March Authors Forward interview with Shetal Shah and Kavita Rajput

March Authors Forward interview with Shetal Shah and Kavita Rajput

Kavita Rajput is an illustrator and surface designer based in New York City. Born and raised in Mumbai, India, she draws inspiration from her childhood and the rich folk art of India in her playful artwork. Her latest work as illustrator of the children’s book, Shakti Girls, reflects her vibrant and colorful style through inspiring portraits and floral motifs. Learn more about her journey and experience working on Shakti Girls!

How did you become an illustrator? 

I believe the idea first took shape around 2010-11 when I used to read picture books to my toddler every evening. One day on my way to work, I cooked up a simple rhyming text which stayed at the back of my mind for around 6-7 years. During that time I quit my finance job and had become a full-time watercolor artist. In 2018, I finally turned that rhyme into a children’s picture book filled with 16 full-color illustrations. I guess that was the point when I knew that I wanted to become an illustrator professionally. I didn’t know anyone within the publishing industry or even what skills were needed to become a children’s book illustrator, so I spent the next few years stumbling around, figuring out my path to illustration. I took graphic design courses and children’s illustration courses and started posting my illustrations on Instagram. That’s where my first author, and then Shetal, found me. I have now illustrated three picture books and I know that this is just the beginning. I can’t wait for all that’s coming. 

What type of illustrations do you enjoy working on? 

Very simply, I enjoy work that makes me feel warm and fuzzy which is why making children’s illustrations feels great. Sketching innocent faces that tug at my heart, using vibrant colors that remind me of home, and creating soothing patterns that feel like meditation make my art process an emotionally immersive one. I use my joy as a guide when I work and I hope that this joy shows through in my work and uplifts people who see it.

How would you describe your art style?

My art is driven by color, pattern, and joy. My work is a hybrid of traditional watercolor and digital art techniques and my style could possibly be described as decorative and lightly inspired by Indian folk and miniature art. 

Out of all the illustrations you have created, which are you most proud of and why? 

That’s a tough one. I’m not sure if I can pick one piece but the entire Shakti Girls collection is definitely what I am most proud of at the moment. It’s a very meaningful project for me, especially as an Indian immigrant woman raising young children in the US. 

What drew you to the Shakti Girls project? 

I had wanted to create portraits of inspiring Indian women for a while so when Shetal wrote to me about her book idea, it was like a wish come true. I love the Rebel Girls series and I love creating decorative portraits of women. This project gave me everything I wanted to do in addition to getting a talented and driven partner for a wonderful collaboration. I couldn’t say no!

What was your experience like illustrating for Shakti Girls? What was your process like?

It was absolutely wonderful from start to finish. I think Shetal and I connected instantly and I could see that we had a very similar vision for the book and we were excited about the same things. I loved that I was given the freedom to add my own vision to the illustrations and I believe we created something magical together. My illustration process started with detailed discussions with Shetal about what she was looking for and from there I went to the drawing board for the sketching phase — first for the book cover and title art and then for each portrait. Once the sketches were finalized, I moved to painting and digital finalizing. At every stage we reviewed the pieces, making changes where necessary till we were both satisfied with the finished illustrations. I really loved creating the illustrations of Shakti Girls and collaborating with Shetal was icing on the cake. It was very clear that giving this book our very best was a priority for both of us and we were ready to go through endless iterations to make it happen. 

What was the most challenging aspect of illustrating for Shakti Girls? 

The portraits! I have done a little bit of realistic portrait work in my early years as an artist but more recently my work is largely sketched from imagination using several reference images for inspiration. Trying to draw a likeness to someone always stresses me out a bit. To add to that, we wanted to make the portraits child-friendly — slightly less identical and more representational to the actual person and yet, not make them like caricatures or cartoons. The portraits were the main subject of this book—- they were what drew me to the project but they were also my biggest challenge. I wasn’t completely relaxed till all the sketches and finished pieces were liked and approved by Shetal and a few of my trusted peers. 

Is there a particular portrait in Shakti Girls that you are most proud of?

There are several favorites: Indira Gandhi, Kalpana Chawla, Sania Mirza and Shakuntala Devi come to mind immediately. I don’t think I can pick one. Oh and I absolutely loved how the cover turned out. We devoted a couple of weeks to it and it’s something I am really proud of too. 

How do you want young readers to react to your illustrations in Shakti Girls

I want young readers to dream. This book is about women who made their dreams come true and it’s made by women who are pursuing theirs. I want young readers to dream big and chase those dreams and one day see their own faces in a book like this one. 

Where can people find your work?

They can find me at my website and on instagram @kavita_rajput


Tackling TikTok: Books Forward March 2023 Newsletter

Check out the latest newsletter featuring our award-winning authors and industry news. This issue features upcoming book releases, recent media coverage and much more!

Read the March 2023 newsletter here!

What Is An Indie Bookstore Association?

What is an indie bookseller association?

It takes a village to write a book, and the same can be said for running an independent bookstore! With online retailers – Amazon in particular – threatening the survival of many specialty mom-and-pop shops, it’s essential for these independent stores to join forces, learning from each other’s successes and finding creative ways to engage and support their community. In a nutshell, this is what bookseller associations do – provide a space for booksellers to unite for the good of their local community and region-at-large. 

Founded in 1900, the American Booksellers Association is a non-profit trade association that promotes independent bookstores across the United States. Under ABA’s “umbrella” are eight different regional associations:

California Independent Booksellers (California)

Great Lakes Independent Booksellers (Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky)

Midwest Independent Booksellers (Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, and Michigan)

Mountains and Plains Independent Booksellers (Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming)

New Atlantic Independent Booksellers (New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Washington DC, Virginia, and West Virginia)

New England Independent Booksellers (Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island)

Pacific Northwest Independent Booksellers (Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Washington, Oregon)

Southern Independent Booksellers (Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana, Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, and Mississippi)

How can authors get involved with their regional bookseller association?

There are several ways that authors can connect with their regional associations:

  • Add purchase links to your website. We recommend linking to your book’s page on IndieBound and as a way to encourage your fans to shop local.
  • Attend events. Most regional groups gather for annual conferences, and there are often opportunities for publishers and authors to share their new and upcoming book releases with booksellers.
  • Take out an ad. These regional groups also have email newsletters. Purchasing an ad is an easy and effective way to reach booksellers in your area. 
  • Send out mailings. If you’re able to gather addresses for the booksellers in your area, you can send them a personalized mailing with an ARC of your book and marketing/sales information.
  • Make personal connections. Attend events at stores near you and support them by purchasing books there! You can also call ahead and arrange a time to speak with a buyer or event coordinator. 
  • IndieNext. As you develop your relationships with booksellers, they may be more willing to nominate you for the IndieNext awards. These awards showcase the titles that booksellers plan on hand-selling to customers, and being nominated is a great honor!

There are plenty of ways that getting involved with your regional bookseller association can benefit you as an author, but remember: you only get what you give! Be sure to tell your readers to shop local, promote stores in your area, and let booksellers know that you’re sensitive to their financial needs. After all, bookstores are the literary heart of every city, and they can’t operate without the support of readers and authors in their communities like you. 


Books Forward BFFs March Influencer Newsletter

Check out the latest newsletter for our Books Forward Friends. This issue features highlights of our BFFs, fun titles available for review, and special opportunities for our friends.

Download the March 2023 newsletter here!

Books that capture the “I’m with the band” feeling

The bookish community is in a tizzy over the release of the Daisy Jones series in March (personally, I thought it would work better as a movie or series when I read the book, so I’m excited to be proven right). Here are a few other books to scratch that “I’m with the band” itch you may have!

The Final Revival of Opal & Nev by Dawnie Walton

Opal is a fiercely independent young woman pushing against the grain in her style and attitude, Afro-punk before that term existed. Coming of age in Detroit, she can’t imagine settling for a 9-to-5 job–despite her unusual looks, Opal believes she can be a star. So when the aspiring British singer/songwriter Neville Charles discovers her at a bar’s amateur night, she takes him up on his offer to make rock music together for the fledgling Rivington Records. In early ’70s New York City, just as she’s finding her niche as part of a flamboyant and funky creative scene, a rival band signed to her label brandishes a Confederate flag at a promotional concert. Opal’s bold protest and the violence that ensues set off a chain of events that will not only change the lives of those she loves, but also be a deadly reminder that repercussions are always harsher for women, especially black women, who dare to speak their truth. Decades later, as Opal considers a 2016 reunion with Nev, music journalist S. Sunny Shelton seizes the chance to curate an oral history about her idols. Sunny thought she knew most of the stories leading up to the cult duo’s most politicized chapter. But as her interviews dig deeper, a nasty new allegation from an unexpected source threatens to blow up everything.

