Today Maria Grazia Swan is my guest and she’s most entertaining.
Hi Maria Thank You (you’ll understand later why this is a joke) for being here and answering a few of my questions.
Is there any food or beverage that is a constant factor in either your books or life? I know about the Prosecco, but do you ever dump a splash of Limoncello in it?
You must know two things about me,
1 I don’t drink hard liquor, period. Even if it’s called Limoncello.
2. I consider myself sort of a purist when it comes to taste. If I’m going to drink coffee, well, I drink coffee. Not flavored coffee or coffee mocha or whatever else you call it. I may have a favorite brand of coffee beans, but it’s always plain coffee. And that rule applies to all that I eat or drink. No Ketchup, no steak sauce, no garlic potatoes. If I want potatoes that’s what I eat, same for steak, I’ll eat the steak, no sauce. The rest is all about changing the natural flavor or covering up the cook’s shortcomings. All that to let you know that I like Prosecco, as is, from the bottle to my stem glass and beyond.
What is your favourite dish and can you give me the recipe?
I don’t have a favorite dish.
I eat according to my moods. My comfort food is pasta. I make up my own recipes using what I have available and always cook from scratch no cans or pre cooked. Because I’ve learned to cook in Italy, I’m still doing a pinch of this and a pinch of that. Drives my kids crazy, I tell them if they want to learn to cook some of my so-called recipes they need to come and watch me do it otherwise, when I’m gone, so are the dishes they like so much.
Ah, the wing it method, a good one which I use too. 🙂
Do you ever miss being the fashionista? Or finding that one great house for a client?
I’m still selling real estate, don’t advertise, but work with my loyal clients and by referral. As for fashionista, well…I’m not a size 0 anymore and I get pretty depressed when I try clothes on.
However, while in my youth I would agonize for days over what to wear for a party or a date, now I don’t. Self confidence and experience let me know I can walk into my closet and get the perfect outfit together in thirty minutes or less. Small reward, but I’ll take what I can get.
What is the title of the book you would like to talk about, and can you give us a small taster of it?
Available on Amazon
Bosom Bodies is #2 in the Mina’s adventures series. OMG!! March 25th is the birthday of the real Mina, the Italian Pop star who inspired my choice for the name of the main protagonist. She will be … 74.
Did you have difficulty coming up with the title?
Yes, and here is why. The book opens in a restaurant where Mina is working pretending to be someone else. Pretending to be Ginger, her yoga instructor who eloped to Las Vegas to get hitched. This is not your typical Southern California restaurant, it’s more of a … gentleman’s club. Think … Hooters? I couldn’t find any appropriate name, they were all taken by legit businesses. Bosom Bodies was the one I could use without risking a law suit.
I picked the book Bosom Bodies as an acknowledgment to you, the yoga gal.
Aw! That is sooo sweet! Too bad I don’t have a bosom body, rather bony if you ask me. 🙂 Must be all the yoga. Anyway, let’s get on with the interview. Is there anything you don’t like about being an author?
Marketing, tooting my own horn. (Love American clichés)
I can relate to that and must say there’s too much of it going on already without us joining in. 🙂
What do you do marketing wise and what do you think generates the most attention to your books?
I don’t do much, I’m technically challenged to the point that I bribe my grandkids when I’m stuck (home cooked meals for technical help)
What sets my books apart is the Italian factor. I’m really Italian, born and raised in Italy so when I write, that comes through and I have a large number of readers who have roots or connections to Italy
That is great, I love Italy and must put the book on my TBR list. (makes a note to do so after this interview)
Would you be able to come up with a credible excuse why you haven’t written a whole day? Remember, I have to believe it!
I’m writing right now, you think these answers are easy? What are you talking about? Writing is writing. Even if is only the grocery list.
