Interview with Author Ann Siracusa

Welcome to the February 07, 2010 edition of The Fox Hole. Today I’m joined by author Ann Siracusa. So let’s make Ann feel at home as she shares a little of her life and her work with us. Grab a cup of Joe, snatch a Crispy Creme, and have a seat as I welcome Ann to the fold.

Avail @ Sapphire Blue Pub.

Welcome to ‘The Fox Hole’ Ann it’s a delight to have you. Could you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?

Here’s the short version.  My pen name and real name is R. Ann Siracusa, but I go by Ann.  I’m retired from a 35+ year career as an architect and urban planner, which makes me older than dirt.  I’ve been married to the same man for more than 45 years (an Italian policeman from Sicily whom I met at the Fountain of Love on my first day in Rome).  We have three grown children, seven grandchildren, and an eighth due in March.

A more revealing version.  After graduating in June with a degree in Architecture from UC Berkeley, I went directly to Rome (via a week in London) to take a doctorate in Urban Planning.  Instead, on my first day in Rome I sat down next to a very handsome Italian at the Fountain of Love in Piazza Esedra, and the rest is history.  I didn’t speak much Italian, he didn’t speak much English, and a few weeks later I had to look up the word fidanzata in the English-Italian dictionary to find out I was “engaged.”  I did attend the University of Rome but basically “audited” classes because final examinations at that time were oral, and I didn’t have the language skills to pull that off.

When I wrote to my parents in October to tell them I wanted to marry an Italian policeman from Sicily, my mother showed up in Rome, without warning, to take me home…and I hadn’t even told them yet that he was a widower with a three-year-old daughter.   (I was 24 at the time.)   Of course, I refused to go and promised if I didn’t have a job by the end of the year, I would come home.  My mother left me the plane ticket, which I cashed in.  With that and a hundred dollars I borrowed from my ex-boyfriend in New York (Thanks, Ronnie, I still owe you), Luciano and I got married in a civil ceremony in December.

Okay, now here’s how naïve I was.  I had this great plan that if I didn’t get a job, I would go back to California, work for six months to save up money and convince my parents I hadn’t turned into a raving lunatic, then go back to Italy.  He was going to “wait” for me.  Yeah, right!  This would never get past an editor.  It’s too unbelieveable.  “The heroine is TSTL (to stupid to live).”  Fortunatly, a week before I was booked to return, I did get a job as an architect with an Italian land development firm.  Lucky for me, because I was already pregnant.

It took until August to get permission to marry in the Catholic Church, but first I had to take instruction since I wasn’t Catholic.  So there I was, six months pregnant (but not showing much) meeting twice a week with a priest at the American Catholic Church.  I did fine until we got to the part about birth control.  Then we had a major confrontation.  The priest explained that birth control was a sin because it was a perversion of a natural function.  I pointed out that using anti-perspirants was also the perversion of a natural function, but I didn’t see the Church opposing that.  Long story short, I was willing to convert to Catholicism for my husband’s sake.  The Church said, “Thanks, but no thanks.  Just sign this promise to bring up your children up as Catholics.  We’d rather you remain an Episcopalian.”

How’s that for rejection?  (I guess I was born to be a novelist.)

Avail @ Sapphire Blue Pub.

My oldest son was born in Rome.  I worked for the Societá General Immobiliare as an architect/planner for several years until we came to the United States.  My husband, Luciano, and I, his daughter and our son, and then our second son (all five of us) lived with my parents for a full year.  You can’t begin to imagine!  But that’s another story.

If you want to know about my long and somewhat distinguished career in urban planning and my some of my non-fiction credits, look at my resume on my website.  Enough!

Have you always wanted to be a writer? If so when did you start writing?

My mother was a librarian and big on books.  I’ve always liked to read and write stories.  In high school, my wonderful English teacher encouraged me to write fiction, but I never considered writing as a profession.  I earned a degree in Architecture at UC Berkeley, worked in Rome and got married there, then was caught up with family and profession (where I did a lot of non-fiction and professional writing).

