Bella Cigna Foreign Endearments Book 1 by Wendi Dass Genre: Chick-Lit, Contemporary Romance
Devastated by personal loss, Sarah Flynn escapes to Rome where she finds a job teaching English. Only the girls' school is like a nunnery and she's expected to speak fluent Italian overnight. What has she gotten herself into? While the beautiful sights rekindle her interest in art, not even her brush finding canvas can heal all the wounds she carries. She'll need the help of a meddling nun, a nutty mathematician, and a handsome Italian admirer. Can Sarah overcome the insecurities born of a shattered marriage? Will she again take a chance on love?
Eduardo laughed again.
His laugh wasn’t loud or overbearing but a genuine expression of amusement. His eyes, so rich with warmth, smiled, too. For a moment, she lost herself gazing into them, even after his laughter subsided. She cleared her throat and stepped toward the table, where she pretended to busy herself with collecting the folders and handouts. “So, did you have a question?” She kept her gaze on the papers in front of her.
She stole a glance at him and nearly gasped. With his eyebrows pressed together and his glasses dipping to the edge of his nose, she knew where she had seen his face before. Michelangelo’s David. His eyes, his nose, and his mouth were all strikingly similar to the image she’d studied in college. And she’d studied the David closely: the toned biceps, the chiseled abdomen, and the intricately carved genitals...
A deep blush rushed her face, and she shifted her gaze to the desk. Why was she so embarrassed? She wasn’t undressing him with her eyes. Even if she had paid attention to the wide shoulders and narrow hips that now caught her eye, she needn’t be ashamed.
How long had passed since she had felt the warmth of desire for a man? Sarah swallowed hard and fanned her face. Apparently, long enough that even an innocent attraction burned her cheeks bright.
He relaxed his brows. “Are you all right?”
Sarah froze her fanning hand in mid-flap. “Oh...yes. I’m still getting used to the temperature here.”
Wendi Dass is a math professor and author from Charlottesville, Virginia. Her writing interests include literary short stories, flash fiction, and novel-length women's fiction and romance. Wendi's short stories have been published in several small journals, including Black Fox Literary and The Ocotillo Review, among others. When she's not devising deceptively delicious problems for her students she can be found drafting her latest story.
What is something unique/quirky about you?
Most people find it unique that I used to study and perform opera. It is, in fact, what took me on my first trip abroad!
Tell us something really interesting that's happened to you!
I have a very strange habit of finding lost money. Most recently, I found an envelope of cash while traveling in TN. I rarely keep the money I find; I try to return it to its owner. Some other notable money finds were a $100 bill stuck to my shoe after attending a concert and finding a $20 bill floating in the pool at my apartment complex in college.
What are some of your pet peeves?
I’m sorry, but I am going to have to put on my day job clothes and go with my pet peeve of people saying they aren’t good at math. My go-to response: you just haven’t had a good teacher!
What do you do to unwind and relax?
Nature plays a big role in my sanity. I try to spend at least an hour outside, usually hiking or jogging, every day. I am very lucky that my neighborhood is very near numerous trails. There’s nothing more settling than getting lost in the woods!
How to find time to write as a parent?
Writing as a parent is super tough! There’ve been days when I’ve begged my husband to watch my daughter for an hour so I could finish a scene, or when I’ve totally plotted a chapter with Paw Patrol on in the background. For me, it’s all about squeezing in an hour here or there.
Describe yourself in 5 words or less!
Quirky, caring, eccentric, structured
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I think I considered myself a writer when my first story was published. Seeing it in an actual print journal with my name at the top really struck home.
What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?
Much like the protagonist in Bella Cigna, I’m drawn to famous artworks and buildings. Much of my intrigue is spurred on by books. My most extravagant pilgrimage was visiting the Hague to see The Girl With a Pearl Earring. One of my favorite books of all time, the novel showcases Vermeer and the famed painting. I must attest, it was worth the effort to see it; what a beautiful work of art!
What inspired you to write this book? When I wrote Bella Cigna, I had a lot of memories floating in my head of living in Rome. I had also just given birth to my daughter and the talk between me and my friends often involved children or lack thereof. I suppose Bella Cigna allowed me to explore some of the heartache my friends experienced while trying to conceive.
What can we expect from you in the future?
