Hello and welcome to my blog, Author Interviews. My name is Fiona Mcvie.
Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name. What is your age?
Hello, Fiona, thank you so much for inviting me to this interview. My name is Pamela Allegretto, and my age, well…I’ve been old enough to vote for a very long time.
Fiona: Where are you from?
I was born in Denver, Colorado. I’ve also lived in L.A., California, Florence, Italy, and Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. I currently reside in Connecticut.
Fiona: A little about your self (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
I attended Colorado University Extension in Denver and later moved to Florence, Italy where I studied art and Italian history at L’Università Per Gli Stranieri. To finance my education, my job résumé was as colorful as the Renaissance city itself. I shivered as an artist’s model and sang the blues in catacomb nightclubs. I worked as an interpreter/translator for a textile company and hawked leather goods to tourists.
Back on US soil, the colors on my résumé remained vibrant. In addition to Italian teacher at Berlitz School of Languages and a two-year stint as a Playboy Bunny, I added hairdresser/salon owner, to my palette. Classes in writing, cartooning, and art filled whatever free hours remained.
In 1996 I sold the hair salon and moved with my husband to Hawaii, where, for the following ten years, I devoted myself fulltime to painting and writing. Now, a resident of Connecticut, I divide my time between writing, painting, and Italian poetry translations.
In addition to my current novel, Bridge of Sighs and Dreams, my published books include L’Alba di Domani, and Immagini both are dual-language poetry books written in collaboration with Luciano Somma, two-time winner of Italy’s Silver Medal of the President of the Republic. My writing has appeared in four other Italian poetry books and in Italian literary journals that include: The English Anthology of The Italian-Australian Writer’s Literary Academy, Omero, La Mia Isola, and Poeti Nella Societa`. I have published book and CD covers as well as cartoons, and my art is collected worldwide.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
My World War 2 novel Bridge of Sighs and Dreams, has been chosen as Book–of-the-Month for the Johnsonburg, PA Library Book Club. This is the 4th book club to select my novel for their monthly read. I am honored and grateful to have been chosen by each of these prestigious clubs.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I have been writing ever since I can remember. I like to write both fiction and non-fiction, but prefer fiction as I enjoy using my imagination to create something from nothing that hopefully entertains the reader.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
After the publication of several articles and cartoons.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
While growing up, I always hated listening to jokes about the Italians going into World War 2 with their hands raised. This was not at all the case, and I wanted to point out the bravery of the Italian population during this horrific time. Although Bridge of Sighs and Dreams is fiction, It is based on real events. I felt compelled to write a war novel in which the women don’t play the role of wallpaper or objects of amusement to soldiers and politicians. The women in Bridge of Sighs and Dreams take center stage in a behind-the-lines battle between good and evil.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
The Bridge of Sighs (Ponte dei Sospiri) in Venice, Italy was built at the beginning of the Seventeenth century. It spans a small canal and connects the Old Prison and interrogation rooms in the Doges Palace to the New Prison.
Opinions about the naming of the bridge are plentiful. However, there are two theories more popular than the rest. One involves the prisoners who walked across the bridge on their way to the executioner. The prisoners would “sigh” as they crossed the bridge and caught sight of their last sunrise. Another story maintains, if a couple kisses under the bridge while gliding below in a gondola at sunset, they will ensure eternal love. Thus, the “sighs” are lovers’ refrains.
Lord Byron wrote: “I stood in Venice on the Bridge of Sighs, a palace and prison on each hand.” The title Bridge of Sighs and Dreams is an allegorical connotation of the characters’ hopes, dreams, and struggles.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
I love to create and flesh-out my characters. I look for an eclectic collection of complex individuals, each with his or her own values, lack of values, dreams, and goals. I want the reader to see them as I see them, not only the basic physical attributes: short, tall, bald, etc., but I want the reader to remember that this character has a bluish-black mole on the tip of his nose that holds his eyeglasses in place, or that character has a cheek tic. I want the reader to “hear” each character’s unique cadence. I like writing in the third person so the reader can get inside the heads of my characters to understand how they “feel.”
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
I will say, to weave my fiction around the time-line of real events that I wanted to highlight was tricky, but I didn’t want to alter facts to fit my fiction; instead, I utilized truth to enhance my characters and their story.
