Sherri: I’m chatting today with Nina Romano, whom I know as @ninsthewriter from Twitter.
You know what they say about seven degrees of separation, well, we have a mutual friend, award-winning cozy mystery author, M. K. Graff. Since meeting Nina through Twitter, I have wanted to host her on my website. I am so excited to finally be able to welcome to my Creekside Café, the award-winning poet and author, Nina Romano. It is so good to have you at my virtual café.
Nina: I’m delighted to have this lovely opportunity, Sherri, of speaking to you on a subject dear to my heart: writing.
Sherri: I’m sitting here in awe and unsure how I want to begin. There’s so much I want to ask you. I love following you on Twitter, you are so uplifting. If you don’t mind, I think I’ll start with the basics. Have you always written?
Nina: First, let me thank you for that compliment. I always say: it’s the nature of the beast to try to be supportive and helpful. The simple answer to your question is yes, I’ve always written.The longer answer is that I always wrote poetry since I was a young girl and I always wanted to write fiction.
Sherri: The alphabet after your name is a bit intimidating. If I’d not had the chance to get to know what a gracious person you are and your willingness to help new writers, I would hesitate to ask you to join me on the porch of my cafe. You hold several degrees and have traveled around the world. How have these influenced your writing?
Nina: I like your phraseology of “alphabet” after my name. To tell the truth, I’m pretty amazed myself when I look back and see I hold four degrees, two of those are Master’s and one is an MFA in Creative Writing. The degrees gave me my love of teaching and my enthusiasm for the written word, but also the skills for critical reading and the ability to critique and revise writing.
Travel, on the other hand, is a complete education—when I think of it that way, I’ve accrued quite a few more degrees for every country, state, island, and place visited. What I mean is travelling exposes you to everything—geography, history, languages, religion, currencies, food, drink, morals, dress codes, mores, social etiquette, and behavior. Travel has certainly influenced my writing because I love history and various cultures. I write mostly historical novels, and narrative poetry. My short stories tend to be quite international. They say write what you know, but what is meant by that also encompasses writing what you can know by studying and learning—acquired knowledge.
Sherri: In reading your bio, I see you have had quite a bit published: collections of poetry and short stories, and novels. You’ve had individual poems, stories, reviews, memoir reminiscences, and other pieces of creative nonfiction published in magazines, journals and anthologies. It is truly impressive, tell our readers about some of your work.
Nina: That, dear Sherri, is a loaded question. I’ll try to simplify it as much as I can. Before I began having my novels accepted for publication, I always submitted some kind of writing for possible publication in a literary print or online magazine or journal. A fellow grad student and dear friend, Leonard Nash, a wonderful short story writer and professor, told me many moons ago, to always have from twelve to twenty pieces circulating if you want to publish. I did just that—every Friday, for months, even years, I sent out publishable material. I started to garner publications that I added to my CV and author’s bio, which is exactly what you need in almost every aspect of writing—most especially for query letters to agents, editors, and publishers.
What happens if you’re rejected is you simply repackage the piece or poem, revise, retouch it and resend it to some other editor or publication. Why? Because it’s all so subjective and you need to seek out the right editor or publisher for whatever it is you’re writing. In the meantime, of course, you keep writing, keep trying to buoy yourself if the rejections come hurtling at you too many at a time! If you get any kind of a personal note that sounds a bit hopeful despite a rejection, you pay attention to it. You can answer direct questions, but you never, and I mean NEVER, write back to defend your writing on a submitted piece. That shows a complete lack of professionalism. You merely say, Thanks, and move on.
Examples of some relatively positive rejections:
- This piece isn’t for us. Solid writing, but do you have an essay on mental health?
- Your writing exhibits a lovely lyrical voice, but for this magazine we’re looking for something more cutting-edge.
- This is well-written, but you used first person POV, and we’re looking for only third—
can you rewrite it?
- Thanks. These poems don’t work for us. Have any others you’d be interested in submitting?
