Monday, August 17, 2009

This Week At The Tiki Hut - Laura Tolomei

If you really want to know, I was born in 1965 in Rome, Italy, but soon started my travelling career. At the age of five, my parents took me to Lagos, Nigeria, where I grew up free and hot like I've never been since. I loved it there and still think of it with nostalgia. Anyway, it was also where I learned English.

After my African experience, I was ready to tackle the US. I lived in Atlanta, GA, five teen-age years, attending the Crestwood High School, where I started my writing career by publishing a short story Nostalgia on the Crestwood Journal. Very thrilled about discovering my new talent, I went ahead during college, writing for the Emory University journal The Phoenix. Three articles mark my first-and last-steps in journalism, "The peace Corps", "WAMM, Women Against Military Madness," and "Lesbism".

After my American experience, I moved back to Rome, but still kept living from time to time abroad, spending several months in Mumbay India, a country I always felt very close to me in more ways than one.

Today, I write both in Italian and English, mostly fiction of various genres, from fantasy erotica, to mysteries up to plain ordinary life stories.

For those of you who read Italian, you can simply visit the Italian sections of my website, but if you feel particularly lazy, here's a short summary:

I have a short story on line Incontro Metropolitano (Meeting at the Subway) and two books: PICCOLO CROCEVIA A CINQUE (Little Five Points, for those who know Atlanta it's a spot near Emory University), printed by Editing Edizioni and released in December 2008, and L'INVESTIGATTO (loosely translated The Cat Detective), publisher Ennepil Libri to release in 2009.

In English, I write erotica in various genres, mostly fantasy, sci-fi and paranormal, sometimes trespassing into contemporary. Feel free to look over my current and future projects by clicking here.

Visit her Facebook page *** Visit her Website *** Visit her Myspace Page

Laura talks about her new release SPYING THE ALCOVE

When my editor wrote me she’d gone through edits on only some of Spying the Alcove chapters, but I needed to change POV on chapters 3, 5, 7 and 9 from first to third person because she’d never seen something like that before, my stomach caved in just like Valerio’s when he saw Andrea’s glistening naked torso under the sun. True, Spying the Alcove has the unusual trait of combining two different narrative styles, one in third and the other in first person, but the mere thought I should rewrite one part to fit the other seemed wrong.

Pardon me, I don’t mean to sound snobbish nor did I plan to write something so unique. Apparently, the e-world does not have many examples of multiple POVs within the same book, but if Spying the Alcove does, it’s because it fits the storyline to a Tee, proving once again the characters make the story, never the author.

But let’s start at the beginning. The story centers around two Italian University teachers, the Professor and his assistant, digging for buried memories on the ancient city of Selimos, an archeological site located in southwestern Sicily. Long-time friends, the two men work amiably together until Andrea, the assistant, finds a Roman medallion, intact despite the centuries or the crumbling ruins littering the place. Intrigued, Valerio pockets it and that same night the medallion will begin to narrate a Roman matron’s erotic adventures in the privacy of her alcove, talking to the Professor as if it were the woman herself telling of her exciting adventures. Of course, it never entered my mind that this narration was anything but personal, which necessarily implied the use of first person, even if the story so far had been told in third person.

To a closer analysis, the novel’s own structure justifies the use of two different POVs. The medallion is in fact someone talking from a distant past, a time our protagonists know only from stuffy old books and boring researches. To bring such past truly alive, the narration needed to be as personal as possible, thus preserving the full enchantment that the printed words of sterile history books have trouble recreating.

If we also consider the book’s internal logic, it makes even more sense to have two different narrating styles because centuries of history separate the stories themselves, which never actually touch in either time or space if not in Valerio’s imagination.

Well, I guess I did a good job at arguing my point so in the end, both my editor and publisher decided to go ahead with it—more as a gamble, than because they were completely convinced—and for that, I thank them from the bottom of my heart. I know it’s not easy to take chances when you’re running a business, however creative it might turn out to be, and to try new paths is always risky. But I personally have a lot of faith in our readers.

