“What? You moved from Italy to the middle of nowhere in Tennessee? Why on earth did you do that?” I inevitably get that question from all my new acquaintances in the United States as soon as they find out that I recently emigrated from Italy and moved into a gated community nestled in the Tennessee woods. I do understand their bafflement: la dolce vita, outdoor cafés, nice weather (well, it really depends on where you live in Italy), great food, wonderful wines, friendly people, musical language, thousands of years of history. What they don’t know about are the taxes that kill you financially, the government that kills you psychologically, the mafia that actually kills you. And I could go on with my list of reasons why I don’t want to live in my home country anymore, but I don’t want to debunk too many clichés.
After trying, often unsuccessfully, to convey my reasons for leaving such a wonderful country, I usually get the other inevitable question “So, how do you like it in Tennessee?”, but that one is much easier to answer. I could give you a hundred different valid reasons why I love this place, but let’s just stick to the most important ones. People are friendlier – or at least more welcoming towards strangers than Italians are – the state lets you thrive, and nature is amazing. And, above all, I have found a place to live that I wouldn’t hesitate to call “my little slice of paradise on earth”.
The concept of gated communities does not exist in Italy, but it’s one I fully embrace, at least when I think of the community I found in the sticks of Tennessee. Five thousand acres of woods, all fenced, with fewer than forty households, a beautiful riding stable, a swimming pool, miles of private trails, and amazing neighbors. It’s like living in your own private resort! I am a bit of a loner, so being able to socialize only when and if I feel the need to is an invaluable bonus.
A place like that is very conducive to writing, so it was easy for me to start conjuring the plot for a romantic suspense novel where I could describe my own experience as an Italian transplant, like my novel’s protagonist – Valentina – and also set the plot in a very similar gated community. While I was at it, why not have Valentina live in a log home just like the one I built? And why not title the book after my own log home’s name? You’ve guessed it, Elsewhere.
So, when I found out that readers actually liked Elsewhere and I decided to write the second book of the series, the decision about the title was easy as can be: Nowhere! Right now I am working on the third book of the series, and I am sure you can guess that title too. Yep, Somewhere!
“You’ll run out of adverbs of place soon enough,” some friends have warned me. True, but I could always start a new streak of different adverbs, right? There are five basic types of adverbs in the English language, namely Manner, Time, Place, Frequency, and Degree. A lot to choose from, enough to cover many more episodes of the series. I just hope the readers won’t get confused once I have published more than five books. “Let’s see. Did I read Whatever already? Or was it Whenever? No, wait, it was Sometimes.” You get the point.
Another question I often get when I tell people that I write books in my free time is: “Where do you find your ideas? Are you describing the actual place you live in and your actual neighbors?” Well, of course not! My neighbors are in fact very nice people, and they would never start a drug ring or kill anybody! I took liberties with the descriptions of the place, too. My own community is much larger than Valentina’s, although her fictitious place does have a much bigger pool!
As for finding ideas, that’s the easy part. I take inspiration from my own move from a different country to describe Valentina’s sense of pride in what she has accomplished, the more so because she is facing all these challenges alone since her husband has left her and has gone back to Italy for good. She has to face life in a new country alone, with a new house, a new business, and a daughter in college. But she refuses to give up and overcomes her difficulties with the strength only a woman can find within herself when life throws her lemons. And, although she is not ready to open up to a new love story, the male protagonist – Jack – will slowly but irresistibly find a way to her heart. But don’t expect a sappy story. Long Lakes, Valentina’s gated community, is hiding a dangerous secret, which Jack will have to untangle while trying at the same time to protect Valentina from a lethal killer.
So, if you’ve read my books and you would you like to visit Long Lakes – the real one – get in touch with me and I will arrange a guided tour!
To learn more about the author, please visit her website at https://antonellarivalta.com.
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