What made you decide to write the book?
I’ve had the story churning in my head for many years, sparked by the stories of my family’s past. Forty Years in a Day begins in 1900 and follows the incredible journey of a young mother and her four children as they escape from Italy into the streets of Hell’s Kitchen, New York. That was my grandmother. The story ends with a woman who knows the father of her children is living a double life with another, but she loves him so much that she overlooks the arrangement rather than forfeit the man. Those were my parents. In between are the stories that I had heard from family members who had lived through an era that we can only read about, intertwined with a twist of fiction and sensationalism to make it even more interesting.
Did your family help you write the book? How were they involved?
I coauthored the book with my cousin Dianne Vigorito. She gave me the support and validation I needed to pursue this project. I was lucky to find a family member to work with, and she had an immediate interest in the idea. She grew up hearing the same crazy stories, some of which were almost unbelievable, that were told by our ancestors. We started by writing down the stories we had heard and interviewing the elders that were still alive. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I didn’t know anything about writing a novel. I wasn’t a ‘writer’ by the longest stretch of the imagination, but I had a story to tell and I knew it had to be told. It took seven years of seminars, workshops, conferences, and reading everything from books on how to write dialogue to reading mainstream fiction to rereading classics. I also studied the history and lifestyles of the era. Dianne and I worked on our own, and we also worked together several days a week, collaborating, rewriting, and editing.
How much of the book is realistic?
People have being asking me how much of our book is realistic; especially family members who want to know if this is the actual story of what had happened. They try to draw a parallel between family members’ personalities and our characters’ personalities. The truth is that no one can piece together that puzzle of tales one hundred percent. There are parts to every family’s story that were pushed under the rug for fear it would tarnish the family’s reputation. The elders think they are doing their family justice by taking some of the more scandalous stories with them to the grave. When, as a writer, you realize all this, you are forced to conjure your own conclusions from the pieces of stories that you gather.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
There are many themes that run through this story. The loss and rebound of hope, overcoming fear, escape from social constraints, conquering the unknown, self-preservation, honesty, perseverance, forgiveness, the list goes on, but I think the main theme is the importance of family. Not just blood relatives, but friends that are like family. It’s having people who love you around you that can get you through the difficult times as well as take parallel delight in your good times. They are the support group that comes along with you on your journey through life, and if you’re lucky enough to have people who love you in your life, you’re lucky enough.
Why should readers pick up Forty Years in a Day?
I wanted to write a book that I would enjoy reading, otherwise it wouldn’t work. I like a story that is faster paced, holds my interest, compels me to turn the page, and surprises me at the end. Forty Years in a Day follows a family through several decades, providing the reader an opportunity to stand in the shoes of a past generation and walk in search of their hopes and dreams. It is layered with the struggles and successes of each family member, reminding the reader that human emotions have been the same throughout generation—the difference is how people are molded and maneuvered by the times and their situations.
FORTY YEARS IN A DAY | a novel can be purchased here: http://www.fortyyearsinaday.com
About the Authors:
Mona Rodriguez and Dianne Vigorito are cousins. Throughout their lives, they had heard many stories from family members that were fascinating, sometimes even unbelievable, and decided to piece together the puzzle of tales. Through research and interviews, their goal was to create a fictional story that follows a family through several decades, providing the reader an opportunity to stand in the shoes of a past generation and walk in search of their hopes and dreams. What they realize in the process is that human emotions have been the same throughout generations – the difference is how people are molded and maneuvered by the times and their situations.
Mona and Dianne strongly believe there is tremendous knowledge to be gained from those who are older and wiser, a resource precariously looming at everyone’s fingertips.
Mona and Dianne live with their husbands in New Jersey and they each have two grown sons. This is their first novel together.