Kiss and Tell by Adib Khorram

Hunter never expected to be a boy band star, but, well, here he is. He and his band Kiss & Tell are on their first major tour of North America, playing arenas all over the United States and Canada (and getting covered by the gossipy press all over North America as well). Hunter is the only gay member of the band, and he just had a very painful breakup with his first boyfriend — leaked sexts, public heartbreak, and all — and now everyone expects him to play the perfect queer role model for teens. But Hunter isn’t really sure what being the perfect queer kid even means. Does it mean dressing up in whatever The Label tells him to wear for photo shoots and pretending never to have sex? (Unfortunately, yes.) Does it mean finding community among the queer kids at the meet-and-greets after K&T’s shows? (Fortunately, yes.) Does it include a new relationship with Kaivan, the drummer for the band opening for K&T on tour? (He hopes so.) But when The Label finds out about Hunter and Kaivan, it spells trouble — for their relationship, for the perfect gay boy Hunter plays for the cameras, and, most importantly, for Hunter himself.

The Mambo Kings Play Songs by Oscar Hijuelos

It’s 1949 and two young Cuban musicians make their way from Havana to the grand stage of New York City. It is the era of mambo, and the Castillo brothers, workers by day, become stars of the dance halls by night, where their orchestra plays the lush, sensuous, pulsing music that earns them the title of the Mambo Kings. This is their moment of youth, exuberance, love, and freedom — a golden time that decades later is remembered with nostalgia and deep affection. Hijuelos’s marvelous portrait of the Castillo brothers, their families, their fellow musicians and lovers, their triumphs and tragedies, re-creates the sights and sounds of an era in music and an unsung moment in American life.

It Goes Like This by Miel Moreland

Eva, Celeste, Gina, and Steph used to think their friendship was unbreakable. After all, they’ve been through a lot together, including the astronomical rise of Moonlight Overthrow, the world-famous queer pop band they formed in middle school, never expecting to headline anything bigger than the county fair.But after a sudden falling out leads to the dissolution of the teens’ band, their friendship, and Eva and Celeste’s starry-eyed romance, nothing is the same. Gina and Celeste step further into the spotlight, Steph disappears completely, and Eva, heartbroken, takes refuge as a songwriter and secret online fangirl…of her own band. That is, until a storm devastates their hometown, bringing the four ex-best-friends back together. As they prepare for one last show, they’ll discover whether growing up always means growing apart.

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

Bennie is an aging former punk rocker and record executive. Sasha is the passionate, troubled young woman he employs. Here Jennifer Egan brilliantly reveals their pasts, along with the inner lives of a host of other characters whose paths intersect with theirs. 

Sorrow by Tiffanie DeBartolo

Joe Harper has backpedaled throughout his life. A once-promising guitar prodigy, he’s been living without direction since abandoning his musical dreams. Now into his 30s, having retreated from every opportunity he’s had to level up, he has lost his family, his best friend, and his own self-respect. But Joe finds an unlikely path to redemption when he starts working as a carpenter for the bohemian conceptual artist October Danko. The job returns him to his hometown, loaded with bittersweet reminders of his former life, in the shadows of his beloved redwood trees. As Joe’s relationship with October develops, he yearns to take a daring step toward a bold future, but struggles to escape the craven decisions of his past. Sorrow is a stunning, moving novel that explores masculinity and suspended adolescence, all the while begging the questions: Can courage be learned? And is it ever too late to follow your heart?

If This Gets Out by Sophie Gonzales and Cale Dietrich

Eighteen-year-olds Ruben Montez and Zach Knight are two members of the boy-band Saturday, one of the biggest acts in America. Along with their bandmates, Angel Phan and Jon Braxton, the four are teen heartthrobs in front of the cameras and best friends backstage.

