I Found My Romance Book Heroine in Italy
By Vina Arno
When I traveled to Tuscany in July 2013, I had in mind the perfect alpha male for my first romance book. I called him the Juggernaut—a 22-year-old Olympic gold-medalist boxer who’s about to turn pro. In keeping with my destination, naturally he has Italian heritage. He’s America’s most promising boxer, the perfect combination of Muhammad Ali’s charisma and Mike Tyson’s physical power. Who’s the woman who could knock him out?
I visited central Italy with my husband and our daughter to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary. To see Florence—the capital of Tuscany and home of the Renaissance—was our goal. The city didn’t disappoint. Michelangelo’s David left me breathless. I imagined the Juggernaut as David incarnate. But I was still missing my heroine.
After five days in Florence, we joined a tour group to see the countryside. Our first stop: Siena. All I knew about the city was it was Florence’s rival in medieval times. During the bus ride, the sights of rural Tuscany unfolded like a glorious tapestry of sunflower-blanketed fields, sloping vineyards, rustic stone houses, and colossal cypress trees.
Our bus stopped at the base of a hill. Siena, a hilltop city, beckoned. During the hike up, I reaffirmed my plan to write my debut romance book. I’ve published short stories in literary journals and a series of nonfiction children’s books. I’ve been trying to write literary fiction for almost two decades. Writing romance was going to be a leap of faith for me.
By the time we entered Siena’s 13th century Duomo, an idea for my heroine was percolating in my head. It was like falling in love—my heart fluttered and my pulse quickened with excitement. The cathedral was meant to awe and it more than succeeded. I was agape at the sight of its inlaid marble floors, the striped gothic arches, and the busts of over a hundred popes looking down on us. Statues by Michelangelo, Bernini, and Donatello adorned various altars and niches.
As we wandered up and down little alleys and around the city’s main square, I knew I had found my heroine. I called her Siena—rich, cultured, and beautiful like her namesake city. I would make her an ER doctor. She and the Juggernaut would fall in love against all odds.
I started writing my story one week after our Italian trip. I had no literary agent at the time, but I successfully submitted my manuscript to Lyrical Press, an imprint of Kensington Publishing, five months after writing it.
In my debut romance book, In His Corner, the Juggernaut suffers a cut during sparring. He walks into Siena’s ER to get stitched up and rocks her world. They are opposites in every way. She’s a blue blood from the East Coast, while he’s a college dropout who becomes San Francisco’s favorite homeboy after his Olympic victory. She heals people; he doles out concussions inside the ring. She’s four years older than him. Their relationship is steamy, rocky, and memorable.
My romance breakthrough encouraged me to give my literary novel a push. I pitched it at a writing conference in New York City last year, which led to my signing with a literary agent.
Would I have written In His Corner if I hadn’t visited Tuscany? I don’t think so. Without Siena—my favorite Italian city and my muse—the Juggernaut would still be looking for love today.
About the Author
Vina Arno is a pen name used by Cindy Fazzi, a Philippine-born American writer who has worked as a journalist in the Philippines, Taiwan, and the United States. Her short stories have been published in the Snake Nation Review, Copperfield Review, and SN Review.
In His Corner by Vina Arno, published by Lyrical Press/Kensington Publishing, will be released on April 14, 2015. Genre: contemporary romance.
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