Passionate Italians and Hand Gestures

My friends can see me talking from a mile away, even with my back turned. I’m the one with my hands gesticulating in the air, sometimes with elegant precision as I speak on my cell phone, sometimes with wild abandon as I’m ordering a sandwich. That’s because I was raised in an Italian household. Italians are typically expressive, passionate, and animated when communicating with others. It’s a demonstration of engagement and interest. Have you ever seen an Italian converse with his or her hands in their pockets? Never happens.

italiangestures

Italians, young and old, male or female, gesture naturally. Whether they’re busy licking a gelato, smoking a cigarette, or zipping a manual-shift car around a hilltop town, Italians are quite adept at pairing any activity with vivid hand gestures when engaged in conversation. Writing letters must drive most Italians crazy, as expression is limited. I regularly use emoticons when dashing off an email or posting on social media, because sometimes words are just not enough, and it’s the closest I can get to gesturing.  😉

Most people shake hands, but Italians typically grasp the other’s arm at the same time. Eye contact is important to them, and so is close personal contact. In fact, once a relationship is established, even if an acquaintance, a kiss on both cheeks upon greeting is the norm. Public displays of affection among Italians are prevalent, both among couples and families. Sons and daughters are equally apt to hug and kiss their parents as a sign of respect and affection, and strolling arm and arm through Italian towns as an expression of companionship is practiced by neighbors and friends as much as by Italian couples, who typically prefer a lip lock and tight embrace as further acknowledgement of their mutual affinity.

Americans are known to gesture on occasion, such as a flipped bird (raised middle finger) during rush hour traffic, or pressed thumbs and knuckles in the shape of a heart from a mother to her child on the school bus, or the peace sign from a graduate accepting his diploma, among others. But here are a few Italian gestures you may or may not be aware of:

  • To gesture “Come here,” instead of beckoning with an index finger, an Italian sweeps an entire arm downward.
  • That beckoning index finger might signal a romantic enticement in both cultures. But in Italian culture, one might also do the same to signal that he or she wishes to convey something very important to another.
  • Index fingers pressed against the thumbs with a slight waggle of both hands means an exasperated “What do you want from me?”
  • The index finger twisted into the cheek means something is good, lovely, or tasty.
  • Tapping one’s wrist means “Hurry up.”
  • Two open hands stands for “What’s happening here?”
  • Waggling two hands pressed together as if in fervent prayer begs the question, “What do you want me to do about it?”
  • The backside of one’s fingers brushing the chin is a classic blow off, as in “Who gives a flying fig?”
  • My grandfather used to pat his throat, and say “gola, gola,” meaning that he had chocolate candy or decadent cookies to share. And my nana would simply throw her arms wide, demonstrating the need for a grandchild’s hug.

No matter the exuberant gesture, signal, facial or bodily indication, of which there are hundreds, Italians use them to enhance communication in an uninhibited, liberating way. Take it or leave it, we’re just letting you know how passionate we are on a subject.

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Gina Fava Interview AND Obama/Romney Debate

2 things today:

1.  Presidential Debate Tonight

2.  Author Steven M. Moore Interviews Gina Fava

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About the debate…

Click on the American Flag to learn more about How Presidential Debates Work

No matter your political affiliation, tune in tonight for the Presidential Debate between President Barack Obama and Republican Presidential Nominee Mitt Romney at 9pm, because if you vote uninformed, then you have no right to complain!

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About the interview…

Visiting a Winery in Montalcino, Italy (research, I swear!)

The other day, I popped over for an interview with friend and colleague, Steven M. Moore.  You may remember that I interviewed him last week, and I published his interview here.  Well, Steve was kind enough to return the favor.  Here’s the link to Steve’s Blog where he shares with his readers what makes Gina Fava tick, and where you can learn more about his latest works.

Here’s the interview in its entirety:

Interview with thriller author Gina Fava…

 As a special treat today, I offer you an interview with fellow thriller author Gina Fava. A Buffalo, NY native, Gina lives in New England with her husband, Jamie, and their two children. A writer of award-winning short stories, Gina Fava is working to publish two novels, The Race and The Sculptor, both suspense thrillers based in Rome, Italy. She’s currently writing her next thrillers in both series. She travels to Italy often to research first-hand the red wines that her characters imbibe. An active member of MWA, ITW, and SinC, Gina’s a thrill-seeking bridge jumper, a Formula One racing fanatic, and a nut for blogging about skeletal recomposition. You can learn more about Gina at her website. Thank you, Gina.

 

1) Why, how, and when did you start writing?

 

I started writing to entertain myself in grade school. In high school, Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot blew me away, and his Night Shift short stories prompted me to write to entertain family and friends. It wasn’t until I returned from studying abroad in Italy that I sent my short stories and feature articles out to the rest of the world. I think I needed to experience life a bit before I realized that I had novels clamoring to get out too.

 

2) What is your biggest problem with the writing process. How do you tackle it?

 

Characterization. I love my characters from inception, but it takes some development in their infant stages until I grow close enough to them to appreciate their true personalities.

 

3) Do you feel writing is something you need to do or want to do?

 

Both. Being a writer is a part of who I am.

 

4) Have your personal experiences (or situations) influenced you creatively? If so, how?

 

Yes, in one way or another, my personal experiences always infiltrate the pages of whatever I’m writing. But never more so than in my novel, The Sculptor, in which the main character meets her love interest in much the same way that I met my husband, while studying abroad in Italy, only without the serial killer (that we’re aware of).

 

5) How much of your creative ability do you think is innate and how much is learned?

 

I think everyone is born with a kernel of some innate talent. It’s how one chooses to cultivate it that decides whether it will pop or not.

 

6) What is the last book you read? What are you reading now?

 

Blue Covenant, by Maude Barlow was the last book I read, an excellent resource on the water crisis and water rights. I’m reading Preston and Child’s Still Life with Crows right now. I love anything by Preston and Child.

 

7) Whose writing inspires you the most and why?

 

Stephen King. His characters resonate for me. His style is like comfort food for my soul. Dean Koontz’s description is akin to poetry for me. Their fiction makes me strive to be a better writer. And, King’s On Writing, inspires me to figure out how. [Note from Steve: King’s On Writing is recommended for authors of all levels and all genres.]

 

8) Do you have a favorite genre?

 

Thrillers (especially suspense, historical, horror, and sci-fi thrillers).

 

9) Should writers read in their genre? Should they be avid readers?

 

Writers should always be avid readers, and reading outside their genre helps a writer to see life from a different perspective, which will ultimately give their own writing more depth.

 

10) How do you find your plots?

 

Dreams; headlines; twists on history; what-if extrapolations on real life; my husband’s genius spin on something he learned.

 

11) Are your characters based on real people?

 

Many of my characters are inspired by real people. Most represent an amalgam of bizarre and ordinary attributes peppered with gumption.

 

12) How do you name your characters?

 

I’ve always been enamored with interesting names, real and fictional (like Odd Thomas, Val Kilmer, or Benjarvis Green-Ellis.) I keep a journal of international names and unique words and mash them together until they fit a character’s personality and also reveal something about them. [Note from Steve: Odd Thomas is a famous Dean Koontz character; Mr. Kilmer is the actor who played Jim Morrison, among other roles; and Mr. Green-Ellis was a New England Patriots’ player—now with the Cincinnati Bengals.]

 

13) Which comes first, plot or characters?

 

Every story is different. My ideas start with either a unique character with something to say, or a twisted situation that needs resolution. Eventually, both meet up on page one.

 

14) Any comments about writing dialogue?

 

I love writing dialogue; it’s the flesh of every good story. I strive to convey volumes while using as few words as possible. My tendency is to spill my guts, but the lawyer in me is always trying to reign it in. What ends up in a scene is somewhere in the middle.

 

15) How do you handle POV?

 

 

 

Handling POV is just a matter of discipline. It’s like staying in one lane of a 4-lane highway. At times, you want to change lanes or even catch yourself veering into another lane, but you should never do it without signaling first because you’ll crash.

 

16) Do you find background material for (research) your books? If so, how?

 

Research for me involves Googling key terms and finding books, news articles, and blog posts on the relevant subject matter, and more often than not, I’ll learn something more that gives my original idea more bang for its buck.

 

Sometimes interviews are better than any written resource–a chat with an Army Ranger, or a drive-along with a police officer can provide invaluable insights.

 

Also, I return to Italy often (where my books are often based) and visit first-hand the best places to plant a bomb, abduct a victim, or taint wine.

 

Douglas Preston taught me a great lesson at Thrillerfest a couple of years back: Get into your character’s skin before you write the scene. So, I’ve shot the same guns at a shooting range; I’ve skied off the same Alpine cliffs; and I’ve toured the same wineries that my characters have poisoned. Research gives writing that proverbial edge.

 

[Note from Steve: Douglas Preston is part of the thriller writing team of Preston and Child mentioned earlier…an interesting collaboration, to be sure.]

 

17) Do you use an agent?

 

I’m actively seeking one.

 

18) Do you self-publish or traditionally publish?

 

I’m actively pursuing both.

 

19) What are your most effective marketing techniques?

 

Blogging; Twitter; Facebook; GoodReads; attending writer conferences and workshops; active membership in SinC, ITW, and MWA; attending book signings and launches of fellow authors; guest speaking at cultural events; reading excerpts at open mic events; etc.

 

20) Do you release trade paperbacks or eBooks?

 

I’m open to both.

 

21) What do you think of publishing services like Amazon, Smashwords, etc?

