Authors John & Nancy Petralia | Between The Covers…
This week on Between the Covers, we feature the married writing team of John and Nancy Petralia.
The couple has penned two books with a third one on the way. They include: Not in a Tuscan Villa, Looking for Garibaldi, and they are working on The Forged Caravaggio now.
John and Nancy did not set out to become authors but decided to take a chance at writing a book to appease friends and family who were enthralled by their travel stories.
“In 2009 and 2010, we lived in Italy. When we returned home to NJ, our friends had so many questions, we wrote a book.”
These world-travelers are self-described “Adventuresome seniors unwilling to go gentle into that good night. We like doing things that make us feel uncomfortable. It keeps us young and satisfies our curiosity.”
The writing duo shared the sense of culture from their upbringings and how it shaped them into the people they are today.
“Born on Broad Street, not far from where the Phillies, Eagles, Flyers, and Sixers ply their trades, a graduate of three local schools, it’s hard to imagine anyone more Philadelphian than John.
Nonetheless, during the ‘40s and ‘50s, if you asked him or his buddies ‘What’s your nationality,’ to a man they would say, ‘We’re Italians.’ A badge of honor, they knew Italian was the way they could distinguish themselves from other ethnic groups that surrounded their little world, their little Italy, known to them simply as South Philly. Filled with immigrants from Naples, Sicily and Calabria, they grew up eating the best Italian food, listening to the best music sung by the likes of Como, Bennett, Sinatra, and Deano; rooting for great athletes like Graziano, Marciano and DiMaggio; going to the same schools with other South Philly Italians, Frankie Avalon, Jimmy Darren, Buddy Greco, Bobby Rydell and Mario Lanza.
While growing up Italian, few if any of those kids ever aspired to visit Italy let alone having the chance to live there for a year. And then write a book about it.
Nancy grew up in the hills of Pittsburgh and kept moving east until she landed in Philadelphia. But she will always be a Steelers fan. Most of her life there’s been a dog to keep her company and make her smile.
She thinks she was interested in too many things never getting really good at any of them. But singing and making art were two of her favorites. People say she’s a really good dancer. And she’s always loved books.”
John and Nancy note that learning the craft of writing has almost hurt their ability to escape into other people’s stories. When you are an expert in the craft of storytelling, it is evident when other writers do not use proper techniques. Mechanics and research are integral to good storytelling. “It’s made us more conscious of how others write. When we read books or watch movies, instead of getting lost in the story, we look for structure; this does not always add to our enjoyment.”
I cannot imagine trying to write a book with someone else – never mind my spouse! I wondered how these two authors have managed their successful collaborations over the years.
“Our styles are different, so we write alternate chapters. John looks for ways to connect our travel experience to either history, culture, or socio-economics. It’s at the connections where one often finds nuggets of irony that can make the story more poignant, more meaningful. In their journeys, Nancy serves as John’s Sancho Panza, frequently rescuing him from difficulties. Hers is the more descriptive style covering the places they visit, museums, art, music, and people they encounter.”
Writing can be therapeutic. The Petralias describe some personal events that occur in their first book. I asked them why they felt the need to write about their time living in Italy and what transpired there.
“We are ordinary folks doing what seems to some to be extraordinary things. We want others to know they can as well. Because we were able to spend such a lengthy time abroad, our observations and experiences are different from what one would have on a vacation. We believe it’s useful, and fun, to learn the good, the bad, and the hilarious of what living in a foreign language is all about.”
Not in a Tuscan Villa has great reviews and hit #1 in the paid Amazon store.
These two authors are retired but they have not stopped working!
“We are retired but do volunteer work. John is very involved with the Italian Cultural Society of Naples and Nancy is president of the Friends of the Fort Myers Library. Both of these commitments take a large time commitment, so making time to write is always a challenge.”
John and Nancy offer some advice for anyone considering writing their own story down.
“Just do it. We had no idea how to start but joined a library writers’ group where we birthed Not in a Tuscan Villa. When we wrote Looking for Garibaldi we were living in Fort Myers. There wasn’t a group at the library, so we started one. “
To learn more about this dynamic writing duo, please check the links below!