Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Next Big Thing

                                         My cousin Rosa and me in Pettorano

"You have to write the book that wants to be written."
~ Madeleine D'Engel

Christine Hale, author of Basil's Dream, invited me to participate in the blog share, The Next Big Thing. (The idea behind this blog share is to give writers the opportunity to share what they're working on by answering "interview" questions.)  Chris, who teaches creative writing at Antioch University Los Angeles, was one of my first mentors at Murray State and is a friend. In her blog about The Next Big Thing, Chris discusses her memoir – In Your Line of Sight: A Reconciliation.

When Chris invited me to participate, I hesitated a bit because I have not yet published a book.  Yes. Yes.  I do have publishing credits for individual stories and essays, but a book?  Besides, I thought, I'm still working on it and who knows if I'll ever finish it and find someone to publish it and, more importantly, someone to read it. Typical me.

My intention is to finish the book before June 1.  Part of the reason I want to go to Italy this spring is to write "in the environment."  I also have some questions that haunt me, and I want/need answers. Chris's invite is another kick in the arse to give me the resolve to set a date to finish.

So, grazie mille, Chris, for inviting me to participate.

What is the working title of your book (or story)?
Abandoned Houses

Where did the idea for the book come from?
When I was writing pieces for my MFA thesis, I wrote one about my two grandmothers and how different they were, how differently they treated me, and how much I knew – or didn't know – about each. The "good" grandmother, my Italian maternal grandmother, played a large role in my life, and as I wrote the essay, I started thinking about the sacrifices she made so that her children and grandchildren would have a better life.  I owe the life I live to Grams, and I feel the need to repay her by telling her story.

I became obsessed with finding out as much as I could about my grandmother's life both in the US and in her beloved Italy. I've traveled to Italy twice, found my grandmother's birthplace, met cousins I didn't know existed, and uncovered a number of family secrets. As I walked among the abandoned houses of my grandmother's village, I started to discover a lot about who I am.  I'm going back to Italy this spring to finish the book and complete the journey of finding myself.

What genre does the book fall under?
It's a memoir.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Yikes. Pretending for a minute that this book would ever come to the silver screen is fun, but I have a hard time casting certain parts.  But, since this is just for today, here are the main actors I'd choose:
Younger grandmother – Elisabetta Canalis
Older grandmother – Isabella Rosellini . . . She's a bit young, but make-up can do wonders.
My paternal grandmother – Maggie Smith . . . I enjoy her work and hate to cast her in this negative role, but I do think she could pull it off.
Grandfather – Joe Pesci . . . I didn't really know my grandfather, but from what I've heard, Pesci is enough of a firecracker to be Gramps.
Mike, my husband – George Clooney . . . Sense of humor, practical joker, and have you seen the photo of Clooney wearing the Xavier hat?  'Nuff said.
Younger me  – Amanda Seyfried. . . This is my husband's suggestion.  It works.
Me today – Sandra Bullock . . . She once said, "...I hope I am the best version of me that I can possibly be."  She was talking about being a mother, but I think that says it all about me. Besides, she's funny, nice, private . . .

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Abandoned Houses is about the journey to find myself among the abandoned houses of my grandmother's Italian birthplace.

Will your book be published or represented by an agency?
It's a little too early to tell, but I hope to find a publisher for the book.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I'm still working on it, but it's taken a good three years to get to this point. I do expect to finish it this spring.

What other books within your genre would you compare this story to?
I don't know that I dare compare my book to another writer's. I think that Patricia Hampl's A Romantic Education is similar in that Hampl travels to her father's birthplace in search of her homeland, history and herself.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
My grandmother, pure and simple.  I also feel that the quote at the top of this page says it all:  "You have to write the book that wants to be written."
~ Madeleine D'Engel

What else about your book might pique your reader's interest?
Most Americans come from families that, at some point, left their native lands to settle in this country. Everyone can identify with that part of the story.  The ride is not going to be smooth, but I hope people will want to come along for the journey and be excited to find out what I uncovered and how I did it.

Again, thanks to Chris Hale for this opportunity.

Please check out Rachel Rinehart's "interview" on January 25 when she discusses her book, Right to Breathe, a collection of creative non-fiction narratives that explore the process of reclamation—reclaiming perception, voice, body and even a name. You can read her answers on her blog, A Heart That Blesses, here.

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