But privately, the pressure to stay in the closet has Ruben confiding in Zach. On a whirlwind tour through Europe with an unrelenting schedule and minimal supervision, the two come to rely on each other more and more, and their already close friendship evolves into a romance. But when they decide they’re ready to tell their fans and live freely, Zach and Ruben realize they will never truly have the support they need. How can they hold tight to each other when their whole world is coming apart?

Songs in Ursa Major by Emma Brodie

Raised on an island off Massachusetts by a mother who wrote songs for famous musicians, Jane Quinn is singing in her own band before she’s old enough to even read music. When folk legend Jesse Reid hears about Jane’s performance at the island’s music festival, a star is born — and so is a passionate love affair: they become inseparable when her band joins him on tour. Wary of being cast as his girlfriend — and haunted by her mother’s shattered ambitions — Jane shields her relationship from the public eye, but Jesse’s star power pulls her into his orbit of fame. Caught up in the thrill of the road and the profound and lustful connection she has with Jesse, Jane is blind-sided by the discovery she makes about the dark secret beneath his music. 


How to get reviews for your book

An Author’s Guide to Securing Reviews for Your Book

Whether you want to boost traction on your Amazon page or gain a blurb from a respected industry publication, there are plenty of reasons for seeking out book reviews. In the short-term, reviews lend your book credibility and can help you get your foot in the door when it comes to booking events and landing media interest. In the long-term, these endorsements can help you build your brand, increase name-recognition, and develop hype for future releases.

The benefits of a positive review can’t be overstated!

So what types of reviews are out there exactly, and what’s the best strategy for approaching reviewers? Keep reading for our team’s time-tested tips and tricks!


Once you have an ARC prepared (not sure what an ARC is? More info here), you can begin sending out copies to fellow authors or relevant professionals, asking for their endorsement.

It’s important to start this process early, so you can add the blurbs you receive to the interior praise page or front/back cover of your book before it heads to print.

Most of the time, it’s an author’s responsibility to ask for endorsements. You should reach out to your personal connections – think fellow writers from your workshop, experts in niche fields who helped you with research, and authors who share the same publisher as you. You’ll have a much better chance at receiving a “yes” from someone who already knows you and your book!

That said, if you do receive a “no,” don’t be discouraged! Many authors have a large stack of books they’ve committed to reading and blurbing, and sometimes, it just isn’t possible to add another.

Stay positive and persistent in your outreach and you’re sure to end up with a great set of endorsements!

Industry Reviews: Paid and Unpaid

Next up, you should consider industry reviews.

Reviews with trade publications such as Kirkus, Foreword, Publisher’s Weekly and Library Journal are a great way to get your book in front of industry professionals–especially librarians and booksellers. A positive blurb from one of these respected outlets can go a long way!

If you are interested in a free submission, be sure to read the fine print regarding deadlines and eligibility, as each publication has its own requirements.

Most of these publications also offer paid submissions which give you a bit more flexibility, especially if you’re working on a tight timeline and need to guarantee a review.

For more information about industry reviews, check out my previous article here.

Influencer Reviews

Influencers–whether they’re bloggers, Bookstagrammers or BookTokers–are an essential part of every author’s review strategy. Don’t overlook them! These reviewers often have significant sway over others, and tend to be fiercely loyal readers, meaning if they enjoy one of your books, they’ll be willing to check out your future releases too.

If you aren’t sure where to begin in your outreach to influencers, start by creating a list of comparable titles that are similar to your book in theme, tone, and genre. The best comp titles are books that are popular, have been published fairly recently (within the last 5 years) and have been generally well received.

Next, search for reviews of your comp titles and select reviewers who reacted positively to those books. Before sending them a message asking for a review, be sure to check their site for submission guidelines. This is crucial because if you neglect to follow their guidelines, they’ll likely reject your submission or skip right over your email.

If an influencer agrees to take a look at your book, be sure to thank them! And when the review is posted, share it on your social media pages and show your support. Keep in mind that bloggers are almost always working for free, and aren’t compensated for their time. A kind gesture will mean a lot!