I didn’t follow up on my interest in fiction writing until I was in my forties.  I read a novel that everyone was raving about and said, “Oh, man.  Even I can write better than this.”  So I sat down with the serious intention of actually writing a full length novel and finished my first one in about eight or nine months (along with working about 60 hours a week and with two kids still living at home).

As a writer what inspires you?

The human experience and world travel are my inspirations.  I like to experience other cultures, religions, architecture, attitudes and values, and I want to share those experiences with others.  I set my novels in the foreign countries I’ve traveled in, and I want the reader to feel as though they have been there with me.  I use my travel experiences and those of others, most often as comic relief and secondary characters.

Many things trigger my imagination.  Everyone has a story, and ideas are everywhere.  I read the newspapers, watch television, listen to stories friends tell about their eccentric great Aunt Amy, and observe and take notes, particularly when I’m traveling.  I ask people questions.  Maybe only a single event or incident will stick in my head as a general premise, or maybe it will be an entire plot.

The key is to observe what is happening and to ask myself , “What would happen if…”

Do you have any favorite writers?

I’m very eclectic about reading, just as I am about writing, but at any given time I’m generally reading in the same genre that I’m writing so I know what’s selling, what ideas have already been beaten to death, and so on.

Some of my more-or-less contemporary favorites include: P.D.James, Janet Evanovich, Katie MacAlister, Sue Grafton, Erlene Fowler, Tony Hillerman, Ken Follet, Dick Francis, Issac Asimov, C.J.Cherryh, Andre Norton, Carl Hiaasen, Bob Mayer, Ann McCaffrey, Helen MacInnes, Linda Howard, J.D.Robb, Daphne DuMaurier, S.L.Stebel, Thomas Harris, Rosamunde Pilcher.  That only scratches the surface.

I like the classics, too, and favor Dante, Shakespeare, and Mark Twain.

If you could live in any time or place–where and when would you choose?

Avail @ Sapphire Blue Pub.

That’s a tough question.  I’ve been so many places I think I’d like to live, at least in more or less contemporary times, but those inclinations aren’t based on the realities of day to day living.  You never really know until you live there.  And so much of the “choosing” involves who I could be as well as when and where.  In the here and now, I would love to live in Rome again or Florence.  In my fantasies, I would like to be alive at the time and in the place when sentient life on another planet is discovered.

Being a professional cook at one time, I have to ask this one. Do you have a favorite food?

I hate to admit this, particularly to a professional cook, but my favorite food is Ice Cream.  (I’m using the term “food” loosely.)  It’s my comfort food.  Too bad it has the least amount of nutritional value of anything a person can put in their mouth, except maybe cardboard, which has the advantage of no calories or cholesterol.

Since my husband is Italian and does all the cooking, I have to say my second favorite foods are pasta and cotolette alla Marsala.

Now that I’ve picked your brain, can you tell us about your latest work? Don’t hold back.

Like most writers, I’m always working on something.  My most recent published work, however, is a humorous romantic suspense series featuring a young tour director and a handsome Europol spy.

(Four books, so far, all full length novels of from 70,000 to 90,000 words.)

All For A Dead Man’s Leg, the first book in the series (published March, 2009), introduces Harriet Ruby, who is a well-balanced, cute, intelligent, and hardworking over-achiever whose life has been good but ordinary.  Her biggest problem is that she doesn’t have any real problems and is much too trusting.   After graduating from MIT, she’s taken a job as a tour director in Europe to experience life and “find herself” before she settles down to career and family.

Directing her first solo tour in Spain and Morocco, she and her group get lost in the medina in Tangier.  There, one of her tourists becomes ill and needs a doctor.  Harriet can’t find her way out of the old walled marketplace and doesn’t speak Arabic.  A handsome and mysterious stranger, Will Talbot, appears and offers to help her.

Unbeknownst to Harriet, Will is a Europol spy and sometimes contract operative for the U.S. Government.  He has a dark and mysterious past, lots of problems and cannot, and will not, trust anyone.  Driven by a terrible burden of guilt over something he did in his past, he constantly risks his life to Apay back@ society by fighting evil in the world.  Harriet, being a trusting person and a bit desperate, accepts his help.  Will examines the tourist, pronounces him dead, and warns Harriet not to report the death.  Trust him, he says, and he will help her transport the corpse out of Morocco and back to Gibraltar.  At this point, Harriet=s ordinary and predictable life turns upside down.  And that is just the beginning.

