Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Interview with John Addiego, author of The Islands of Divine Music (with giveaway)

Yesterday, I reviewed The Islands of Divine Music by John Addiego, a brilliant debut novel about finding the divine in everyday life that spans five generations of the Verbicaro family and touches upon such themes as immigration and war. (You can read my review here.)

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Mr. Addiego about The Islands of Divine Music, and I'm grateful that he was willing to take time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions. Thank you!

The Islands of Divine Music is your first novel. What was your inspiration? I'm especially curious about the plot line involving Giuseppe and his fascination with Maria.

I had a notion to do something between Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio and Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude, two of my favorite books. Magical family stories inspired me, and the idea of many people's separate vignettes coming together to tell one larger tale was my aim. The Giuseppe and Maria idea was my start, in that I wondered why God might appoint an old geezer to look after a teen mom and her child of a supposed immaculate birth.

The book spans several generations of the Verbicaro family and includes numerous characters. How did you go about creating so many unique characters? Are any of them based on people in your life?

They are mostly based on the language and behaviors of lots of real people I've known, including family and friends, especially of my dad's generation, though it's all fictional. I think there are personae that reflect aspects of myself throughout, which took my getting a bit older to understand a little better.

The Islands of Divine Music covers many decades and a lot of ground. The two themes that stand out most to me are the immigrant experience and the impact of war. What would you say is the predominant theme?

I had this idea of a family brushing up against various aspects of the divine and the profane, war being the most obvious of the latter. I also had notions of how family constellation plays out, and in this pattern Angelo, the comedian, becomes central. Islands work as separate lives, separate ethnic communities, also as moments of special import; the music, the listening for the divine, is pivotal.

Are you working on another novel? Do you have any plans to revisit the Verbicaro family? Looking at the family tree in the front of the book, there are many family members whose stories were not told.

I am working on novels all the time. I have several manuscripts in something close to finished form. I haven't specifically thought about more Verbicaro family novels, but I might.

How long did it take to finish The Islands of Divine Music? Could you describe your writing process?

It took a long time for a few reasons. First, the ideas and characters have been with me for decades; second, I wrote a couple of stories that formed the basis of this about ten years ago. In the interim, I wrote other novels and stories and published six short stories that started to form a linked collection, from which this novel finally started to take shape.

What types of books do you most enjoy reading? Who are your favorite authors?

I love Ian McEwan, Anne Tyler, Italo Calvino, Gabriel Garcia Marquez . . . There's so much great stuff to read. I also love good mysteries by Martin Cruz Smith, sci-fi by Jack McDevitt. I go from literary to mystery and sci-fi often. I read poetry as well, all the time, and go back to Walt Whitman whenever I need a lift.

Any advice to those of us working on our first novels?

First, create a routine time to sit and work. The muse doesn't always arrive, but hard work needs time you can count on. Second, move on. It's easy to get stuck on the one great novel you're writing forever, but it's better to keep writing new stuff. Later, you can come back to that one novel and revise it with fresh eyes. Third, read good fiction because it's the only real teacher for writers. Fourth, don't get stuck trying to land an agent like I did for several years; investigate the independents, read their books to see if yours fits, and query them directly. I read an interview by the editor of Unbridled Books (Greg Michalson), read some of the books Unbridled published, and gave them a try. Michalson is a gem among editors, so I feel very fortunate. Last, don't give up! You wouldn't believe all the rejections I've had. Well, maybe you would. But believe in yourself.

Mr. Addiego, thanks for taking the time to answer my questions! I wish you much success in your writing career!

Read an excerpt from The Islands of Divine Music here.

Read a more in-depth interview with John Addiego, as well as reading group questions, here.

To celebrate the launch of The Islands of Divine Music, Unbridled Books is offering copies to two lucky readers! Let's give a big a thank you to Caitlin Hamilton Summie of Unbridled Books. Thanks, Caitlin!

Here are the rules:
1. You must have a U.S. address to enter.
2. For one entry, post a comment letting me know why you want to read The Islands of Divine Music. Please make sure you leave an email address if you do not have a blog or your blog profile is unavailable. If I can't contact you if you win, you won't be entered.
3. For an additional TWO entries, blog about the giveaway or list it in your sidebar and let me know here that you did so. If you don't have a blog, email five people and 'cc' me on the message.

The deadline is Nov. 6! Good luck!


Anonymous said...

Don't enter me - I have the book - I just wanted to say that your interview was great!

Bridget said...

I've posted this at Win a Book. No need to enter the contest.

Jeannie said...

Hi Anna. Please enter me. I've always had a love for Italian culture, and with my genealogy background, I find the immigrant experience a fascinating part of our history.

Serena said...

This sounds like a good book! I would love to read about this multigeneration family and their struggles with immigration and war. You know me I'm a sucker for those war impact stories.

I will post your contest in the sidebar as usual.

Unknown said...

This book sounds magical to me, with all of the characters and stories. I also really like the cover. That definitely caught my attention.

Unknown said...

Hi Anna,

I also blogged about this in my right sidebar here:


Amber said...

