1. What does "vanilla" mean to you?
Ice Cream (my weakness – or at least one of them in the sweets category). Technically, it’s an extract from tropical vines which are in the orchid family, V. planifolia, prepared from the seedpods, but I relate it to an off-white color and to being bland or boring.
2. Is there any moment from your life that you remember in slow motion?
Maybe a couple . . . embarrassing moments. The worst was the time, when I was Planning Director for Fresno County, that I fell off the raised dais (I simply forgot there was a step there and missed it) onto my face in front of the Fresno County Board of Supervisors, cameras from five TV stations, and an audience of about three hundred people, all angry at the Planning Department.
3. What's the most unsettling movie you've ever seen?
It’s hard to pin point the most unsettling, since there have been a lot of them. The 1960 movie Psycho with Anthony Perkins and Janet Leigh made a lasting impression on me at the age I that saw it. Silence of the Lambs was another. The 1973 movie Soylent Green with Charlton Heston. Recently, I’d say Cape Fear, Orphan and, for entirely different reasons, Mel Gibson’s The Passion Of The Christ.
4. If you had to get a tattoo on your face, what would you want it to look like?
I have tattoos on my face already. They’re called eyebrows and eyeliner. Lip liner would be good.
5. How many monkeys jumping on the bed?
At least three, but not more than six. Twelve? Well, I liked the movie.
6. Which of the books or stories you've written is your favourite?
The book of my heart is the first one, Family Secrets: A Vengeance of Tears, but the second book in my Tour Director Extraordinaire series, All For A Fist Full of Ashes, was the most fun to write. I’d written the first novel of the series as a one-shot experiment to see if I could write humor and in first person. I never intended to write a series. But I felt comfortable with the voice and fell in love with the characters.
The second novel came about because I was planning a trip to Italy with thirteen members of my extended Italian-American family, including two of my grandchildren. Knowing these people and the way Italians make group decisions, the trip was going to be a predictable disaster, so I figured I should at least get material for a book out of it. A group of Italian-Americans taking a tour of Italy was a natural for Harriet Ruby, my tour director extraordinaire from the first book . And if Harriet was in it, she needed her spy-boyfriend, Will Talbot, on the trip. And in addition to the developing relationship between Will and Harriet, he needed a spy story and a villain to chase after. So I came up with a story idea, did an outline, and wrote the first three chapters before I took the family trip. And, as you can imagine, the real trip provided many incidents that spiced up the novel.
I’m Harriet Ruby: Tour Director Extraordinaire. At least, I thought I was worthy of that title until . . .
My first mistake: Agreeing to conduct a private tour of Italy. Fourteen Italian-Americans from New Jersey? All family, for three weeks, with four teenagers? What was I thinking? Fate responds to my engraved invitation by placing one of the family under surveillance as a suspect in an assassination plot, and who is assigned to the case? None other than my favorite drop-dead-gorgeous spy, Will Talbot.
My second mistake: Allowing Will to coax an invitation from the family matriarch to join the tour.
And that was just the beginning: The matriarch, searching for the unknown location of her mother's grave so she can bury her brother’s cremated ashes (which have been smuggled into Italy wrapped in Cuban cigars), and her quirky family members sweep through Italy leaving chaos, hilarity, and danger in their wake.
Buy Link: Sapphire Blue Publishing