Interview with Author Ivanka Di Felice

My guest today is Ivanka Di Felice.  Hello, Ivanka!  Welcome back to Writing in the Modern Age!  It’s such a pleasure to have you here. 

Can you tell us a little bit about your latest book? When did it come out? Where can we get it?

My book is entitled A Zany Slice of Italy. This light, lively book takes place in Italy, with hilarious anecdotes about the author and her husband’s trip to visit his family in Abruzzo and finally their escape to Tuscany. It’s a rural relocation similar to Peter Mayle's A Year in Provence, but with zany family members adding a "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" touch. 

I published it in April of 2014. It is available on Amazon and some bookshops in Italy.  

Is there anything that prompted your latest book?  Something that inspired you?

After writing many emails updating family and friends on our wacky adventures here in Italy, I received a lot of encouragement to put them into book form. The final impetus was when I recanted my stories to Italians here– and when they too would burst out laughing, then I realized I had a different story to write about Italy that I hoped many would enjoy.

Great! So, when did you know you wanted to write?  Or has it always been a pastime of yours?  

I have enjoyed writing short stories from a young age. Humor has always been my specialty so I would often write funny anecdotes, etc. about people’s lives and then read them at their going away parties or anniversaries etc.  

Do you have any favorite authors?

Bill Bryson and Nora Ephron. 

Do you write in a specific place? Time of day? 

I always write sitting down on my couch in the living room. I get my second cup of coffee (cannot write until the first one has taken effect) and then write until about 11 a.m. Since I live in Italy and am now a proficient casalinga – I then start preparing lunch. My husband and I enjoy a full sit down lunch each day, then I take a heavenly pausa, and resume writing after my walk—which almost always proves inspirational as I often run into the locals with the latest village gossip.  

That's great! 

Are there any words you'd like to impart to fellow writers? Any advice? 

Find your style and stick with it so that writing is enjoyable. And while not everyone will appreciate your book, at least you are spending precious time doing what you enjoy, and there will also be many that do appreciate it. While I do not relish getting bad reviews, I always remember the story about the Man, the Boy and the Donkey – no matter what you write, you cannot please everyone! 

I also think it is extremely important to invest in a good editor—one whose style matches yours. I sent out my story “Stranieri Giusti” (The Right Type of Foreigners) to five editors and asked for a sample edit. The story came back essentially the same, but the editor I chose had a style that just merged with mine. She had a perfect balance of fixing grammatical errors and tweaking while letting what she calls my “unique humorous voice” still come through. 

She sounds like an awesome fit. Thank you for stopping by to visit us today, Ivanka!  :)
Readers, here is the blurb for A Zany Slice of Italy.

This light, lively book takes place in Italy, with hilarious anecdotes about the author and her husband’s trip to visit his family in Abruzzo and finally their escape to Tuscany. 

Her own expectations were shattered when she embarked on la dolce vita. what she envisioned as drinking unforgettable Brunello by candlelight and discussing art and history with elegant dinner guests. Instead, dinner discussions revolved around how to avoid a “bad wind,” whether the Mafia runs IKEA, and bizarre theories on why the Chinese in Italy never have funerals. Now she drinks her own “unforgettable,” almost undrinkable, wine, as he pays long-winded tributes to the vile liquid as if it were an elixir of the gods. Celebrate with our author—for mere mortals, or their livers, could not have lived to tell the tale.

Ivanka thought her hair would suddenly become long and thick and her bust size would miraculously increase. She would be dressed by Dolce and Gabbana. Yet instead of wearing four-inch spike heels with a flowing linen skirt, she actually became less fashionable in Italy and could model “forty is the new sixty” with her newly adopted casalinga look. 

So pour yourself a glass of bad Italian wine, add a dose of accordion music, and spend some time in Ivanka Di Felice’s Italy. 
Here is an excerpt from the book.

As we drive down the winding mountain road, I see the national military police up ahead, signaling us to stop.