When you acquire enough published pieces, you begin putting together collections of poems, short stories, essays, novel excerpts, or whatever—in hopes of getting a larger segment of your writing in the form of a book or novel out into the public arena.
Sherri: Your Wayfarer Series is the first that caught my eye. The Secret Language of Women, was the first in that trilogy? From the Wayfarer Series to The Girl Who Loved Cayo Bradley they seem quite different but what do you feel a reader will take away from both?
Nina: They are all different—diverse cultures, countries, eras. However, they’re all historical. I do deep, investigative research so that everything about the time period and era I’m setting the novel in is as factual as possible. I think readers appreciate the systematic inquiry process I employ. I also try very hard to “cover my tracks” in that I like to blend and incorporate the research material so it fits the work and remains almost seamless. This isn’t an easy task, I can guarantee it!
Sherri: On Twitter, I look forward to your writing advice. You were an adjunct professor at St. Thomas University, you’ve been on panel discussions, given talks and presentations at book fairs, in seminars and in workshops. You’ve spoken at several events, and given readings, signings, and “meet and greets” in bookstores. What bits of advice would you give to writers on the verge of publishing?
Nina: I appreciate you saying that you like my tweets on writing advice. Of late, I’ve been doing less and less of them, having been criticized and even blocked by people who disagree with my writing tips, prompts or advice!
To answer your question about writers on the verge of publishing, there are several crucial things to consider.
Editing is king! Never submit anything that isn’t a complete and polished work. Have your manuscript edited by people who write well and have a history of publication, people who know what they’re talking about when critiquing, and people whose opinions you value and trust.
Rewrite, revise and tighten everything as much as possible before submitting.
Delete extraneous words from dialogue, repetitious words, and any material that may be exquisitely wrought but isn’t appropriate to the work. This is that hated expression: “Kill your darlings!”
Use a spell check, but be careful and cross-check words with a dictionary and a thesaurus.
Read your work out loud.
Find and use trusted beta readers.
Write a synopsis for the novel in the style of the novel is written in.
Question the validity of every chapter in the novel. What is its purpose? How does it serve the story? Does it propel the action forward?
For short fiction, keep it compact—here compression is vital! Evaluate the plot, story flow, character motivation, cause and effect, and denouement.
Be able to say in a sentence or two what the novel is about—this is known as the “elevator pitch.” Be able to speak about your novel in an intelligent, cohesive, concise way.
Practice reading or reciting aloud. Time yourself. Learn to look up and out at the audience. If you’re reading fiction and you have different characters in the scene, change the tone of voice and inflection for your various characters! Read as slowly and distinctly as possible. Use beats and pauses for poetry.
I could go on and on, but these points are among the important ones.
Sherri: I agree with everything you’ve said but especially the “elevator pitch” and reading your work aloud.
I’m a bit of a foodie, I love the recipes you post on Twitter, do you have one you’d like to share as we move into cooler weather. I know, here in the south, cooler weather is a relative term, but not as sweltering sounds a bit unwieldy.
Nina: Three dishes come to mind. The first one is Pasta Piselli—a soupy pasta dish made with olive oil, onions, peas and tiny elbow, ditalini, or broken up spaghetti or linguine pasta. Additions can be any of these: tiny meatballs, mushrooms, bacon, ham, or fresh tomatoes! Use grated parmigiana or skip it. I serve it with either a fresh Ciabatta loaf, or toasted Tuscan bread.
Lentils—vegetarian style: In Italy I used to get the lentils from the island of Ventotene—one of the Pontine Islands in the Tyrrhenian Sea. Now I use green, orange or almost any kind of lentils—I like Goya’s product. Add: olive oil, carrots, celery, zucchini, sweet potato, a golden potato, mushrooms, leeks, onions, garlic—any or all of these! If you eat meat, you can add cooked, sliced Italian pork sausage, or leftover pieces of lamb, beef steak or filet mignon. For some inexplicable reason, when I use lamb, I add a piece of very dark chocolate, which I call black like as a sinner’s soul!
