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.
My fascination with reincarnation began while I was a trainee nurse. I was allocated three terms on geriatric wards and although slightly unusual, I was happy to care for the elderly. Their life stories and experiences had me spell-bound on many occasions.
One particular instance sparked my curiosity and started my journey into researching life after death and reincarnation. I have related this story often and it is published on my blog within my writers group website. Here it is :
Whilst training as a nurse, I was assigned three rotations of geriatrics; two male and one female. It was while on one of the male wards that this event happened. My night shift started at 9 pm and after the usual updates from the day staff, my colleague and I were left to care for the old gentlemen.
One gentleman took my hand as I fluffed his pillows.
“Thank you so much for the daffodil.”
“Daffodil? I’m sorry, what daffodil.”
“It was so sweet of you.”
Thinking he was in a confused state, I just made sure he was comfortable and continued with my tasks with the other night nurse. The two of us administered medicines and settled the patients for the night, then turned most of the lights off. Our desk was situated at one end of the ward so we hear and see all the beds. For several hours we took turns in attending to patients needs, writing out reports and taking vitals.
At about 3:30 am, the gentleman who had spoken to me, passed away. After the doctor had been, I attended to his body. After cleaning and wrapping him in a sheet, as is the custom, I left him for an hour and went to write my report.
Later with everything in place, I watched the day staff arrive. One nurse was carrying a bunch of daffodils – yes, I was very shocked. The reason not only because of what the old man had said but also the fact that it was the midst of winter, much too early for daffodils.
“Where did you get daffodils from?”
“They’re from the florist down the street. The blooms are forced in greenhouses. I couldn’t resist a piece of spring to cheer us up.”
“May I have one bloom?”
“OK but why?”
“I’ll tell you later.”
I gently placed the yellow flower between the old gentleman’s hands, just the way he had described. He had told me he had ‘seen’ this happen and knew he was going to pass away. It had given him peace to thank me for my kind thought. As to how he had ‘seen’ this event before it happened, I have no idea, but I did want to ensure it was done.
Although this was not the first time I had experienced strange events of a spiritual kind; I had seen a ghost at the age of ten; it was the catalyst for me to start researching. Whether you believe in reincarnation or life after death or not, the subject is fascinating. Today researching this or any other subject is easy with the internet but at that time it was visits to the library and reading through numerous books to find the details, events and research I wanted to feed my curiosity.
After several years of research, I decided to put the theories to the test and went for a regression session. Under hypnosis I was directed to seven doors. Time only allowed me to enter three. These are the lives I found through those doors. This was my experience:
I look down into the still glassy water and see an old face, deep down I know it to be my face, and the deep lines creasing my eyes, cheeks and mouth are at the same time familiar and alien. Dark brown eyes and skin are in contrast to my hair, which was once a shiny ebony mantle but now streaked with silvery grey, hair now thin and wispy in one long plait down my back. Splashing my face with the icy cool water, I look up to see the tepees across the stream that feeds the lake and raise my old body upwards. I’m only good for collecting wood, minding the children and cooking. My days past slowly. Without a husband, I have to ingratiate myself to my daughter’s brave, be of help so I can have a place to sleep, tucked into the side flaps, under my buffalo bedding. Walking back the horror of that far day comes back, maybe it’s the similar setting, the crispness of the air but I ‘see’ the riders coming over the hill, the crack of the guns and the sudden screaming, startled me. The soldier’s were yelling and laughing as they rode through the camp, shooting my friends and family, everyone they see fleeing. I was helpless to stop them, I’d screamed back but was too far away. Fear stops me running toward the murderers but my heart breaks as I watch the massacre. Crouching under a bush I covered my ears until long after the screaming and pounding hooves had ceased. Too scared to move I waited until nightfall before walking back to a blood soaked and burnt earth where my home had once been.
I hadn’t noticed I was walking as the horrors around me had numbed my body and mind. The land was silent and still as though shocked and sadden as was I. Whimpering coming from the far side of the camp leads me gradually in that direction. To my utmost joy I found my grand-daughter but my grief had sprung into my heart as I saw she is huddled underneath my own daughter’s body. Taking her up into my arms, other sounds around me come to my ears as one by one the women and children uncovered themselves and crawled out of their hiding places.
