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Interview With Author Leon Radomile
Part 1 of 2: About The Author
by Anthony Parente
Leon, Thank you for taking the time to be interviewed for my Web site Italiansrus.com. I had an opportunity to sit down and read your latest novel The Spear of Lepanto and I truly was impressed with the writing and how the story unfolded. I had trouble putting the book down until I was finished with it. Before we get into the questions surrounding this novel I wanted the readers of Italiansrus.com to get to know a little more about you.
Where were you born and raised?
I was born in Philadelphia, PA in April of 1949. In 1958, my parents decided to move to the San Francisco bay area were I have lived ever since. In 1963, we moved from San Francisco to Mill Valley, CA, which is located in Marin County, just over the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco. I attended Catholic schools in San Francisco from elementary to high school and then on to the Jesuit's at the University of San Francisco. This novel in fact, is partly dedicated to all those teachers I had during those years.
What part of Italy are your parents from?
My father was born in Philadelphia, but at the age of six in 1919, his parents and five children moved back to Italy. He was raised in the small Adriatic port city of Ortona a Mare in the province of Chieti, in the region of Abruzzo. He returned to Philadelphia in the late 1920's with his brother to help support the family still in Italy. Eventually, the entire family would return by 1932.
My mother was born on the island of Salina in the Aeolian island group off the coast of Sicily. At the age of two, along with her mother and two sisters joined her father and older brother in Sydney, Australia, who arrived two years earlier to purchase several homes and set-up a green grocer business. While serving in the American Army during WWII, my father went to a USO club in Sidney and asked if there was an Italian family in the area that he could visit for an Italian dinner. They gave him the address of my grandfather. My parents were married in 1945 in Sydney, thereby making my mother an American war bride.
What was life like growing up in an Italian family?
I can honestly say there was never a time I was not proud of my Italian ancestry. Many would say that my love and passion for Italian culture came from years of Italian family influences. I wish that were true. At an early age my parents and I, an only child, moved from our home and family in Philadelphia for a new life in the suburbs of San Francisco. The only spoken Italian I heard was when my parents entertained Italian guests in our home. There were no grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, or any extended family members to draw from. Even my name did not sound very Italian when pronounced in an anglicized form. And yet from my early teens, I always knew who I was and confident in that knowledge. I was always proud of my first generation Italian heritage. That pride did not come from anything I did personally, but rather from my innate feelings of being Italian. Sometimes, as a high school or college student, I would often sit down and randomly choose a volume of an encyclopedia and read about Italian historical figures or events. I can only describe this urge as a hunger that seemed only to be satisfied with things Italian. Through the years, I collected items on Italian culture simply because they fascinated me and because I truly love history-especially anything connected with Italy. Some would say that I was a trivia buff, a label I really found distasteful when used in conjunction with Italy. There is absolutely nothing trivial about the essence of Italian genius.
What got you started into writing?
Over the years, I always felt offended by those who would dismiss or trivialize Italian culture. Such ignorance was beyond my comprehension. In 1985, I finally realized why, in spite of all the upstanding Italian descendants in this country, Italians and Italian Americans were commonly portrayed in less than flattering terms. The answer lay at the feet of the media-from advertising to movies to television, and even cartoons. Even the revered term of godfather was perverted by author Mario Puzo to describe Italian criminal lords. Years later, he would admit that it was something he simply made up.
Living on the west coast has many advantages, but we do suffer from one major shortcoming. That shortcoming is brilliantly illustrated in our ethnic blandness. Perhaps if I had grown-up on the east coast, the realization of Italian cultural bashing would have revealed itself to me much sooner. But when dim-witted radio or television commercials and programming began to fill the airwaves during the 70's and 80's, I finally began to wake-up. When I objected, I was accused of being too thin-skinned, or lacking in a sense of humor. I am neither thin-skinned nor humorless. But enough was enough.
One day, in 1985, I made a conscious decision to do something about this cultural bashing of Italiana, other than just talking about it. I would try to do something positive to reverse this continual trivialization of Italian culture - something manifested through an educational approach. I had observed how far the African American and Jewish communities had come in educating American society. Just look at the shelves in bookstores and libraries as proof. Jewish and African-American titles abound, Italian related titles, on the other hand, seem to be relegated to the wine and cookbook sections. In order to gain attention to my cause, I needed to do something that would be entertaining as well as informative. I proceeded to develop a board game I called The Italian Heritage Game, based on the popular model of Trivial Pursuit. My writing began there in researching and developing question material for the board game. Eventually, I sold close to 10,000 games across the country.
In the “About the Author” section of your book it tells us that you are happily married and have two daughters. How do you juggle the responsibilities of family life and still manage to work on writing books and meeting deadlines?
First of all, I find that the most creative time of day for me are the early morning hours. The quiet and solitude of the early morning helps me to concentrate and focus my thoughts before other responsibilities come to my attention. My wife Lanette has always been very supportive. Having a life partner like her has made me the most fortunate and happy person in the world. This affords me a tranquil environment that is conducive to writing. I must also confess that my two daughters are now living on their own. My oldest daughter Lea is 28, married, and has had a very successful 10 year career as a hair stylist, following in my parents footsteps. My youngest daughter, Lexi (23), recently graduated from the prestigious Academy of Art University with a degree in fashion design. She quickly landed a design position with a leading San Francisco fashion house, Byer. Both my wife and I are extremely proud of both our daughters' accomplishments. La famiglia is one of many themes I touch upon in the novel, along with honor and personal responsibility in particular.
Who has been your biggest inspiration when it comes to writing?
The first thing that immediately comes to mind is the long list of Italians and Italian Americans I have researched over the years, who have persevered through any obstacle to obtain their desired goal. If Italians have anything, it certainly is passion, desire and a determination to finish any job started.
Part 2: About The Spear of Lepanto
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