Her Italian family is also really quirky, but that's what makes us like them. They're eccentric yet love each other deeply.
In my official book review of Taking Tuscany, the sequel to Saving Sailor, I say:
"Proficiently mixing deeper themes and spiritual truths alongside the humor, Riva has crafted a lovely tale of longing and belonging readers of all ages will savor." Read my full review here.
In an interview I did with Renee for TitleTrakk.com, I asked her about Saving Sailor and its sequel:
Me: I hear both Saving Sailor and Taking Tuscany are based loosely on some of your own experiences growing up. How much is fiction and how much is real life?
Renee: I would say that the majority of SAVING SAILOR was based on real life—either from my own experience, or those around me. TAKING TUSCANY included similar emotional experiences I’d encountered in my teens, but I changed the setting and scenarios to fit the story. In other words, I went through the majority of what A.J. went through emotionally in moving, changing schools, and the social pressures of school—just not in Italy. In the back of TAKING TUSCANY in the “After Words” I share some of those experiences.
Me: Was it always your intent to write a sequel to Saving Sailor or did you find yourself struggling to come up with another book?
Renee: I always hoped to write a sequel, but my idea was to have A.J. return to Indian Island at age 18, when Danny is 21. I thought it would be neat to build on the great friendship they’d had as children and add a little amore`. My publisher liked that idea too, but they also wanted to know what happened in Italy during those years apart. That was a bit of a challenge, so I immediately booked a trip to Mexico and pretended to be on the Italian Riviera to help inspire some ideas. That’s where I wrote about The Grand Old Sea Palace; the parasailing scene and the pirate ship in the pool. We really did have a pirate ship in our pool. I had already been to Tuscany eight years earlier so I hung my photos of Tuscany all over my walls while writing and was able to put myself back in that setting.
Me: An interesting part about these novels is that you chose to age your character A.J.. How did you approach writing her slightly older voice in Taking Tuscany? Was that difficult in any way?
Renee: I was a little bit leery of turning A.J. into a typical teenager because I wasn’t the most pleasant teen myself at age fourteen. But I knew she had to get older to be able to write that third book where she returns as an 18 year old, so I decided that if I was going to spend my winter with a teenager in my head, it was going to have to be someone I could enjoy being around that long. I had to pull up a lot of attitude from my past, but also made A.J. the fun quirky girl she was before, only older. I tried to project what that same kid would be like 4 years older. I wanted to keep some of her charm and humor too so I could bear writing about her and my readers could enjoy reading about her.
Luckily for us, there's a third novel coming. Heading Home (April 2010, David C. Cook) finds A.J. eighteen-years-old and returning to her beloved Idaho home ... and of course, Sailor.
Check out the rest of my interview with Renee over at TitleTrakk.com!
Thanks again to Renee Riva for appearing, courtesy of Provato Marketing, for other stops on the Renee Riva blog tour please check www.provatoevents.com.