Reader Reviews

Reader reviews, like the ones that are posted on NetGalley, Goodreads and Amazon, don’t necessarily come from book industry professionals or influencers. Usually, these reviews represent the layperson’s opinion, and they can give you a good idea of the general public’s early reception to your book.

Here are a few tips for securing more reader reviews:

List your book on NetGalley.

NetGalley boasts a community of over 400,000 readers, and it’s a great place to share piracy-protected ebooks with readers in exchange for their honest opinions. There are also plenty of advertising opportunities on NetGalley that can help you boost exposure, ultimately gaining more downloads and reviews!

Want to see a case study on how NetGalley reviews transferred over to Goodreads? Check that out here.

Conduct a Goodreads giveaway

Offering free copies of your book as part of a giveaway will boost your visibility on Goodreads, and often leads to more reviews for your page. It’s worth noting that Amazon, which owns Goodreads, charges a fee for setting up the giveaway. But it’s a good opportunity, if it fits in your budget!

Recruit the support of your network

Lastly, be sure to connect with your personal network via email or social media, asking friends and family to share their reviews on Goodreads and Amazon.

What’s next?

Now that you’ve acquired various praise quotes, let’s make the most of them!

You can add endorsements/review blurbs to:

  • Your book’s front and/or back cover, and an interior praise page
  • NetGalley or Edelweiss listings
  • The Editorial Reviews section of your book’s Amazon page and your book’s metadata with Ingram to help reach other retail sites like Barnes & Noble
  • Your press kit
  • Advertising (print and online)
  • Marketing materials (bookmarks, swag items)
  • Your author website
  • Your email signature

And with that, your hard work will continue to benefit your author career for years to come.
Links included:


Books Forward February 2023 Newsletter

Check out the latest newsletter featuring our award-winning authors and industry news. This issue features upcoming book releases, recent media coverage and much more!

Read the February 2023 newsletter here!

Books Forward BFFs February Influencer Newsletter

Check out the latest newsletter for our Books Forward Friends. This issue features highlights of our BFFs, fun titles available for review, and special opportunities for our friends.

Download the February 2023 newsletter here!

Tips for new BookTokers

BookTok has taken bookworms by storm – folks have discovered a reignited passion for reading, bookstores have seen huge upticks in sales, and eager creators have cultivated a special, diverse community.

It’s a uniquely warm & charming corner of the internet … but it can also be quite intimidating. When I first stumbled into BookTok, I felt lost and overwhelmed. How could I break in? How could I find people that would recommend books that aligned with my taste? How could I build my own audience?

Many months later, I’ve found real friends, read hundreds of books, and reached millions of viewers through my account. I’ve learned a lot since my first video, and I’d love to pass some knowledge along to you – future BookTok community members! Here are some tips that I wish I knew when I began.

Be specific.
The charm of BookTok lies in its micro communities. As you browse, you’ll stumble across specific hashtags for all sorts of genres and identities (such as #fantasybooktok, #queerbooktok, and so on). Explore them! You’ll find creators that exactly align with your interests. You’ll discover faces that aren’t necessarily being pushed in the algorithm otherwise (especially marginalized creators). Once you start engaging under these hashtags, you’ll get to dive deeper into their attached communities. And truly … there’s no such thing as too niche when it comes to books.

Additionally, getting specific with the recommendations that you share can help connect you with a compatible audience. For example, I’ve created series based on musicals and Criminal Minds episodes – two topics I adore. Others stumble into specialities like Shakespearean retellings, cozy fantasy books, or sapphic romances.

Yes, TikTok can be a place for fun trends and call-and-response types of memes. But if you show your originality and your specific style? You’ll really soar.

Stay consistent.
It’s the social-media-algorithm advice that nobody wants to hear. If you want to grow your account and cultivate an audience … you’ve got to post regularly! If you’re feeling ambitious, this may be multiple times a day. Many creators do their best to post daily. If you’re not able to commit to that (it’s definitely a lot of work), try uploading videos a few times a week.

