Welcome to Jersey Girl Book Reviews Grace!
How long have you been a writer?
I have been writing creatively in some form or another since I was ten years old.
Do you have a "day job," or is being an author your career?
I have been a librarian for over fifteen years and have been at the San Francisco Public Library for most of that time.
What inspired you to become a writer? Describe your journey as a writer.
I remember writing my first story when I was ten years old, but I am not sure I remember what inspired me to write it because I was a typical child in that I did things, like writing, spontaneously. I studied literature in college and through this study, I gained a firm foundation in the classics. After college I took several fiction writing and screenwriting classes. I wrote short stories and flash fiction and a screenplay. A couple of years ago I decided to write a novel and bought a wonderful book entitled The Nighttime Novelist that guided me through the process.
Please give a brief description/storyline about Olive Branches Don't Grow On Trees.
This is the story of a 23 year old woman and her journey to bring peace to her constantly feuding family by attempting to gather them all together for her brother’s high school graduation. She is simultaneously trying to settle down and find a career in which she can utilize her artistic talents as a painter. The story takes place in the present day in New Jersey.
What was the inspiration for this story?
My failed attempt to bring peace to my own constantly feuding family, and a desire to defy negative stereotypical conceptions about Italian-Americans.
How did it feel to have your first book published?
I felt proud, but more than that, I felt nervous about how people would respond to my book. I feel much more relaxed now as I have been embracing the fact that not everyone will like my book, and that is alright.
Do you write books for a specific genre?
I’ve only written one book and some short stories, all of which have been contemporary fiction. I would love to write soft science fiction one day.
What genres are your favorite?
My favorite genres are literary fiction and soft science fiction.
What are some of your favorite books that you have red and why?
I love everything by Flannery O’Connor as I believe her to be the greatest writer that ever lived. I also enjoy anything with good humor, such as A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole or The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. I also like books that have something to say about serious sociological issues such as Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.
Do you have a special "spot/area" where you like to do your writing?
I like writing from a desk in my apartment that overlooks a beautiful view of hills and house tops.
How do you come up with the ideas that become the storyline for your books?
I like to begin with a theme. After I pick a theme, everything else falls into place. I knew that I wanted the theme of my current novel to be peace because this is something that I have always been impassioned about.
When you write, do you adhere to a strict work schedule, or do you write whenever the inspiration strikes?
I adhere to a strict schedule but not in the sense of writing at a certain time. I set a certain quota of words that I must achieve each day. For my current novel, that quota was 400 words per day. Sometimes I would exceed my quota, but I was always sure to make the minimum each day. I would attempt to finish my words in the morning but sometimes would not be able to do them until night.
What aspects of storytelling do you like the best, and what aspects do you struggle with the most?
I love when a beautiful line comes to me, or a great piece of dialogue. I also love creating dimensional characters that come off the page. I struggle with so much, but mostly with editing and I blame this struggle on the fact that I am not naturally a person with good attention to detail.
What are your favorite things to do when you are not writing?
I love spending quality time with my husband and my cats; watching quality (mostly BBC) television; being in nature; laughing and playing my mandolin.
What is/was the best piece of writing advice that you have received?
To stop waiting for my life to be perfect to start writing.
What is the most gratifying thing you feel or get as a writer?
The most gratifying thing that I have experienced so far has been the experience of having my characters do things without my prior knowledge of these actions. I had no idea that Silvia would decide to become an art teacher or that Cosmo would do a magic trick for Isabella at the reunion or that Donna would change her mind about the reunion. It felt so wonderful to have created characters that were so dimensional that they were truly alive and really came off the page.
How do you usually communicate with your readers/fans?
In person or over the telephone if they are friends or family. In terms of readers, I communicate through Twitter, my Facebook fan page, or my website.
Is there anything in your book based on real life experiences or are they purely all from your imagination?
Many of the characters and situations were based on real life, while the plot of the story itself was purely from my imagination.
What authors have been your inspiration or influenced you to become a writer?
Flannery O’Connor for her strikingly vivid descriptions and unique metaphors; Douglas Adams for his dry, witty humor; Ernest Hemingway for his beautifully written prose; and Edward Abbey for his wonderful description of the Sonoran desert.
What is your definition of success as a writer?
A successful writer is one who continues to write every day, who thinks in terms of story, and who is constantly honing her skill.
Are you currently writing a new book? If yes, would you care to share a bit of it with us?
I have my next book planned but unfortunately have not been able to spend as much time writing it as I
would like. The theme of the book is greed. It is about a man who is poor in a monetary sense but rich in a spiritual sense. I want to focus on this particular theme as I believe greed to be the single most destructive thing in our world.
About The Author
In college, I studied English literature, and gravitated towards contemporary fiction. Some of my favorite and most influential authors include Flannery O’Connor, Hemingway, Edward Abbey and Douglas Adams. I love beautifully written prose and humorous fiction. I have taken several writing workshops, including some in fiction writing and screenwriting, and have written several short stories and some flash fiction which can be found on The Short Humour site: http://www.short-humour.org.uk/. I always dreamed of writing a novel but was not sure I had it in me until recently. I thoroughly enjoyed writing Olive Branches Don't Grow On Trees and plan on starting my next novel very soon.
AUTHOR BLOG SITE
Olive Branches Don't Grow On Trees by Grace Mattioli
Publisher: Grace Mattioli / Amazon Digital Services
Publication Date: July 10, 2012
Format: eBook - 213 pages / Kindle - 276 KB
Genre: Women's Fiction / Contemporary Fiction
BUY THE BOOK: Olive Branches Don't Grow On Trees
Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author in exchange for my honest review, and for hosting a virtual book event on my book review blog site.
This story is filled with insight, humor and lovable, quirky characters. The father, Frank, works as a judge in a local courthouse, and spends his spare time drinking, cooking food that no one eats and maintaining the most perfectly manicured yard in town. The mother, Donna, is a college professor, and is giving single life a go after spending almost all of her adult life with Frank. Angie, the eldest child, married rich and devastated her father by moving from south Jersey to north Jersey, which as far as Frank is concerned, might as well be another planet. Silvia’s older brother, Cosmo, is brilliant and great at everything he does, but is also a classic underachiever. Her younger brother, Vince, is bursting with energy and is on his way to save the world.
And then there is Silvia: Energetic, idealistic, and young, striving to bring her family together, while also struggling to settle down and find a career in which she may utilize her artistic talents. She is extremely independent as she can drive across the country and move from place to place alone. She is highly adaptable and does whatever she has to do to get by, whether that be working as a nude model for art schools or a candy store manager at a mall. Last but not least is Grandma Tucci, who Silvia loves fiercely. She has passed away years ago, but remains with Silvia in spirit, almost as if guiding her through her adventures in the lessons of life, love and peace.
My Book Review:
Olive Branches Don't Grow On Trees is a poignant portrait of an extremely dysfunctional southern New Jersey Italian-American family, and the attempt by the middle daughter to bring the family together for a celebration in the hope that they could extend the olive branch and make peace with each other and become a family. Thoughtfully written in the third person narrative, the author weaves a tale that deals with the dynamics of a family with a history of dysfunction that has completely shattered and torn them apart. The focus of the story is on twenty-three year old middle daughter, Silvia Greco, who vacillates between wanting to unite the family and wanting to escape from the dysfunction once and for all. With her life in limbo and unsure of what to do with herself, Silvia accepts the challenge to bring her family together for one night, which is no easy feat, it becomes her main purpose, and along the way it will provide healing life lessons.
The author has created a strong cast of characters who are realistic and complex people with personalities and issues that the reader can relate to, because the Greco family could be anyone's family members. Frank is the alcoholic father who is a distinguished local judge, but who also has a tendency to go off on rages. Then there is Donna the mother, she is a part-time college professor who finally has left her marriage after suffering years under Frank's abusive behavior. Oldest daughter Angie is her father's favorite of the children, but she broke his heart when she married a Wall Street financial investor and moved to North Jersey. She has a distant relationship with her mother and has a strained relationship with younger brother Cosmo. Cosmo is the second born child, he is brilliant but rebellious, an underachiever who is seen as a failure in his father's eyes. Then we have our protagonist, Silvia, the classic middle child who is the peace keeper of the family, yet she was the hyper child that just couldn't settle down. Finally there is the baby of the family, eighteen year old Vince, the soon to be high school graduate who will be attending UC Berkeley. Vince was the easiest and most pleasant of the children, the perfect child in his mother's eyes. When you put all these different personalities together plus add in the ethnicity of being Italian-American, it is no wonder that there is so much dysfunction and combustible tension in the family. I found these characters to be quite intriguing, their individual complexities along with their dialogue and interactions made the storyline a powerful and compelling read.
Olive Branches Don't Grow On Trees is a story that will take the reader on an emotional roller coaster ride. The author weaves a tale that is a moving and realistic portrayal of a dysfunctional family with enough drama and humorous family situations that will keep the reader engaged and entertained, while providing a witty sense of humor and subtle messages of life lessons to extend the olive branch and learn to live, love and forgive.
RATING: 4 STARS ****