Interview with Marianna Randazzo

Published 2013-09-06.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
The first story that I ever wrote was a satire. I was extremely inspired and influenced by Mad Magazine. I particularly enjoyed the segment "The Lighter Side of..." I realized that if I could take everyday topics and show the silliness and absurdities of them, I could make people laugh. I wrote a few pieces in high school about the lighter side of living with teens and the the lighter side of living in an apartment. Both were topics I had a great deal of experience with.
Then, I was always fascinated with "big words". Once I learned a new vocabulary word I embedded it into my lexicon. I became obsessed with the word 'contemplate' I played with the word until I was able to come up with a dark poem about a teenager contemplating suicide. It was so good they published it in the annual literary magazine which was a stack of pages stapled together in the middle. By today's standards, the poem would have been flagged and guidance counselors, social workers and my parents would have been called in to analyse my behavior. I am sure I would have been labeled depressed or or overanxious about something.
Much to his credit, my English teacher, Mr. Grobstein just saw it for what it was, a pretty good piece of writing where the the author convinced you of the feelings that she she had made up.
Mr. Grobstein also made us read our writing out loud, it was called 'Speech' . Those speeches gave me the backbone and courage to face an audience, a skill that came in very handy during my days as a Literacy Staff Developer for the NYC Department of Ed.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
Pippi Longstockings by Astrid Lindgren, Pippi was a nine year old girl who lived alone with her horse and her monkey. Her father was always off at sea or out of the picture.
Having a loving, Italian , overprotective mother who rarely let me go outside of the yard, Pippi became my escape to a world where children had unlimited freedom, superhuman strength and were able to mock and dupe the the adults they encountered. Pippi had two best friends the neighbor's children Tommy and Annika.
Moving forward, in eight grade I read Rosemary's Baby. A book not appropriate for children. The book scared the hell out of me and I still have nightmares about it.
How do you approach cover design?
For my novel, Given Away, A Sicilian Upbringing, I knew I had to use that photograph of Sarina, Lena and Tina. It had to fit into whatever template I would use.
What do you read for pleasure?
To me, reading is always a pleasure. It may be a best seller by Wally Lamb, The Help, a book about becoming a better writer, the life of Saints, cookbooks, etc... I'm not too particular. I like to learn from my reading and that steers me towards a lot of nonfiction but I also love a good story.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
Kindle. I won a great Kindle with a red leather cover at a fundraiser for St. Jude.
I'm very lucky like that. In 2007 I won a car at church!
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Linked-in friends talking about my book.
Describe your desk
A mess.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in Brooklyn New York in a predominately Italian neighborhood with relatives within walking distance. I went to a Catholic School. I have enough material for about 19 more books and movies.
Also, I spent a few summers in Sicily.
When did you first start writing?
In sixth grade, we studied the business letter and report writing. Two things that would change my life forever. I learned that with a professional looking business letter you could complain about anything. When my brother didn’t like the way the chocolate chunks were floating in his Ovaltine, I wrote a business letter and soon our pantry was filled with free stuff. I wrote to Kool Aid and received complimentary Kool Aid Choo- Choo Cherry and Lefty Lemon mugs.
My 6th grade teacher was a “lay teacher.” For those not educated in the Catholic School System, lay teachers were the ultimate in unsung heroes. They were expected to do the same hard work as the nuns as well as attend an extraordinary amount of masses per year. However, they did it without the benefit of the “habit,” so they had to work harder to gain the respect of children and parents. Some were even frowned upon by those who preferred the nuns educate and discipline their children.
The ‘Habit' , was a part of a nun’s distinctive attire. It consisted of a black tunic with a piece of starched cloth covering their shoulders and framing their faces. Our ' Lay Teacher' taught us science and gave very difficult test which inevitably caused me to have a stomachache on the days of the exam. In lieu of a makeup, I was required to write a report on the subject matter of the test.
Having recently acquired the World Book Encyclopedia, I quickly realized there was nothing I couldn’t look up and write about. So I washed my hands, as was required by my parents before handling the leather bound tomes and did my research. With all that information at my fingertips, I never got less than a 90 on my make-up science exams. I was in heaven for a while. Then 7th grade rolled in, back to the nuns.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
After one year of searching for an agent, getting much positive feedback, partial and full request, but ultimately being rejected, I decided life was too short to wait any longer. Had I been thirty years younger I may have remained diligent in my quest but I did not write to become a millionaire, I wrote my book to share a story with those who might be interested in such a story.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
Success, I like that word. Smashwords gave me the opportunity to offer my book to readers in all e-book formats. It has given me a forum to introduce myself and my work and it gives readers a chance to get to know me. I am grateful
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
First, it is having people tell me that my words have touched them. People have said my story reminds them of their own relatives or stories they had heard.
Next, it is sharing these thoughts with the people that have inspired me to write Given Away, A Sicilian Upbringing. Every time I am with friends or a book club that has read my book, I pick up the phone and call the real "Tina," the child in the book and I introduce the readers to the child who is now an 82 year old woman.
What do your fans mean to you?
They mean that I have touched a life. What a beautiful thing. Thank you.
What are you working on next?
Two things at once. One is the second part of Given Away, A Sicilian Upbringing. It is the story of what life was like for the younger members of Tina's family. It begins in Sicily and will culminate in America.
Second, I am gathering a collection of stories about FIrefigher Michael Behette. A dedicated, NYC FIrefighter who on the night of 9/11 rented a car while on vacation in Miami, Florida and drove straight home to NYC to find his squad and buddies lost in the carnage. He then began a nonstop vigil to uncover bodies and rebuild New York City. In September 2012, eleven years later, Michal Behette died of cancer. It is believed the illness was related to the toxicity of working at Ground Zero for those many months.
Who are your favorite authors?
Tomie dePaola and Dr. Seuss, Mercer Meyer and Robert Munch. They make children , parents and teachers smile.
Barbara Kingsolver, she taught me about voice.
Ray Bradbury, Edgar Allen Poe, O'Henry and Isaac Asimov. Did you know Asimov was a professor of biochemistry at Boston University ? What Great Minds!
Harold Robbins and Jackie Collins for teaching me about sex.
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