Interview With Nina Romano
Today I’m talking to the very talented author, Nina Romano. Thanks for speaking to me today, Nina.
What did you do with your first advance?
I foolishly blew my advance of two books on hiring a publicist for one month to help promote my first novel, The Secret Language of Women. I researched this publicist and others—I guess I made the wrong choice, but it taught me a tremendous lesson about marketing—do it yourself! I won’t name the publicist, but I will reveal that hiring her for her service was an exorbitant waste of money. She did absolutely nothing that my publisher didn’t do. She requested twenty copies of the novel, furnished by my publisher. She sent out nineteen review copies and kept a copy for herself. My publisher sent out double that amount. From my vantage point, I’d have to say that she completely squandered my time by sending me lists of optimization words for a blog.
The publicist suggested I do a virtual blog tour, but never said who I should send the blogs to—I was supposed to furnish these. In fact when I think back on it, I was doing all the backbreaking work of researching various things that she should have done, like getting my novel into book contests. In the meantime, I had precious little time to read an ARC, finalize my second novel’s draft, and write a third novel! My Wayfarer Trilogy was published in a year and a half—every six months, a book was released. The publicist also tried to get me to invest more money in having a book trailer made via her “connections.” I did not do the expensive book trailer.
I’m sure other people have had better experiences with publicists. However, my involvement was totally negative and I would try to dissuade any new author from investing in one. I’d tell anyone who’d listen not to bother because as far as I’m concerned a publicist costs a fortune. Perhaps a publicist can serve big block-buster authors with unlimited funds. I would have been far better off if I’d bought copies of my novel and gifted them to five thousand people and asked for reviews!
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
I should say travel, but the truth is I’ve been so blessed and never had to spend a dime of my own little money earned from book sales—my husband foots the bill the same way he did for my last two college degrees—a B.A. in English and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing.
So I’d have to say that the best money I’ve spent as a writer is on my collection of leather- bound classics. They are beautiful!
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
I would choose a horse. I have horses in all three of my published novels, and there is a horse in my fourth novel, The Girl Who Loved Cayo Bradley, an Historical Western Romance, which was recently released from Prairie Rose Publications in February of this year. My character Cayo actually speaks to his horse in Spanish, a much sweeter language than English.
What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
I loved Forever by Pete Hamill. I don’t read much fantasy or magic realism, but I couldn’t put this down. I’m not even sure you can categorize this book as either of those two things. It is a narrative so rich and an illusory, with dream-like sequences—magical but much more. It is the heroic journey of Cormac O’Connor, an Irish Jew, who arrives in New York. He escaped Ireland in 1740 and is granted immortality provided he never leaves the island of Manhattan—forever.
How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
I’m not sure that publishing my first poetry book changed my process of writing. I published a collection of poems, Cooking Lessons, with a small, independent publisher. I continued submitting poems to journals and literary magazines and putting together poetry books. I went on to publish four more complete poetry collections and two poetry chapbooks, but in the meantime, I never stopped writing fiction. I always wanted to be a novelist and was constantly writing and revising short stories and novels.
I wrote some non-fiction and memoir, but very little of it, and feel that my forte is poetry but my love is fiction. Perhaps that’s why my novels are written lyrically and poetically. I love language—not just English, but foreign languages as well. My character Cayo uses Spanish in my newest novel, The Girl Who Loved Cayo Bradley. I’ve used other languages in my fiction: Italian, French, Mandarin and Russian. I like to fling foreign expressions into my prose because I feel it enhances the work, and makes it seem real. If a direct translation isn’t used somehow, then one of the tricks to using a foreign language is to make the context of the words understood.
What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?
I’ve been very blessed because I am married to a world traveler. I’ve been on every continent and in more countries than I can count on fingers and toes. I travelled several times to China, where my first novel The Secret Language of Women, is set. I lived in Italy for twenty years and travelled all over Europe. I visited Sicily many, many times, and that’s where my second novel, Lemon Blossoms, is set. I grew up in Brooklyn, New York, where my third novel, In America, is set. I’ve travelled across the USA many times, stopping in St. Louis, Missouri and Santa Fe, New Mexico. These are two locales I used in my fourth novel, The Girl Who Loved Cayo Bradley. I’ve also made a second voyage to Russia this past fall, where my fifth novel is set!
Any place I’ve visited where a famous author or for that matter artist lived or worked, you can bet I’ve stopped to pay homage and spend some time there to inhale their writerly or artistic molecules. Travels included Spain where Cervantes lived and Key West and Cuba where Ernest Hemingway did his writing. In England, on my personal literary tour, I visited the Parsonage where the Brontë children grew up, the Lake District of Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter, and of course, Shakespeare’s Stratford-Upon-Avon.
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
Here again, I’ve been fortunate because I have an MFA in Creative Writing from Florida International University and all of my professors were published authors. I attended many literary and writing conferences and met many writers, agents, editors, and publishers throughout the years.
