To Italy, With Love was one of my favourite romance novels for the year. There’s so much to make you smile, from the dazzling Italian setting and plethora of food to the charming characters and the subplot to rejuvenate a dying town. Readers will fall in love with hardworking and loyal, Sarah-Jane, who plans a trip around Italy to mend her broken heart. Unlike Sarah-Jane, local lady, Assunta, has her feet and her family firmly rooted in the small village of Montenello. At least she thinks so… I liked how these two sharply contrasting characters forged a firm friendship. Nicky’s descriptions made me feel like I was walking on the cobblestone streets, inhaling the aromas in the rustic kitchen, and warmly nestled in the heart of the community. Perfect for armchair travelling, and regular readers will delight in the appearance of familiar faces from previous stories.
It was no surprise to discover New Zealand-based author, Nicky Pellegrino, has travelled to Italy on multiple occasions to research her novels and visit family. A freelance journalist by day, and former magazine editor, Nicky says she is ‘obsessed with food – shopping for it, cooking it, eating it’ an interest that certainly shines through in her writing. When she’s not writing, she can be found riding her white horse, Uno. To Italy, With Love is out now with Hachette publishing.
Short and sweet questions
Current book on your bedside table:
Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty
Where do you do most of your writing?
In a studio out in my garden; it’s full of books and is painted Cape Cod blue
Favourite Australian holiday destination:
I’d love to go back to Margaret River – it has amazing food and wine, landscapes and beaches – all my favourite things.
What’s your preferred drop?
I like all the wines in all the colours
I suppose chocolate – I eat it almost every day although I don’t feel particularly guilty about that.
Mess and clutter….I’m not obsessively tidy but I feel slightly hysterical if my husband’s shoes are all over the bedroom floor and dirty dishes are piled high…and my husband’s shoes are always all over the bedroom floor.
Favourite fictional couple and why?
Mr Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet from Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice but doesn’t everyone say that?
If you could pack two non-essential items for a deserted tropical island, what would they be?
Wine and buffalo mozzarella cheese.
Name an emerging author to keep an eye out for:
Katherine Heiny. I’ve loved both her novels but especially the second one Early Morning Riser – it’s a very quirky romance.
Book you’re most looking forward to reading in 2021?
What I’d really like is a new novel by Diane Setterfield…her book The Thirteenth Tale is one of my all-time favourites. I may have to wait a while though as she doesn’t release a new one very often.
Best thing about being a writer?
Hearing from readers who have loved the books – especially when my stories have helped them escape for a bit during rough times in their lives.
Worst thing about being a writer?
Having to wake up at 4am to start writing because the deadline is getting close and there’s still so much to do.
Do you prefer music, podcasts or silence when writing?
What song/channel/podcast do you have on high rotation? Silence although with some books music has been important – I listened to a lot of tango music over the period when I was writing my novel One Summer In Venice because the main character learns to dance tango (I also took a lesson and I was terrible at it sadly).
My favourite perfume is the smell of my horse’s neck – it’s like honey mixed with hay, leather and dust
Film crush: I’ve always loved Keanu Reeves. Some day we’ll be together.
The best non-writing related prize I won was…
once I won a bunch of flowers every month for a year. I was told I could gift the prize to someone else if I wanted. Yeah nah. It was lovely getting those flowers.
Top three tips for aspiring authors?
Having the idea is the easy part; it’s the pushing on with writing even when things get tough that it is hard, but even if you write 200 words a day you’ll get there in the end. For romance/contemporary women’s fiction it’s really important that readers like your main character – preferably they’ll want to be her friend. Always back up your work in at least two places.
What theme do you hope shines through in your writing?
I write love stories but often I think it’s the female friendships in them that are the most important things. During lockdowns more than ever I’ve realised the power of friendship and I hope that comes through in my stories.
Proudest author moment?
Being told by a woman I met at an event that she’d never read a book in her life until she came across one of mine and now reading was her passion – I loved being a gateway drug to fiction.
My favourite thing about writing romance is ….
I like writing happy stories that people can escape into – and what is happier than love?
If anyone gives me flack about writing romance, I tell them…
I’ve got no time for book snobbery and I think writing good romance is just as tricky as producing any other sort of fiction, so that’s probably what I’d say.
Three fun facts about the author:
- I can touch my nose with my tongue
- My real name is Domenica Pellegrino – it translates to Sunday Pilgrim
- I’m 185cm tall….I think that officially makes me a giantess.
Find Nicky online:
Maya Linnell is the bestselling rural romance author of Wildflower Ridge, Bottlebrush Creek, Magpie’s Bend and Paperbark Hill (out June 2022 with Allen & Unwin). With a background in country journalism and radio, Maya also hosts the monthly online event Library Lovers for OverDrive and the Libby app, blogs for Romance Writers Australia and regularly interviews authors from across the globe, both online and in person.
Maya lives on a small property in country Victoria with her family, her menagerie of farm animals and the odd snake or two. When she’s not writing or reading, Maya loves baking up a storm, tending to her rambling garden and raising three young bookworms. Follow her on Instagram and Facebook, or sign up to her monthly newsletter for behind-the-scenes news and regular book giveaways at mayalinnell.com