As a person with a bad case of wanderlust, I’m a sucker for almost any place that will take me to distant lands where exciting adventures await! So going into Love & Gelato, author Jenna Evans Welch’s debut novel which is set in beautiful Florence Italy, I knew I’d love it. But what I didn’t know was jus HOW much I was going to love it.
i immediately e-mailed author Jenna Evans Welch after closing the back cover of Love & Gelato. I knew I had to chat with eith Jenna Evans Welch and ash her all my burning questions.
Today, I’m happy to be hosting Jenna Evans Welch, and I’m overjoyed to share my interview with all of you, dear readers!
BookBandit (BB): Can you tell a little about yourself, and about your path as an author?
Jenna Evans Welch (JEW): I live in Salt Lake City with my husband, 3 year old son, and neurotic shih tzu, and along with publishing my first book in May, I’ll also be having my second baby! I’d say one of my most defining characteristics is my absolute NEED to read. From the time I learned how at the age of 7 I’ve read more than basically anyone I know. When I got to my teen years I was disappointed to find that there wasn’t much for me at the library (I would have been in heaven in today’s YA world), so I swore that I would one day write the novels that I wanted to read at that age. I studied English Literature in college (tried to fight it for about a semester, but knew it was coming) and have been working with my father who is also a novelist, as his writing assistant for about six years now. I wrote my first draft of LOVE & GELATO when I was 24, and six years and about a million rewrites later it is on its way into the world!
BB: What was the inspiration behind your debut, Love & Gelato?
JEW: My life! When I was fifteen my family moved to Florence, Italy where I attended an international school, rode scooters, and ate more gelato than I had any business doing. Florence was and is a very magical place to me, and I wanted to show it through a teen’s eyes–exactly the way I experienced it. Also, Lina’s living circumstances are based on a friend of mine that I met while living there. Her father was the caretaker of the American Cemetery of Florence, and she grew up in a house on the grounds. Every morning she’d go running through all the headstones, and I guess that image stayed with me, because 8 years later I found myself writing a book about a girl running through a cemetery in Florence.
BB: What kind of research went into the writing of Love & Gelato?
JEW: Lots. There was the Italian language portion of the novel (mine has gotten rusty), lots of research on art (which was very fascinating to me), plus a lot of time spent learning more about the “secrets” of Florence–things that most tourists don’t know about. It made me want to go back there ASAP.
BB: Lina’s mother kept many journals, one of which Lina gets to read and use as she discovers her own version of Florence. Why did you feel that having her mom revealed through a journal, rather than her photographs, would be more helpful to both Lina and your readers?
JEW: I chose to add the journal because even though Lina’s mother isn’t present in the novel, I wanted it to be her voice that led Lina through Florence and to the truth about her father. Hadley’s character felt very alive and vivid to me, and I wanted it to be the same way for my readers.
BB: The setting spoke to me as a reader, but beyond that, your vivid characters did. Each we so honest, unique, and real. Of all your characters, which do you see yourself in?
JEW: Thanks for the compliment ! I though long and hard about this question, and I think I’d have to say Hadley. I’m messy, like to keep things on the humorous side, LOVE to travel, and am very invested in creating art. Although Lina’s love for food? That’s all me.
BB: If you had to describe your book in three words, what three words would you use to describe it?
JEW: Adventure, love, mystery!
BB: I recently visited Florence (briefly, and admittedly after reading Love & Gelato I feel like I just didn’t have enough time there), how did you decide which places within Florence to include and not include?
JEW: I’m so jealous you were there recently! And don’t worry, I spent two years there and still feel like I didn’t have enough time. I chose the places that were most magical to me–Ponte Vecchio was and is my most favorite place in the entire world, and as a teen I spent a lot of time dancing at the mentioned clubs and just wandering the streets.
BB: I have to ask, what is your favorite flavor of gelato?
JEW: Bacio! It’s this creamy dark chocolate with little bits of crunchy hazelnuts. Pair that with a side of coconut gelato and…Great. I’m going to have to track some down today, aren’t I?
BB: Can you tell of any upcoming projects?
JEW: Yes! Right now I’m working on a novel based on one of the very small characters in Love & Gelato. It’s also a travel novel involving a mystery and I am having a lot of fun with it.
BB: What advice can you offer to aspiring writers?
JEW: DON’T GIVE UP. I was so incredibly frustrated by first few attempts at writing a novel, mostly because I felt like I knew what good writing was, I just couldn’t seem to do it. (Argh!) It took at least three full rewrites to get to where I felt I was on the right track, and another two rewrites to get to something I loved. (That process took six years!) Also, I think it’s important to realize that writing can be a long process, and even though its frustrating to spend a lot of time then have to throw things out or start over, every minute you spend with your notebook or laptop will get you closer to your goal.
Readers, isn’t Jenna Evans Welch awesome!? She’s most definitely an author you will want to watch!
To Jenna Evans Welch, a big THANK YOU! Both me and my readers truly appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedule to answer some questions.
For more information about Jenna Evans Welch and Live & Gelato be sure to check her out online at: http://www.jennaevanswelch.com