Your story sounds like a movie or a book. You should write one. The gazzillionth time I heard those words when first meeting someone was when I decided to take that advice. So began a nine year passage to learning and self-discovery; almost a decade dedicated to writing a story inspired by a chance encounter with a Venetian gondolier that brought me to leave my life in the U.S.A. and make Venice, Italy, home.
Yet in my developing writer’s mind, it wasn’t a memoir nor a simple love story that I wanted to write. So, I used the knowledge I had gained through my inability to speak Italian—a deficit that for years forced me to listen, and observe my surroundings like a child. I used privilege, too. My life choices had made me an insider to the gondolier trade, a world where few locals, let alone foreigners, are permitted. My enchantment with this trade, its traditions and limits—rare and contradictory—handed me inspiration to develop charming characters, including a principal player, the city of Venice.
By writing this story, I faced and, I think, overcame the loneliness that comes from leaving everything you know, especially one’s career and dear friends. Starting over in a place where you have no history, where who you were before doesn’t much interest others or seem to matter, can be difficult, and daunting.
Longing to be accepted in a town and country that is as foreign to her as she is to it, Victoria, my main character, finds she’s more easily, and respectfully, accepted by the local men than by the women. The ladies want no part of this outsider who, after all, has taken one of their own. Enter Ivana, Venice’s only female gondolier. A fictional character I enjoyed creating. Based on the centuries-old mold of ‘being a gondolier is a man’s job’, which women in Venice have faced until recent years, Victoria sees that Ivana, like her, is battling as an outsider in her own city. Might she not understand Victoria’s sense of being a fish out of water?
Still, writing my debut novel was the easier part. Through highs and lows, a myriad of revisions, twists and turns in a story that was my own, and then wasn’t. Near acceptance from a Hollywood producer who was so mercurial that over a 3 year period he was going to make a movie out of my unfinished manuscript, and then he wasn’t. Twice. Professional edits. More revisions. Querying, waiting, hoping. Agents who ignored my emails while others wrote back, “You write well, but I just don’t know where to send it.” Then the final rejection, and my acceptance that the time had come for this book-child to become an adult. It was time for me, the writer, to move onto something else.
They say write what you know, what you experience. So I did, and in doing so I wrapped my arms tighter and opened my imagination wider around a city I have come to love, deeply. I’ve told a story that goes beyond falling in love. Beneath the Lion’s Wings speaks about making choices, taking chances, and stepping into the unknown.
It is with pride and gratitude that I share my debut novel with Women Writers, Women’s Books. Available in Kindle and paperback on Amazon, and in hardback from IngramSpark. Official book launch: February 6, 2018.
Marie Ohanesian Nardin, born in Los Angeles, California, has always loved to travel. That passion brought her to Italy where she fell for a man and his city; a serendipitous occurrence that changed her life, and inspired her to write her debut novel “Beneath the Lion’s Wings”. Since her move to Italy, the former banker has restored a two hundred year old rustic barn that became the home where she raised her two children, and where she learned to appreciate a good glass of red wine and cook delicious risotto, homemade soups and pasta, and the Nardin family’s secret tiramisu recipe, which she says “…never comes out quite as good as my mother-in-law’s”.
Marie writes for various news outlets and travel media magazines, teaches English, and is currently working on a short story collection, and her next book.
About BENEATH THE LION’S WINGS
Victoria Greco has given up on finding love. A thirtysomething single woman who works as an executive assistant for a prominent Hollywood talent agent, she’s fully focused on building her career. But then, while she’s vacationing in Venice, a handsome fourth-generation gondolier rows alongside her water taxi.
When Alvise invites her to dinner, Victoria is hesitant. But their chemistry is too strong to ignore, and it would be a shame to pass up a date while in one of the most romantic cities in the world. Hoping she’s not making a big mistake, Victoria goes out with Alvise and then happily spends the night in his arms.
When Victoria returns home to Southern California, she’s surprised to discover she can’t get the charming Italian boatman out of her mind. She’s thrilled when he e-mails her, confessing he can’t stop thinking about her either. Daringly, Victoria invites him to visit.
Once reunited, they fall completely in love. But when Alvise starts talking about settling down and starting a family, Victoria is torn. She’s always put her career first. Should she continue down the current path? Or should she follow her heart to Venice?
“…Good escape reading in this tale of love and toughdecisions in Venice…In her well-researched debut novel, Nardin does a fine jobevoking Venice’s atmosphere, culture, and history. The particular practices andcustoms of gondoliering, along with women’s efforts to enter the profession,make for absorbing reading.” – KirkusReviews
“Alove story as seductive as Venice itself, with a bi-continental romance, anappealing heroine, a hunky gondolier, sweet and surprising twists, and aninsider’s authentic details. The next best thing to sipping a Bellini ona sunny balcony overlooking the Grand Canal. Pure delight.” – Dianne Hales, author of La Bella Lingua and Mona Lisa – A Life Discovered