Author Interview: Mari SanGiovanni

4 01 2013

Hello, Readers!

Today we have a real treat for you all.  Do you want to read some books that will actually make you laugh out loud? Mari SanGiovanni has stopped by to discuss her books Greetings from Jamaica, Wishing You Were Queer and Camptown Ladies which will make you laugh, and remember how deliciously horrible family vacations can be.

What do you think makes a good story? 

For me, it’s always been an entertaining journey.  It’s OK that I may know that the characters will likely end up together in the end, but there had better be an interesting trip along the way!  I also like a witty writer.  Even in a serious story, I like there to be witty observations that keep the reader from sinking too deeply into the mud.  I also need a character-based book to hold my interest.  It’s the same with movies and TV.  I will take a show like Northern Exposure (the Alaska based show with quirky characters) over a crime drama any day.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

 I collect jokes, like a comedy writer.  I keep them on index cards and then when I am writing, I pull from them.  This way I always have fresh bits of stuff to use.  I even have a “boob light” in my car when it’s dark.  It fits between my boobs and shines on my index cards so I can jot down notes while I drive, so watch out on 95 north.  When I say “jokes” I mean event type jokes, situational things that would be funny with maybe a one-liner that would be a great way to end the idea or just the perfect thing for a character to say—I want to be clear that I don’t collect other people’s jokes! I have however heard many wacky family stories from my friends and asked to use them in my books, and credited them in the back of my book.  Truth is funnier than fiction and I can tell when a writer has stretched too far and made something entirely up.  It is better to have a seed of truth in your comedy.  In other words, steal something…change it…then ask for permission to use it and thank them in the back of your book.

What inspired you to write your first book?

To be brutally honest, back in the late 80’s and early 90’s I was reading a fair amount of very average (and some pretty bad) lesbian fiction and it all seemed so “formula” to me, and I kept thinking—how did this stuff get published?  That was what truly inspired me to write, it was my silly ego of thinking that I could at least write something that bad or average!  I went to Rhode Island School of Design, so I was not a trained writer, I graduated college a designer, and was much more confident about designing the covers of the books than writing them!

Are the Santora’s anything like your real family?

Um….yes.  But I changed my sister’s name from Nisa to Lisa so she would not sue me. Heh, heh.  The stories are definitely fiction, but anyone who knows my family knows that the characters are definitely inspired by the people I love.  My family is a bunch of fun, crazy Italian people that speak their mind and have a lot of love under it all.  It makes for good inspiration.  My brothers, sister and father are some of the funniest people I know, and my mother plays such a good straight lady to all the chaos.  Some of the childhood flashback stories are real, too, just changed a bit to fit the storyline, but the main story is all fiction.  I am not a millionaire!

Which character would you like to go on vacation with and why?

Certainly my brother Vince and my sister Lisa are the two that I would have the most fun with…of course, if we are talking about a vacation with sex—well…..that is a totally different answer.  I would have to go with Lorn Elaine.  She is modeled after an actress I loved, Piper Laurie, and after my partner of 14 years, Kim, who passed away last year.  Of course I turned Lorn into a bit of a villain for Camptown Ladies…but all is fair if you call it fiction, and Kim loved it.

Have you travel to any of the places in your books?

I wrote Greetings From Jamaica, Wish You Were Queer… right after I got back from a trip to Jamaica, so yes, I have.  I have also been everywhere I traveled in Camptown Ladies and the camp itself is modeled after a campground I have stayed at a ton of times right in my home state of Rhode Island.

If you inherited the amount of money Marie did what would you do with it?

I would write full time.  Right now, writing is a luxury and unfortunately, it often takes a back seat to everything else. Contrary to what people might think, writing does not pay the bills!

Are you feel sympathetic to Lorn’s fears of coming out as a lesbian?

