Good afternoon Everyone and a warm welcome to you all. Today we have author Diane Marina, author of four smash novels, including ‘Imperial Hotel: A Lesbian Romance’, to chat with us. Her new short story compiliation, ‘Love is…’ is due to be out in the upcoming weeks and I have included an excerpt. So pull up a chair and find out more about this dynamic author.
“With every book, you go back to school. You become a student. You become an investigative reporter. You spend a little time learning what it’s like to live in someone else’s shoes.”
What is your story about?
The book, due out by the new year, will be called “Love Is…” and is a collection of four short stories – one is rather sweet and takes place in a candy store (Sweet Girl), one is about love after heartbreak and has an international flair (Italian Summer), one is somewhat spooky (Enchanted), and the last one is downright sexy (If You Were My Girl).
What traits were you looking for when you were creating the main character for this story?
In all four stories, the main characters are ultimately driven by love. The main characters are strong women, with just a little bit of vulnerability thrown in. All four are facing an obstacle or challenge within the story, but there is never any doubt that everything will end up as it should in the end….well, maybe there’s a slight question of that at times. All of my characters are always blessed with a decent sense of humor too, I think.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers? Can you elaborate on what has worked for you?
I would like to say thank you for being patient! It’s been a long while since I’ve released my last book, “How Still My Love.” These stories have taken me a long time to write because of other commitments, and I had actually planned on publishing a full-length novel well before now, but it was put onto the back burner. I’m hoping my readers will enjoy these tales, and I think that they’ll be a good holdover until I get the book I’d originally planned finished.
What can we find you doing when you are not writing?
These days when I’m not writing, I’m usually working to finish up the degree I’ve been studying towards for several years. I’m finally seeing the end of the tunnel, which makes me extremely happy. I also love to travel and spend time with my wife and our two pups. When I’m not doing any of the above, you can probably find me reading.
Do you have a unique writing style?
I think every author does. We can say, “her writing reminds me of (insert name here), but overall, we’ve all got our own style. I’ll be the first to say that my forte is being able to weave a good story, and writing descriptive settings.
Where is the most exotic place you’ve travelled? Would you use that location for the setting of a future story?
Hmmm, exotic? Not sure about exotic, but I’ve been to Mexico, the Carribean, Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Italy, Spain, England, France, and all over the U.S. I’d say perhaps the most exotic was a visit to Corsica, France, a cute little island off the coast of Italy. I hadn’t thought about using it as a setting in a story, but my motto is “never say never”! I have used Rome and its surrounding areas in my newest however, and I have to say, the destination, and the resulting story is one of my favorites.
What other authors do you follow? What do you like about them?
I’m a diehard fan of KG MacGregor, Robin Alexander, and Lynn Galli, among others. I know I can count on their books to be well-written and fun to read. My all-time favorite author is John Irving, author of “The World According to Garp” and “The Cider House Rules”. His style of writing just seems so natural and easy, and is so beautiful to read. He is my all-time idol.
What was the last movie you saw in the theatre? Would you recommend it?
The last film I saw in the theater was Jurrasic World, and let’s just say I saw it because my wife wanted to see it. Enough said, right? Would I have seen it on my own? No, but as they say, happy wife, happy life.
What is your fave “guilty” pleasure?
A nice drink. Whether it’s a lovely cocktail or a delicious craft beer, it doesn’t really matter, but it’s always a treat and a nice way to unwind.
What is in the works next for you?
Next will be a Hollywood love story, full of love, laughter, heartbreak, and hopefully a happy ending.
Me: Now this is the spirit. This story will bring joy to many.
Here is an excerpt from her forthcoming story, ‘Italian Summer’, included in the ‘Love Is…’ complilation. Enjoy!
Jessica’s seat rumbled as the jumbo jet landed with a thump and rolled across the patchy runway. She rubbed her scratchy eyes with her palms and leaned her head back against the too-firm-for-her-taste-headrest. She rolled her head to the side and watched as the plane taxied by what looked to be farmland. This couldn’t possibly be an airport. There wasn’t a building in sight. She stretched her neck and saw nothing but grass for as far as the tiny airplane window would allow her to see. She turned her mouth up in a grimace and tried to look even farther as the plane made a turn, half expecting to see a cow or a goat. This was Rome? Where was the cosmopolitan city she’d read about? This was just grazing farm animals and grassland. Her spirits sank.
The plane bumped along as passengers coughed and fidgeted, all as anxious as she was to deplane after the long flight from Baltimore. Jessica leaned her head against the cabin wall and waited to see some sort of civilization, hoping this trip wasn’t a mistake. She was in no hurry. She had the whole summer to waste. She had nowhere to be and no one to answer to. With a sigh, she looked up and noticed the traffic control tower. Finally.
