Today, I am super excited to welcome author Francesca Scottoline Serritella to the blog! I had the privilege of seeing Francesca and her mom, author Lisa Scottoline, talk at Barnes and Noble last month about their new book MY NEST ISN’T EMPTY, IT JUST HAS MORE CLOSET SPACE.
Interestingly enough, my very own mom got me hooked on these two lovely ladies. Lisa writes a column in the Philadelphia Inquirer called Chick Wit that my mom frequently clips and leaves on my desk with a note saying “Read this!” Francesca often contributes to the column, as well. Now, they have written this book together.
Onto the interview…
You and your mom have written two books together. What is that experience like?
Working with my mom is fun! And I am so grateful for the experience. I get to collaborate with someone I love and respect, but we make sure to give each other space during the writing process. I live in New York now, so I write my columns and portions of our books in my own place, on my own time. We bounce ideas off each other, but I resist the urge to have my mom edit my writing””my thinking is, you can always find a critic, but you only get one mother! So I protect that role for her, and she does a great job of giving me room to develop as a writer and find my own voice.
I so enjoy reading the column and hearing you and your mom speak together last month was hilarious. You two feed off of each other and remind me so much of the way my mom and I interact with each other. Have you two always been so close?
My mother and I have always been close. I’m an only child, and since my parents divorced when I was a baby, it’s just been the two of us. When I was in high school, our family was going through a difficult time with my then-stepfather, so I wasn’t that interested in rocking the boat with teenage rebellion. My relationship with my mom has always been a source of stability and strength for me. This is not to say we never fight””we bicker all the time! But all of our fights are little and stupid, and they usually end with us busting out laughing.
Growing up, you must have always seen your mother writing. Have you always wanted to be a writer and do you think she had any influence on that decision?
I was about eight or nine years old when my mother’s first book, Everywhere That Mary Went, and I watched her career build from there. But the best was being able to see her write the book before that one that never got published. I saw her work on this first novel for years, try desperately to get it published, fail, and””this is the coup de grace“”I saw her sit down and write another. I was a little passenger on that rollercoaster ride, and I think it was the greatest privilege of all to watch her struggle and persevere. It showed me that failure is an event, not a definition. The knowledge that it’s okay to fail is freeing. I think it’s coincidence (or genetics) that I share my mother’s passion for writing, that I have the courage to try is all her.
What are you working on now? Can we expect to see a book written just by you in the near future?
I am working on a novel of my own, but I’m still in the thick of a first draft””so I’m a little shy talking about it for now. I feel so vulnerable in first draft mode! But it’s very different from NEST and very different from my mom’s fiction. Hopefully one day it will see a shelf!
Where do you get ideas for your writing?
That’s a hard question to answer. I know that I feel most inspired by people, even just being around them, listening to the bustle and chatter of a crowded cafÃ© or subway car. The idea of a writer’s retreat in some remote setting is romantic, but I don’t identify with it. I love being a writer in the city””all those people, with their histories, their fears and dreams, all crammed into one place””the air is thick with stories. Ideas are the easy part, the work of writing is hard.
Who are some of your favorite authors?
I have so many. I read lots of different genres of writing, and I learn from so many different authors. Graham Greene is one of the authors I admire most. His prose style is simple and almost sparse, but it packs a punch””he conveys so much emotion and so much control with slight of hand. Mark Doty is a wonderful poet and memoirist””his language is beautiful, lyrical, but entirely unpretentious, I love him. David Baldacci is a master class of plot and pacing””when I’m finished tearing through the pages, I try to go back and see how he made it move so swiftly. Of course my favorite of all is my mom 😉
What one piece of advice would you pass on to aspiring authors?
My mother’s mantra is: “Get it down, then get it good.” James Thurber said something similar, I think it was, “Don’t get it right, get it written,” and Anne Lamott in her awesome book, Bird by Bird, said, “Give yourself permission to write a shitty first draft.” It’s the best message for writers, because we judge ourselves so harshly, we get in our own way! Editing exists for a reason, the first step is just getting it on the page.
Thanks so much Francesca. Awesome advice and excited to learn more about your novel as you get closer to finishing! Stay tuned tomorrow for my review of Francesca and Lisa’s latest book MY NEST ISN’T EMPTY, IT JUST HAS MORE CLOSET SPACE.*