David hits the brakes of the ancient BMW 320. The sudden jolt sets off a round of clucking from the chickens in the backseat. The bamboo stalks roped to the car’s roof slide forward but don’t fall off.

Documenti,” orders the carabiniere with a sinister glare.

David reaches for the insurance papers in the glove compartment and hands them to the officer, who carefully examines them.

“Driver’s license,” the carabiniere says, leaning down to peer inside the car. The odors of chicken poop and pecorino cheese waft through the window. Just then, one of our chickens starts squawking. The officer does a double take.

David is pretty sure he left his wallet back in Tuscany, but to stall for time, he says, “I think it’s in the trunk. Can I check?”

The officer nods, and David exits the car.

Americano?” asks the carabiniere, a puzzled look on his face. With our gypsy mode of travel, I can see that we are destroying all of the stereotypes he believes about North Americans.

“Canadian,” says David and asks the officer whether he speaks English.

“Not really,” says the carabiniere, but he further explains how he speaks English like Alberto Sordi, who was the dubbed voice of Oliver Hardy in the Italian version of the Laurel & Hardy films.

David doesn’t know who Alberto Sordi is, but figures his best bet is to smile and assure the carabiniere that his English is very good.

“Thanks,” the officer replies.

They walk toward the back of the car. David opens the trunk, and the officer laughs heartily to see its contents: more pecorino cheese, olive oil, numerous bags of pasta, several frozen chickens, and enough tomato sauce to last a year.

Perhaps the carabiniere realizes it may take ages for David to search through the trunk, or maybe he is simply pleased to hear that his English is good. At any rate, he unexpectedly tells David, “Don’t worry about it. Have a nice day.”

Thrilled, David hops back into the car and drives off, waving to the officer as he passes.

When we arrive home, we find David’s wallet sitting on the desk. We receive more good news as we check our e-mail and learn that Kids Summer Camp did not fill enough spaces; hence, we won’t have to go back to teach the “little darlings.”

We put the chickens into their new home and name them Barbara and Roberta, after two sisters we have become close to here.

I glance around at the chickens, the bamboo, and the old farmhouse and reflect on our life in Tuscany. My friends think we spend one lazy day after another basking in the sun, drinking wine, and living la dolce vita. I try not to disillusion them. I had the same fantasies before I left Canada. Yet despite my reality—the chaotic, relentless visits from fun-loving paesani and relatives; dealing with Italy’s Byzantine bureaucracies; the difficulty earning a living—I realize my life here is much richer than I ever could have imagined.

And now I recall that fateful peach-colored coat of long ago, which led me to my destiny.

Author Bio

Ivanka Di Felice is a writer living in Tuscany. She will assure you that it's far less pretentious than it sounds. She was born in Toronto, Canada. She is 39 years and 94 months old. In her quest for happiness, she followed Nora Ephron’s advice: “Secret to life, marry an Italian.” She loves writing humorous stories and enjoys reading.

Author Links:   

What people are saying about Ivanka's A Zany Slice of Italy:

"Although the author was initially drawn to Italy for its art, architecture, and Vogue, often described in other books, it is evident that still lifes and stilettos do not hold this author’s attention as much as living people do.

The author’s open, sympathetic viewpoint captures the characters' quirky charm and the local color. Although you certainly wouldn’t call this a philosophical book, how the author observes and deals with individuals and situations in her life shows that she follows her own philosophy, one that is worth looking into. If we could regard the most sinister carabinieri and the most self-important consulate employee with sympathetic amusement and not anger, that would be an accomplishment worth imitating. The author can laugh at her own expense, a rare quality. Her attitude and wit can turn even adversity into an almost tolerable and redeeming experience. Although the author is not so naïve as to think that all Italians’ lives flow as smoothly as their olive oil, she has not met anyone in Italy who is bitterly disappointed with life."

Ivanka's Book:

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