How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
Five completed children’s books and one work-in-progress novel.
11 – What does literary success look like to you?
My desire is to entertain and inform. I want readers to lose themselves in my stories and enjoy and connect with my characters. I am deeply touched and elated when a reader takes the time to let me know through email, website, Facebook, Goodreads, Amazon, etc. that they enjoyed my book. A happy, satisfied reader is golden.
12 – What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
My research for Bridge of Sighs and Dreams included interviews throughout Italy including multiple family members, and translating countless documents and publications. The discovery of personal letters and journals written by Italian POW’s augmented my study. The consistent manifestation of hope, scribbled across those abandoned pieces of paper, afforded a valuable glimpse into the Italian sentiment during this horrific period. Research takes the author off on so many fascinating tangents; and then comes the difficult task of editing down to just enough information so as not break the suspension of disbelief. I will say, to weave my fiction around the time-line of events that I wanted to highlight was tricky, but I didn’t want to alter facts to fit my fiction; instead, I utilized truth to enhance my characters and their story. And so, after more than a decade of research, translations, false starts, writing, editing, shelving, writing, editing, shelving, etc., etc., Bridge of Sighs and Dreams finally developed into a novel of which I am proud.
13 – How many hours a day/week do you write?
I write for several hours every day.
14 – How do you select the names of your characters?
I love naming my characters. Names are important; they have to “fit” the character’s look, personality, and nationality. They need to be easily remembered (No Stobingestikofsky), and not too similar to the other characters (No Jane, Janet, Joan, Jason, Jack, etc. all in one story) Readers don’t need to spend time trying to remember who’s who or attempting to pronounce a certain name every time it shows up.
15 – What was your hardest scene to write?
I don’t want to give away the who, but sending off two of my favorite characters to be executed really had me weeping over the computer keys. I still can’t read than scene without welling up.
16 – Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre? If you write more than one, how do you balance them?
While growing up, I always hated listening to jokes about the Italians going into World War 2 with their hands raised. This was not at all the case, and I wanted to point out the bravery of the Italian population during this horrific time. Although Bridge of Sighs and Dreams is fiction. It is based on real events. I felt compelled to write a war novel in which the women don’t play the role of wallpaper or objects of amusement to soldiers and politicians. The women in Bridge of Sighs and Dreams take center stage in a behind-the-lines battle between good and evil.
17 – How long have you been writing?
I started writing in grade school. I loved books and enjoyed making up my own stories.
18 – What inspires you?
The lives of ordinary people who preform extraordinary deeds without seeking recognition. Diligent and creative people also inspire me.
19 – How do you find or make time to write?
As I don’t have a regular 9-5 job, I balance my day between writing and painting.
20 – What projects are you working on at the present?
I am currently working on a “not-too-serious” diamond caper that takes place in Venice, Italy. I am also a translator for various Italian poets, so there are continuous translation projects in the works. As a working artist, there is always a new painting on the easel.
21 – What do your plans for future projects include?
I am considering adding to and publishing my blog, Painting in Italy, which is a guide to painting in Italy for artists who prefer independent travel and off the beaten track locations. I have written 5 children’s stories that I still need to edit and illustrate, and I continue to take on select translation assignments, mostly for Italian poets and musicians.
Pamela Allegretto lives in Connecticut and divides her time between writing and painting. In addition to her historical fiction novel, Bridge of Sighs and Dreams, her published work includes dual-language poetry books, translations in Italian literary journals, articles in local newspapers, book and CD covers, illustrations, and cartoons. Her original art is collected worldwide.
If you could pack up and leave on vacation today, where would you be off to?
Considering we are in the depths of a freezing winter here in Alberta, anywhere would appeal to it’s inhabitants, that is warmer than -24!
However, it is no secret I have a favorite place, besides ‘home’ – England, that I would happily live. That place is Rome. It is an enthralling mixture of ancient and modern. Daily life is relaxed, the food and wine delicious and that golden Italian light is magical. The countryside with its winding roads, so like England and the iconic trees, vineyards and terracotta roofed buildings draw me to them. My screen saver at work is a view across the Tuscan countryside. Maybe, I was Italian in a past life and that is the reason I have an affinity with Italy.
I traveled to Florence, Rome and Venice many moons ago and Rome resonated within my soul so deeply I have always been pining to go back. I will go back someday, it is on my bucket list.