I wanted Bridge of Sighs and Dreams to be a story of betrayal, dignity, and purpose that highlighted the brutality toward Italian citizens, under both Mussolini’s Fascist regime and the Nazi occupation, and that illustrated the tenacity of the human spirit. However, I thought it was also necessary to inject some light humor, not merely for the reader’s benefit, but to show that a sense of humor can serve as a valuable shield during dire times.
Finally, yes, my family members did experience some of these events.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
My research included interviews throughout Italy including multiple family members, and translating countless documents and publications. The discovery of personal letters and journals written by Italian POW’s augmented my study. The consistent manifestation of hope, scribbled across those abandoned pieces of paper, afforded a valuable glimpse into the Italian sentiment during this horrific period.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
I knew what I wanted for an image, and graphic designer Todd Engel produced exactly what I asked for. He also designed the front and back text.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
There are no winners in war, only various degrees of survival. During challenging times that test our spirits, it helps to have a dream, a goal to strive toward.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? Who is your favorite writer, and what is it about their work that really strikes you?
I have been reading mostly indie works lately, and I have discovered many awesome writers. I hesitate to name them, as I might accidently leave one out. You can visit my Goodreads page and see my reviews and likes.
One of my favorite authors is Alberto Moravia. He writes with such visual and emotional truth, that reading his work is pure joy.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
I won’t name names; they know who they are. They are my long-time friends who read my early stories and cartoons and laughed in the right places and cried in the right places and asked for more.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Since, according to Social Security, I am officially retired, I don’t suppose I can call writing or painting a “career.” However, that’s what I do each day, and that’s what helps to pay the bills. If I didn’t get paid for my work would I still write and paint? Absolutely!
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
No. Well, actually there are a couple of typos I would love to correct, but ecco la vita.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
I learned so much about World War 2 and the Nazi occupation in Italy. I learned about the often under-publicized persecution of Italian Jews. I learned more about the brave efforts of the Italian Resistance. I learned that good can overcome evil but not without a price.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
I believe Natalie Portman could portray a sympathetic Angelina, and Meryl Streep would be a triumph as the evil Lidia.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
Write what you love. If your heart’s not in it, your writing will never “sing”; at best it will “hum” a forgettable and often flat tune.
Don’t follow trends just to make a buck. Let’s say that the current trend is to write about sunflowers and every 3rd book sold is a history of sunflowers. But if you are gravely allergic to and thus loath sunflowers, and the mere mention of those mutant daisies sends you diving for the tissue box, then don’t write about sunflowers. Each sentence will be agony, you’ll never be satisfied with the results, and any money earned will be spent on tissues and allergy meds. This is an extreme example, but you get the idea. Continue learning. Never believe you know all you need to know about writing. Get feedback from fellow writers, read what interests and excites you, and write, write, write.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
Thank you so much for your support. I appreciate every comment and review. My goal was to entertain.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I’m reading All our Yesterdays by Natalia Ginzburg.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Gosh, no. Probably fairy tales. My favorite childhood book was Pinocchio. I am still a big fan of Collodi and have 8 editions of Pinocchio in Italian and also in English by various translators. I do remember reading the Nancy Drew mysteries when I was about 8-years-old, and I was an instant fan of whodunits.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Everything. I’m Italian.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
It would be amazing to meet Elsa Morante. Her writing takes my breath away. And the gutsy manner in which she lived her remarkable life is inspirational.
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
When I’m not writing, translating, or painting, I read. Believe it or not, I like to clean. I get some of my best ideas while washing windows and scrubbing floors.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I watch as much PBS as I can. I’m a huge fan of all things British when it comes to drama and comedy.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
Foods: Italian and Mexican
Colors: vibrant hues in paintings/black in apparel.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
Paint, read, sew, sculpt, make stained glass, mosaics, pottery, jewelry……………
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
Well, I plan to be cremated, so there will not be a stone. But if there were, I would want it to say: She loved, she laughed, she cried, she tried.
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
Website links for Writing:
Website links for Art:
Bridge of Sighs and Dreams is available for purchase in paperback and eBook at:
BARNES & NOBLE: