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BLOG: How I Met Gino Calabrese

Every book has a story behind it. Sometimes it's a passion to write on a certain period or subject. Other times, an author has a thrilling experience they want to share, or poignant memories from the past.


Sandy Frykholm, a personal friend and history geek, just like me, recently completed an amusing and creative story that has time-travel elements involved. There's just SOMETHING behind time-slip novels that send some people into frenzies of excitement. Sandy is also an Italo-phile like me, and her novel springs from ancient myth and Italian roots.


I look forward to seeing and spending some time with Sandy in June when she and I attend the Historical Novel Society Conference in San Antonio, Texas. So sit back and read a little about this fun and fascinating project that was Sandy's "break" from hard-core historical fiction!


READ ON, everybody!




How I Met Gino Calabrese

By Sandy Frykholm



Discouraged and defeated after years of work on a historical novel, I decided a while back to set it aside. My brain needed a break, and I wanted a different kind of writing project.


I’d been reading one of Diana Gabaldon’s terrific Outlander novels. As I read, I wondered, what makes this time travel concept work? In Outlander, an ancient stone circle provided a portal to another era. Stone circles have a mysterious history and mystical sense to them, which contribute to the reader’s suspension of disbelief when they are used as a time travel device.


All my research had been in the medieval Mediterranean, primarily southern Italy which was then the Kingdom of Naples. What mystical places were found there? Could I find an equivalent to the ancient stone circles, and play around with a time-slip book idea?



Soon enough, the islands of the sirens came to mind, called Sirenuse in ancient times, and known on modern maps as Li Galli. The mythical sirens, with bird bodies and heads of women, sang enchanting songs that drove sailors to wreck their ships on the rocks. Homer wrote of them in his epic, The Odyssey, around 700 B.C. Medieval interpretations show them as mermaids.


The islands are located off the Amalfi Coast, the popular playground of southern Italy, and a big attraction of modern travelers. I could work with that—after all, I had been there a couple of times.

That’s when Gino appeared. (In my head, you understand.)


Gino’s an Italian-American with Sicilian roots. His lifelong fascination with Greek history was fostered by many family visits to Sicily, home to some fabulous ruins from Greek colonization. He loves the myth of the sirens and is making plans for a 25th birthday sailing trip with his Sicilian cousin to explore some of the Greek ruins in Italy.


While Gino is an adorable charmer—and he charmed me immediately—he has his flaws. He makes his money writing an astrology column, but he doesn’t believe a word of it. Still, there’s never a shortage of girls who find the astrology angle interesting. And he moonlights as a fortune teller for party entertainment.


At one such party, Gino meets Sara, who knows a phony when she sees one. After all, she’s a fraud investigator. Gino’s polyester turban and fake crystal ball turn her off.


But Sara has a secret too. She’s clairvoyant. Her visions have always come true, and she doesn’t want anyone to know about this “gift” that she considers a curse. She avoids relationships because her clairvoyance has ruined some important ones in her life. Instead, Sara forms an over-dependence on her cell phone’s GPS program and takes comfort in geo-caching—a kind of GPS scavenger hunt in which the caches you look for are always where they are supposed to be.


But she can’t avoid the attraction she feels for Gino and agrees to cat-sit for him during his birthday trip.

I loved the juxtaposition of these two characters: the phony astrology writer, pretending to know the future in the newspaper every week, and the closet clairvoyant, who really does know the future and wants to make sure nobody knows she does. Neither one is living an authentic life, true to their real identity.

The ordeal ahead in this story will challenge them both. I hope you’ll read The Islands Call, and I’d be delighted to hear from you.



All About Sandy



Born in Alaska, Sandy’s first book, The Drive in ’65 (by Sandra Lynne Reed), is a memoir that tells how she became a world traveler. She’s been to all fifty states, and every continent except Africa and Antarctica. Sandy especially loves Italy, and has a blog called The Italian South, and a Facebook page by that name. Historical fiction is her favorite genre, and she is a member of the Historical Novel Society. She’s also crazy about genealogy, and plays Scrabble almost every day.






Connect with Sandy



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