Caldo Gallego (Galician white bean soup made with a nice chunk of prosciutto on the bone,
(I guess you could use a ham hock—I’ve never done that, but oh well—experiment!)
Add to the cooked beans: turnips, Yukon gold potatoes, and Swiss chard in that order. No salt, no pepper, no oil, no butter! It’s plenty rich!
Sherri: Are you traditionally published, indie or hybrid?
Nina: All of my books have been traditionally published by small, independent publishers.
Sherri: What are some of the struggles you have faced as an author?
Nina: Time to write is a big issue currently—my husband and I travel a great deal.
Finding beta readers I know and trust is difficult. I have one incredibly generous personal editor, Jane Brownley, who is always willing to read for me, and thank heavens she’s a veracious reader although she’s not a writer!
I struggle if I have to interrupt the flow of the writing because I feel I don’t know enough about a particular subject or thing. I stop writing to do more research. This can go on for days!
Sherri: What do you wish you’d known when you first started writing/publishing?
Nina: I should have trusted myself enough to have started younger.
Sherri: What is your next project?
Nina: My present WIP is one I began years ago and gave up on because it’s not my genre and it’s extremely challenging, although it is historical. Maybe this time I’ll finish it. The current stage of the manuscript is chaotic to say the very least. It’s set in the Soviet Union in 1956, after Stalin.
To conclude this lovely “chat”, please let me say a word about the in-depth quality of your interview—I’m so pleased you took the time to read my author’s bio and personal information about me before asking these profound questions. Thank you so much, Sherri. It’s been an absolute pleasure.
Sherri: It has been an honor to have you visit Creekside Cafe. I hope someday we can meet in person.
(To learn more about Nina check out her biography and links below.)
Nina Romano earned a B. S. from Ithaca College, an M.A. from Adelphi University, a B. A. in English, and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Florida International University. She is a world traveler and lover of history. She lived in Rome, Italy, for twenty years where many of her poems and stories are set, and is fluent in Italian and Spanish. Romano has taught English and Literature as an adjunct professor at St. Thomas University, and has interned for poets Marie Howe, Denise Duhamel, and C. K. Williams at the Palm Beach Poetry Festival.
Romano has facilitated poetry and creative writing workshops at the Ft. Lauderdale Main Library, the Sanibel Island Writers Conference, Bridle Path Press Baltimore, Lopez Island Library, Florida Gulf Coast University, Rosemary Beach Writers Conference, the Outreach Program of Palm Beach Poetry Festival, and Summit County Library.
Romano has presented several times at the Miami Book Fair International with her fiction and also with her poetry collections which include: Cooking Lessons from Rock Press, submitted for a Pulitzer Prize, Coffeehouse Meditations from Kitsune Books, She Wouldn’t Sing at My Wedding from Bridle Path Press, Faraway Confections, from Aldrich Press, and Westward: Guided by Starfalls and Moonbows from Red Dashboard, LLC. She has also had two poetry chapbooks published: Prayer in a Summer of Grace and Time’s Mirrored Illusion, both from Flutter Press, and a short story collection, The Other Side of the Gates, from Bridle Path Press.
She has been twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize in Poetry. She has co-authored Writing in a Changing World.
Her short fiction, memoir and poetry appear in numerous reviews and literary journals. Excerpts from her novel, The Secret Language of Women, appear in Dimsum: Asia’s Literary Journal, Southern Women’s Review and Driftwood.
Romano has published the Wayfarer Trilogy with Turner Publishing. All three of the historical novels of the series were finalists in book contest awards, and Book 1, The Secret Language of Women, set in China, won the Independent Publisher 2016 IPPY Gold Medal. The other two novels are Lemon Blossoms, set in Sicily, and In America, set in New York.
