Blog tour: Under the Light of the Italian Moon

Welcome to the blog tour for Under The Light of The Italian Moon by Jennifer Anton! Please join me in conversation with the author…

Hi Jennifer! First of all, I would like to congratulate you on the publication of Under the Light of the Italian Moon! Can you please briefly tell us what it is about?

A: Under the Light of the Italian Moon is a story of love and women’s resilience during the rise of fascism and Italy’s collapse into WWII. It is inspired by the lives of the Italian women in my family who I have been researching for the past 14 years since 2006 when my daughter was born and my Italian grandmother died within two weeks of each other. It tells the story of Nina Argenta, the daughter of a strong-willed midwife, who falls in love with a man who has emigrated to America. She stays behind to help her mother, but has dreams of joining her husband that are put at risk when Mussolini’s fascists cause turmoil and Nazis occupy their northern Italian town.

Did you have the plot entirely figured out when you started writing the book or did it take an unexpected turn as the characters grew on the page?

A: The book started out as a research project after my grandmother died, but as I took more and more trips to Italy, met more of the family and unearthed more information, it became obvious there was a story that needed to be told in order to remember these women and what happened in Fonzaso during the war. Since the book was inspired by the tumultuous point in my life where motherhood, death and the chaos of being a woman inspired me, it became clear that the center of the book was Ninetta, her mother, her daughters and also her passionate love story with Pietro.

What kind of research did you have to carry out while you were writing this novel? In general, is research something you enjoy or merely a means to an end?

A: 14 years of research. From going to Fonzaso, Italy, over five times to meet with Italians who lived through the war to reading every dissertation and book I could about midwives in Italy, rural Italian women under fascism and the war in Italy – the research was ongoing but I loved every minute of it. In the end, it brought me closer to my Italian roots and I hope the book allows others to understand the slow build that led Italy into the point of no return. It’s scary as we see this behaviour again – like watching history repeat itself.

If this novel was going to be turned into a film, who would you cast in the roles of Nina and Pietro?

A: That’s a very hard question. Ideally, Nina and Pietro would be Italian actors but I’m not sure who would be best. Thinking broadly- for Pietro, I could see Michael Sheasby (without the beard and he would need brown contacts) and for Nina, ideally an Italian actress who looks like Botticelli’s Madonna. I love French actress Marion Cotillard, and she did a beautiful job in Nine as an Italian woman. She would be incredible especially for the war years. For Nina and Pietro when they were children, I would search the cast of My Brilliant Friend.

Without giving too much away, can you tell us about a scene in the book that you love or that was particularly difficult to write?

A: I loved the festival scene at the beginning. Everyone has those moments from when they were young – the thrill of a crush or falling in love. This scene was a joy in that sense and early readers have said they love that scene, too. In terms of one that was hard to write, there were so many. Any time someone died or a birth didn’t go right, it was difficult. What the Nazis and fascists did was so atrocious – you almost don’t want to write it, but you have to in order to ensure future generations don’t forget. I cried a lot while writing the novel and reading it later, but in the end, the book is a tribute to women which makes my heart soar.

Is there anything that didn’t make it into the final version of the book?

A: Oh, so much! I had to cut and start again many times over the years. The original version went a lot more into Nina as a child and it was just too much. There were also a lot of extra scenes with Lasia and Rita that had to be cut. The book is certainly better for the edits! I worked with two incredible editors: Angela Meyer, who edited The Tattooist of Auschwitz and Cilka’s Journey and Sally Orson-Jones who edits for Sarah Waters. They were really helpful in getting me to “kill my darlings” as writers say!

If you are already working on your next writing project, would you mind giving us a little anticipation of what we are to expect?

A: While I was researching Under the Light of the Italian Moon, some of my cousins told me about another woman in my family who had an extraordinary life and helped the Resistance in Italy. She is a minor character in this book but there are some hints to what she is doing in secret to help the good partisans. It turns out, she left several audio interviews about her life and always wanted to write a book. She died a few years ago. I believe she wants me to tell it, so that will have to happen.

What are you reading at the moment?

A: Right now, I’m reading The Violinist of Auschwitz by Ellie Midwood and I just finished Rachel Zolotov’s The Girl with the Silver Star which was brilliant. I’ve also been reading Virginia Woolf’s, The Years. I’ll post reviews on Goodreads so do follow me there for updates on what I’m reading.

Due to the popularity of social networking websites, interacting with readers – be it via Twitter, Facebook Instagram etc. – is becoming increasingly important. How do you cope with these new demands on authors and do you think that they somehow disrupt your writing schedule?

A: It takes a lot of time, but I love interacting with readers. My goal when I wrote this book was to touch the lives of at least 1000 women and make them feel stronger, more resilient and connected to their female heritage. When I get messages from readers to this effect, it makes me so proud and makes me feel like my life purpose is in motion. I will need to find a better balance to get book two written! I’m on Instagram as @boldwomanwriting and that is my main and most comfortable social media channel.

What one piece of advice would you give to aspiring writers?

A: Don’t give up. It took me 14 years to finish my novel and that is what it had to take. Under the Light of the Italian Moon wouldn’t have been what it is if I had published it earlier. Keep at it, keep learning and when you are ready, work with the best editors you can find. Tell your story!

Thank you for your time!

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