Okay, now that we have the mandatory questions out of the way, shoot your mouth off. Tell me whatever you want the blab about. Make me laugh, or cry, or even envious. Tell me something none has ever heard before from you. hehehe, love those little dirty secrets, real or make believe. 🙂
I’m the first girl born in my family, had 3 sisters. Traditionally I should have been named after my two grandmothers. Anna and Domenica. Instead that went to my sister, born five years after me, we call her Annica. So I asked my mother why am I Maria Grazia, it’s not a family name, there has to be a reason. She said something had happened to my father before I was born and she made a vow to the Virgin Mary that if he would come home all one piece I would be named Maria Grazia, Maria, for the Virgin Mary and Grazia for the Grace received. I have never told this to anyone for many reasons, I’m not very religious and this feels wrong to me on so many levels; my name being a pawn in the game of life for one, and then the way Americans call me Mary Thank you makes the all holy intent behind the name sort of—devilish.
Okay my friend, ball is in your court. Play nice.
Hahaha, play nice she says. Okay, I will and won’t make that joke. If any of the readers want to find you and say a Hail Mary to you they can do so at:
Her website, Goodreads, Facebook, and Twitter
For those that haven’t had enough and want to read a bit of the book before they run off and get their copy at Amazon, here’s an excerpt.
The last time Mina waited tables was fourteen months earlier in October 1989. Before Paola’s death, before Mina met Brian. She wasn’t going to think about Brian now.
Her high heels clicked on the concrete floors of the smoke-filled restaurant. The loud music and the chattering noise could cover up cannon fire, never mind the annoying shoes. Round tables, higher than regular dining tables, with stools to match, occupied most of the large room. The rest of the space was taken by a well stocked bar. Men of all ages, shapes and means warmed most of the seats. They must all come for the food, Mina thought as she stretched on her toes to be able to hear the orders. Even in high heels, she was the shortest waitress there, and the least busty, the least giggly and, at twenty-four, probably the least young. Then again, she wasn’t depending on the generosity of these men to make rent.
“Ginger, psst,” Angelina beckoned from the other side of the glass separating the kitchen from the main room, “I put your plates here to keep them warm. Take them.”
Angelina’s English was marginal, but her intention to help Mina/Ginger was clear enough. She was the only ally in this whole place. Mina suspected it had to do with the accent, sort of a bonding factor. Angelina sounded Latina and probably had cultural similarities to Mina’s Italian background. She looked so young to Mina. How did she end up here? In this…restaurant? Mina could see past Angelina’s sweet smile. She could read the sadness and uncertainty in the young woman’s eyes. They reminded her of her own eyes, her own feelings those many years ago when she first stepped off that plane at Los Angeles International.
She grabbed the warm plates and tried to make sense of the orders. She couldn’t read her own handwriting. That’s what using computers will do to you! Eyes watching her? She turned around. The kitchen helper, a short dark-haired man, was looking at her. His name was Diego. The girls talked about him, calling him the silent type. Mina wasn’t even sure he understood English. Something about his piercing eyes made her uncomfortable. She gave Angelina a smile of thanks and scooted to her assigned tables.
It was nearly midnight by the time she walked out of Bosom Bodies.
Only Diego, a cashier named Lisa, and Mina remained. Angelina and another waitress left a few minutes earlier. Due to corporate policy, Mina had to change clothes before leaving, so she looked even more silly with the idiotic wig and fake lashes wearing her jeans and the Ultrasuede coat, which was Paola’s last gift. She was thankful she didn’t know a soul on this side of town and aimed to keep it that way.
Her ragtop Bug was parked at the back of the building inside the fenced area reserved for the employees. There was that funny word again.
Enough rain drizzled from the night sky to allow December to be taken seriously even in Southern California.
Mina noticed something peculiar about her car. Maybe it was the reflection from the streetlight, but the car looked lopsided.
“Hurry up,” Lisa the cashier said. “I need to lock the gate, I’m already late. The sitter will charge me overtime.”
“Hey, I’m sorry. I think I have a flat tire.” Mina walked around her car and, sure enough, it was the front tire, passenger sideas flat as her chest beneath the padding.
She could call Triple A. Her membership was current, wasn’t it? It would take time, and Lisa wanted her out of there. She opened the hood and remembered the spare tire was sitting in the warehouse of West Coast Software where Mina left it to make room for moving boxes. That was last week. She had forgotten about the tire.
“Maledizione!” She slammed the hood close.
The male voice came from behind her. “So you’re Italian.”
Mina turned. Diego stood looking down at the flat tire. She was surprised at his perfect English, no accent, yet he understood Italian? Italian swear words. How about that?