I was in a writing group for eleven years and all but one was a published novelist. Nevertheless, I can honestly say that today not a single one of my very intimate or extremely close friends are writers. I have intelligent beta readers who give me feedback. I firmly believe in getting critiques whenever possible because these help in revision. I have many wonderful acquaintances, followers, reviewers, and author friends on Twitter and Facebook. They are most supportive and inspirational. There are a great number of them that I would now trust to read a manuscript before I submitted it for publication.
Twitter is an interesting social media because it allows for interaction with many different kinds of writers. I love networking with people! My books have been reviewed on Twitter and I’ve been able to publish blogs and have had lovely interviews—such as this one with you, Christine! I find managing Facebook more difficult. However, all social media is time consuming and a great source of distraction. Yet in today’s world, it’s a necessary evil, as is Amazon!
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
One. This is novel #5, my present work-in-progress, which is unfinished. It has nothing to do with my trilogy or my Western Historical Romance. This baby is a total enigma to me! I’m currently working on what I consider an extremely difficult and challenging manuscript. I love historical novels and research—that much of it is in place. The setting is Leningrad 1956. I have strong, interesting characters, a few minor ones that need fleshing out, but it’s a good premise. History, geography, and politics all come into play so in that sense it can be considered historical. However, whether or not I can pull off other aspects of the narrative is another matter altogether. I’ve never written a murder mystery, thriller, suspense or spy novel before, and so far this draft contains some of these elements. It’ll be interesting to see where it will lead me.
I haven’t quite come to terms with what this book wants to be. I have many pages written but they are quite a hodge-podge and need ordering, enhancing, and completing. As I told a friend the other day, it warrants the smoothing out of transitions and the connective tissue to amalgamate the whole. I’m determined to finish the draft completely, so I can give it to her to read while I’m off to India and Nepal the first two weeks of April. I feel, especially now that I’ve been to Russia again, comfortable writing about St. Petersburg, such a fascinating city. It was my second time there, but my first time to Moscow.
The only other piece of fiction that I’ve written that comes even a little close to being somewhat in the category of thriller/suspense is my short story, “A Risky Christmas Affair.” It’s now out as an E-book and hopefully will soon be released as an audiobook.
Christine, I want to thank you for this lovely interview opportunity!
The Girl Who Loved Cayo Bradley
He knew people saw him as part Apache. Others claimed he was left for dead by bandoleros, and because of his aloof and stealth disposition, and the fact that he was shy and nonconfrontational like the animal, people believed that’s how he came to be named Coyote. Somewhere along the way, Coyote’s nickname became Cayo. He didn’t care what people called him as long as they did, and for sure he knew his name didn’t matter because he’d never fit in anywhere. Once you’ve lived wild and free, it’s near impossible to return wholly capable of fitting into refined society. He knew others like himself, children who had been taken and lived with Kiowa or other tribes, and what he saw in them he knew was the same for him. They were the same outcast breed he was, not a trace of Indian blood, but Indian in the way they thought. He’d never completely forgotten his own language, English, so when he finally decided to go back to living the white folks’ way, he listened to speech, carefully repeated words, and held himself close, like a gambler in a poker game, keeping his cards to his chest. He shouldered these thoughts about himself and that other life he lived before as a yoke on an ox. It weighed on him, but he could do nothing to shirk it.
Nobody in town knew him by any other name. Whatever his component parts were, it was for certain he was known as a man quick with a Bowie knife, swifter with a whip. That was because nobody had ever seen him shoot a deadly arrow. He wore chaps every day but Saturday when he drove the buckboard. Cayo carried two Colt pistols in his holsters and never rode his horse without a Winchester 30/30 rifle strapped to his saddle. He was a man people respected, a man who kept his mouth shut and eyes peeled, even the eyes they said he had in the back of his head.
Nina Romano earned a B.S. from Ithaca College, an M.A. from Adelphi University and a B.A. and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from FIU. She’s a world traveler and lover of history. She lived in Rome, Italy, for twenty years, and is fluent in Italian and Spanish. She has authored a short story collection, The Other Side of the Gates, and has published five poetry collections and two poetry chapbooks with independent publishers. She co-authored Writing in a Changing World. Romano has been nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize in Poetry.
Nina Romano’s historical Wayfarer Trilogy has been published from Turner Publishing. The Secret Language of Women, Book #1, was a Foreword Reviews Book Award Finalist and Gold Medal winner of the Independent Publisher’s 2016 IPPY Book Award. Lemon Blossoms, Book # 2, was a Foreword Reviews Book Award Finalist, and In America, Book #3, was a finalist in Chanticleer Media’s Chatelaine Book Awards.
Her latest novel, The Girl Who Loved Cayo Bradley, a Western Historical Romance, has recently been released from Prairie Rose Publications, and will be the novel she will be referring to in this interview.
Amazon: https://amzn.to/2DKeeii The Girl Who Loved Cayo Bradley
Amazon Author: https://amzn.to/2SUamoF
Amazon: https://amzn.to/2XGByH4 The Secret Language of Women
Amazon: https://amzn.to/2tV9CBr Lemon Blossoms
Amazon: https://amzn.to/2HpyF7Z In America