Family histories can provide us with amusement or horror, shame or pride
In my current release, A Dish Best Served Cold, the main character Victoria Rienzi hears a family story from her grandmother about a great-uncle who supposedly died back in Italy. The story piques Vic’s curiosity, and after some digging in library archives and on ancestry websites, she makes a significant discovery about her long-dead great uncle, and one that may be tied to a recent murder in her home town.
While prepping in the kitchen at the Casa Lido, the Rienzi family restaurant, Vic, who is herself a writer, questions her grandmother about her great-uncle Roberto:
Nonna resumed her story. “Pietro’s older brother Alfonso was also close to your grandpa’s fratello, your great uncle, Zio Roberto. But such troublemakers, those two.” She shook her head again. “Got in with criminals. Your grandfather’s family never talked about Roberto.”
I put the basil away and gave my grandmother my full attention. A long-lost great uncle who “got in with criminals” and was a forbidden subject on the Rienzi family? This was rich material for my novel…
We all have family lore, stories that we tell and re-tell about our assorted relatives, some of which are more colorful (and more unbelievable) than fiction. The stories in my family, from both my mom’s and dad’s sides, often provide inspiration for me as I spin my mystery plots, as they did for Victoria. For example, my dad had an uncle he never knew, his father’s younger brother who, sadly, drowned as a teenager. That story was working on me as I began A Dish Best Served Cold. I asked myself a question: What if Dad’s uncle hadn’t drowned, but instead disappeared? And so my plot was off and running.
One story I haven’t used, but would love to someday, was inspired my Great Aunt Lena, a Rosie the Riveter gal who worked in a factory during World War II. She got her long reddish hair caught in a machine, and ended up having to cut it off. She also met and married a co-worker, a German national with a thick accent and two children by a previous marriage. As you can imagine, my traditional Italian family was not pleased.
Then there’s my uncle who once stole a horse and rode it through the local golf course, much to the amazement of those playing on the green. The name of the course: Galloping Hill. I kid you not. There’s also a distant female cousin who owned a gay bar in Manhattan—in the 1950s! (My young newlywed parents stopped there on their honeymoon, but thought it prudent not to tell their parents.)
Our family histories can provide us with amusement or horror, shame or pride. And sometimes, they find their way into fiction. And what about you, readers? Do you have family tales that are the stuff of fiction?
About A Dish Best Served ColdTitle: A Dish Best Served Cold
Series: An Italian Kitchen Mystery #3
Author: Rosie Genova
Publisher: NAL, Penguin
Publication date: August 4th 2015
Target Audience: Adult
Genres: Cozy Mystery
Length: 336 Pages
Find It: Goodreads
Buy It: Amazon|B&N|Book Depository
The national bestselling author of The Wedding Soup Murder returns to the Jersey Shore where a killer is stirring up trouble during a hurricane…
At the Casa Lido, the end of summer means a party, and hit whodunit writer Victoria “Vic” Rienzi and her family are cooking like crazy for the restaurant’s seventieth anniversary celebration. As they chop onions and garlic, old family friend Pete Petrocelli stops by, saying he knows something that would make for a good mystery novel. Curious, Vic asks Nonna to elaborate on Pete’s claim and learns of a relative who mysteriously disappeared back in Italy…
The night of the party brings a crowd—and a full throttle hurricane. When the storm finally passes, everyone thinks they’re in the clear—until the first casualty is found, and it’s Pete. Remembering his visit, Vic isn’t certain Pete’s death was an accident and decides to dig deeper into his story. What she finds is meatier than Nonna’s sauce…
Gift Package including signed copies of all 3 books in the series, swag and a $25 Target Gift Card.