“Lisa, go ahead, go home. I’ll lock the gate as soon as we take care of Ginger’s car.” Mina stopped herself short of explaining her name wasn’t Ginger. She bit her lip and avoided his eyes. The man made her feel self-conscious. How old was he? And what did she care? Lisa started the engine of her small, beat-up truck, waved to Diego, ignoring Mina and drove off in a blast of unmuffled engine and Michael Bolton’s falsetto.
“Do you have a spare tire?” Diego asked.
“If I did, I would have already taken care of this.”
“Oh, you change your own tires? In the dark, while it rains?”
She hated him. Smart-ass. That was one American expression she found fascinating and mostly to the point, especially on this occasion. How would that translate into Italian? Not very well. Smart furbo. Ass.
“Do you want a ride home?” Was he talking to her?
She looked around. The only vehicle left in the fenced space was her Volkswagen with the flat tire. “A ride? On your shoulders?”
“Suit yourself. Your car will be safe until tomorrow, but there aren’t any cabs around here.” He glanced at her heels. The streetlights played hide and seek with his expression. Even so, she knew he smirked. “See you tomorrow,” he said.
Mina watched him walk to the side of the building. She didn’t know what to do. The damp wig itched. Her leaden feet ached. She wasn’t used to being on her feet for so many hours. All her prickliness left her. She wanted to sit in her car and wait for the sun to come up or this restaurant from hell to open, so she could use a phone. Who would she call? Brian was on a flight to Europe with his loony mother, and Mina hadn’t dared tell Paco about moonlighting as a waitress in this place. Maledizione.
The rhythmic, engine growl preceded him as Diego cruised around the corner on a shiny monster Harley.
“Last chance.” He looked even smaller on that huge thing. He revved up the engine and waited. Mina approached him, still unsure. He steadied the bike by firmly planting both feet on the pavement. He wore fancy black boots. Who was this Diego, really? A substitute for a honeymooning cook?
“I don’t have an extra helmet.” He strapped his under his chin. “How far do you live? I don’t want to get a ticket because you aren’t wearing one.”
“I’m wearing a wig. It’ll soften the blow if I fall.”
He didn’t smile.
She moved up beside the motorcycle and sent a mental thanks to the corporate policy that made her change clothes. She could never straddle that metal horse wearing a short skirt. Even with her jeans, she had trouble. Her legs were too short and she had to lean on Diego’s back to get on.
“Do you need anything from your car? Is it locked?”
“No and no.”
“What do you mean? You didn’t lock the car?”
“I never lock the car. Just go. Let’s get it over with it. I’ll have someone come over in the morning and fix the tire. Go.”
He turned and clicked the padlock on the gate without getting off the bike. “Yes, ma’am, but tomorrow is Sunday. Most places will be closed.”
She shrugged in the dark as he steered through the front parking lot. The instant they reached the road they gained speed. The bike glided under a canopy of twinkling holiday lights decorating the streets. A whiff of wind lifted her wig. Damn! She held on to Diego’s waist with one arm while trying to keep the wig from flying off her head with the other. Diego patted her hand. Mina sensed he did it just to annoy her. He must have picked up on her discomfort. Soon they crossed the bridge and were in Newport Beach.
“Okay, you can drop me off just up the hill.” She yelled into his back. She had no idea if he could hear her with that helmet.
“What hill?” He heard her. Good.
He whistled. “You live there?”
“Your Harley would look right at home in the garage.” She remembered a magazine article about Elizabeth Taylor having a Harley-Davison. She felt pretty sure Ms. Taylor didn’t play with cheap toys. “You can let me off at the gate, thanks.”
He removed his hand from hers, made a sharp turn to the left and stopped the bike with the motor running. “Buona notte,” he said without turning his head.
Jerk. She struggled but got off the shiny machine without too much huffing and puffing. She knew her wig was askew. She pulled it off, tucked it in her pocket, and hurried to the gate. She waved to the old man minding the gate when she walked by. Her hair felt glued to her scalp after all the time spent wearing that wig. One set of the fake eyelashes were stuck shut. She tried to open her eye, but it only fluttered. The guard winked back.