An American divorcée. An Italian shepherdess. Separated by a century, united by common dreams...
The sleepy little Abruzzo mountain town of Marsicano seems about as far as Samantha can flee from her failed marriage and disastrous university career. Eager for a fresh start, Samantha begins to set down roots in her Italian mountain hideaway.
At first, the mountain retreat appears idyllic, but an outsider’s clumsy attempts at breaking into the closed mountain community are quickly thwarted when the residents discover Samantha’s snarky blog ridiculing the town and its inhabitants.
Increasingly isolated in her mountain cottage, Samantha discovers the letters and diaries of Elena, a past tenant and a survivor of the 1915 Pescina earthquake. Despite the century that separates the two women, Samantha feels increasingly drawn into Elena’s life and discovers startling parallels with her own.
"An emotionally nuanced thrill ride. Sullivan's expert prose allows a deeper look at her protagonists' feelings, fears, and vulnerabilities. The novel succeeds as both a contemporary fiction and a thoughtfully told story of a heartbroken woman trying to come to terms with the new circumstances of her life. A tale of heartbreak, grief, courage, and self-realization that will resonate with many." -The Prairies Review
"A compelling literary work. Sullivan's novel is romantic in the way only foreign travel can be, with the prose beautifully describing the sights and sounds of Italy, as well as unveiling the captivating story of two women's seemingly disparate lives woven together across time." -Self-Publishing Review
Interview with Kimberly ~
Tell us a little about yourself and how you started writing.
I always loved creative writing when I was younger, but life took me in another direction. About ten years ago I started writing in the evenings after work, and published a few short stories. Soon after, I joined a writers’ group and took craft classes, attended writing conferences, and began writing novels. I haven’t looked back since.
What are some things you enjoy when not writing?
I’m a traveloholic, and never pass up the chance to travel. I adore road trips and traveling to different countries. A new country, a different language, food, architecture, and people never fails to excite me – and always sparks new story ideas. I also love swimming, and I come up with a lot of story ideas and plot points as I’m swimming laps. And I live in Italy, so I also have an appreciation of art, opera, and great food and wines.
How do you start your day (a routine of sorts?)
My (outside) workday begins fairly early and my daily routines tend to be associated with my regular workday. I need to do my writing during the evenings and weekends, so I try to be kind to myself. I’m lucky to write fairly quickly, but I also don’t beat myself up if I struggle to meet goals. I feel like I have enough stress and deadlines for my day job, and I do my best to limit that with my writing – so no set routines.
Finish this: “I can’t write without…”
I don’t really have set routines or the need for a dedicated writing space or silence. I began writing when my kids were small and after returning from a long workday, so I could write anywhere – a few minutes snatched in a playground as I scribbled on paper or typing manically away at home as my sons were wrestling one another and making as much noise as humanly possible. Maybe one day I’ll develop zen rituals and have a cool writing room, but for now, a pen, paper or computer and a bit of time is all I need.
If I had to spend a week on a deserted island, I would need…
Bathing suit, sunscreen, and a bag full of books.
What career did you think you’d have as an adult?
When I was a kid, I wanted to be an author, but I passed through journalism, government positions and international development organizations on my path there. I am still working in the latter, but enjoy moonlighting in the career I dreamed of as a child!
What is something about you that would surprise people?
I live in a football (soccer)-mad country, but it’s one of the few sports I don’t enjoy watching. But that all changes with the European Cup or the World Cup when I become a super fan. I love it when it’s country against country, and matches can’t end with ties – but must be determined by overtime and penalty kicks. I love watching those matches and continue cheering on Italy long after my family members (aka the real Italians who should be following) have long gone to bed.
Do you have a ‘day job’ as well?
Yes, I work in international development, working with socioeconomic development activities and projects in developing countries around the globe. I love it. It’s incredibly stimulating and rewarding work, with an international outlook I love, and – even after 23 years there – I feel that I am constantly learning new things at my job.
Where do you get your ideas?
Despite being a writer, I’m a very visual person, so my ideas often come from a setting and the vaguest notion of a character or plot point. For my upcoming novel, it was the shells and ruins of buildings in an Italian town that had undergone an earthquake over a century earlier. For my last novel, the idea struck as I took a Jane Austen walking tour around Bath, UK, and felt I’d stepped back to the nineteenth centrury – and wondered what it would be like to time travel back to 1813. That imagery always drives my stories.
Do you have a manuscript(s) in your drawer? If so, will it ever see the light of day?
Haha. I do! I have my practice novel. I’ve learned so much since I wrote it, so it would need lots of work and rewriting before I could get it out there. But who knows? Maybe one day I’ll tackle all the major rewrites so it can see the light of day. TBD…
If I wasn’t an author, I might be…?
Someone who works in international development. So it would seem I got the best of both worlds!
Do you have a go-to first reader after you feel your manuscript is ready?
Yes, I have a fabulous friend who has read many of my manuscripts as my first reader, and has always given me valuable feedback before I start workshopping them through writing groups, and eventually on to my editor.
Is there a particular author or book that influenced or inspired your writing or decision to write?