“Ladies and gentleman, welcome to Rome, where the local time is eleven fifty-five am.” As the flight attendant transitioned from English to Italian, Jessica tuned out and sat up straight in her seat, ironing out the kinks in her muscles. She combed her fingers through her hair and straightened her lightweight cotton blouse, now wrinkled from the long overnight flight. She reached into the back pocket of her cargo pants and removed a wrinkled stick of gum, popping it into her mouth. The sudden blast of peppermint instantly made her feel more awake and brightened her spirits somewhat.
She unzipped the front pocket of the backpack that she stored under the seat in front of her and pulled out the folded itinerary. She wanted to make sure she had the address of her apartment building handy so she could grab her baggage and hop on the first available shuttle into the city. She had no particular reason for being in a hurry apart from being anxious to leave her memories behind.
The plane rolled to a stop at the gate and the “fasten seatbelts” sign dinged off, leading to the loud clinking of many belts being unfastened. Jessica stood and placed her hand on the small of her back, leaning as far back as the cramped area would allow to work out the kinks in her back. She tugged her backpack out from under the seat and waited for her turn to deplane.
In less than an hour, Jessica was outside the Rome airport, following a driver to his van along with several other American travelers. Her first impressions of Italy were mixed, sliding toward unfavorable. The airport had been chaotic and loud. Trying to meander through the crowd in order to find her name written on a card so that she could find her driver had taken every last bit of patience she had stored up. Once all of the passengers had been accounted for, she was instructed to follow, Massimo, who, by all indications, spoke little English.
As she left the concourse, the oppressive heat slammed into her body. Jessica had never seen so many people together in one place in her life, and most of them seemed to be outside the concourse, smoking cigarette after cigarette. She squinted up at the cloudless sky as she walked through clouds of nicotine-infused smoke, and noticed a few palm trees, still on the breezeless afternoon. She pulled her enormous suitcase alongside her, her backpack firmly strapped onto her shoulders, trying desperately not to lose sight of Massimo or the other travelers. Sweat began to trickle down her sides. She hoped coming here wasn’t a mistake. When she’d made the travel arrangements, Italy didn’t seem far enough away, but now she began to wonder if it was too far from her comfort zone of home.
Massimo stopped ahead of the group and unlocked the back doors to a large van. He turned, and one by one, began stacking bags into the rear of the vehicle. Jessica offered him a wan smile as she offered him her bag, and he greeted her with a huge, gregarious smile.
“Sorridi per me, bella signorina. Smile!”
Jessica’s face stretched into a wide smile.
“Ah, there you go! Bella! Bella!” Maybe Massimo’s grasp of the English language was more extensive than she’d previously thought.
Jessica climbed into the van and nodded at the other passengers who had already embarked – a young couple whom she guessed might be on their honeymoon, and two women traveling together. She took a deep breath and climbed to the back row, already feeling better. A bit of the burden of the past few months lifted from her shoulders as Massimo climbed behind the wheel of the van and pulled slowly into the fray of the airport traffic.
Jessica leaned back in the solid bench seat of the van and watched Italy roll past her. Apart from a few trips to Mexico and Canada, and a few of the island countries near the United States, she hadn’t traveled internationally before, so coming to Europe on her own was a big step. She chewed her bottom lip and watched as she realized so far, things didn’t look as different as she thought they would. Highways looked like highways, cars were just smaller than they were back home, and the songs on the radio were a little more unintelligible than she was used to. The biggest difference she noticed was that air conditioning seemed to be used at a minimum. She popped her window open and laughed to herself and thought that at least so far, she could be in Florida for all of the similarities.
As the van drew closer to the city, Jessica’s spirits fell. The area will filled with what looked like run of the mill buildings , and lacked the charm she had read about in her travel guides. Where was the romance and beauty of Italy she had been promised? Apartment buildings and convenience shops were covered in graffiti as the van crawled along the congested streets filled with small cars parked into every available and sometimes not-so-available spaces . Jessica laughed out loud to see cars parked in the street, or double parked against legally-parked cars. Motorized scooters zoomed in and out of spots left open between cars. Horns blasted and pedestrians marched about everywhere Jessica looked.
The van slowed and turned into a narrow street that Jessica was sure the vehicle wouldn’t fit into and slowed near a square, squat building.
“Okay, we are here.” Jessica’s heart plummeted into her stomach as she studied the neighborhood. There was nothing of value to an American visiting Italy for the first time – no sights to be found, and she questioned the safety of the neighborhood. She released the breath that had been stuck in her lungs when Massimo turned toward the young couple in the first row, and they reached for the door handle. Oh, thank God this isn’t mine. What a fun honeymoon that will be.
