Don’t you just love YA? I have two guests today who have written a delightful young adult novel, Luna Marina and the McMachina. What is unique about their story is that they are a mother/son writing team. We have them here today to tell us more about themselves and their wonderful new book.
Thank you for this interview, Gino and Alessandra. Can you tell us a little bit about yourselves, and how long you’ve been writing?
Allessandra: I am a little old lady almost 75 years old. I came from Italy when I was twenty as an American citizen, because my mother was born in the US and she kept her American citizenship always. I have been in this country for almost 55 years and I have been happy to be an American since the first day I arrived. My first priority has always been and it will always be my family.
I have always loved reading since I was 4 years old, after my father put me on his knee and started teaching me. I used to devour anything in print that came my way, even adult things that I shouldn’t have been reading. When I was nine years old, my catholic teacher, sister Concettina, caught me reading Lady Chatterley’s Lover under my desk, and she screamed and screamed. The repercussions were tremendous, and through it all the only thing I could think was that she must have read it too, if she knew what it was at a glance.
When I was 15 years old, in Italy, I started writing small articles for an Italian magazine for teens, Mimosa, but it was all about boys, hairdos, clothes and makeup. At 17 I wrote short stories for a local paper, and at 18 a short, romantic novel for a steamy magazine called Grand Hotel. At first they loved it, but they rejected it when they found how young I was.
At 19 I married, and soon after came to the US. After that, my new country and my family was all I cared about, and I didn’t write until I was in my seventies, pushed by my son Gino.
Gino: I’m a computer programmer and IT Support Specialist by trade. In addition, I am a singer / songwriter / musician, and I started writing at 14 for my school newspaper.
When I was a kid, I was sent to the Perkins School for the Blind, a boarding school that took me far from home. At that time I wrote for the school newspaper reviewing TV shows and movies. I also took various music classes there, including piano and voice. As a teenager, I came home to Seekonk High School, where I got my primary academic education and continued with my music classes. While there, I took advanced Honors courses and joined the Verdandi Male Choir for Swedish Singers. I was also inducted into the National Honors Society, before graduating with honors.
During college, I studied computer science and sociology, while writing for a small computer magazine, before working as a programmer for a small software company.
In that time, I also tutored fellow students, sometimes helping groups of them, with subjects such as computers, science and astronomy, and even writing. I always got satisfaction when someone, who had trouble understanding something subtle before, suddenly understood fully.
Today I concentrate on writing and music, and I read a lot of science fiction and other books.
Can you tell us briefly what your book is about?
Gino: This is a coming-of-age book meant for teenagers and young adult readers, but in reality, adults of every age will enjoy it equally. This is a feel-good book that is completely family-friendly, yet very interesting, perfect for the classroom or family reading nights.
Luna Marina Blue is 14 years old and hates the fact that it’s the first day of school, and summer vacation is over. After having a bad day at school, including food fights at lunch, misbehaving in class, and being taken to the Principal’s Office, she’s suspended from school, followed by being punished at home. Believing that no one cares for her, she steps into a bright light which suddenly appears into her room. Thus begins her own personal odyssey, including visiting the Machine of Time and Space, meeting her guide of sorts, then ultimately ending up in the town of Pontecorvo, Italy during the 1950’s. While there, Luna meets and lives with a new family, makes friends, goes to school, and learns to appreciate life in Old World Italy. During this time, with her new best friend Ivana, she learns many life lessons, becomes a much better, more considerate person, and goes on many adventures, even learning secrets from her past. Eventually, she is sent back home, with many tears, thinking she will never see those she learned to love in Old World Italy, and resumes her life in the modern world, a much changed person.
Why did you choose your particular genre?
Alessandra: In writing this story, Gino and I wanted to portray the lifestyle, customs, food, and the total experience of my hometown of Pontecorvo, Italy during the 1950’s. But I realized that few would be interested in the memories of a little Italian old lady. So we came up with the story of Luna Blue, a modern American teenage girl who travels back in time from home in the suburbs of Boston to that time and place. Gino and I both love Sci-Fi! We wrote this story for every age, but mostly it is aimed at teens, as we think that young people today should know about the values of the past and, maybe, try to become better people in the future. Also, even though Luna travels to 1950’s Italy, this book has a modern flair that appeals especially to teenagers, while retaining classical and deep storytelling that attracts adults.
In doing so, perhaps, kids will start to appreciate good storytelling, as well as learning valuable life lessons along the way.
What was your greatest challenge writing this book?
Gino: One of the biggest challenges was working together while developing our writing style, which makes the story very accessible and understandable for teens, yet just as deep and thoughtful for adults. We wrote the book in a very flowing manner, which allows relaxed and enjoyable reading. In addition, I had to juggle work and writing, as well as making sure the research for historical parts of the book was accurate and complete.
Are you published by a traditional house, small press or are you self-published?
Gino: We decided to self-publish because my mother says she’s already old and doesn’t want to waste time going the traditional way.
We self-published this through Amazon on the Kindle, and through Create Space for the print edition, which is also sold on amazon.com and Barnes & Noble online, bn.com.
Was it the right choice for you?
Gino: Very much so. Self-publishing gives the freedom for full control, but also the responsibility for fully editing our manuscript to ensure it’s at the highest standards of quality. And one of the many things my mother has taught me is to always have very high standards. Not only that, but both Ma and I are extreme sticklers for details and correctness in everything we create.
We would, however, like to eventually be picked up by a large publishing house for the advanced marketing they can help us with to bring our stories to a wider audience.
How are you promoting your book thus far?
Gino: I have a facebook page and my mother and I have been sending print copies to influential people. We did have some responses that we are very please with. Also, we have been posting on many other facebook pages and web sites.
How is that going for you?
Gino: We try as much as we can, but our audience reach is limited. We’re looking to the service www.pumpupyourbook.com to improve our reach and to go to the next step.
Can you tell us one thing you have done that actually resulted in one or more sales?
Gino: We have sent out print copies of the book to a few interested parties, who have notified others, thereby generating sales. This includes some people we know in countries like Italy and South Africa.
Do you have another job besides writing?
Alessandra: I am retired, and my only job is cooking, cleaning, and bottle-washing.
Gino: I’m a computer programmer and IT support specialist, and I’m also a singer/ songwriter/musician.
If you could give one book promotion tip to new authors, what would that be?
Gino: I would say to develop a unique writing style that would appeal to your target audience. Don’t be afraid to experiment, and get feedback from close friends and family throughout the writing process. In that way, you also create hype for your work, which gets others excited to read what you have written.
What’s next for you?
Gino: Well, we are starting a shorter book for younger children which we would like to submit to the Newbery medal award, concentrating on creating a wider market for this first book, and then we will be starting the next book in the Adventures of Luna Marina Blue!
Since we’ve used food so much to illustrate this story, if we have time in between projects, we might write a Luna Marina Blue cookbook.
Can you tell us where we can find you on the web?
Alessandra: Sorry, you cannot find me on the web since I am not there!
Gino: You can find me on facebook and twitter at: