Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Carolyn Haley is talking with Tom Bisogno, author of Siena My Love.
FQ: Based on the story itself and your author bio, it’s obvious this is a “book from the heart.” Would you say it’s a fictionalized autobiography, or just that the time, place, and music combined to inspire a love story?
BISOGNO: The first experience that influenced the book started when I was ten years old and I was assigned by the teacher to help a late registrant named Carol catch up on her classwork. Her Mom loved baking so I would walk Carol home and we would always get milk and cookies...I found you could actually be friends with a girl. But her dad got transferred to California, and I never saw her again. The music in the story is the music I heard and enjoyed listening to on the radio in my teens and still do on YouTube. The celebrity part was based on my imagining “What if a well-known celebrity like Sinatra or one of the crooners returned to visit a grandfather as an adult, was single, and then met his childhood friend and there were sparks?” So there are actually some autobiographical elements in the story's DNA. Since I only dare to sing in the shower, I am not Michael Ventura.
FQ: Siena obviously plays a very important role in your life, and your book. You mention in your bio on your website that you first visited Siena as a child with your family. What originally brought your family to Siena to vacation? Relatives or simply a desire to visit a beautiful part of Italy?
BISOGNO: I visited Siena as an adult a few times with my family. One time we lived in a thousand-year-old tower. I really loved the historic city, the pageantry and especially the wild horse race at the Palio, and of course the beautiful surrounding countryside, vineyards, and hills.
FQ: Your bio also tells us you’ve written for stage and film. Do you plan to convert Siena My Love into either of those media?
BISOGNO: Yes...as either a full-length film or a streaming 4-part TV series.
FQ: If you had to stand on stage today and sing one of the songs featured in the story, which would it be?
BISOGNO: My two favorites are “The Way You Look Tonight” and “Help Me Make It Through the Night.” But I don’t think anyone will ask me to sing on stage.
FQ: I see from your website that you also offer workshops. Would you tell our readers a little about those, and how/why you started offering them?
BISOGNO: I taught the full range of communication subjects at WCSU, Marist, Iona, and Dominican colleges for 17 years. I missed teaching because I taught students valuable life skills and about teamwork and leadership. So, I'm always interested in sharing my knowledge and years of experience and research in many different interesting areas.
FQ: How do you go about structuring a story? Are you a plotter or do you write as the story develops in your mind?
BISOGNO: I did a detailed treatment like you do for a film to outline the elements of story as I thought it would develop. Using the treatment as a guide, I just started writing the novel and researched as needed. I even thanked Google for making it easy to find things quickly like the distances and travel times to places, or details on place and health issues. Of course, as I edited, I had to fix the tracking elements, expand the descriptions and dialogue, correct typos and misspelling, etc. My collaborative editors at Atmosphere Press were a great help in finalizing the process.
FQ: Of the diverse types of writing you’ve done—novel, script, screenplay, nonfiction—which comes most naturally to you, and we’re likely to see more of?
BISOGNO: I think I would love to do a variety of writing...a novel, a nonfiction book about communication... Currently I’m working on a screenplay or TV series for Siena My Love. I wrote a self-published coming-of-age book and I am thinking about revisiting and hopefully publishing it, and then doing a screenplay. But first I’m concentrating on Siena My Love until we know it is on its feet and going in the right direction.
FQ: One of the interesting aspects of the book is that you translate all the Italian dialogue into English. Those of us who are monolingual in English appreciate this very much! It makes us wonder how many languages you speak, and how many you write in. Tell us about that.
BISOGNO: Unfortunately, I took Latin (which is not very useful except for having many contributions to the English language) and French in both high school and college, but never had to use them. Alas, I am only fluent in English as my parents (my dad emigrated from Santa Lucia and my mom’s parents were from Sicily) spoke Italian as their secret language. They did not share it with me or my brothers and since my grandparents only spoke Italian, I never really knew them in any detail, though my grandfather was a gentle man and grandma was very religious. I did have help with a friend who is a bilingual Italian stage producer/director and her friend who translates for film projects.
FQ: Are you currently working on your next writing project? Or perhaps something else from your varied background - please tell us what’s next.
BISOGNO: I’m plotting the elements and selecting dialogue for the screenplay for Siena My Love. I do have several chapters of a nonfiction work on team and leadership skills that at some point I will revisit.