|Christine Simolke, Author|
CHILDREN OF ITALY
Christine Simolke, the granddaughter of Italian immigrants, brings us CHILDREN OF ITALY, a story about the immigrant experience of a family in America. Simolke grew up hearing stories from her grandmother about leaving the country where she was born and moving to a new world. Her grandmother inspired her to write a book when she interviewed her for a research paper in graduate school.
Simolke is a former middle school language arts teacher. She lives with her husband in North Carolina, and enjoys spending time with husband, family and friends; reading; cooking, and working out. She also does volunteer work. She is working on a continuation of the immigrant Italian family from her book and has also written an historical middle grade novel.
Q: Why did you choose to set your story in 1924? What appeals to you about setting your story in the past?
Christine Simolke: The novel was inspired by my Italian grandmother’s immigrant story. I choose 1924 as it was the last year that Ellis Island was used as the primary entry to the United States for European immigrants.
Q: How do you make events occurring in 1924 relevant to contemporary readers?
Christine Simolke: Many of the events in the story are timeless as the characters deal with problems we all face including betrayal, longing, adjusting to new situations, struggling to figure out who we are and our place in the world, discrimination, and the importance love and family.
Q: Would you categorize CHILDREN OF ITALY as primarily a romance? Or…?
Christine Simolke: It’s an historical novel that would fall into the category of family saga as it tells the story of the immigrant experience with a focus on one family as they assimilate into a new country while dealing with the issues of infidelity, a marriage marred by years of separation, young love and various forms of discrimination. It does have romance, but it’s not primarily a romance novel.
Q: Why do readers care about your characters? Do you have to be an Italian immigrant to relate to them?
Christine Simolke: You don’t have to be an Italian immigrant to relate to the characters because their problems/triumphs are universal. Readers will relate to their experiences of love, heartache, disappointment, transgression, and happiness. The characters are well-intentioned, but flawed, especially Luigi, the father. He’s made many sacrifices to bring his family to America, but his infidelity has a profound effect on his family. His wife and daughters, especially Giovanna, experience new & renewed feelings of love and I think readers will root for them to find happiness.
Q: What kind of research did you do to assure historical accuracy?
Christine Simolke: I read extensively on the Italian-American immigrant experience and the time period, including the history of Italy and America in the late 19th and early 20th century. I also relied on the stories told to me by my Italian-American grandmother, and her sisters, which I documented over several decades.
Q: Did you write CHILDREN OF ITALY to entertain readers and/or did you embed a few key messages? What do you want readers to take away from your book?
Christine Simolke: I hope CHILDREN OF ITALY will entertain readers as the story takes many turns, but I’ve also touched on the issue of discrimination in several forms, the price of infidelity on a marriage and a family, and the adventure of beginning a new life and falling in love. I hope readers will understand a little better the immigrant experience and the sacrifices made by those brave souls who left everything behind to form our wonderful country.
Q: Does the concept of heroes vs. villains apply to CHILDREN OF ITALY? If so, what are the traits of an effective hero? A villain? Are heroes and villains relatable to readers?
Christine Simolke: There are definitely heroes and villains in CHILDREN OF ITALY, but they are more of the multilayered variety than your straight-forward comic book variety.
I think the traits of an effective hero/villain are that they aren’t all good or all bad. The notion that a hero has flaws and a villain has at least one attribute that allows the reader to sympathize with him/her is what makes them relatable, as we’re all a mixture of positive and negative qualities.
Q: How helpful is humor to develop your characters or to tell your story?
Christine Simolke: The characters use humor to cheer one another in dire circumstances and as a way to enjoy/entertain each other.
Q: What’s next? Will you write another historical novel?
Christine Simolke: I’m working on a continuation of the Falconi family’s story and I’ve written an historical middle grade novel.
Q: Tell us about Christine Simolke. What do you like to do for fun when you’re not writing?
Christine Simolke: I’m a former middle school language arts teacher. I love to spend time with my husband, family & friends; read, cook, and work-out to counter act all the Italian & Mexican food I love to eat! I’m also involved in volunteer work in my community.
Thank you for the opportunity to be featured on your blog!