There’s also another type of important consistency: engaging with the videos of other BookTok creators! You can’t ‘post and go’ and expect to be successful; your videos don’t exist in a vacuum. In order to have a voice on BookTok, you’ve got to stay in touch with other BookTokers. Which brings me to my next tip …

Support each other.
BookTok is a tight community. Do your part to keep it an encouraging place! Uplift other creators. Give credit to those who inspire you. Show gratitude to your new bookish friend who helped you discover a favorite read.

As you discover all the delightful niches within the space, you’ll learn to speak the “BookTok language.” You’ll start to grow your TBR (“to be read” list), hunger for exciting ARCs (“advanced reader copies”), and occasionally DNF (“do not finish”) a book that just isn’t up your alley. You’ll connect with other friendly nerds & discover you love unexpected genres & celebrate together when you hit your reading goals.

If you’re an author, please make sure you’re engaging authentically. A lot of authors make the mistake of treating TikTok like a giant sales opportunity. The problem with that is … we can tell! Social media is a powerful way to help your book find new readers, but if you want others to be excited for you and support you back, you’ve got to make yourself an authentic presence. Don’t exclusively talk about your book. Don’t post and ghost. If you enter BookTok with an open mind and a friendly attitude, you’ll find a community of folks authentically eager to check out your writing.

Develop a growth mindset.
When you enter BookTok, you’ll have access to voices from around the world. It’s incredible!
Challenge yourself. Diversify your reading; question what’s missing from your shelf.

It’s never been easier to find recommendations by marginalized voices shared by people from those same communities. Be open and stay humble. We all make mistakes and we all get lost in translation sometimes. Try to view stumbles as opportunities: continue to uplift diverse voices and remain excited for new ways to grow and mature.

We’re so happy to have you be part of BookTok. Grab a cup of coffee and stay a while – your TBR will never stop expanding. 😉

Author: Steph Pilavin is a content creator, actor, and head of operations for a meditation & mindfulness startup. She’s an avid reader and book reviewer … which led her to create her bookish TikTok account, starrysteph. Steph is dedicated to reading and recommending diverse literature and voices. She firmly believes that TikTok can be a platform for thoughtful discussion and community building. Steph is also a huge animal lover and loves to talk about her adorable pets, Persephone (“Percy”) her bunny and Artemis (“Artie”) her cat.

TikTok: @starrysteph


Debut author releases New Adult fantasy series with a mysterious aristocrat and forgotten family secrets

Perfect for fans of the Off-Campus series, and those who are over the Alpha Male trope

PARIS – Debut author Rosanna Patruno is releasing the first book in her thrilling New Adult fantasy series, “The Hidden Heir” (March 14, 2023), which follows magical Inga through her supernatural lessons with the handsome yet mystifying Biagio, and on an otherworldly journey to protect her family from the sorcerer hunting them.

Despite being one of the less gifted witches in her family, Inga is eager to take advantage of her magical skills. Her mother, however, doesn’t believe women have a place in school, and wants Inga to give up magic and work with her in her tearoom. When Inga meets the gifted yet mysterious magical instructor Biago, who offers her one-on-one lessons to advance her magical abilities, she is ecstatic. Her mother does not trust the high-status, handsome Biago, for reasons unknown to Inga. But Inga unexpectedly develops feelings for Biago, as he shows her what it is like to live among the aristocrats of London, leading Inga into a world of unexpected euphoria that she did not know existed.

When long forgotten family secrets begin to resurface, including a millennia-old sorcerer hunting Inga’s family, and young women suddenly disappearing across London, Inga must fight to secure her own fate, and the fate of those around her. Can Inga trust Biago to help her avoid a destiny far worse than death, or is Inga’s mom right to not trust him? Follow Inga on her journey to uncover the truth of her family’s history, and to protect them and society at all costs.

