‘The whole experience of going to a foreign land, and not knowing the language inspired me.’
“When I was young, about 11, I went to Italy for the summer with my uncle. I was going to spend half the time in Puglia with his family, and half the time in Procida, a small island off Naples, with my father’s family. In Puglia, there were girls my age, and they spoke fluent English. I had a great time.
“When I got to Procida, my aunt and uncle didn’t speak any English, and I didn’t speak any Italian. My parents felt the situation would force me to learn the language and get to know my relatives, but I didn’t do either.
“I spent my first couple of days just reading on the balcony. The whole situation was odd, not being able to communicate. I pleaded with my uncle to pick me up;, I really didn’t want to stay. On the way back, he said, ‘But you didn’t even get to meet your cousins.’ He never said any more about that.
“I was in my late 40s when Facebook first arrived. I started looking for my cousins and actually found a bunch of them, cousins I’d heard about but never met. Ultimately, I discovered six first cousins and 10 cousins once removed.
I’ve been writing my whole life, but this is my first fiction.
“Since then, I’ve been there about 10 times. I’ve stayed in their homes, vacationed with them, gone to their children’s weddings. I feel like they’ve been part of my life since the beginning. What’s interesting is I have red hair. An Italian with red hair is not that common, but when I got there, four out of five cousins from one family all had red hair.
“The whole experience of going to a foreign land and not knowing the language inspired me to write a novel, ‘Where You End, I Begin.’ I’m a public relations strategist. I’ve been writing my whole life, but this is my first fiction. It doesn’t follow my story at all. It’s an independent story about two separate Italian families who come to the United States.
“The book is set in old-world Procida, which for the majority of its history was a sleepy fishing village overshadowed by neighboring islands. But the island has come into its own.
“Every year, Italy names a capital of culture, and last year it was Procida, and for good reason. The island is so picturesque and has a lot of history. The last time I was there, I saw lots of tourists, something I haven’t seen in the past decade and a half that I’ve been going there.”
Interviewed by Barbara Schuler