The Foreign Endearment series will be a trilogy. I hope to submit the second book to my publisher by the first of the year (a lofty goal, I know!). I also have another trilogy planned (one novel written) which I hope to finish before the end of the century :).
Do you have any “side stories” about the characters?
Shhhh! This one is kind of embarrassing but I totally have a file titled I like bad boys in my Bella Cigna folder. It’s a character sketch about Anna, and IT WAS SO FUN TO WRITE!
Where did you come up with the names in the story?
Since my characters are often international, I often use common names lists from those countries to help. Another go-to: the tennis tour. LOL. I happen to be a huge tennis fan and wouldn’t you know it? There’s players from everyone on tour! Pay close attention to the teacher introductions in Bella Cigna, and you’ll find they’re all taken from the tennis circuit.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Well, heck yeah! I’m never actually done with a work of fiction. I simply work on it until my editor rips it from my hands. :)
Are your characters based off real people or did they all come entirely from your imagination? My characters tend to have snippets of traits from many people in my life. For example, Anna is a mathematician, which is clearly drawn from my experience as a math professor, however the rest of her personality couldn’t be farther from my own.
Do your characters seem to hijack the story or do you feel like you have the reigns of the story?
Oh, they totally hijack the story! During the first draft, I let them take me wherever they want to go. Usually by the third draft I’m feeling confident enough to chide them. “Stop crying, Sarah! It’s not an attractive quality.” Or, “you can’t sleep with that guy, Anna. Just because he’s hot, doesn’t mean he’s good for you.”
What did you edit out of this book?
As this is my fist novel, I think I rewrote it from cover to cover at least a dozen times. A few notable deletions are a chatty Cathy character (a friend of Sarah’s mother ala) Miss Bates (Emma) as well as the reappearance of Sarah’s ex. At one point, he was a drunk gambler who showed up in Rome asking for money. What was I thinking?? Totally a good cut there!
What are your top ten favorite books or authors?
Bronte Sisters (does this count as two??)
What book do you think everyone should read?
Any romantic should read Pride and Prejudice. This is probably my favorite book of all time. I’ve lost of how many times I’ve read it! While the plot-line is thin, Austen’s characters are so memorable you’ll be rooting for them long after you finish reading.
Do the characters all come to you at the same time or do some of them come to you as you write?
They come to me as I write. Usually, I know the two main characters (hero and heroine). I usually write in a side-kick for each of these but who they are is totally unknown when I start a story.
What kind of research do you do before you begin writing a book?
I do very little research during the first draft. I tend to make notes of things but otherwise fly by the seat of my pants. After that, I go completely maniacal on research and plotting. If you could see my spreadsheet…. (*facepalm!)
Do you see writing as a career?
Absolutely! My dream has always been to retire early from teaching and write on a full-time basis.
Do you read yourself and if so what is your favorite genre?
I’m a total historical fiction junkie. Oddly, I don’t read romance--virtually none--so I’m not talking historical romance. I mean The Killer Angels, The Girl with Pearl Earring, etc. I live and die by my historical fiction books!
Do you prefer to write in silence or with noise? Why?
Noise doesn’t bother me but speech does. That is, I don’t like to listen to music with words or be in a crowded setting where words are popping into my head. They tend to distract me from my task and/or unintentionally make their way into what I’m writing!
What made you want to become an author and do you feel it was the right decision?
I’m not giving up any book titles here, but I actually started writing by rewriting endings of books that drove me batty! I’m a complete HEA chick, and I used to get so depressed when I’d read a book that didn’t end this way. One day, I decided, “Heck! I’m gonna make this a happily ever after!” I had so much fun with it, I started writing my own stories.
What makes a good story?
I’m a sucker for memorable characters and vivid settings (ahem, have you read my book? LOL). I love multiple plotlines, timelines, and POVs. I’m not huge on complicated plots--I’ll never be a John Grisham--but I like there to be some element of surprise.
What are they currently reading?
Right now I’m reading The Story Between Us by Darlene Deluca.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
Neither! I write the stories in my head. I know many of them won’t interest others, but my characters demand their story be told. Writing my stories, is more about appeasing them than myself or my readers.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
One or two years. It depends how many drafts are needed.
Do you believe in writer’s block?
Yes! And unfortunately I suffered from it for nearly a year. I still don't know what caused it, but it was a horrible time! I was so glad when it ended.
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