Two short stories: “A Risky Christmas Affair” and “Dreaming of a Christmas Kiss,” have recently been released as E-books, and the latter, along with two Christmas poems, has been included in a Christmas anthology, Annie Acorn’s Christmas Treasury 2018.
Her latest novel, The Girl Who Loved Cayo Bradley, a Western Historical Romance released in 2019. Currently, she is at work on a novel set in Russia.
List of all my published books
Historical, Literary Novels of The Wayfarer Trilogy:
The Secret Language of Women
Historical, Western Romance:
The Girl Who Loved Cayo Bradley
Short Story Collection
The Other Side of the Gates (on Amazon, but no new copies—the publisher and I went our separate ways. I have new copies)
Cooking Lessons (on Amazon) https://amzn.to/2lAQrN0
Coffeehouse Meditations (on Amazon, but no new copies—the publisher passed away. I have copies.)
She Wouldn’t Sing at My Wedding (on Amazon, but no new copies—the publisher and I went our separate ways. I have copies)
Faraway Confections (on Amazon) https://amzn.to/2mFAw00
Westward: Guided by Starfalls and Moonbeams (on Amazon)https://amzn.to/2nh0Eyy
Poetry Chapbooks (Unavailable on Amazon, but I have new copies)
Time’s Mirrored Illusion
Prayer in a Summer of Grace
Nonfiction book on Writing (a collaboration)
Writing in a Changing World (on Amazon) https://amzn.to/2lO7Q4P
My most recent book
The Girl Who Loved Cayo Bradley
Amazon Link: https://amzn.to/2Mawrvv
The Girl Who Loved Cayo Bradley
When Darby McPhee falls in love with Cayo Bradley, a wild cowboy from a nearby ranch, her world is ripped apart. Caught in a lifeless existence of caring for her father and brothers since her mother’s death, Darby does little else but work. But a death-bed promise to her mother to get her education now stands in the way of her heart’s desire to belong to the rough-and-tumble Cayo Bradley.
Darby is Cayo’s redemption from a horrific act in his past that torments him. After being captured as a young boy by the Jicarilla Apache, he now tries to settle back into white society—but how can he? If he loses Darby, he loses everything.
Darby is determined to keep her promise to her mother, but will Cayo wait for her? In this stunning tale of love and loss, Darby comes to understand that no matter what happens, she will always be THE GIRL WHO LOVED CAYO BRADLEY…
Blurbs from authors on book:
Romano’s story sizzles with the tension of lovers—one struggling to blend Apache ways and white, the other torn between East and West—searching for a way to join two lives going in opposite directions.
— Ruth Hull Chatlien, Blood Moon, and The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte
The Girl Who Loved Cayo Bradley, a superbly crafted romantic page-turner, is a deftly spun tale of ill-starred sweethearts in the American West. Darby, a charming farm girl, and Cayo, Apache raised, a secretive man with a disturbing past. Sparks ignite, burning intensely despite cruel circumstances to separate them—an expertly woven story with witty dialogue, fast-paced plot, and stunning, enchanting prose!
— Michelle Cox, award-winning author of the Henrietta and Inspector Howard series.
The Secret Language of Women
Winner of the Independent Publishers Book Awards (Gold Medal, Romance)
Set in China in the late 1800’s, The Secret Language of Women tells the story of star-crossed lovers, Zhou Bin Lian, a Eurasian healer, and Giacomo Scimenti, an Italian sailor, driven apart by the Boxer Rebellion.
When Lian is seventeen years old, she accompanies her Swiss father, Dr. Gianluca Brasolin, fluent in Italian, to tend the Italian ambassador, at the Summer Palace of Empress Dowager, where she meets and falls in love with Giacomo.
Through voyage and adventure, their love intensifies, but soon is severed by Lian’s dutiful promise as the wife to another. Forbidden from pursuing her chosen profession as a healer, and despised because she does not have bound feet, she is forced to work in a cloisonné factory while her in-laws raise her daughter, Ya Chen. It is in Nushu, the women’s secret writing, that she chronicles her life and her hopes for the future.