Setting aside all logical arguments, I think readers need new inputs to keep their minds alert. I know it’s a trait of mine to challenge them, have done it before with Divinitas, a novel that mixes sex and religion in its own unique way—I like to think of it as a Laura Tolomei style—but Spying the Alcove didn’t seem to be very original at first. I mean, if you boil the Alcove’s contents down to their basic ingredients, they’re nothing different from the usual erotic book with a whole lot of sex and not much of a storyline. Allowing the two narrative POVs, however, gives the readers something more, a new way to enjoy a story and understand its characters, perhaps even with a greater emotional power than I’ve managed so far. And emotions are what my books are all about, whether written in first or third person.

WIN- To get your name in the hat for a free download of Laura's latest release, SPYING THE ALCOVE, leave Laura a question or a comment this week here on the AuthorIsland Tiki Hut Blog. A winner will be drawn Monday, August 24th - Good luck!


  1. Welcome to the TIki Hut Laura!!!

    I love how you broke some rules with your new release, sometimes a story makes it's own rules. It must be told a certain way, and creates something different but yet perfect for that certain story.

    Hope the book does really well for you!

    Grab a cool frosty drink, dig your toes in the sand and enjoy your week here at the Tiki Hut!

  2. That's exactly the spirit my book was written and I'm glad this message comes through loud and clear. And yes, today I dug my feet in the sand and had me a nice day at the beach LOL

  3. Hi Laura,

    I am looking forward to reading your book.
    I thibnk I will enjoy the different POV's.

  4. Good morning, I envy the ability to not only speak another language but to write as well. I wonder which language lends itself to the story better? I would think that some words just fit in Italian for example. Cheers!!

  5. Hi Estella,

    the different POVs are what make this story unique. And to tell you the truth, it was the first time ever I wrote in first person so it was a new experience for me in more ways than one, which taught me a lot, not just as an author, but about myself, too. Amazing what reading and writing can do to you LOL

  6. Good morning to you Marybelle,

    your question’s really interesting. The way I see it, it's not so much as what language would fit the story better, rather in what language I thought of it. And this makes all the difference! You see, I’m convinced languages are not just a mater of foreign words or pronunciations, but of communicating different cultures. That’s why some words can never be translated from one language to another because that culture has nothing—either in actions, customs, traditions, etc.—equivalent to the word you’re trying to translate. This awareness inevitably changes my approach from one language to another, a difference I notice also when I speak. Funny as it may sound, I use a softer, moderate tone of voice in English while to adapt to Italian’s highly emotional ways of communicating, I tend to use a much louder tone. Strange, right? Well, here’s something even stranger. My Italian publisher has been nagging me to read some of my English works—in Italian of course he speaks not a word of English—to be considered for publication in Italy, too. But I can’t bring myself to translate—me, the author! —what was devised in ENGLISH and therefore has nothing to do with ITALIAN. As I said before, not just the words, it’s the cultures that are different as I’ve tried explaining in Spying the Alcove, too. In fact, for the first time I used two Italian characters and I had my share of problems because things are much different here in Italy, especially when it comes to University professors. Not to mention the peculiarities of Sicilian culture, a world in itself which, unlike too many movies have portrayed, is a rich and vibrant world that goes far beyond the limited mafia environment you probably know so well. But bringing you bits of Italian culture was a nice experiment and who knows? Maybe I’ll repeat it some time soon!

  7. Wow - I'm impressed and very interested in your work. I never thought about author thinking their story in a different language... Do you write as many books in English as you do Italian? How are the markets different? Is M/M erotic romance as popular in Italy as it is here?

    I'm so glad I got to find out about you - Author Island is amazing the way it brings new (to me) authors out.

