“I was always a writer,” says Magnolia resident Rebecca Novelli.
Now, she’s about to launch her first novel, “The Train to Orvieto” published through Seattle-based Black Heron Books. Novelli calls it “a story of love, loss, betrayal, reconciliation and forgiveness” spanning three decades, starting in the mid-1930s.
The official book launch will be a Magnolia Art Experience (MAX) event featuring a reading, book signing, music, snacks and wine on Oct. 15 from 4 to 6 p.m. at 3555 W McGraw St (Magnolia Church of Christ). Attendance is by invitation or reservation at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The book’s official release is Oct. 14, but it is available now online and can be ordered through independent book stores.
The book is set in the ancient Italian fortress city of Orvieto, a city that has Etruscan, and later Roman roots. Remote and highly fortified, Orvieto is the place where popes escaped when politics in Rome and the Roman Catholic Church went through periods of mistrust and discontent. The stone city rises dramatically above high — almost vertical — cliffs, and has a sophisticated tunnel system that runs underneath for hiding and escape. Novelli says the city becomes a metaphor in her book.
The seed of the story was an incident Novelli experienced herself as a young women traveling by train in Italy. She had been warned of the “dangers of Italian men” and when one occupied her compartment on the train to Rome she allowed a civil conversation (she speaking in Spanish, he in Italian). But, as the man departed from the train at the Orvieto stop, “he grabbed me and gave me a big French kiss.”
The incident inspired Novelli work with a plot line that becomes, according to Barnes and Noble, “… a story depicting the clash of opposites — the desire for union with another and the need for solitude; loyalty and betrayal; change and tradition; the fatalism of rural Italy and the sense of familial and social duty, as against one’s obligations to oneself—and it explores the classic theme of how the consequences of decisions made in youth carry through the remainder of one’s life.”
She has written and re-written the work so many times over so many years she quips: “I like to think of it as my seventh novel!”
Novelli started her career as a high school English teacher, before embracing a “zig-zaggy career” of office management, tax training, freelance work, editorships, and as director of communication at UCLA. Through it all, she kept the writing and idea of her novel alive. She entered the MFA program at Antioch University in 2001, studying fiction and worked on the draft as part of her studies.
She says of the long journey of getting this book written down: “I was waiting for that click, that feeling that it was just right; and, finally, it was right to me … characters come forward and demand things of you and you have to answer … ideas, stories, locations appear … the uncanniness of that … the ‘Where is this coming from?’ is extraordinary … you are in an altered state.”
She claims this is the most fascinating thing about the process of writing a book.
Italy was also a great setting for this book, she says, because it’s a country she and her husband Bill Broesamle travel extensively in and is the seat of “magnificent art” which she says plays a part in the novel. She has studied the Italian language for many years.
Novelli is also a painter, and produced the cover image for her book.
With the book completeld, Novelli will spend the next six months promoting it, with some help from her publisher. She has two private readings, the MAX event and an event planned with the local Dante Alighieri Society, which promotes Italian culture and language around the world. She credits Alice Acheson as her mentor for marketing from Seattle’s Richard Hugo House “a place to read words, hear words, & make your own words better,” according to their description.
While those events are already planned, she’s still seeking out book club meetings, book store readings and other opportunities to promote her book.
“I plan to live every little inch of this,” she says of the road ahead.
But after that, another novel may be in the offing.
“I have an idea … a mystery … really, a mystery only on the surface,” she says with a smile.
To schedule a reading or presentation with Novelli, email her at email@example.com or go to www.rebeccajnovelli.com.