Paolo and Francesca…

a novel about beautiful people in Italy.

Category: inspiration

inspiration #34 : Villa Necchi.

grounds of the Villa Necchi

featured in the gorgeous, exceptional, visually sumptuous film I Am Love, Milan’s Villa Necchi is open to the public.  here’s a shot of the grounds, the beautiful pool where (spoiler alert) Edo dies.


tour of the Standard Hotel.

it pays to have connections.  today I had the pleasure of touring two of the most fabulous suites in the city of New York, the Hudson Studio and the Liberty Suite at the Standard Hotel.  when Francesca and Selim visit New York, they stay at the Standard in the Liberty Suite.

Liberty Suite Bed

gentle readers, the bed is round.

Liberty Suite bar

Francesca would approve of the photography books; Selim would approve of the Patron.

Liberty Suite dining

succulents, fruit, and a view.

Liberty Suite bath

the bathtub looks downtown toward One World Trade and the Statue of Liberty.

interviewing Paolo.

doing some character work, which includes the fun task of interviewing Paolo Romaldo.  imagine my glee when I discovered this gem of a video on youtube:

ha ha, Dani Osvaldo talking about his tattoos and his favorite music.  apparently he is planning to have all the characters from Pink Floyd’s The Wall tattooed on his left arm.

so here is an excerpt from my interview with Paolo, a work in progress.  PR = Paolo Romaldo, I = Interviewer.

I: You’re quite involved with youth football charities, both here in Torino and in your home city of Napoli.  Can you tell us why that’s so important to you?

PR: I started playing football when I was quite young—three years old, I think.  I had a modest upbringing, and only because of the funding of the youth leagues was I able to get the start that I needed.  I’ve never forgotten that.  Particularly now, with the economy the way it is in Italy, giving children the opportunity to learn to play at a young age in a safe environment is one way I can give back.

I: That’s a lovely sentiment.

PR: Well, we’re trying to make it more than just sentimental.  Ideally, it will change the lives of these children and also improve the caliber of football in Italy by growing talent at a young age.

I: Do you want to have children yourself?

PR: Of course I want children!  I’ve always imagined a big family, three or four kids at least, coming home for dinner every night and seeing them lined up down the dinner table.  I love kids.  But I can wait a little longer, I want the situation to be right, obviously.  I wouldn’t want to have four kids with four different women.

I: [coughs] It seems you and Francesca are on the right track, though.

PR: Of course, yes, I hope so.

I: What’s one thing our readers will be surprised to learn about you?

PR: Surprised to learn about me?  That I love the opera.  I have season tickets to La Scala.

I: I’d seen photos of you and Francesca at opening night, but I had assumed that was her doing and not yours.

PR: No, no, it was the other way around.  I’ve loved the opera since I was a kid.

I: That is very surprising.  If you weren’t a football player, what would you be?

PR: I don’t know.  I’d never considered anything else.  This is what I was meant to be.  If it all changes tomorrow, I don’t know, a racecar driver.

inspiration #33 : poems for grieving.

I apologize for returning with such a downer but I’ve been working like crazy on the THIRD (and final!) book in the Francesca sequence and it’s been emotionally draining.  spoiler alert: someone dies.  so I’ve had to work through all of that.  it was a great feeling to take some old poetry anthologies off my bookshelf and flip through them, looking for just the right poems to express my characters’ emotions.  and I did.  that’s the great comfort of poetry: someone has worked incredibly hard to put the right words in the right order to express something that will resonate with you.

and then, as a complete surprise, today I stumbled across this lovely piece by Joy Katz on the Poetry Foundation website, in which she writes about the poems that spoke to her after her mother’s death.  particularly resonant to what I’m writing:

The ones that sustain me, I find, have to do with living people, humans who mourn, rather than with the departed. These poems are not “like” grieving—they are not lamentations—but instead open up the isolating process of mourning. They translate sorrow through poetic form rather than confining it to a metaphor.

I don’t think I’m giving anything away by sending you to the one I found, in an old paperback Modern Poets anthology I bought at a book sale for $1, Edna St Vincent Millay’s “Dirge Without Music”.

inspiration #32 : L’Avventura

I’m surprised it’s taken me this long to talk about L’Avventura, considering it’s one of my favorite movies OF ALL TIME and it’s such a direct influence on this book.  The Criterion Collection blurb reads as follows:

A girl mysteriously disappears on a yachting trip. While her lover and her best friend search for her across Italy, they begin an affair. Antonioni’s penetrating study of the idle upper class offers stinging observations on spiritual isolation and the many meanings of love.