  8. Hi Jerry,

    Actually, I wrote a whole lot more in English than I did in Italian. Why? Because the publishing industry is a mess over here, most, if not all, works are in print alone so to turn a file into a book is much more time consuming, particularly because it’s technology-free. To tell you how things work, the publisher takes my file, transforms it into a print version and sends me the galley by mail, the regular one, noting electronic about it. When, but mostly if—Italian postal service is never a certainty—I receive it, I have to read through it, underline with a RED pen the mistakes/corrections, writing the replacements by hand on the sides, then send it back to him, always via regular mail. He checks it, mostly trying to decipher what my shaky handwriting means, then sends it back to me and I check his word guesswork, then back and forth until we’re both satisfied with it. This takes FOREVER! But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. As I said, technology is scarce also when it comes to the forms of communicating with a publisher. He almost never answers an email—What’s an email?—so you have to trace them on the phone, but there’s no guarantee there either because they’r often closed, on vacation, away for business, without a secretary or simply don’t want to talk to you because you’d bother them. Another bad Italian habit is that most publishers want you to pay for your work, or at least contribute to their expenses, in the order of USD 3000,00 per book, no matter what length it is. Kind of high-priced, wouldn’t you say?
    This said, the markets are very different. E-business is not a big deal in Italy and even if there are a few companies starting to do it, they lack readers. Italians want a BOOK, hardcover or paperback it doesn’t matter, but it must have PAPER. Nevertheless, supply is plentiful. They joke in Italy that one out of two Italians is an author so you can imagine the tons of books along with all those translated from foreign countries. At least though, people do read a lot—in this year’s crisis, only books have had a sale increase of +4% compared to 2008—and unlike in the US, summer is a bookshop’s sales peak, along with Christmas.
    As far as erotica goes, I’m not informed. My Italian books so far have had nothing to do with that genre. The first, is a fiction retelling of my last year in the US, Piccolo Crocevia a Cinque (loosely translate Little Five Points, a well known location for all those living in Atlanta GA), and L’Investigatto (The Cat Detective), which as the name suggests, tells of one of my cat’s adventures, playing detective and helping police solve a murder. No, I have to say English e-publishing is so much easier, simpler, faster, gives me less headaches, has an immediate result and in the end is more fun so that’s why I’ve concentrated my efforts in it, rather than waste my time on projects that you may know when they start, but seldom when they end.

  9. I've very much enjoyed your article and your comments. Especially about the publishing business in Italy. So interesting. It is amazing how far things have come in the reading world. I remember when I first heard about an ebook maybe five, six years ago and no one outside of my reader friends have ever heard of them and now I see ebook readers for sale in Target!

    I believe our kids will all need one for school before too long.

  10. Yes Megan, I remember those times, too, mostly because in Italy the situation is pretty much like that, if not worse.
    I think the business has been growing so fast for a simple STORAGE reason. Yes, I mean, I don’t know you, but I literally don’t have any space left for my TONS of books, CDs, DVD, etc. I’ve got so much stuff, my mate told me that if I wanted to buy a new dress—HEY, I’m talking primary necessities here—I first had to get rid of an old one so I’d have where to put it in! LOL Now all I need is a computer, not even a big one, and everything fits nicely in it—not dresses though, but my mate was happy just the same.
    Seriously though, I also suffer from severe eye-sight problem and the fact I can enlarge the e-book’s font is priceless, certainly something I could never do with a printed book.

  11. That's a great point, Laura!

    I'm older and it is not as easy to read as it use to be - lol... the eyes just aren't what they use to be. I'm just getting back to reading now that the kids are off and I actually have time to do anything that doesn't center around them :-).

    I'll just have to check those ereaders out, esp because of the bigger font. Not to mention my friend loves the fact that she can buy a book in the middle of the night and be reading it in just a few minutes. You gotta love that!

    Good luck to you in your writing and keep breaking those rules!

  12. I really love the writing from the medallion's (history's) point of view. looking forward to more.
    taulya at hotmail dot com

  13. Best of luck in your writing. I look forward to finding more of your books.

  14. I'll certainly do my best, Lori, and with understading readers like you the job's easier LOL

  15. Thanks Taulya, glad you appreciated Lidia’s storytelling, but to be honest, I don’t know if there’ll be others. To write this, I had to dig so much into myself, I’m still buried somewhere in the folds and don’t know when and if I’ll re-emerge --)
    What I can tell you is that my Halloween release, Blood Shadows on Passion out October 31st at eXtasy, is entirely in first person POV. Written in a man’s POV, the Druid Cedric in Celtic Britain, it tells his mystic tale of hunting, hunters and their beasts. Now that was a challenge and I hope I did a good job of it, especially since I had a first-class expert like my mate giving me pointers on male psychology and guiding me through the finer details of men’s sexual approach, which I have to admit, I’m learning just now how different it is from women’s. So that will be another FIRST for me and I can’t wait for it to come out!