“The Hidden Heir”
Rosanna Patruno | March 14, 2023 | New Adult Fantasy
Paperback: 978-2-9585988-0-8

Rosanna Patruno: From her youth spent in Puglia, a wild region in the south of Italy, Rose has retained a love for the culinary preparation of beautiful natural products. And when still a teen, she decided to become a writer without knowing anything about this world; Rose never imagined for a moment what her path would be. At the age of twenty she defied the path laid out by her patriarchal family and escaped, leaving her family and this region behind, to follow her own passion – that of art and literature to discover Paris. There she took art classes, immersing her creativity between anatomy morphology and the art of watercolor along with Theater, which sharpened her sense of observation and her art of human portraiture – two skills she offers in her writing. Later, she developed her knowledge of pre-Christian myths, a passion she shares with her husband. Her life as a writer comes from a well of decisions and encounters: “A novel may begin life as an anecdote, but sharing is where it is truly born. It is not something that we premeditate. But the desire to have amusement and excitement can only stem from our original creations for which the inspiration flows from our own memories – the surprises of life”.

Follow Rosanna Patruno on social media:
Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

In an interview, Rosanna Patruno can discuss:

  • How growing up in southern Italy has influenced her personality & how her experience impacted her view of the world
  • What it is like growing up in a patriarchal society, and how she drew on that for her writing process
  • Why she feels patriarchal society finds its greatest support among some women
  • Why it is important to acknowledge that not all teenagers come from a family that wants the best for them, and how this story can show them how to strengthen their personality
  • How she goes against the stereotypical alpha male tropes in her storytelling and offers alternate ideals of what a couple should be
  • How writing fanfiction helped to find the strength to write her debut series
  • Her plans to continue Inga and Biagio’s story

An Interview with Rosanna Patruno

You mention that you were a big fan of fanfiction. How has fanfiction inspired your writing of this series in particular?

When you come from a country with ancient and rich literature, where you are acquainted since childhood with outstanding authors, one has the impression a girl simply cannot compete with the likes of Dante, Manzoni, and Umberto Eco. Fanfictions provide aspiring writers with a space where they can find fun in storytelling without being compared to Literature tutelary figures. It is a nice and pleasant training ground where they can “sharpen their quills” and gain confidence in this craft thanks to their readers’ emotional support and recognition.

What was it like growing up in a patriarchal society, and how did you draw on that for your writing process?

One does not realize how polluted their city is until one discovers the purer air of the wild sea. Likewise, a girl in a patriarchal family could hardly breathe until her will, a casual encounter, or both, show her a different reality. It takes time and effort to unleash her long unused wings in this new environment, but with the right support, she can build her confidence. In this book, my character is only at the beginning of this journey, which I went through in the years it took me to write her story.

How do you think this story can show teenagers how to stand up for themselves, especially when up against unsupportive family members or friends?

A reader (or someone watching movies) identifies with a character. When surrounded by a fictional “loving and perfect” family, with parents willing to do their best for their kids, she will twist it to fit her own (dysfunctional) family. This could lead her to renounce her dreams to follow her family’s will, sometimes for the parents’ or siblings’ interest. Giving her the means to recognize the red flags is just as important as showing her how she could find the strength to lead her way.

What do you think of the “Alpha male” idea seen in many fiction novels, and how do you feel Biago is different from that standard?

It is reassuring to fall for the stereotypical alpha male (protective, strong, competent, rich…) because it is the patriarchal mother’s expectation for her: an over-controlling figure who “will take care of her” by keeping her in a state of child-like dependency. The romanticization of such a figure will lead the daughter into the same trap her mother fell in, reproducing the expected social format of a shadow woman. Offering a different yet positive alternative shows how a more balanced and respectful relationship can help the girl become herself in a less direct, and less directed, but more interesting long-term path.

There seems to be an underlying importance of music in your book. How would you describe your relationship with music?

If music always attracted me, I only discovered its world in Paris, where people can go to concerts (jazz and classical mainly) almost for free. One of my favorite experiences was a night rehearsal of Renaissance music at Notre Dame. It was a magical moment; we were nearly alone with the musicians in the cathedral, offering us the impression of stepping back a few centuries ago. We also had the chance to “welcome” a Bosendorfer at home for some time (a cumbersome guest, I must admit), and its sound and resonances accompanied the writing of the encounter between Biagio and Inga.

This is your debut series! Can you tell us about what else we can expect from the series, and from you as an author?

Inga’s journey to discover herself and her potential is only at the beginning, and it will take time and effort to become and to get where she is meant to be. The universe where Inga and Biagio’s story takes place is larger than shown in this story, and the Distant Worlds mentioned here will soon offer unexpected plot twists!

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