Here is an interview I gave regarding Tempesta’s Dream.
MJN: At a closer look, the subtitle of Tempesta’s Dream – a story of Love, Friendship and Opera – is a little paradoxical. Coming from a family of classical musicians, anything involving opera would be modified with words like “rivalry” and “backstabbing”. Perhaps, Italians are more forgiving and generous that Russians?
VL: Oh, I am sure the competitive spirit runs amuck in the opera world. As for my novel, the subtitle refers to the characters in the opera.
Love – Giovanni Tempesta falls in love with Isabella, the girl who he has always dreamed of in his operatic worldview. He grew up on operas, and strongly believes at love at first sight.
Friendship – Alfredo, a blind retired singer at the Casa di Riposa, takes young Giovanni under his wing and teaches him how to sing opera, but more importantly, a friendship is formed that transforms both of them.
Opera – The real protagonist of the story. The story was a means by which I could pass along my adoration and passion for opera to my readers.
MJN: In the past months I have interviewed several other authors whose novels revolve around careers of musicians, including The Red Priest’s Annina. Would you say that historical novels with a musical theme are their own category?
VL: I couldn’t agree more. I am known as an Italian Historical Fiction writer, which is the closest way to describe my style, although not perfect. I really think I am more of a Musical Historical Fiction writer. There have been so many before me, who have written about composers, conductors, singers and such. It really should be it’s own category.
MJN: You currently live in New Orleans, which has been a pilgrimage site for many authors, artists and musicians seeking inspiration. Tell us about the effect that the city has on you.
VL: It’s true I live in New Orleans, but more than that I was born and raised here. So I am fully confident that what I am about to say is biased. So be it. I have travelled a lot, been to many different cities, and no where, and I mean no where, do you get anything like the French Quarter. This is the Latin Quarter in Puccini’s La Boheme. A place where tourists walk over the same stones that the Pirate Jean Lafitte strolled; the same places where late night meetings occurred hatching a plan to rescue Napoleon from exile. A place where ghosts feel just at real as the tourists. Often, I take my computer down to the Quarter, find an outside café, get a coffee, and transport myself to Europe and began the writing journey. It is a magical city.
MJN: Tell us a little bit about the awards that your books have won. I’m talking about the 2014 Pinnacle Achievement Award in Historical Fiction. When you submitted your novel for consideration, did you think that you had a high chance of winning the award? Would it be beneficial to read novels who won in the prior years, just to get an idea of what the judges’ tastes are like?
VL: I would not spend my time reading novels to see what the Judges like. I think it’s more important to make sure your novel is the best it can be, and is ready for submission. Here is an example. An early draft of my second novel, A Song for Bellafortuna, was submitted to the William Faulkner Writing Competition. It was named as a Short List Finalist. Then the novel went through a major revision with my agent in New York. It became a great book. That novel was awarded the distinguished Indie Brag Medaillion Award. I often wonder if I had submitted it after those revisions to the William Faulkner Competition, would it have had a better chance of winning. My advice, leave nothing on the table. Make sure your book is ready to go.
MJN: Your novels are set in the country of your ancestors. One of my early loves was an Italian gentleman, who defied every stereotype imaginable – lethargic, blond, blue-eyed, Protestant. He hated his mother and pasta. A living negation of every Italian stereotype! Are there any pervasive ethnic stereotypes that you hope to counter through your literature? Or do you occasionally indulge the unenlightened masses and give them what they expect in terms of portrayal of Italians?
VL: He hated his mother and pasta. There is no such Italian man. This is a great question and one that really makes me take a pause. Of course, we all have Italian stereotypes in our minds. But the more I ponder this question, I think my answer would be that the story’s protagonist and the locale is usually set first in my mind. Then the story develops as the character develops more and more throughout the writing of the story. That is the fun part of writing. When the story begins to take you places you never expected it to. I remember reading a letter J.R.R. Tolkien wrote one day while at work in the early stages of Lord of the Rings. He stated in that letter that he had just introduced Black Riders into the story, and that he could not wait to get back to writing to discover more about them. Writing is a journey. So, at least for me, I don’t think I write from stereotypes, but instead I just follow the story where it leads.
MJN: What a great interview. Thanks for your time.
VL: Thanks for taking the time to get to know a little bit about my writing career and me.
This past Sunday, we took our daughter to Arnaud’s for Brunch for her birthday. Arnaud’s is located in the French Quarter in New Orleans and is one of the classic, French/Creole old line restaurants in the City. At Brunch, a Dixieland Jazz trio plays jazz greats. They came up to our table and sang happy birthday to our little group. Then asked us if we had a request. I asked them to bring a little Italian into the French spot. Lo and behold, the Gumbo Trio, played a perfect jazz rendition of O’ Sole Mio, with Italian vocals sung by of them. It was outstanding and one of those magic New Orleans moments. Of course, I sang along, and with deep regret for my family, the musicians complimented my voice. They may never shut me up again.
Every year after Easter, I love reading the mass readings as the Apostles began to spend more and more time with the risen Lord and as the infant Church slowly begins to grow. It’s fascinating that these broken followers of Jesus suddenly are imbued with the strength and determination to bring the light inside their heart to the world.
No story better epitomizes this than the story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus. They are devastated at the death of Jesus when suddenly they are joined by a stranger who turns out to be the risen Lord.
As they walk along, the stranger discusses scripture with them. “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” When they reach their destination, they beg the stranger to stay with them, which he does. He continues teaching them. And at dinner, he breaks bread and they recognize him. Can you imagine being taught the entire history of salvation by the Lord. Luke’s gospel explains what it felt like to those two men after Jesus had departed from them.
“They asked each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
I love that image. They are so excited by this experience, they rush back to Jerusalem to find the Apostles to let them know they had seen the Lord.
So I invite you this Easter season to take the walk with me to Emmaus and read about the birth of the infant Church.
Just wanted to give a shout out to the Folsom Ladies Book Club who invited me to discuss A Song for Bellafortuna last week. It was a well spent afternoon. I loved meeting you ladies and discussing my book and its characters. There really is nothing more exciting for an author than to sit and listen people discuss their take on your work.
Keep reading. Your book club is special.
We watched Jesus Christ Superstar Easter night and all I kept thinking the whole time was – this was what TV was made for. Entertainment. And what better way to entertain than music. Be it broadway, concerts or opera, this medium can bring the music right into your home and places you right on the stage to watch this talent up close.
I hope the trend continues to bring musical theater to television.