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L is for Literary Fiction #AtoZChallenge

by Donna Huber For the A to Z Challenge, I'm discussing different book genres/categories. Each day, I will give a few details about the...

November 6, 2013

Maria Grazia Swan: A Great American Novel Italian Style

I always wanted to be a writer and the dream of writing a great novel lived in my subconscious from the time I read my first book. That was in Italy and I was ten.

My family moved to Belgium. There I read my first book in French. I wrote short stories, even managed to win an award, but I was young and language-challenged. No novel yet.

Time flies and one day you’re sitting in your empty nest in front of a computer, and you say to yourself, “This is it, the perfect time, the perfect place.” For me, that epiphany came after I moved to the United States. I was suddenly consumed by the need to write the Great American Novel. The fact I wasn’t American and grew up in a different continent was a small bump in the road.

And so it began. Soon I realized the English language wasn’t my biggest problem. Heck, when in doubt you can ask your friends or consult an Italian/English Dictionary. You can even go to Google for translation. I said translation, not necessarily interpretation. But again, just a small bump in the road to fame and fortune. Right?

Italian Summer
A fiction writer can conjure text out of thin air, but common American cultural references, daily routines local people take for granted, don’t come easily to someone who grew up in small European towns. There were no school busses or afternoon classes. We went home at one o’clock with several hours of homework, which we had to complete because the teachers actually checked it. Never even heard of football or proms. No idea what a corsage was. Few households had phones or TVs and for transportation we used bicycles. Anyone dating before the age of sixteen was considered a bad kid, although parents, friends and neighbors used other colorful words and the occasional flying shoe to drive home the concept.

Buy Italian Summer at Amazon

Religion ruled our lives. By religion I mean Catholicism, which was the only game in town. The only non Caucasian people I’d seen were in magazines or in the slide shows the Catholic missionaries used to solicit donations.

I could go on, but I’m sure you can see how my Great American Novel was shaping up to be not American and not so great. In my vernacular, Americanisms and cultural references were all but nonexistent. I learned to compromise. My main character, always Italian-born, uses her background to tell her story and brings her experiences to life, in English. So this version of the American Novel will come to you by way of a European import. And that brings us here, now.

Italian Summer, the third book in the Mina’s adventures series went live this week. All books are special to authors, they are like family, but to me this one is a little more so because I actually went back home and tried to see my hometown with clean eyes instead of through my memories. I was there at the end of June. Most of the book was already written so when I decided to go take a picture of my old house, the three story one that my grandfather built, I was stunned. A twilight zone moment. You see, in the book I said something about the old yellow walls having being repainted in a peachy color. Well, my hands shook when I touched the screen of my phone that doesn’t work in Europe but still takes great pictures. My old house was peachy color, and believe me when I tell you I have no idea who the new owners are. My sisters always take care of business. I still get misty when I think about it. So, you may not get the great American novel from me yet but you get a suspenseful, romantic tale with passionate Italian flavor. Ciao

~About the Author~

Maria Grazia Swan was born in Italy, but this rolling stone has definitely gathered no moss. She lived in Belgium, France, Germany, in beautiful Orange County, California where she raised her family, and is currently at home in Phoenix, Arizona—but stay tuned for weekly updates of Where in the World is Maria Grazia Swan?
As a young girl, her vivid imagination predestined her to be a writer. She won her first literary award at the age of fourteen while living returned to Italy to design for—ooh-la-la—haute couture. Once in the U.S. and after years of concentrating on family, she tackled real estate. These days her time is devoted to her deepest passions: writing and helping people find happiness.
Maria loves travel, opera, good books, hiking, and intelligent movies (if she can find one, that is). When asked about her idea of a perfect evening, she favors stimulating conversation, tasty Italian food and perfectly chilled Prosecco—but then, who doesn’t?
Maria has written short stories for anthologies, articles for high profile magazines and numerous blogs tackling love and life. She engaged her editorial and non-fiction skills for Mating Dance-Rituals for Singles Who Weren’t Born Yesterday. Her romantic suspense novels Love Thy Sister and Bosom Bodies are available at
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  1. Donna, thank you so much for having me. What a great job you did, makes me feel..important! Grazie mille.