  16. Thanks Patsy, it warms my heart to have readers like you. A big smile --)

  17. Hi Laura,
    Very cool that you got to do all that traveling, I'm very envious! I've always wanted to visit Italy, Ireland, Israel, and Scotland, among others, but especially those four. I have an ancestral link to those countries, and I'm a genealogy buff, so I'd like to visit and explore my exotic past! lol

    Rie McGaha...fantasy that keeps you up

  18. Hi Rie,
    I know all about ancestral links to places and there’s always a special reason to them, which is connected to your destiny. My personal link is to India. Don’t know why, but since I childhood, I felt irresistibly attracted to their culture. Maybe it’s my Indian family neighbor’s fault, way back when I lived in Africa and became best of friends at age 7 with their daughter, a couple of years younger than I was. Well, believe it or not, we’re still great friends, even if she now lives in London and I’m here in Rome. Anyway, I loved their food, always eating my dinners with them rather than with my family, to my mother’s eternal disapproval, and as I grew up, I studied their incredible history and myths. Then I had the chance to go there, finally, in a very difficult moment of my life. I was very sick. I won’t say India cured me or anything like that, but it gave me the strength to face up to my illness. And that day, sprawled next to the Gandhi memorial, looking at the eternal flame waving in memory of the Mahatma’s Great Spirit, feeling sick to my stomach, I knew I wasn’t there by chance, but there was a kind of destiny that had guided my steps there. Well, to make a long story short, I eventually recovered and I carry that experience with me always. So India remains my mystical place and much of its philosophy, which has partly become my own, has found its way in my books, in one form or another. So explore your links, Rie. They could be the key to your destiny in the here and now.

  19. I find your last comment incredibly interesting as I too have always felt a strong connection to another culture - and without even the exposure you had from your friend.

    Have you ever thought of writing a nonfiction about your experience or maybe even a fictionalize account of it? It sounds fantastic!

    Best of luck to you.

  20. I’ll tell you a secret about me, Tracey. I don’t like talking or writing about myself. Very few of my heroines resemble me, except in a very few details. When I wrote Spying the Alcove, it was the first time ever I set on paper my very own feelings. Lidia is not exactly like me, her experiences are fiction, of course, but the sensations, the emotions, the body reactions, those had to be mine or it wouldn’t have made sense to write in first person, would it? After my mate read it, he understood immediately how hard it had been for me to write it that way because “I always live in third person, never in first,” he commented matter of fact. By god, he’s absolutely right, I thought, realizing a truth about myself I’d never acknowledged before in my 44 years of age. The only book to date I’ve written about a personal experience—ironicly in third person—is Piccolo Crocevia a Cinque (loosely translated Little Five Points), my Italian release. Now that was another experience, happened in America more than 25 years ago, which affected me so deeply that after ten years I had to write about it just to silence it, to understand its full impact on my life, to learn all that I wasn’t prepared to do at the time it happened. And this experience, or perhaps the writing of it, keeps affecting my life for without it, I would have never become an author or dealt with gay themes. When my Indian experience will become unbearably loud in my head, demanding to be set on paper for my own survival, as my American one did, I’ll do it, but not a second before because it’s just too painful for me to relive it right now.

  21. Thanks for sharing that with us Laura.

    Is Piccolo Crocevia a Cinque released in English? I'd love to read it. You sound like an incredible person with a lot to share with the world. I wish you the very best and will be watching your career.

    Bless you!

  22. Thanks tracey from the bottom of my heart. Unfortunately, Piccolo Crocevia a Cinque was thought of in Italian and for the reason I explained above, it would be hard for me to translate it into English, but who knows? Maybe one day I will so don't lose hope.

    Take very good care of yourself, Tracey, now and in the future.