About Christine Simolke
Christine Simolke is the granddaughter of Italian immigrants. She was inspired by her grandmother’s life story to write a novel of the immigrant experience. She has traveled to countries all over the world and is thankful that her ancestors chose to settle in the United States. She is a former language arts teacher and currently resides in North Carolina with her husband. They are the parents of two wonderful young men. When she is not writing, she's active in non-profit work.
The idea for her book, CHILDREN OF ITALY was formed many years ago when she wrote a research paper in graduate school based on an interview with her grandmother, Giovanna and stories her great aunt, Evelina told her. Her grandmother and her family immigrated from Italy to America in the 1920's, and Christine and her family were always fascinated by the stories of their voyage to America and their early life in the United States. Their tale of hope, struggle, perseverance and love of family has been an inspiration to all of the generations after them.
About CHILDREN OF ITALY
Against the backdrop of the early 20th century, as millions of immigrants pour through the doors of Ellis Island in search of the American Dream, Italian immigrant, Luigi Falconi, works as a coal miner to carve out what he hopes will be a better life for his family, who remain in Italy. Soon he will be with them again, but a dark cloud threatens to ruin all he has struggled to accomplish. After twelve years apart, his wife, and three daughters leave Italy to join him in America. Luigi looks forward to their arrival with anticipation, but first he must end his affair with the troubled Isolde, who cannot accept that he has never loved her. Luigi is all she has, and she plots to keep him.
While on board the SS Roma as it sails to Ellis Island, Luigi’s eldest daughter, Giovanna, begins a romance with Alessandro, a dashing member of the crew. When he immigrates to America a short time after their voyage, intent on reuniting with her, she and her family have vanished. As the Falconi family struggles to assimilate in America, Alessandro perseveres in his hunt for Giovanna. His search intersects with the bitter Isolde’s efforts to win Luigi back, with heartbreaking and surprising consequences for all of them.
Excerpt Chapter 1
All men have regrets. Luigi Falconi had only one. The guilt from it had robbed him of many a good night’s sleep. His transgression couldn’t be undone, but he could sweep it under the rug. He would begin tonight with a clean slate, as the Americans liked to say.
He wanted to be the husband his wife, Appollonia, deserved. The father his daughters needed. Their years of being apart were over. His family was leaving Italy to join him in America. The thought of their arrival in New York in nine days filled him with hope. His dream of a good life for his family in a new country was becoming a reality. He had worked for twelve arduous years to fulfill his promise to them, but one more thing had to be done before their arrival.
In the room above the ristorante, Luigi laid next to Isolde. Her body radiated heat, like the embers glowing in the fireplace. He wiped his face with his calloused hands and sat up in the sleigh bed, tracing his finger over the intricate carving etched in the headboard as if it would give him the words he needed to say. Coal dust blackened his nails, though he had washed in the porcelain basin on her dresser. A trace of black powder always remained, no matter how hard he scrubbed. He closed his hand into a fist.
“This is our last night together,” he said, his voice stern and commanding.
The words hung in the air over her bed, where a shadow stretched from the candle’s flame on the nightstand. Isolde opened her eyes. They were dark and vacant like those of the black rat snake that Luigi had seen coiled in back of the woodpile.
“I wish it could be different, but don’t worry. I won’t make any trouble for you.”
When she sat up beside him, the light of the moon beamed through the window behind her. She wrapped the blanket they shared around her shoulders like an open cloak, and her dark, tousled hair framed her solemn face and cascaded across her breasts. She reached up to run her fingers through his hair.
“I’m meeting my family next weekend in New York,” he said in Italian, as if to emphasize they were coming from the old country.
“I know,” she answered, without taking her eyes from his.
The blanket fell from her bare shoulders, and he looked away.
She touched his face and turned it toward her. “Stay with me tonight,”
He had never allowed himself the intimacy of sleeping all night with her or any other woman he had used as a substitute for his wife.
She kissed his neck and then his shoulder. “Don’t go yet,” she whispered. Her beautiful body illuminated by the moonlight mesmerized him, and when she moved her lips from his neck to his chest, he lay back on the soft pillow and closed his eyes.
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Twitter address: twitter.com/csimolke1