I absolutely do feel sympathetic to Lorn.  Despite her advanced years and the fact that the story is set in current time, Lorn makes her living as a successful actress in Hollywood and being out in that industry is still not really acceptable.  Same with the music industry, especially the country music industry.  Sidebar: I really admire the courage of Chely Wright for coming out.  She risked everything in her career and truthfully, she probably will never have a shot at the huge career she was heading for now that she is out.  Sad, but true, but you pay a price as a public figure when you expose yourself.  On a smaller scale, other people have to face this too—teachers, politicians, and people being worried about acceptance with their very own families and sometimes their own children.  So, I guess the point of this whole rant is, Chely Wright should star in the screenplay I have written for her and become an actress!  She is out anyway, so, call me, Chely.

Did you plan for Marie to end up with Erica all along?

 I would like to say I was that crafty, but Greetings From Jamaica was supposed to be a stand-alone book.  It was never supposed to be a series, then, one day I could not stop thinking about how funny it would be if that crazy family ran a campground, or, more specifically, turned it into a gay campground.  Good times!  I have an idea that this would make a fun cable series, but that is a real stretch for TV…  But I started thinking that this could really be a unique thing, to start a series starring a family that is not a mystery or cop series.  I don’t like mysteries.  I don’t care who did it–I didn’t do it!  I have never been able to get through a mystery or crime novel in my life, yet those are really the only successful series of books out there.  So I wondered if there were other people like me who get attached to regular family type characters and wish that they would continue, yet they are not cops or part of some murder, rape or vampire thing?  So, I started thinking… because all good stories have to start with a problem, how could I mess up Marie’s life?  And I had Lorn dump her, AGAIN.  It was totally in character that Lorn would freak out and run away again, and there was Erica, who would create all sorts of other problems—and where there are problems, there is an opportunity for good comedy.

Does Lisa find true love?

Oh, that will definitely happen, but maybe not in the very next book.  I am writing book 3 now, and it is going slowly, but it will definitely go there!  How can I not?  Lisa is a fun character to write and everyone wants to see a player like that fall in love.

Will your next book also feature the Santora Family?

Certainly.  The whole family will be back, and a few others you may not expect.  This book is tough to write because of the death of my partner.  This is going to sound crazy but I deal with this in the book, yet the book is a comedy.  I guess you could say I like a challenge.  I wanted to see if I could deal with death and still make it funny…we will see!

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?

I think I would have delayed the release date (on purpose) of the book.  It has taken me much longer to write the tough stuff than I thought.  I needed the year to heal and I thought writing would help me do that.  The truth is, after her death, I was a bit paralyzed and found my brain not functioning as it did before.  This past October I was let go of my job of 10 years—and I now wonder if that was a product of my not functioning properly at work as well.  The good news is, after the loss of your partner, losing your job seems a minor thing my comparison, if that makes any sense.  I am happy to report that I believe my brain is coming back now and I am writing again, however, the need to secure a paying job is my top priority, so the book is on a back burner to that.

Tell us about your upcoming projects.

I do have another book that is mostly completed but lingering in editing and is not part of the Santora family series.  It is called Liddy-Jean, Marketing Queen and I can’t wait for that book to be released.  I just received some extra editing help from the fabulous writer Catherine Friend, and now I just have to do the final edits on it before it can be released.  The story is about a young woman with down syndrome who works at a large corporation where she notices what is wrong with the way corporate America works and decides to write a book about it.  She also decides that her best friend Rose at work should be with a woman named Jenny and decides to make this happen.  I hope the readers will find it to be a really unique character and find her journey to be a sweet and funny one.  At this point I am not sure if this book will come out before the next Santora book or not.  The next Santora book is titled: 80% Done With Straight Girls

Where can my readers buy your books? or, if they can find a large bookstore left in America anymore (which still has a decent gay and lesbian section) they can buy it there, and also on Amazon.

Find out more about Mari SanGiovanni:

Website/author page:

Facebook page:

Twitter handle: @MariSanGiovanni




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