My go-to books are always Jane Austen and Edith Wharton. I love their works and they constantly inspire me to keep going and to fulfill my dream of writing.
Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published (or this book?)
I’m an indie-published author, so it’s all one big challenge. My first book was the most difficult since I had everything to learn. It’s still tough, but at least I have more experience now. I’m hoping by about book number ten, I’ll have the hang of it…
If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you’d change?
I probably would have started publishing my work earlier.
How do you market your work?
I’m self-published, so this is an area I’m working to learn quickly! I always get new manuscripts out on NetGalley for early reviews. I also set up blog tours and Instagram tours, and reach out to blogs and podcasts for interviews or guest posts. I also keep up a blog of my own and try to incude novel background and related posts. And I try to be active on social media.
What are you working on now?
My next project will be a collection of short stories. I know these are a much tougher sell in today’s market, but I so love short stories, and feel like there should be some advantages to self-publishing. I am now finalizing a collection of shorts that are women’s fiction all tied to Italy. I’m preparing that now, with the hope of publishing the collection in May 2023. I’m also finalizing writing for a dual timeline story set in Rome, Italy taking place today and back in the 1890s, hoping to release it in autumn 2023.
Is anything in your book based on real-life experiences?
Quite a bit, because I tend to create stories that research time periods or settings of great interest to me. My next novel, In The Shadow of The Apennines, takes place in a region of Italy I love: Abruzzo. I bought a small weekend house there years ago, and spend a lot of weekends out there with my husband and children hiking or skiing. The area was terribly affected by the 2009 earthquake, with its epicenter near L’Aquila – just a few miles from our place.
A lot of the reporting at the time of that earthquake referred to the devastating 1915 earthquake in nearby Pescina, and I began to read about it and went to visit that town, which is still marked by that tragedy. When I visited, I found the atmosphere so haunting, and I knew I had to set my story there.
Do you have a favorite chapter or scene?
Connected to what I wrote above, I appreciated writing the very sad earthquake scene in my novel, In The Shadow of The Apennines. As heartbreaking as it was, I wanted to capture the magnitude of the tragedy on the small group of survivors, and to understand – from their perspective – the devastating consequences of that event, combined with Italy’s entry into World War I.This was a painful chapter for the region, and I wanted to ensure I was framing it correctly.
Do you have a favorite character?
Flaws and all, I always fall in love with my main characters, and, as someone who loves history, I believe that we can be touched or influenced by those who came before us. I loved weaving together the story of modern-day Samantha who goes to heal her heart in a small town in the mountains of Abruzzo, and how she gains much needed strength and perspective learning about the life of Elena, an Italian sheperdhess who lived in her cottage over a century earlier. I loved both characters.
Do you have other books you’d like to talk about here? (The research, how you came up with the idea for your story, etc.)
I am just beginning the research for a story I would like to tell – a possible triple timeline story set in Italy under Fascist Italy and the Rome of the 1960s and contemporary. I still have to finalize my research, but I would like it to be focused around sports. Still have lots (and lots and lots) or research to do, however.
Finish this sentence: “If I could write about anything, it would be…?”
Everything that interests me. All those little kernels of ideas floating around in my muddled brain…
What was some unique research you had to do for a book?
I have had a story idea rattling around in my head for a very long time – a dual timeline modern days and early twentieth century, taking place largely in Albania. I have travelled in Albania and have done a lot of research, but I need to get back to the rugged mountain region of the north to “see” this region more, and to hike there, if I am to write about it, since much of the story would be set there. This is always my favorite type of research!
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Keep at it and find your tribe. There are so many great resources out there today. I’m partial to the Women’s Fiction Writers Association (WFWA) – a one stop shop for writing seminars, sharing industry knowledge, writing meet-ups, support and new writing friends. Writers are such a wonderful and generous group – and they are eager to share their knowledge and experience. Make sure you’re tapping into those resources.
What are the downfalls of your writing career? The best parts?
I’m still new to this, so it can often feel like a long slog/tremendously steep learning curve – learning about marketing, book formatting, trends, platforms, etc etc. The best part is when a reader contacts you and tells me how much your book touched her, or brightened her day.
Favorite book and/or movie?
For books, my favorite authors are Jane Austen and Edith Wharton. My favorite adaptations are the BBC Pride and Prejudice and The Age of Innocence.
Place you’d like to travel?
I’m a travel addict, so I’ve been fortunate to have traveled to many countries across all continents except Australia and Antarctica – and I’m constantly dreaming about new places to explore. What I haven’t yet done (and have always wanted to do), is to organize a round-the-world-tour to hit many countries I haven’t yet visited. This is an idea I’ve had rattling around in the back of my brain for ages. Maybe an idea for retirement…
Is there anything you’d like to say to your readers and fans?
Thank you so much to all who have read and enjoyed my books. I love to stay in touch – so please reach out through social media or my author website. Thank you so much for your support! We couldn’t do any of it without you.
To connect with Kimberly:
Author website: Kimberly Sullivan (kimberlysullivanauthor.com)
BookBub: Kimberly Sullivan Books - BookBub