My novel Lemon Blossoms began as a short story in graduate school at Florida International University when I was enrolled in the Master of Fine Arts program in Creative Writing. The story, entitled “The Seventh Day Photograph,” was included as part of my thesis, a collection of short stories.
The inspiration came from a photograph of my maternal Sicilian grandparents, seven days after their wedding. My grandmother was dressed in black to signify that the marriage had been consummated.
I had the opportunity of taking a novel-writing class with my mentor and thesis advisor, John Dufresne. In that course, one semester before I earned my degree, I was able to set down the first draft of what is now the second book in the Wayfarer Trilogy based on that story.
Of course this would undergo countless revisions, and at one point, I even had an agent for the novel, but the agent and I parted ways after she was unable to place it, the main reason being that the editors she sent to didn’t know how to market it. I took the novel back and figured that I should write a prequel, which turned out to be The Secret Language of Women.
So when Fate determines that something is not destined to be at a particular time, a writer should never abandon the project, nor the hopes and dreams attached to it.
I submitted the first novel to Turner Publishing, saying there was a second novel already written for the series, and it was my intention to write a third one – In America – to complete a trilogy. The people at Turner Publishing liked the idea and now the second book in the series, Lemon Blossoms, is set to release on February 16th.
So one might ask: where did the rest of the research come from for that novel set in the early 1900s in Sicily?
I interviewed family members, who were still alive, and came up with a treasure trove of information. Of course, I had to do actual research and was fortunate at the have a wonderful librarian, Cathy Anthony who used to love my wild and crazy questions. When I couldn’t locate something myself, Cathy said I made her job interesting and would oblige. I can never thank her enough for all the “stuff” she dug up for me!
I was fortunate also, because I had lived in Rome, Italy for twenty years before moving back to the States. While I was in Italy, I traveled many times to Sicily to visit relatives and to travel. I still go to see my 101-year-old Zia Lina, my father’s youngest sister, who resides in Palermo. In fact I just spent some time with her this past fall, and when I’m with her, you can be assured that I ask her many questions about her youth and WWII. I would love to write a novel constructed on her interesting life and am considering it for a future endeavor.
I set novel-writing aside for a while in order to pursue poetry and short stories. I have published a great many poems as individual pieces in literary journals and magazines—enough to garner five complete collections and two chap books, and sufficient stories to craft and publish a collection, The Other Side of the Gates.
However, since my first love is the novel form, I am now concentrating solely on this genre, honing my prose in fiction.