 

I’ve actively evaluating all publishing options.

 

22) What is your favorite place to eat-out?

 

Alden Park–excellent martinis and lettuce wraps.

 

23) What is your favorite drink?

 

It’s a tie between a lemon drop shot and Pinot Grigio Santa Margherita. [Note from Steve: I’ll second the Santa Margherita, especially in Boston’s North End or New York’s Little Italy–or in Italy, of course.]

 

24) What other interests do you have besides writing?

 

Traveling, movies, skiing, reading, political news, attending hockey and basketball games, etc.

 

25) What was the last movie you went to see?

 

Magic Mike

 

26) What would I find in your refrigerator right now?

 

Homemade pasta sauce; homemade chicken soup; homemade apple pie; open-faced pickle/Swiss cheese/rye bread sandwiches (just finished re-watching Girl With the Dragon Tattoo).

 

27) If you could trade places with someone for a week, famous or not famous, living or dead, real or fictional, with whom would it be?

 

At the moment, Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge. Her life intrigues me, and she can always chat with the Queen in her robe and slippers.

 

28) What is your favorite (song) and why? Piece of music?

 

“What a Wonderful World,” the Israel Kamakawiwo’ole Hawaiian ukulele version. Because life is too short and far too wondrous not to appreciate it. [Note from Steve: Good advice for us all!]

 

In libris libertas….

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Thank you so much, Steve, for the kind and generous interview. I appreciate your friendship, and, like your readers, I’m a fan of your writing advice as well as your talent. And to all of your readers, it’s great to meet all of you!

Is there a question you would have asked Gina Fava?  Is there a question you’d like to put to either debate candidate this evening?  Let me know!

Revive a Language, Revive A Novel: Lick Your Dialogue with a Foreign Tongue

Does that little voice inside your head ever use a language other than the one you speak everyday?

Ever consider dabbling in a foreign language to enhance the novel you’re writing, as in Diane Johnson’s Le Divorce?

Or creating a sense of mood with dialect, like Mark Twain did in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, or just as Dennis Lehane did in Gone, Baby Gone?

How about making up a foreign tongue, like Vulcan, Romulan, or Klingon in the Star Trek series?

Thought about using slang to add a touch of humor or the right amount of grit to a story, as in Dude, Where’s My Car? or Mario Puzo’s The Godfather?

Maybe you have an urge to go full throttle and write a whole work in a dead language (one that remains in use for specific contexts like science, law, or religion, such as Latin) or an extinct or endangered language (one lacking in speakers or users, such as Aramaic) or a combination of both, ala Mel Gibson’s screenplay for The Passion of the Christ.

Playing with language to flavor your characters and plot might just help your story exude an added level of texture and an authenticity that could distinguish it from other works in your genre.

Both of my novels, The Race, as well as The Sculptor, are based on American characters who reside in Italy.  Often, these characters interact with native Italians, so a fair amount of dialogue is sprinkled with Italian language.   I use it to evoke mood, setting, humor, and/or authenticity, depending on the scene.  Similarly, one of my chapters in The Race recreates the Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster in 1986.  I enhanced character pathos and increased tension in the plot by peppering their dialogue with Russian slang.

In one of my earlier blog posts, A Thriller Audiobook That Hits You Like Bleach, I recommend listening to the audiobook of Ken Follett’s historical thriller, Fall of Giants.  The lilt and cadence of every dialect and accent will practically transport you to Wales, Buffalo, Russia, England and Germany during the First World War.  Hurry, because the second installment in the trilogy, Winter of the World , is due out in September.

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DID YOU KNOW:

Nearly half of the world speaks a Top Ten Language:

  1. Chinese*
  2. Spanish
  3. English
  4. Arabic*
  5. Hindi
  6. Bengali
  7. Portuguese
  8. Russian
  9. Japanese
  10. German

*Includes all forms of the language

UNESCO ranks the world’s languages by degree of usage between generations.  One language dies nearly every 14 days.  Nearly 2,724 languages of the roughly 7,000 languages ever spoken on Earth are now endangered.  Here are just a few:

  • the Aramaic dialects that linger primarily in the Middle East
  • Tuvan, spoken by about 200,000 people in Russia
  • Aka, limited to less than 2,000 people in India
  • Seri, spoken by a mere 700-1000 Mexican natives

For more information on the planet’s endangered languages, check out the article “Vanishing Voices” by Russ Rhymer in the July 2012 issue of National Geographic.

Recently, Google has initiated and funded a project to protect endangered languages.  So has Rosetta Stone, a language-learning software company.  Click on the Google or Rosetta Stone links above, and click The Endangered Languages Project link for more information on what you can do to protect global linguistic diversity.

What do you think of peppering your prose with another language?  Any suggestions or ideas?

