October 16, 2012
Interview with Olga Vannucci
Today I will be interviewing Olga Vannucci, an author I met on Book Blogs. Olga Vannucci was born in Italy, lived in Brazil, and came to the U.S. to attend Brown University. She lives in rural New Jersey with her beloved son, George. She is the author of Travels With George. Let’s start the interview.
Christine: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Olga: When my American son was seven years old, I realized suddenly that I hadn’t been back to my native Italy in ten years, so I went, and took him along. Then I went four more times, and I wrote a book about those trips – a mix of travelogue, personal history, and little anecdotes – in Travels With George.
Christine: What prompted you to write about your experiences in Italy?
Olga: What possessed me? I am a very shy and private person, and I have no idea what possessed me! I think I felt that what I had to say was a little bit different in that I’m both an Italian native and a tourist. What I find interesting is that my friends who have read the book say it sounds just like me. It’s written in the present tense, so it feels like you are along and I’m talking to you.
Christine: What did you find valuable in the experience of writing a memoir?
Olga: One was finding out more about myself. There’s nothing like having to express a thought to help crystallize it! The other is hearing from others about the things that spoke to them in the book, and they range from the more profound to the totally mundane situations. Women will focus on the mothering aspects of the book, dealing with my son. Men enjoy my description of how Italians give directions: they start from a place you’ve never heard of, proceed vaguely, and stop well before your destination. Apparently that’s happened to others…
Christine: How long have you been a writer?
Olga: For about 20 minutes. It feels that way. I’m still getting used to considering myself a writer because this is my first book. I love when people tell me they can relate to something I wrote about, and then I feel like a writer.
Christine: Are you solely a writer or do you have multiple occupations?
Olga: I have a full-time job that involves numbers rather than words. I’m divorced and I write on Sunday afternoons when my son is with his father. I have carved out that time. Having said that, I go through phases: sometimes I write manically and sometimes I set the writing aside for a while until I’m excited to go back to it. It seems to work as a method, at least for me.
Olga: I am not a planner at all, things just evolve in my head. That’s how I conduct my life and how I write. With this book, I let it evolve, and then I wrapped it all together around my values, with each of the five trips representing a value, and also at the end I bring back some of the thoughts from the beginning. I tried to really write what was in my head rather than packaging it too neatly.
Christine: What marketing techniques do you use to promote yourself as a writer and your writing?
Olga: Early on, I had an opportunity to read from my book at a gathering of 150 women through an organization called “New Act Women in New Jersey.” If you are as shy as I am, I would not necessarily recommend this large an event. I was extremely nervous, but it went really well. Once I realized it was working – that the audience was listening and responding – I relaxed. I sold a bunch of books right there, and it was a great way to put myself out there and to get an instant response. I realized that my book had appeal, which, as a first-time author, I didn’t know until that point.
Christine: Are you traditionally published or self-published? Why did you choose that path?
Olga: I went with self-publishing because I didn’t have the patience to pursue other publishers. What I like about self-publishing is that it’s all mine – I created the book cover, I chose the font, I am doing all my own promotion – and it’s been incredibly fun and very rewarding. Overall, I’ve been amazed by the options and opportunities – there are so many different ways you can go – and also by all the positive responses and encouragement. It’s a very positive experience.
Christine: What do you like to read?
Olga: I love to read travel memoirs and books about exotic places. I am inspired and awed by writers who put themselves out there, who are able to observe and interpret very different situations, and who can be funny too. Two books I have loved recently are Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller about growing up in Africa, and Running Away to Home by Jennifer Wilson about Croatia.
Christine: Where can we find you and your book?
Olga: I have a small site at www.olgavannucci.com and a Facebook page that I update fairly regularly with pretty pictures of Italy that can be reached via www.travelswithgeorge.com. My book is available on Amazon in both the printed and Kindle versions at www.amazon.com/author/olgavannucci.
Thanks so much for joining us here today, Olga. I wish you continued success with your book.