Please enter me :) Thank you for the giveaway!

Alyce said...

I would like to win this book because I like stories that span multiple generations.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to win this book because the author likes some of the same authors I do, it's a first book, and family stories interest me.

WordLily AT gmail

Anonymous said...

Oo that's a great cover!

(Don't enter me, I'm in Canada... no US address)

pamwax said...

I went back and read your review and my interest is peaked. I will blog about this giveaway.


The Bookworm said...

Great interview, you've aksed the author some interesting questions.

I also have this book and will be reading it soon!

Keyo said...

would like to read this coz most ppl face immigration problems. I did too initially.
It would be interesting...


Anna said...

Bermudaonion: Thanks! Glad you enjoyed the interview! Looking forward to your review!

Bridget: Thanks so much for posting the giveaway! I really appreciate it!

Jeannie: I thought of you right away when I saw the family tree in the front of the book!

Serena: I know you're especially interested in the Vietnam War, so I figured you'd be interested. Thanks for posting the giveaway on your blog!

Janel: Magical is a great way to describe it! Thanks for posting the giveaway on your blog!

Amber: You're welcome!

Alyce: I'm a sucker for these types of books, too!

Wordlily: For a first novel, this one was great!!

Monica: I love the cover, too. Sorry about the contest's geographical restrictions. :(

Pam: I think you'd like this book! Thanks for blogging about the giveaway!

Naida: Looking forward to your review!

Keyomi: The immigrant aspect really interested me, especially since my mother came to the U.S. from Germany when she was just a child.

bevsclark said...

This book sounds like a great read. I like to read books that have multi-layered characters and The Islands of Divine Music seems to be overflowing with them.

Anonymous said...

hey anna! that sounds like an interesting book..and that was a great interview.. it has made me want to read this book!:)
do enter me for this giveaway as well!

darbyscloset said...

Cool book cover and great interview! I like the way he tells the writer to never stop believeing in themself and about when you get stuck work on another project and come back to this one, oh and also his comment that reading good fiction is the best teacher! Sounds like he is a good teacher....I'd love to read this book.
darbyscloset at yahoo dot com

Anonymous said...

I am an avid reader of most anything but this sound very interesting and I would love to win. Thanks for the chance!

Literary Feline said...

I am really curious about this book. I read your review and it instantly went onto my wish list. I think what intrigues me most about this novel is the epic scope of the novel, in particular the immigrant story. Please enter me in the giveaway!

literaryfeline AT gmail DOT com

Anna said...

Just.Me: Thanks for stopping by my blog! This book definitely has a lot of interesting characters!

Ramya: Thanks! Glad you enjoyed the interview!

Darby: I agree that he offered some great advice!

Baba: You're very welcome!

Literary Feline: I thought the immigrant aspect of the book was very powerful. I bet you'd enjoy the book.

Anonymous said...

I love immigrant stories from the 1900s and I think it's cool that he follows one family through several generations. And I like kidnapping plotlines!!

Please enter me,

susan_geiger at eku dot edu

Anna said...

Susan: Consider yourself entered! The kidnapping part is only a very small part of the book, but it's very entertaining!

Anonymous said...

Anna: Thank you very much, but please note...I wrote my email wrong. sorry!!

it's actually:

susan_geiger2 at eku dot edu


~Mad said...

I love family sagas - and stories of overcoming turmoil, tough times and persevering.

This bit of reading has intriqued me about this book.
~Mad(elyn) from Alabama
mwing73 AT charter DOT net

~Mad said...

I love family sagas - and stories of overcoming turmoil, tough times and persevering.

This bit of reading has intriqued me about this book.
~Mad(elyn) from Alabama
mwing73 AT charter DOT net

windycindy said...

I would enjoy reading about the many generations and the unique character of the family! My paternal grandmother came her as an immigrant from France when she was 13 years old. My dad served WWII. Please enter my name in your drawing. Many thanks, Cindi

Susan said...

I love a good family saga. Please enter me into the giveaway. I will post about it on my blog sometime this week. Thanks!

Anna said...

Susan: Thanks for the email correction!

Mad: Family sagas rock, don't they?

Windycindy: Thanks for sharing a bit about your family! My mom was born in Germany, so immigrant stories have always interested me.

Susan: Family sagas are among my faves. Thanks for helping spread the word about the giveaway!

Alice said...

Wow, this book sounds fascinating. I recently read One Hundred Years of Solitude, so I'm interested in reading this book that was inspired by it. Please enter me!

bluebyrd24 at gmail dot com

Alyce said...

I blogged about it here:


Anna said...

Bluebyrd: You are entered! I haven't read that one, but I did enjoy reading about the books that inspired him.

Alyce: Thanks for helping to spread the word!

Wendi said...

Thanks so much for adding my button on your sidebar!!

Yeah!! I think I got them all up!!

:) Wendi

"Your interview has been added to

About the Author - An Author Interview Index

Anna said...

Wendi: You're welcome about the button! And thanks for adding all my interviews!