Q&A With Authors Gina Buonaguro & Janice Kirk

Gina Buonaguro and Janice KirkToday, I’m talking to Canadian writers Gina Buonaguro and Janice Kirk, co-authors of The Wolves of St. Peter’s, The Sidewalk Artist and Ciao Bella. I loved The Sidewalk Artist when I read it in 2011 and when HarperCollins Canada asked me if I wanted to review their latest book, The Wolves of St. Peter’s, a historical thriller set in Renaissance Rome, I couldn’t say no. I loved that book too so I jumped at the opportunity to interview Gina and Janice for my blog.

Hello ladies!  I understand that you originally met in a French class and that not long after you decided to form your own author’s group. This year you’re celebrating 10 years of writing together, congratulations!

Thank you! We can’t believe ourselves that we’ve been writing together for more than a decade. 

  1. What is the hardest thing for you to deal with when it comes to co-authoring a book?

At this point in our writing career, it would be finding enough time to do all the research and writing we want to do! The minutiae of life can really get in the way.

  1. Where are some of the places you’ve traveled to for research?

We’ve both been to many of the locations of our books independently (Paris, Rome, Florence, Euganean Hills – although neither of us has ever been to Urbino, a key setting in The Sidewalk Artist). For the first time ever, we took a research trip together to Venice in January 2013. Gina spent a week there, while Janice stayed for a month. We did a lot of thinking about our next novel, a sequel to The Wolves of St. Peter’s. It was an excellent chance to soak up atmosphere while working on the plotting and characters.

  1. Is Italy your favourite country and if so, why? 

Yes, it certainly seems to be our favourite country to write about! Gina has an Italian background, which perhaps partly explains her attraction. Janice visited Venice for the first time about 15 years ago and fell in love with the place – she has gone back every other year since then, renting an apartment for a month at a time. Plus, the scenery in Italy is spectacular, the food delicious, and who wouldn’t love a place where you can start drinking wine before lunch?

  1. Was there anything in specific that attracted you to writing about Renaissance Italy for The Wolves of St. Peter’s? 

We wrote about Renaissance Italy in our first novel, The Sidewalk Artist, though it was basically by accident since the artist Raphael ended up being a major character. After moving to the World War II-era for our second novel, Ciao Bella, we realized we much preferred writing about a time and place further back in time. We strive to be as historically accurate as humanly possible, but it is nice to write about a period where no one is still alive to correct you. Plus, we already had a working knowledge about Renaissance Italy and wanted to dig into it deeper. There’s so much wonderful fodder for a great mystery.

  1. What was the most disturbing and the most interesting fact that you uncovered while doing research for The Wolves of St. Peter’s?

There certainly were a lot of disturbing facts we unearthed during the The Wolves of St. Peter's by Gina Buonaguro & Janice Kirkresearch for The Wolves of St. Peter’s. The Renaissance is often quite romanticized, but essentially you would not want to live any other time and place than the developed world in the 21st century. One especially interesting fact came out of Steven Pinker’s book, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined. The outhouses of the Renaissance rang with the sounds of dying newborns. That was because women had no access to abortion and had to resort to infanticide for unwanted babies. According to Pinker, the modern-day rates of abortion parallel the infanticide rates of the past. Whatever your views on abortion, that’s certainly something to think about.

  1. Who is your most endearing character in the book aside from Francesco?

That’s like asking which of your children you love the most! Anyway, we really enjoy The Turk, despite how despicable he is. Based on Silvio Berlusconi, he’s the guy we love to hate. We do love Dante the bat man as well as have a very soft spot for Susanna, who is just trying to make her way in this world so unfriendly to women.

  1. Can you tell us more about the next book you’re writing?

Our next novel is a sequel to The Wolves of St. Peter’s, the second of an envisioned trilogy, and it will take place in Venice, at a time when dowry inflation was skyrocketing. Patrician families were only able to marry off one of their daughters, and the only other respectable position for a woman was a convent. So the nunneries of the city were filled with women who didn’t want to be there, which certainly makes for fascinating social dynamics.

  1. Venice is one of the cities on my bucket list and I have a Pinterest board dedicated to it. What specific detail about Venice inspired you the most?

Boy this is a hard one – it’s a completely inspirational city. We touched on Venice in our first two novels but obviously not The Wolves of St. Peter’s, which is set exclusively in Rome. The sequel will take place during a Venetian winter, which is a very mysterious time in the life of the city. When we went there last January, fog often hung just above the canals, and several times we heard the aqua alta sirens, which warn about potential flooding. The streets were damp, and the churches were often as cold as a tomb. And yet in the shops and restaurants and cafes, there was much warmth and light. It was a wonderful contrast.

  1. What will you be speaking about at Kingston WritersFest on September 27th?

We’re really looking forward to this event. We’ll be talking about our coauthoring process as well as our research into Renaissance Rome about art, the Vatican, Michelangelo, Raphael, and the role of women.

10. Are the canines in your Facebook banner photo real wolves?

The dogs in our author photo are Tamaskans, a type of husky from Scandinavia. Our photographer friend owns them, and we thought they would be a perfect addition, given the title of the book. It was quite the photo session at Fort Henry getting them to cooperate!

Thank you very much Gina and Janice for this wonderfully interesting and informative interview. I look forward to meeting you in person at your book signing event at Chapters Kingston on Saturday, September 28, 2013 (between 12:00 – 3:00 pm)!

My Dear I Wanted To Tell You by Louisa Young Is A Classic!

Book Review
Title: My Dear I Wanted To Tell You
Author: Louisa Young
Publisher: HarperCollins Canada
Released: May 31, 2011
Pages: 336
ISBN-10: 0061997145
ISBN-13: 978-0-00-736143
Stars: 4.5

Shannon Parsons of HarperCollins Canada provided a wonderful service when she sent me an advance reader’s copy of the elegantly written World War I romantic novel, My Dear I Wanted To Tell You by Louisa Young.

In mid-September I suffered a massive muscle spasm attack in my lower back and ended up in bed for a week.  The pain was intense whenever I had to get up and move around but when I lay down in bed I was much more comfortable so I ended up reading three books that week.  For a couple of days I was totally immersed and transported to the vivid and emotional world of Riley Purefoy & Nadine Waveney and Peter & Julia Locke.  Spellbound by their story, I was impressed by the author’s willingness to use four letter words where they were warranted and to allow her protagonists to traverse the spectrum of human emotions with authenticity.  I was truly sad when I finished the book because I didn’t want it to end.  Ms. Young has crafted a classic novel that will undoubtedly win several awards as well as linger with you long after the final page has been turned.

In 1907 London, eleven-year-old Riley meets the daughter of an eminent orchestral conductor whose dark-haired beauty and artistic family captivates him.  Nadine becomes his best friend and he becomes the protégé of her father’s painter friend, Sir Alfred.  Riley’s own dark good looks make him a desirable subject so he sits for Sir Alfred and his life soon changes forever.

Years pass and Riley realizes that although he has fallen in love with Nadine, he is from a different class and would never be approved as her suitor.  One night, after a drunken, homoerotic incident with another friend of Sir Alfred, the horrified Riley impulsively enlists in the army in an attempt to avoid being further humiliated.

I’m not usually a fan of stories set during war because I’m such a pacifist and don’t believe in war for any reason, but England and France during World War I certainly provide a gripping setting for this saga of love, loss, betrayal and redemption.

At the same time Riley and his commanding officer, Peter Locke, fight for England in the muddy trenches of Ypres, Peter’s beautiful but rather vapid and immature wife, Julia, and his plain but intelligent cousin Rose impatiently await his return.  Julia goes through the motions of making sure the house is in perfect condition and keeps herself as impeccably groomed as possible because she never knows when her husband might be granted leave for a few days and come  home to her.  However, the war has changed Peter who has become a hard-drinking, morose man who would rather seek comfort in the arms of a prostitute than his wife.   As time goes on, the spurned Julia believes that perhaps with a few cosmetic enhancements she will once again win her husband’s affections.  While Julia fritters away her time worrying about her looks, Rose becomes a nurse who finds herself working with a ground-breaking plastic surgeon.