Jessica’s eyes burned and her throat felt raw. She was tired and dehydrated from the long plane ride. She needed sleep and water and she knew she should be looking at this like the true adventure it was. Come tomorrow morning, maybe even this evening, she hoped she would be leaving her worries back home and looking forward to the summer ahead of her, to the new Jessica she promised herself she’d become before fall, when she would return home to her teaching job, good as new.
Massimo hauled his bulk back behind the wheel, and after a twenty-point turn, steered the van back around for the trip down the narrow road to the main thoroughfare. After what felt like another two miles, the surroundings improved a bit, but not by much. Graffiti was still present but gone were the mini-marts and square-looking buildings. Jessica gnawed on her thumbnail as she gazed out the smeary window. This still didn’t look like the Rome she’d envisioned. Where was the marble? Where were the columns and statues, the grandeur? She hadn’t expected them to be everywhere, but she hadn’t seen one sign of it yet.
Again, Massimo slowed the van – this time, in front of what appeared to be a nicer hotel than the first. This one looked to be more Mediterranean at least. The glass and terra cotta exterior was more inviting than the first hotel the van had stopped at, but Jessica nevertheless hoped it wasn’t her apartment building.
Half of the young, female couple turned to Jessica before exiting. “Enjoy your trip.”
“Thanks, you too,” Jessica offered with a little wave, feeling another wave of relief as she watched Massimo hand them their bags and bend in a little bow as they handed him some coins. He again crawled into the van and glanced at her in the mirror.
“Okay, signorina. One more stop.”
Jessica grinned. To her it sounded like “One-a more-a stop-a.”
Massimo pulled again onto the main road and suddenly it transformed onto a wider street that was split by a thick wall. The area appeared lush, and Jessica began to see columns on the buildings. Up ahead was a grand staircase leading to breathtaking statues and fountains all carved in granite. Now this was Rome!
“You stay at the Appartamenti della Cinque Lune, no?” Massimo asked her reflection.
“Uhhh…” The Italian caught Jessica off guard and she scrambled for her paperwork.
“The Five Moons, eh?”
Jessica’s head popped up. “Yes! That’s it. The Five Moons! She had found the sublet apartment online and the name had sounded so romantic, she had booked it immediately.
“You go, you tell him Massimo says hello.”
The driver’s jovial mood was contagious and Jessica laughed along, beginning to relax. Outside, Rome whizzed by as Massimo drove along what felt like a main artery into downtown Rome. The homes brought a cozy feel. Trees shaded the sidewalks that ran along the road. She saw people walking, smiling, talking, and sitting on front stoops. Every now and then, she spotted a stand selling newspapers and cool drinks. Along her left, the ever-present Tibor River, surrounded by walls that blocked her view.
Massimo glanced at her reflection again as she strained in her seat to view the river.
“You no see the river from up here, Signorina. We are what do you call? Upstairs? The river, she is downstairs.” He pointed down with his forefinger. “You take the steps, and you walk. See the river. Some nice restaurants. But you watch for the…” at this, he paused and put two of his fingers against his thumb and snapped them against his neck. “Bzzt, you know? Zanzare!”
Jessica’s eyes widened. “Bees? There are bees down there?”
“Eh, no, no, no. You know. Bzzt.” Massimo repeated the movement several times around his neck and in the air around him. He then scratched his neck.
“Ah, si, si. Mosquitos,” he laughed. “River is very dirty. Beautiful, but dirty.”
The short remainder of the trip lasted in silence, apart from the soft music coming from the radio. Massimo made a right turn and slowed briefly before pulling off to the side of the busy side street. Jessica looked around. People buzzed everywhere, most holding maps or wearing backpacks, very clearly tourists like she. Ahead of her was a taxi stand with cars lined up. At least she wouldn’t have trouble finding transportation during her stay.
Massimo climbed out from behind the wheel and walked to the back of the van, whistling. He moved to the curbside and opened the side door so Jessica could exit. She climbed out and waited while he hauled her bag from the back.
“Very big bag. You stay a long time?”
Jessica tore her gaze from the surrounding buildings and looked at him, nodding. “Yes, I’m staying for the summer.”
“Ah, nothing like Italian summer,“ he said her with a grin. “Your appartamento, she is here.”
Jessica gazed up at the building Massimo gestured toward. It looked like any other building on the block except for the bright yellow paint of the terra cotta entrance, which gave the building an inviting feel. She smiled and handed Massimo a few coins, having no idea of their value.
“Grazie, signorina. I hope you are happy in Roma.”
This story is one of a kind and one that you’re going to enjoy. I want to thank Diane for providing it for us. Diane has provided her links, so take a few moments to check her our.
Diane’s Twitter Page – She loves tweets so shout out at her.
Until Next Time,
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Printed With Permission 2015