This past will never leave me and I wait for my time to come when I will be with the spirits and my husband, who had fought so bravely on that fateful day against an enemy so cowardly and strong. The firewood is weighing heavily now as I enter the camp and I smile at the last of the Lumbee tribe survivors.
(Over 15 years after my regression session, my cousin found out that we did have a great, great grandfather married to a woman of the Lumbee tribe.)
My feet hit the icy floor, as I swing them over the bed’s edge, the cold chills my body very quickly even though I try to dress as fast as I can. Mother is already gone from the little attic room we call home. Tying my long hair into a bun, I walk quietly and swiftly down the long back stair case. The warmth and noise hits me as I enter the kitchen, cook’s voice shouting orders, the pan’s being filled with water, eggs being boiled and bread being cut. Cook is a hard task master so I run straight to the scullery cupboard to collect my brush and bucket. Quiet as a mouse I walk into the great rooms upstairs and start cleaning out the fire grates, laying out new kindling and on to the next one. I must be careful to be swift and unnoticed by the Lord and Lady, their graciousness to let my Mother stay after the disgrace of my coming; it must never be forgotten or taken for granted. Being our Lady’s favorite hand maiden had made all the difference to my Mother staying or being thrown out, once her pregnancy was discovered. I was put to work as soon as I could be taught to polish the silver ware, sitting at the servants table hour after hour. Our precious day off once a month was time for Mother to show me the outside world and let me play in the huge grounds and gardens.
Mother didn’t tell me about my Father until very recently, when I think it was more of a warning away from men. I had noticed a young gardener the month before whilst walking through the walled garden and his eyes seemed to penetrate my very being. I hadn’t noticed that Mother was still walking ahead and that I was rooted to the spot, staring back into those wonderful eyes. Her voice made me jump and look toward the sound. Catching up to her as she strode purposely on she started to tell me her story. She too had been entranced by a young gardener in this very walled garden and quickly became obsessed with him. Every month they would meet in secret and he told her of faraway places and his adventures. Swearing his love for her and the promise of marriage she succumbed to his wiles. Another month and he was gone without a word and quickly she realized her condition. Lady Havalore did send men to find the rogue but he was long gone and no one knew of a young man called Ted Franks, it probably wasn’t his real name anyway. Mother continued her duties as long as was possible and after my birth did as many of her duties as she could between nursing and comforting me. Luckily I was a quiet contented baby and my little crib was set in the scullery during the day for warmth. Looking at the grand ornate gates I can see the letters of the manor’s name but cannot read them; reading and writing are for our betters not the likes of us.
(With careful research through Who’s Who, I managed to find this manor house is in Kent, England.)
Wooden farm shack
The smell of the cattle, the steam from their bodies mingles with the morning air. Waking early, I am excited knowing father is taking me to the town today. The trip will take most of the day on the cart, which is filled with grain, vegetables and trailing two cattle, all of which father will sell for cloth and other supplies. Leaving Mother, my brothers and sisters for more than a day is such a treat. There are advantages to being the oldest but I have a feeling father has an ulterior motive in taking me. Last autumn he had encouraged me to visit Bayard in his father’s butcher shop. A match between us would be a favorable match for our farm and their butcher shop. I really enjoy the ride into town with so much of my life spent around the farm, escaping to see the different views and smells is wonderful as well as having no chores to do. Father maneuvers the cart through the dirt streets and to the rear of the butchers shop. I can feel myself become hot and nervous, Bayard is so handsome and I hope my appearance is pleasing. Just as I think about him there he is at the door in a blood splattered apron greeting us with a wave and a smile. Lowering my head I glimpse Bayard come to the wagon to help father lead the cattle to the little shack at the rear of the shop, he will slaughter them later I’m sure. Watching him walk away from me, his muscular body makes me flush. “Wilda, move yourself.” Father’s shout makes me jump, so grabbing a sack of sawdust I enter the shop’s rear store and greet Bayard’s father with a quick nod and place the sack upon the floor. The air is full of the smell of meat and blood mingle with the sawdust scattered there. I have become accustomed to the smell over time. At first it clawed at the back of my throat and stayed within my nostrils, now it is a reminder of Bayard and I have come to love it. Sitting quietly while my father talks, I watch Bayard through the veil of my eyelashes imagining him oblivious to my staring. However as our father’s leave the store, he turns smiling and asks if I would like a drink, keeping my head lowered I gently nod.
(With no records kept I was unable to find where this life was lived)