Strawberry Fields Forever

Three Sumptuous Offerings this Week:

  1. Strawberry fields:  It’s summer, and there’s tons of juicy, red, plump-from-the-sun berries out there just waiting to be picked.  After you read this post, get out there and eat some!
  2. Strawberry Fields:  There’s a living monument right in Central Park dedicated to John Lennon.  I’m in NYC this week for Thrillerfest, and, being the HUGE Beatles fan that I am, I plan to visit the monument.  Hope to see you there.  If you can’t make it this week, here’s the link for Strawberry Fields, so you can check it out next time.
  3. Visit my website, and check out the Short Stories page to enjoy a juicy story of some tart who always ends up “In A Jam”.  It’s an interesting study in inanimate POV–c’mon, who says it can’t be done 😉

Any strawberry recipes to share?  Any fellow Beatles fans out there?

Welcoming Connection

Writers seek to relate to readers with every piece of writing that we create.  We also associate with other writers for camaraderie, information, and empathy.  We crave connection, the essence of community.

Today, I invite you to connect with me.

Welcome, officially.

The purpose of this blog is all about skeletal recomposition:  I add flesh to bare bone.  That is, as a thriller  writer, I regularly post information and then categorize it according to some of the typical elements of a thriller novel.  Let me flesh out the categories for you:

  • HEART (Characters):  Brings the Story to Life
  • SPINE (Plot/Scenes/Structure):  What Holds the Story Together and Moves It Along
  • SKULL (Style/Voice/Theme):  Getting Inside the Reader’s Head
  • FEMURS (Setting/Description):  Legs to Stand On
  • BLOOD (Spattered Information):  Miscellaneous Posts
  • SKELETAL REMAINS…OF THE DAY:  Book and Movie Reviews

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A little bit about Gina Fava, and why I leap at every connection:

Born 20 minutes from the Peace Bridge that connects Canada with Buffalo, NY, and residing somewhere between the Boston Zakim and the Cape Cod Sagamore, I attribute my writing philosophy to taking the plunge at every opportunity.

At 9, I stood with my dad on the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, Italy.  He pointed to a rainbow and told me to “dream farther than the end of it”. I took the leap and filled three journals about it.  I’ve never stopped writing, or dreaming.

Later, the young man who’d rescued me from a bomb threat to our university in Rome asked me to marry him under the Bridge of Sighs after braving Venice’s Grand Canal, inspiring my suspense-driven novels and short stories, and many thrilling years of marriage.

My bios at Twitter (@ginafava) and Facebook both read:  Gina Fava, Writer of cliffhangers.  Bridge jumper.  Now you know why. I hope you’ll connect with me there, too.

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THE RACE

Connecting with Readers

I’ve recently embarked on a journey toward the publication of my two novels.

The first is a thriller, entitled THE RACE, about car-racing covert agent Devlin Luccesi, who must save Rome from annihilation and rescue his young son from an elusive international criminal and his race of followers.

THE SCULPTOR

The second novel, entitled THE SCULPTOR, is a suspense novel in which Mara Silvestri is the only woman who can stop the Sculptor from murdering Rome’s female grad students, and the one woman he truly covets for his collection.

Please take a few minutes to explore my website at www.GinaFava.com.  I hope you’ll find something that grabs you, perhaps a novel synopsis, or one of the many photos that inspired my novels, maybe a short story, or a link to another great resource that resonates with you.

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Connecting with Writers

Please take note of my blogroll.  Each one represents a part of my community, and they all truly mean a lot to me, personally and professionally.

A) Initiation Blogs

These blogs initiated me into the industry.  I still turn to them when I need succinct, sometimes brutal, always honest, never shy advice about writing and publishing.

B)  Life Support

I’ve come to rely on these blogs for great lessons in craft, or just plain old positive energy.

C)  Colleagues-in-Arms

The people who write these blogs are those authors who’ve gone above and beyond the call.  They’ve been there to kick me into gear or pat me on the back, with a post, a message, a tweet, a coffee, or a phone call, when I truly needed it.

To all of the writers listed above, I am truly grateful.  Also, not a day goes by that I’m not pleasantly surprised by a newly discovered blog, one that tickles my phalanges or inspires murderous thoughts (in a good way, I’m a thriller writer!), so be sure to check back for new ones that might pop up on my blogroll in the future.  It might just be yours.

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Coming Soon

Getting back to skeletal recomposition, consider these juicy bones to chew on in future posts:

  • Chernobyl, 25 years later
  • F1 Racing in America, professional and amateur tracks
  • Household weaponry
  • Using international slang to spice up dialogue
  • Fava bean recipes
  • Italian museums, churches, and artwork that are often overlooked
  • Reviews of great thrillers, that just might be yours
  • And many more…

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Thank you for reading this blog.  I invite you to link up with me, and the rest of the writing community, at our usual haunts.  We’d love to connect with you.  Do you have a favorite blog you’d like to recommend?