Friday, October 12, 2012

What the Experts Say: Contemporary Fiction Author Rose Dunphy

Rose Dunphy, Author

Please welcome Contemporary Fiction Author Rose Dunphy. She has just released ORANGE PEELS AND COBBLESTONES, a love story and a coming-of-age novel based on her personal experience. Of special interest – to me, at least— she loves two of my favorite things – Italian food and Broadway plays.

Joyce: What inspired you to write ORANGE PEELS AND COBBLESTONES?

Rose Dunphy: ORANGE PEELS AND COBBLESTONES is based on a real event that happened to me. When I was ten and living in Italy, my mother put me on a plane to travel alone to New York to be adopted by an aunt and uncle I had never met. The event traumatized me and haunted me the rest of my life. The only way to heal from it was to write about it.

Writing the book was very therapeutic for me. I always liked to write. I’d already had some publication success with a number of personal essays and timely articles published in Newsday, The New York Times and The Christian Science Monitor, so I began the story that I knew was inside, the one that kept tugging at my heart.

You might ask: Why didn’t I write the book as a memoir if it’s about my life?

Memoirs are the rage nowadays. Well, there are several reasons: 
First, I really wanted to write a novel because the theme of the book – how does a mother give up her own child? – interested me more than writing about myself.  As a novel, the book would have fictional names and fictional characters without affecting the story. 

Second, I wanted to be as objective as I could and a memoir doesn’t allow that.
Third, even as a work of fiction, the story demanded I write it in third person.  Writing in first person was too close to me. I tried and couldn’t do it. So a memoir was out of the question. 

And last, I didn’t want to be sued. Writing the book as a novel protected me from anyone accusing me of libel or defamation of character. Author Natalie Goldberg says if you’re afraid someone might identify with any of your characters, give that character a small penis or a flat chest or flabby thighs.  Then they won’t be so willing to identify with the character.  I could have done that but none of the characters called for it.

Joyce: Why did you choose the title, ORANGE PEELS AND COBBLESTONES?  I really like it. Having lived in Italy for a year, it just reminds me of there. 

Rose Dunphy: Deciding on a title was problematic for me.  At first, I had Coming to America.  Then it was A Time to Say Goodbye, then Orange Peels and Cobblestones and last, Marietta’s Legacy.  My sister describes not sleeping because titles floated through her mind all night.  In the end, I went back to Orange Peels and Cobblestones.  The first two titles were much used and Marietta’s Legacy seemed cerebral and nondescript. 

ORANGE PEELS AND COBBLESTONES is much warmer and more emotional. You can see the orange color of the peels and the gray of the cobblestones. You can feel the smoothness and softness of the peels and the hardness and unevenness of the stones.  You can hear the sound the orange peel makes if you drop or throw it and you can hear the sound of cobblestones against your shoes when you walk on it. Anyone reading the book will recognize the many references to orange peels and cobblestones throughout the story and I hope will conclude, as I did, that this title fits best.

Joyce: Do you base your characters on real people? 

Rose Dunphy: Yes, to some extent.  I take some characteristics from one person and blend them with those of another to create a new being.

Joyce:  You have written and published non-fiction articles and a book. Did you find it easy to make the transition from non-fiction to fiction? What was different?

Rose Dunphy: No problem at all. The same elements of good writing apply. Start with a slant to get the reader hooked. Then develop it by using the senses to describe scenes, thus, showing rather than telling.

Joyce:  Who are your targeted readers?

Rose Dunphy: Women probably would make up the bulk of my audience but I’ve had men read excerpts of my novel and really love it.  People who love to read of all ages would enjoy my writing.  

Joyce: How did you research the back story for the different locations in ORANGE PEELS AND COBBLESTONES, e.g., post-war Italy, Brooklyn during the 1950s, NY and southern California during the 1960s?

Rose Dunphy: Since it is based on personal experience, I just pictured the scenes from my past and described what I saw. I had to check on certain facts of the time period I was writing about, and I used the internet for that.

Joyce: What’s the most important “message” in your novel?

Rose Dunphy: How does a mother give up her child? 

Joyce: Tell us something about yourself

Rose Dunphy: I love to read.  My favorite food, naturally, is Italian.  I love plays, too.  Since we live on Long Island, my husband and I visit NYC often to see Broadway shows.  I also love to cook, sew and garden.  The cooking reminds me of my mother and grandmother.  The sewing reminds me of my mother-in-law whom I was lucky enough to love like a mother because she treated me with great love.  These activities soothe my soul and I’m left feeing recreated.

Joyce: Oh, we have a lot in common. I love Italian food and Broadway shows – a lot.  Thank you for taking the time to share information about you and your book.


From her early childhood days in Italy to her life as a young wife and mother in Brooklyn, Marietta is haunted by hard questions from her past. In her struggle to be free, she realizes what she must do: discover the truth about her tangled family life even at the risk of losing the little she has left. This is a deeply moving novel about the enduring power of love amidst abandonment, rejection, betrayal and the consequences of others’ decisions.

About Rose Dunphy

Rose Marie Dunphy lived in Italy and now resides in New York. With a Master’s Degree from Stony Brook University, she taught Science for 10 years, co-authored
That First Bite – Chance or Choice, a book of non-fiction, and has written numerous essays and short stories that have appeared in The New York Times, Newsday and other publications. This is her first novel.


To purchase a book, contact the author at  


  1. I love that title, and I love your explanation of why it's not a memoir--very logical. Sounds a great story.

  2. Thanks. If you read Orange Peels and Cobblestones, I'd love your feedback.