That is basically the book I wish I had written.  I’m obsessed with the portrayal of detachment in the film, that relationships are so fleeting, that we so infrequently make meaningful connections (L’Avventura is the first of Antonioni’s so-called “alienation trilogy”).  But further, I love that the characters have everything they could ever want and at the same time are ceaselessly searching for more.  That’s the lens that I’ve used to look at Francesca and her family–Marco, Anna, Ricci, and Giulietta.  They’re direct descendents of the characters in this film.

Maybe it’s the post-modernist in me, but I also love that L’Avventura is not at all driven by plot.  Halfway through the movie, you forget that we’re supposed to be looking for the missing girl, and everything that happens is entirely character-driven.  That’s how compelling these people are, rich, idle, and vapid though they may be.  And of course, Italy is itself a character–its craggy Mediterranean outcroppings, its fertile inland plains, its frenzied cities.  

[Other film inspirations: Blow-Up, Layer Cake, Belle de Jour]

inspiration #31 : writers who believe in writers.

I’m at RWA (the annual conference of the Romance Writers of America) this week and I’ve been amazed by how inspirational the sessions have been.  I’ve thought of myself as a writer since, oh, probably seventh grade, but working a day job and facing the harsh realities of life often make it challenging to envision oneself living the dream.  today I had the truly wonderful opportunity to hear Cathy Maxwell give the keynote address at the conference.  she spoke candidly about attending her first conference, and the moment when she acknowledged that she had “this thing inside” her that needed to be manifest–the desire to tell a story, and to write.  for me, and I imagine for many of the thousands of other attendees, it was a validation of the late nights, furtive scribbled notes, and impractical trips using valuable vacation days through which we try to realize this thing inside.  dear reader, I cried.  and my heart soared to be in the company of so many women from so many different walks of life who are pursuing this calling.

inspiration #30 : Wendy Davis.

I made a deliberate decision to include abortion in Dodge and Burn (as arguably the central event of the book) because I feel that it’s something our society doesn’t talk about enough.  sure, we talk about “pro-choice” and “pro-life” but we don’t discuss the actual event.  statistically, you know someone who has had an abortion.  statistically, she probably hasn’t told you about it.

Wendy Davis

so along came Wendy Davis, a committed state legislator from Texas, who finally gave voice to hundreds of narratives from women who had experiences to share.  her filibuster started a dialogue, and honestly, that’s a true inspiration for me.  what I hope to do with Francesca’s abortion is start a conversation, because talking about books is fine and good but in a perfect world, we would also talk about our lives.

CNN would rather broadcast a segment on blueberry muffins than cover the testimony of hundreds of women speaking frankly about abortion. for that reason alone, I feel a responsibility to make this issue an integral part of my work.


inspiration #29 : two songs for a Monday

video is bizarre, so just listen to the song.  Zero 7: “Distractions”


again, awful video (what, Zach Braff?  remember him?) but I love this song.  Rilo Kiley: “Does He Love You?”

inspiration #28 : Farhad Moshiri.

life is beautiful


“Life is Beautiful”, Farhad Moshiri.

I saw this installation last January in Venice at Palazzo Grassi and it literally changed my life.  ok, that’s kind of extreme, but I was having one of those moments–wandering through Venice alone, in the cold and fog, spending the day just looking at art–and it struck me, incredibly deeply, how brilliant this piece is.

LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL.  spelled out in knives.

I could say something pretentious about art and edges, but I won’t.

during their difficult mini-holiday in Venice, Francesca and Selim go to Palazzo Grassi and see this installation, and Selim buys the picture postcard in the museum gift shop to send to her later.  for me, the combination of the knives and the idea of life being beautiful–which it is, you know it is, but it’s something so fraught for Francesca at this moment–the symbolism is so horribly significant, and so true.



inspiration #27 : Dani Osvaldo

I’ve been doing revisions on the first book so I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about Italian soccer players and their requisite hotness.  I present to you Exhibit A, a model for Paolo Romaldo, Mr. Pablo Daniel (“Dani”) Osvaldo, of AS Roma.

feast your eyes…

osvaldo 2



I am a sucker for 1) glasses 2) a Rolex Daytona 3) a man in a suit 4) long hair.  good Lord!