This novel depicts the horrors of war and primitive plastic surgery in dramatic detail and at the same time portrays the turmoil faced by the women who are left behind when their men go to battle.  The characters are so well-developed that you have no trouble investing in them or having empathy for them.  Riley stands out above the rest and you will shed tears for both him and Nadine.  Julia and Peter are slightly less sympathetic characters but no less interesting and while Rose had the potential to be a truly fascinating individual, she seemed to have been written with a bit less passion than the others.

My Dear I Wanted To Tell You’s title was adapted from a standard letter that was given to soldiers who were wounded and admitted to hospital.  In a cruel twist of fate, Riley is seriously injured and Rose becomes his nurse and confidante as he can no longer believe that Nadine, who has become his lover, could possibly accept what has become of him.  What he doesn’t know is that there are no limits to Nadine’s love.

Young, who has had an intriguing life so far with even more mesmerizing ancestry (her grandmother was the widow of Captain Scott, of the doomed Antarctic expedition, and she and her family grew up in the house owned by Peter Pan’s J.M. Barrie), is the author of the best-selling Lionboy trilogy for children.  According to Louisa Young’s website, My Dear I Wanted To Tell You

is the first of a trilogy observing – through the descendents of Peter, Julia, Riley, Nadine, Rose and others – ways in which the experiences of that massively traumatic period and its aftermath shaped the following generations: all of us who grew up in the twentieth century.

If that is the case, I’ll be waiting with anticipation for the next volume.

Scully Love Promo’s Facebook Page Is For All Artists!

Hello everyone!

My Scully Love Promo Facebook page offers some great tips on social media as well as information about very talented musicians, authors, photographers, and other artists. In fact, all artists are invited to LIKE the page and are welcome to post links and information about their own work.

Today the Scully Love Promo page has 1,182 members and I would love to see it reach 1,200 by the end of the week. I believe in the power of networking and helping each other to spread the love about our work. There is enough room for everyone to be successful and none of us can do it alone. Especially in light of the changes made to Facebook pages and the fact that if we are not an administrator of a page, we can only share it by either posting a link on our wall or by sending a link via email to our personal friends – unless we want to pay for a Facebook ad. So we need each other more than ever! Cross promotion can be very effective and as you know, it takes a village! I encourage all page owners to LIKE other pages as their page (i.e., refer to the Manage tab in the Admin Panel at the top of your page that says Use Facebook as…in my case, Scully Love Promo) which will feature them in the LIKES box on the right side of the Timeline-style page and help to cross promote those artists or businesses that you would recommend.

The Scully Love Promo Facebook page is just one way in which I promote the talented people that I get to know. I write entertainment reviews and interviews which you are familiar with if you read this blog, for Press +1, Canada’s largest online indie entertainment magazine (it has a readership of 3 million!) and Jill Crossland’s TimeFinders – Women Writing For Women. I also write books reviews for HarperCollins Canada and Simon & Schuster and post them on Amazon, and post press releases for local theatre and music events.

Last but not least, is my Scully Love Promo social media management business. I specialize in assisting musicians and authors with their social media marketing campaigns using Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Pinterest, MySpace and WordPress among other top sites, and have created dozens of Facebook pages for artists as well as local businesses. I am one of three administrators of the official Facebook page for Bob Geldof, the Irish musician (former leader of The Boomtown Rats), successful entrepreneur, Band AID and Live AID founder and humanitarian who was knighted by the Queen of England for his tireless fundraising & awareness efforts on behalf of Africa.

I would be honoured to help spread the love about you!

NOTE: This article was updated on March 26, 2012

What Books, Writing and Reading Mean to Me

Scully and Christine in June 2010

If you don’t already know about HarperCollins Canada’s new Savvy Reader website, I want to be sure to tell you about it! It’s run by an absolutely wonderful group of book lovers and employers of HarperCollins Canada and there’s something delightful to be found there for every book lover!