Together they take a fast-paced romantic romp through Spain and Morocco in pursuit of murders, smugglers, international terrorists, and excellent sex.

Here’s where the not-holding-back and braggin part comes in.

“What a wonderful book! All For A Dead Man’s Leg by R. Ann Siracusa is one of the funnier romance novels I have read in a long time.  I can really identify myself with Harriet Ruby, the heroine of this novel, and her knack for getting into awkward situations.” Romance Junkies Review (Dec.2009)

All for a Dead Man’s Leg is a comical romantic mystery. Ann Siracusa has done a great job weaving this tale.  For those who enjoyed “Romancing the Stone,” this is reminiscent of the film.  While the plots are very different, the story was in the same tone.  “All For A Dead Man’s Leg” is a good rainy day–or any day read.

Reviewed by Lisa Mitchell, WRDF Review (Between The Lines, July 2009)

In All For A Fist Full Of Ashes , the second book in the series (published October, 2009), Harriet and Will, who’ve been seeing each other for a year since their first meeting in Morocco, come together in Italy where their work assignments again overlap.

Harriet is conducting a custom tour for fourteen members of an Italian-American family.  The family matriarch is on a quest to find the unknown location of her mother=s grave so she can bury her brother=s cremated ashes, which have been smuggled into Italy wrapped in Cuban cigars.  Will has one of the family members under surveillance as a suspect in an assassination conspiracy.

Charming the matriarch, Will coaxes an invitation from her to join the tour.  The quirky family members, including four unruly teenagers and a pet green tree python named Fluffy, sweep through Italy in search of relatives and a lost grave, leaving chaos, hilarity, and danger in their wake.

Will and Harriet, on their own personal journey, find traveling together for twenty-four hours a day threatens their budding relationship, which is fraught trust issues. Harriet wants to be involved in everything, and Will won=t tell her anything about his case.  Harriet=s intervention leads her to intuit the time, place and victim of the conspiracy.  Unable to reach Will, she puts herself in danger to thwart the assassination.

More shameless self-promotion.

“Full of colorful characters and hilarious situations, A Fist Full of Ashes is just plain fun.  If you like Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum novels, you’ll like this series by R. Ann Siracusa. It’s spunky and well-told. Definitely kept me entertained.” Night Owl Reviews, Dec.09

“In All For A Fist Full Of Ashes you will follow them (Will and Harriet) in expert detail as they travel through Italy and you will learn a lot about Italy and the Vatican while you are being entertained.  This novel has everything – intrigue, murder, romance and some comic relief, and you will be immensely entertained by the various and diverse characters that grace its pages.  A fun book that you will truly enjoy reading.” Coffee Time Romance Review (Dec.2009)

Destruction of the Great Wall, the working title of the third book, takes place in China about six months after the events of book two.  The fourth book, with the working title Russian Roulette, takes place (you guessed it) in Russia, approximately 6 months after the events in book three.  These are fast-paced, action-driven adventures in which the spy story is resolved within the book, but the romance between the hero and heroine developes over the course of the series.

Sapphire Blue has published a short story featuring Harriet and Will entitled First Christmas Follies (December, 2009) which is about Will and Harriet’s first Christmas together.  A second short story, featuring Will and Harriet’s first real “date” will be out in the near future.  These are “bridges” between books and feature events which take place between the novels, and hopefully there will be others.

Hopefully so! It sounds like you’ve been quite successful thus far and here’s wishing you have many more successes in the future. Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing your work and life with my readers. Unfortunately, we’ve run out of time, but I’d love to have you back in the future.

If you would like to learn more about R. Ann Siracusa and her work check out the following links:

Publisher/s:  http://www.sapphirebluepublishing.com/catalog/

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/SapphireBlueFans (Go to Photos)

MySpace:      http://myspace.com/nonna8582

Website:       http://www.rannsiracusa.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/

Filed by:       http://filedby.com/author/r_ann_siracusa/ (Note underscore: r_ann_siracusa)

She Writes:  http://www.shewrites.com/profile/RAnnSiracusa


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