Q: Your new book Italian for Beginners is about a woman who finds herself alone in Rome. Did you travel to Italy for research?
A: I’ve spent some time in Italy in the past, and it completely captured my heart. I lived in Paris several years ago, and during that time, I traveled down to Rome and Venice with my friend Kara. There was just something about Italy — the people, the food, the history, the culture — that moved me. While there, I met an Italian restaurateur who changed my life; in fact, the character of Marco in the book is based on him to some extent. The real Marco — my Marco — managed his family’s restaurant in Venice, and he swept me off my feet with all of his hopes, dreams and passion for life. He helped teach me to take chances that summer, and one of the most memorable weeks of my life was spent with him in Tuscany. We stayed at a tiny farmhouse B&B in a chianti vineyard and spent our days seeing the picturesque historic towns and our nights sipping wine and sharing our stories in the moonlight while we gazed over endless fields of sunflowers and grapes. It was so perfect, it almost doesn’t sound real, but it was truly magical. It was such a pleasure for me to bring some of those feelings into Cat’s life, too, in ITALIAN FOR BEGINNERS.
Q: Your main character, Cat, is accused early on in the book of “running out of time” for love. This is something that many women (of many ages) have experienced. What is your opinion of this kind of statement?
A: I’m so glad you asked that. I think this is, unfortunately, something that many women face on a regular basis, and I hate it! It’s like the world imposes an arbitrary schedule that we’re supposed to be following, and sometimes, others feel that they have the right to judge us if we’re not on track, so to speak.
The truth is, I think the more pressure we feel, the more likely we are to settle for someone who’s NOT the right person, simply because we feel that the proverbial clock is ticking. This makes me upset, because there IS no set schedule, and everyone finds love and happiness in their own time. What a tragedy to force yourself into a marriage or a long-term relationship that isn’t truly right for you, simply because you’ve been made to feel that you’re running out of time.
I just turned 30, and of course, I’m starting to face questions such as, “Why aren’t you married?” or “When are you going to settle down?” I realize that when people ask me these things, they are, for the most part, asking them out of genuine concern and kindness; some people are under the impression that you have to have a partner in order to be happy. But the fact is, I think it’s crucial to learn to make YOURSELF happy before you enter into a long-term relationship. With apologies to Jerry Maguire, finding someone to “complete” you doesn’t work; we should be able to find a sense of completion, fulfillment and happiness on our own, and we should look for a partner who can complement the already-full lives we’re leading.
I believe firmly that I will find true and lasting love someday — perhaps with someone I already know, or perhaps with someone I haven’t met yet. But there’s no rush. There’s no such thing as running out of time. Instead, worry about being a good person, treating others with kindness and decency, and making the most out of every day. If you do that, I believe the rest takes care of itself, even if it doesn’t do so on a conventional schedule.
Q: When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
A: I think I’ve always known. As early as the age of 6, I was writing little handwritten, stapled sequels to the Bobbsey Twins books (my favorite series at the time), and in the 4th grade, I roped my friend Amy into starting a neighborhood newspaper with me! I used to write elaborate plays for my brother and sister to star in (usually performed for only our mom!), and I attempted my first real novel at the age of 13. I only got 120 pages into it before I completely lost my direction, but the fact was, writing was in my bones, even then. Although I remember a brief period where I wanted to be a rock star (the fact that I can’t sing to save my life was a pretty big obstacle!) — and my mom tells me that when I was 3, I used to tell people I wanted to work at a gas station by day and play the piano in a bar at night — the only real, lasting career goal I’ve ever had was to be a writer. I was writing professionally (for local magazines and the local newspaper) by the time I was 16, and I wrote my first novel, HOW TO SLEEP WITH A MOVIE STAR, when I was 23.
Q: What was the last thing that made you laugh out loud?
A: That’s a great question! My old friend Michael Ghegan (a saxophonist) was in town earlier this week to play a show with singer/songwriter Pat McGee. Michael and I have one of those great relationships where we can say absolutely absurd things to each other, and somehow it all makes complete sense. While sitting around talking before the show, we somehow got on the topic of high school, which somehow evolved into a conversation about how I should wear my high school prom gown — which, mind you, was made of gold sequins — to the show that night, along with a tiara. For the record, I didn’t do so! But the visual — and all of the funny things he was saying about it — had me laughing so hard that there were tears running down my face.
Q: What’s your idea of the perfect summer day?
A: One of the nice things about living primarily in Florida is that summer never seems to end! I actually prefer the spring and fall here, when it’s not terribly hot or humid out yet (and therefore, it’s more comfortable to be outside!). But a perfect summer day might include a little writing in the morning, then some pool or beach time with friends (and perhaps a margarita!), then a nice dinner out (preferably at one of my favorite Orlando restaurants, such as Luma or Seasons 52, both of which have great outside seating!), then a night out downtown with friends — or maybe a cocktail on the patio at the Blue Martini, a nice martini bar with live music that’s about a mile and a half from my house. If there’s a concert going on at House of Blues, Hard Rock Live, the Velvet Sessions, or The Social, you might find me there too! I love live music, particularly in the summertime. I also like to make it down to Epcot or the Magic Kingdom for the fireworks several times during the summer too. I feel pretty lucky to live in a place where there are at least two sets of beautiful fireworks every night!