I was honoured to be asked to contribute to The Savvy Reader’s new Blog Spotlight feature and today, they published my article on What Books, Writing and Reading Mean To Me.

This is my original version which is a little bit longer and was edited for space:

My mom told me that ever since I was a toddler my favourite toy or present was always books. She read to me constantly from the time I was a baby to the point when I could read on my own at five years of age. The fact that I could read at that age allowed me to skip kindergarten and ever since I was in grade school, I have written poems and stories myself.

I always dreamed of being a writer and I guess you could say that I am one, even though I don’t make a living that way. When I was 14, I wrote a poem about Shaun Cassidy that was published in a Scholastic Book Services title called Rock’s Biggest Ten. Since then, I’ve had quite a few poems published in newspapers, magazines and poetry anthologies and in 2008, I self-published a book of poetry called Eden Refugee through Lulu.com after being encouraged by my mentor – author, actor, former head of the CBC and all-around Renaissance man, Patrick Watson. It’s safe to say that I simply cannot imagine a life without writing or books!

There are so many reasons why I love books. I love the look of them, the smell of them, and the way they feel in my hands. Holding one is always like anticipating an unknown, wrapped gift, and wondering what it could contain inside. A good writer’s ability to transport you to different times, places, and worlds and to allow you to envision in your own imagination what it’s like there is extraordinary. I love to read on the couch, under a tree, on planes, trains and automobiles, and especially in bed in the morning while I enjoy my first coffee of the day. That’s the epitome of luxury to me! I haven’t purchased a Kindle or Kobo yet but I imagine that I soon will because I have three full bookcases in my home and little room for more. I think they’re pretty cool even though a printed version of a book will always be special to me. I love to read literary fiction, contemporary fiction, historical fiction, historical romance, chick lit, horror, poetry, spirituality/philosophy, biographies and memoirs.

I have been writing book reviews for years but it has only been in the past two years that I’ve really made a conscious effort to write about every book I read. I started my blog Scully Love Promo Reviews on Blogger in 2008 and switched to WordPress at in December 2009 (my business name changed to Bodacious Copy in November 2020). I write book reviews because I enjoy the process. I love to read, and I like to do what I can to help promote authors; whether they’re making their publishing debut or are already well-known names. I also write to give my blog content and to drive traffic to my website. I not only write book reviews, but I write CD and live performance reviews as well as blog about the arts in Kingston, Ontario (where I live), my clients and about social media.

I read other people’s book reviews but not as many as I’d like to because I’m busy reading books and writing my own. I look for intelligent reviews that are well-written and thoughtful, as well as those about the work of my favourite authors or in particular, Irish authors that I haven’t heard of. To say I am very fond of Irish writers is a glaring understatement and I go out of my way to look for books on the sale tables of Chapters or Indigo Books & Music that are written by them. My favourite Irish writers include: Patrick McCabe, Colum McCann, Neil Jordan, Roddy Doyle, Edna O’Brien and Maggie O’Farrell.

My reviews of books are usually based on my emotional reaction to the story. However, I also look for the following factors:

1. Did it move me?
2. Could I relate to the characters?
3. Was I captivated, fascinated, held spellbound?
4. Did it make me laugh, cry, think about it long after I finished the last page?
5. Was I intellectually challenged by the story?
6. Did I learn something I didn’t know before?
7. Would I want to read more work from the same author?

If the answer is yes to all of the above, then it would be more than likely that I would give the book a high rating and recommend it to my blog readers and these are the kinds of things I look for in a fellow blogger’s review as well.

My top 5 favourite reviews that I’ve written since I started blogging are:

1. Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts
2. Let The Great World Spin by Colum McCann
3. Thaw by Fiona Robyn
4. The Complete Poetic Works of Michael Madsen Vol. 1: 1995-2005
5. The Wizard Within by Albert Thor

Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts is a book I just finished reading and it’s absolutely the best book I’ve ever read!  This is the kind of read I always hope for but seldom experience and it’s why I’ll spend the rest of my life reading as much as I possibly can.

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