Blog 86 15/09/2019 A Literary World. An Interview with Pamela Allegretto
A Literary World.
An Interview with Pamela Allegretto
My guest today is someone who I admire, not only as an author, but because she is a person whose creativity spans numerous disciplines. Pamela Allegretto’s zest for life is a shining example of a person who seeks out the many and varied opportunities that life throws our way and grabs every opportunity to let them enrich you. Indeed, her resume reads like an artist’s palette – rich and colourful.
1.Welcome to A literary World, Pamela. Tell us about yourself?
First of all, thank you so much for including me in your Literary World. I am honored to be here among such gifted writers.
I studied at L’Università Per Gli Stranieri in Florence, Italy. To finance my education, my job résumé was as colorful as the Renaissance city itself. I shivered as an artist’s model and sang the blues in catacomb nightclubs. I worked as an interpreter/translator for a textile company and hawked leather goods to tourists.
Back on US soil, the colors on my résumé remained vibrant. In addition to Italian teacher at Berlitz School of Languages and a two-year stint as a Playboy Bunny, I added hairdresser/salon owner, to my palette. Classes in writing, cartooning, and art filled whatever free hours remained.
After 17 years “behind the chair,” I sold the hair salon and moved with my husband to Hawaii, where, for the following ten years, I devoted myself to painting and writing. Now, a resident of Connecticut, I divide my time between painting, writing, and Italian poetry translations.
My published writings include my WW2 novel Bridge of Sighs and Dreams, dual-language poetry books, and translations in Italian literary journals.
My published artwork includes book and CD covers, illustrations, and cartoons.
2. You now divide your artistic life between painting and writing. With your paintings, do you have a preferred medium and subject?
I prefer acrylic paints. I like their versatility: you can achieve thick impastos, underpainting luminosity, transparent layers, watercolour-like washes, or any technique in-between. I also like the vibrancy of the acrylic colours. They make me happy.
As for subject matter: I get on “kicks.” I might get on a musical “kick” and do a series of musicians, dancers, singers, musical instruments, etc. Then, I might do a series on Italian life or Italian architecture, tropical scenes, whimsical, animated art, or a flower series. Lately, social unrest and injustice have inspired my work. If you believe in astrology, you might say that my Gemini spirit is constantly nudging me toward the eclectic.
3. Which artists inspire you?
Certainly, Leonardo DaVinci is an inspiration due to his vast and varied achievements. I am particularly awe-struck by his intricate study of anatomy, and his measurements of the body from ear to ear, shoulder to shoulder, head to toe. His teachings on lights and darks, shadows, pathways, focal points, perspective, etc. are just as relevant to classical paintings as they are to animated or abstract art. If you view a Salvador Dali` painting, even in its surrealistic form, it will employ DaVinci’s principles.
4. Can you tell us more about your writing? I recently read your WWII novel, Bridge of Sighs and Dreams and thoroughly enjoyed it. What is the inspiration behind it?
The idea for Bridge of Sighs and Dreams stemmed from vacations to my family in their Southern Italy village of Faicchio. With each visit, between family and neighbours, first-hand accounts emerged of what transpired during Mussolini’s rule and the Nazi occupation. Fascinated, I began to pour over World War 2 records and became more and more “tuned in” to the sufferings of the Italian citizens. I also learned about the brave deeds of the Resistance Movement, which contradicted the denigrating jokes I heard while growing up about Italian cowardice during the War.
For many years, I toyed with the idea of writing a war novel, but as is often the case, life got in my way; and I shelved my anticipated novel for several decades. Then one year, on what had become my annual visit to Italy, a conversation with my aunt reignited my abandoned idea for a war novel. I concluded: if not now, when? I also felt compelled to write a war novel in which the women don’t play the role of wallpaper or objects of amusement to soldiers and politicians. I wanted my women to take center stage in a behind-the-lines battle between good and evil.
5. Are your characters based on real people?
In addition to Hitler and Mussolini, Obersturmbannfuhrer Herbert Kappler and Ugo Foà, President of the Israeli Community are real characters. All other characters are either loosely based on real people or are figments of my imagination.
I love to create and flesh-out my characters. I look for a diverse collection of complex individuals, each with his or her own values, lack of values, dreams, and goals. I want the reader to see them as I see them, not only the basic physical attributes: short, tall, bald, etc., but I want the reader to remember that this character has a bluish-black mole on the tip of his nose that holds his eyeglasses in place, or that character has a cheek tic. I want the reader to “hear” each character’s unique cadence. I like writing in the third person so the reader can get inside the heads of my characters.
6. Are there writers or books that have inspired your own writing journey?
Alberto Moravia and Elsa Morante have been the most influential authors. They both write with such visual and emotional truth. Alberto Moravia’s Two Women and Elsa Morante’s History are two of my all-time favourite novels. They confront the raw emotions and gritty truths citizens encountered while under occupied rule. Their imagery is masterful.
7. Favourite art piece?
Certainly, Michelangelo’s statue of David, at the Accademia in Florence, is at the top of my list. You must view this triumph in person; no photo or video will allow you to experience its magnificence. Donatello’s bronze David in Florence is also a marvel. As for paintings, Canaletto’s Venetian paintings make me swoon. I am not generally drawn to muted colours, but for him I make an exception. For its simplistic forms and clashing bold colours, I like Paul Gauguin’s Woman with a Flower. George Grosz’s Berlin Street Scene is a wonderful offering in satirical caricatures, and Diego Rivera’s The Tortilla Maker is simplicity of colour and form at its best. Okay, I’ll stop there. As you can see, my Gemini spirit can’t fix on one style.
8. Favourite music?
Eclectic seems to be my word for the day. Let’s see, certainly the blues have to be at the top. I’m crazy for BB King, Buddy Guy, Nina Simone, and Taj Mahal. For the standards, I like Frank Sinatra, Mel Torme, and Ella Fitzgerald. Rock: Beatles, Stones, The Who, Bob Seger. Opera: Luciano Pavarotti. Show tunes: West Side Story. Rap: None. No, that’s not the name of some off-the-wall group. I just don’t like any of it. Showing my age? Maybe. Or, maybe it’s because I like a “melody” I can hum and lyrics I can sing along with.
9. Favourite food in the regions you have stayed?
Minestrone in Marciano on the Isola D’Elba/ Risotto coi funghi in Stresa on Lago Maggiore/ ravioli con burro e salvia in Venezia/ Ribollito in Firenze/ Lasagne al forno in Rome/ Pizza in Napoli/ Cavatelli in Taormina, Sicilia/ Tiramisù dapertutto (everywhere).
10. What’s next for you?
I have been working on another novel for some time now. This new work is a vast departure from Bridge of Sighs and Dreams. This story takes place in modern-day Venice. It’s a not-too-serious diamond caper. After spending so much mental time in war-torn Italy, I felt the need to “lighten” things up. The good news is that I have had an increase in my painting commissions; the bad news is that these works have dramatically cut into my writing time. But I believe that all things happen when the time is right, so I’m not forcing a finish.
Thank you so much for sharing your experiences with us, Pamela. As someone with an art background, I also share a love of your favourite artists. I also enjoyed Alberto Moravia’s Two Women. In the film version of the book, the part where Cesira, played by Sophia Loren, finds out that her daughter, Rosetta, has just been raped by a group of Allied Moroccan Soldiers, remains seared in my mind. A superb and harrowing portrayal of war and brilliantly acted. On behalf of my readers, I wish you continued success with your painting and writing life, and I look forward to your next book.
BRIDGE OF SIGHS AND DREAMS is available for purchase in paperback and eBook at:
BARNES & NOBLE: