As a follow up to my review from last week for Love and Gelato, I am posting my “Bliss Chat” with Jenna Evans Welch. I was so lucky to be able to chat with her about the novel and a few fun things about herself. FYI she is a warrior as she was able to answer my questions a few days after she gave birth to her new baby, Nora! Mama and New York Times best- selling author- Jenna is one fabulous woman!
1. I know you went to high school in Florence. What was your time like there? Did you incorporate some of that into Lina’s experience?
Magic! When I was 15 my parents packed up me and my four younger siblings (plus about a hundred duffel bags) and we moved to a small house in Tuscany. I attended an international school that was housed in an old villa (think bedrooms turned into classrooms, with lockers in the wine cellar). My sophomore class had 18 people in it (from all over the world), and the whole experience completely expanded my world. So yes, I definitely used a lot of my experiences to create Lina.
2.Italy is its own character in this book and you literally transported me there while reading. Did you go there while writing this book or have you been since high school?
I’m so glad! Yes, I have been back a few times since high school. Right after I finished my first draft of Love & Gelato (this was years and years before it was published), I went to Florence and spent some time touring the American Cemetery with Ioiana Luncheon, my high school friend who grew up in the cemetery. (She was a runner who would get up in the morning and jog through the headstones. Hello, Lina inspiration!)
3. The relationship between Lina and Ren is so special. Was this inspired by anything imparticular? Are there any traits within Lina that you find within yourself?
Thank you! Ren was the easiest part of my whole writing process–he showed up fully formed and ready to meet Lina. I’d have to say their relationship is inspired by my husband and me. We started dating when we were very young (just 17!) and although our relationship had some starts and stops, I’ve always loved that we started with that “young love” element.
4. I know you are expecting a new baby soon. What would you say if your children, in the future, wanted to study abroad and what advice would you give to anyone teen that’s planning on it?
I would LOVE to give my children that opportunity. Moving to Italy made me learn how to step out of my comfort zone, and I think that is so incredibly important. And as far as advice goes, I would tell teens to embrace (all) new experiences that come their way. Get to know people who are different from you, explore new cities, learn a new language, try new foods! It will help you in so many ways.
5. As a writer, where is your favorite place to write?
I have a really cute desk that I almost never work at…mostly because there tends to be a 3-year old pounding on the door whenever I try. So when I get the chance, I go to the public library near my house and reserve one of their study rooms. They’re totally silent and I have no distractions. Heaven!
6. Name 3 blissful things that you can’t live without?
Books (of course), ice cream (you knew I’d say that, right?), and spending time at the beach.
7. What is the first thing you do when you complete a book?
Collapse in a heap! Ha.
8. What was the last book that you read?
Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter. I really enjoyed it!
9. While on tour what is a must-have beauty product in your make-up bag?
My tour plans were altered a bit to accommodate the fact that I was 36 weeks pregnant (!), but I’d have to say red lipstick. I swear there’s something magic about it–you can be having a really blah day, but if you put on a bold and pretty color you instantly look a hundred times better. I like Mac’s Ruby Woo. It looks good on everyone!
10. Are you looking forward to any books that are coming out in 2016?
I’m actually hoping to catch up on a bunch of books that came out earlier this year–I’ve been dying to read Jeff Zentner’s “The Serpent King” and I just picked up Morgan Matson’s “The Unexpected Everything.”