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Monday, July 10, 2017

Interview with Marisa Parker

Good afternoon everyone!  I have the pleasure of welcoming BRAG Medallion recipient, author Marisa Parker, to the blog today.  Her book, Goodbye to Italia, is non-fiction, set during the years of WWII.  I can’t wait to share about this book with you.

goodbye italia

Heather: Hi Marisa! Welcome to The Maiden’s Court.  Can you tell me how you discovered indieBRAG?

Marisa Parker: I was looking for different ways to promote my debut book to global communities – an online market. I wondered if I could apply for a book award and so undertook a Google search. Firstly, I came across a couple of articles advising caution on book award applications as there are some not so credible awards. I hadn't even thought about this! I investigated further and came across a top ten list of recommended book awards of which one was indieBRAG. I liked the sound of that especially when I realized that it was a Book Readers Appreciation Group. The thought of my mum and dad's story receiving recognition as a good story from other readers was important to me, so I applied.

H: You make a great point about having to do your research first – in anything!  I hadn’t thought about less than reputable book awards either, but I guess there are as with anything.  Thanks for bringing that to our attention. 

Getting to your book, to start off, can you tell us a little bit about it, GOODBYE To Italia?

MP: GOODBYE To Italia – a timid Italian girl; a young soldier; a love story – is the story of my parents during WWII in Italy and Africa. With thirteen years age difference, they went through very diverse experiences. The book opens in Northern Italy in 1942. Imagine a dark-haired little Italian girl called Mariolina skipping outside to peer up at the unexpected drone of airplanes, unaware of the danger as her neighbor, an eccentric opera singer, fervently prays for her teenage son. That son is my father Eugenio, who at twenty years old, is in the Italian army, fighting in North Africa as part of the Italian army. He’s soon captured by the Australian and British forces and sent to a Prisoner of War camp. Whilst captive in Southern Africa in the largest POW camp of Commonwealth forces (over 63,000 prisoners at one-time), he tries to keep upbeat about things but invariably struggles emotionally and physically.  The chapters in the first half of the book interchange between the two distinct characters and events until the war ends and my father returns to Italy. The changing relationship between my mum and dad then unfolds as my mother comes of age.

H: That’s a great time period to write about, there was so much happening in the world that there was no choice but for people to change with it.

Your book is non-fiction and based on the experiences of your family. Can you give us some insight into what made you decide to tell their story?

MP: I've always thought my mum and dad's story was fascinating and I took for granted the amazing bond shared between them. As a teenager, I was thrilled by the snippets of war stories they told me and wondered at their sheer determination and courage. As an adult, it became a burning passion of mine to write and share their love story, their incredible war-time adventures and their Italian sense of fun and drama. This experience was made much more emotional by the re-discovery of my father’s diaries (written in Italian) revealing to me his charismatic and boisterous character that was so captivating to my mother – a girl brought up in a very different atmosphere of reticence and duty in Northern Italy.

H: Wow! To have his diaries you can really get a feel of what his life was like in the moment rather than recollection looking back.  That’s a wonderful keepsake to have. 

Have you had to do outside research to complete the story you are telling? If so, what have you done? Any great books you could recommend?

MP: It took me four years to write the book. That was due to a few things, as I work full time and, am rather pedantic and particular about researching, reviewing and re-writing, so time passed quickly. Also, as it was my first book, I wanted to ensure that the manuscript was the best that it could be and importantly, receive confirmation from my mum that she liked the way that I had written such a personal account of her life. To reach this point, I undertook research to set her story in context, align with worldwide historical events and provide authenticity into what it was like during WWII in Italy and Africa. This was undertaken through Internet searches and, through reading some books.

One of the books was Il Duce and His Women by R Olla and S Parkin. I found the character of Benito Mussolini, nicknamed Il Duce, a fascinating public and private figure, He was so popular and powerful but through time and circumstances everything unravelled. He enthralled his Italian compatriots; sold the idea of fascism as the true and only ideology and was instrumental in aligning Italy with Germany and the Hitler regime. Mussolini had a fundamental influence on my grandmother and her son, Eugenio Piergiovanni, my father.

H: I would imagine that it would be extremely important to get the nod from your mother, on a personal level.

I hear that you are working on a second book, a continuation of their story. What more can you tell us about this upcoming work?

MP: Yes! I'm writing the sequel to GOODBYE To Italia. Once my mum and dad are married, they soon leave Italy to go and live in Africa in the fifties. The book commences as the ship departs Italy. My mother is suddenly plagued with indecision. She’s never been apart from her mamma and nonna (except for one week during WWII). Now, she’s on her way with her new husband who has ideas of making his fortune in colonialist Africa.

This book is written as a memoir from my mother’s perspective as my father passed away many years ago. My parents were incredibly determined and showed great perseverance. Moving within the glamourous circles of a surreal colonialist environment they even get caught up in political intrigue!

MP: I find that so fascinating!  To leave your home to go to a place that would have been so very foreign when, as you state, she had always had family to rely on and support her.  I can’t even imagine.

What drew you towards independent publishing as opposed to traditional publishing?  Has there been anything that was more or less challenging that you expected?  Would you do it again?

MP: I'm a romantic at heart. This influences the way I write. I set some goals at the start of this writing journey - to finish the book; get it published; see it in bookstores and ultimately, be made into a movie! I sought advice from a traditionally published author who gave guidance on preparing a pitch to publishing houses. Unfortunately, three submissions were unsuccessful. As my mother is now in her eighties, I decided to forge ahead and went the self-publishing route. Seeing the book in print and online as an eBook has been a most satisfying achievement.

Two most challenging things that I hadn’t really thought about was the unexpected and slightly overwhelming cost implication regarding professional editing, printing, website creation and marketing of the book (both time wise and financially). I also had no concept of how time consuming it would be to promote the book.  Writing the story has been the easy and most satisfying part. Getting out and about physically and, ensuring I spend enough time online so attending to a consistent online strategy has pushed me out of my comfort zone. But onwards I must go even if sometimes I just want to put my head in the sand!

MP:  I’m sure it has meant a lot to your mother to be able to see her story in print.  I have heard many independently published authors say that they were overwhelmed with how much additional work there is to do after the writing is done!

Have you had any struggles in the writing process?  How have you worked through these?  Any words of wisdom for aspiring authors?

MP: Some people will just shake their head at this but I've never had a problem with words flowing. In fact, it's the opposite. Probably that’s why I review and redraft so many times. I can read through copy that I thought was quite good at the time and then on re-reading, I think what the ##**!

However, as it's my family's history most of the time it's just all-consuming and hours will pass to be interrupted by my husband asking, what's for lunch? This is because I normally set aside writing time on the weekends as I work through the week. Even so, I have had times when I just cannot write anymore. That's when I change to research mode. The most arbitrary or extraordinary facts can be unveiled that in an instant can relight a fire or creative flow. So, using research time for periods of writer’s block is probably one piece of advice. It is also important to have a specific time slot every day or during the weekends to keep adding to and growing your story.

H: I would imagine that it would be easy to become absorbed in your family’s story. 

When you are not reading for research or otherwise writing, what type of books or what authors do you enjoy reading?

MP: I love reading. It takes me into another world. My tastes have changed considerably over the years. I'd say it's been influenced by my environment or certain stages in my life. For the past few years, I enjoy mostly fiction, as long as it is well written. I get annoyed with more than one spelling mistake or if a character feels artificial. I try not to be judgmental but after three chapters, if the story or a character hasn’t gripped me, I likely won’t continue with that book.

My current books of taste are historical or contemporary romances and even detective or intrigue (drama), as an escapism after a busy day at work. Although I do intersperse this with memoirs and biographies whose book summaries catch my eye. Two of my favourite books that are very diverse are Seabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand and, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.

H: I wish I could give up on a book that isn’t doing it for me as quickly.  I’m one of those “it must get better at some point” sort of readers…

What type of things do you like to do for leisure?

MP: For leisure, I garden, read and cook. The weather can dictate the varying preferences of these three things. My husband and I would love to spend more time with our two grown up daughters but they no longer live at home. We manage to catch up weekly by various digital means and every now and then in person. They are independent beautiful women, living their lives and seeing the world but it would be great to be able to see them more often and just sit and chat!

H:  That sounds wonderful!  Thank you Marisa for stopping by and letting us get to know more about you and your book, Goodbye to Italia.

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Photo Credit: University of Southern Queensland, Australia

Hi, I’m Marisa Parker. My mamma, Maria (Iucci) Martore and papa, Eugenio Piergiovanni, have led such an amazing life that I had to write their story. The first book, GOODBYE To Italia – a timid Italian girl; a young soldier; a love story – is about their diverse experiences in Italy and Africa in WWII. I’m now writing their second book (2017) after they married and went to live in Africa. The story will be related personally from my mum’s perspective, as she recalls it.

Currently, my husband and I live in the hills behind the Gold Coast in Australia. We have two grown-up daughters who were born in Zimbabwe, Africa – where I was also born. Although it was called Rhodesia back in the day! We left Africa in 2000 and went to live in New Zealand for six years before moving to Australia which is now our home. Since moving here, I’ve undertaken study as a mature-age student whilst working full-time. It’s been a tough journey but oh, so worth it.

Find Marisa Parker: Website | Facebook | Twitter

goodbye italia
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Book Blurb:

A pretty little Italian girl skips outside to peer up at the unexpected drone of aeroplanes, unaware of the danger as her neighbour, an eccentric opera singer, fervently prays for her teenage son. It is the start of WWII. An age difference of thirteen years separates the little girl Mariolina Martore and the army officer Eugenio Piergiovanni, but their lives are destined to intertwine.
Mariolina is a timid but stalwart child who lives with her mother and grandmother. During the war years, they endure bombings, cold, hunger, and disease in Torino, Northern Italy.

In contrast, Eugenio, a teenage soldier, is captured and spends six years in African prisoner-of-war (POW) camps—one of which boasted 63,000 prisoners at one time. Eugenio’s transition into adulthood during captivity, as told through his diaries, makes for bittersweet humour as he strives to find laughter in sad situations.

Goodbye to Italia is a non-fiction romantic story of Italian drama, courage, and humour. So as to stay true to the retelling by my mamma and papa, and to capture the essence of living through those times, the chapters in the first half of the book interchange between the two diverse characters, Mariolina and Eugenio, as they come of age.

Buy the Book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | RJ Julia


A Message from IndieBRAG:

We are delighted that Heather has chosen to interview Marisa Parker. who is the author of, Goodbye to Italia, our medallion honoree at indieBRAG. To be awarded a B.R.A.G. MedallionTM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, Goodbye to Italia, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

brag interview team




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