Rebelling against the life forced upon her, she empowers herself to act out against the injustice and becomes the master of her own destiny. But her quest for freedom comes at a costly price: The life of someone close to her, lost in a raging typhoon, a grueling journey to the Yun-kang Caves, and a desperate search for beauty and love in the midst of brutality.
with history, The Secret Language of Women offers a beautiful
and harrowing landscape of love found, lost, and hunted for – at all costs and
with dire consequences. Like the bound feet, so idealized in her novel,
Romano’s characters are broken and reformed into both the beautiful and the grotesque.
Haunting.” ― Barbara Wood, New York Times bestselling author
“The Secret Language of Women is a powerful and enchanting read. A brilliantly well-written tale that takes readers on one woman’s journey. For fans of Romeo and Juliet fans this is a must read […] I loved reading Nina Romano’s stunning piece, and I recommend it to readers world wide.” –– San Francisco Book Review
“This is a beautiful story of hope and love stronger than any adversity. Very special historical fiction that is highly recommended!” –– Historical Novel Society
“A stunning look at China at the turn of the twentieth century, this is a love story that crosses boundaries both cultural and geographic.”—Foreword Reviews
“The Secret Language of Women is visionary, ambitious, and lyrically written. One comes to the end of it feeling as though she has traveled through a time machine, into a world so different, so vivid and real as to linger in the mind long after turning the last page.” –– Wraparound South
Book Description of The Secret Language of Women
first book in the Wayfarer series from award-winning writer Nina Romano is a
love story set against the backdrop of war and upheaval, an era infused with
superstition, history, and exotic customs. The story explores the universal
themes of love and the atrocities of war, affirming that even in the face of
tragedy, enduring love brings hope.
A love story―set against the backdrop of war and upheaval, an era infused with superstition, history, and exotic customs―that explores the universal themes of love and the atrocities of war, affirming that even in the face of tragedy, enduring love brings hope.
2016 Finalist for Romance, Foreword INDIE
Angelica Domenico is born in a blossoming lemon grove, a prophetic fusion of sweet bloom and bitter fruit on an island governed by volcanoes and earthquakes.
In the continuation of Nina Romano’s epic Wayfarer Trilogy, an early childhood accident propels Angelica to battle trials in a world where proof of virginity is paramount. She suﬀ ers the trauma of her aunt’s death in childbirth and is catapulted on a voyage towards the nunnery to seek refuge from a fear of intimacy. Fate intervenes on the Feast of Cruciﬁxion when Giacomo Scimenti enters the family shop, and Angelica feels herself rent by lightning the instant they come face to face.
Lemon Blossoms is the story of Angelica’s struggle in pursuit of feminine identity and heritage while coping with the intricacies of loss, love, and yearning.
2016 Chanticleer Media’s Chatelaine Book Awards Finalist
Beautiful, headstrong Marcella Scimenti has the affection of a handsome neighborhood boy, the love of her large Italian family, and serious dreams of singing in Hollywood. But the course of true love―nor the journey to finding one’s true self―never did run smooth.
In America follows the story of Marcella, the daughter of the characters at the center of Nina Romano’s continent-spanning Wayfarer Trilogy, as she comes of age in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, in the late 1920s.
In the trilogy’s heartwarming conclusion, Marcella must learn to balance new friendships, promising suitors, and life as a modern working girl with the expectations of her tradition-bound family, all against the backdrop of a looming economic depression and a changing world. Along the way, she unearths a devastating family secret that shakes her to her core and tests the boundaries of her love, loyalty, and faith.
The following 3 books of the Wayfarer Trilogy are in hard cover, softcover print, Kindle
Amazon: The Secret Language of Women
Amazon: Lemon Blossoms
Amazon: In America
Amazon: The Girl Who Loved Cayo Bradley https://amzn.to/2Mawrvv (Available in softcover print and Kindle)