An Interview with author Diana Rubino:
Tell us about your new release.
It’s titled FROM HERE TO FOURTEENTH STREET, the love story of an Italian immigrant and an Irish cop. They face poverty prejudice, solve a murder…and beat all the odds.
What led you to write this book?
My great grandmother, Josephine Calabrese Arnone, “Josie Red” to her friends, because of her abundant head of red hair, was way ahead of her time. Born in 1895 (but it could’ve been sooner, as she was known to lie about her age), she left grade school, became a successful businesswoman and a Jersey City committeewoman, as well as a wife and mother of four. She owned apartment buildings, parking garages, a summer home, did a bit of Prohibition-era bootlegging, small-time loan-sharking, and paid cash for everything. When I began outlining FROM HERE TO FOURTEENTH STREET, I modeled my heroine, Vita Caputo, after her. Although the story is set in New York the year before Grandma was born, I was able to bring Vita to life by calling on the family legends and stories, all word of mouth, for she never kept a journal.
Vita’s hero Tom McGlory isn’t based on any real person, but I did a lot of reading about metropolitan policemen and made sure he was the complete opposite! He’s trustworthy and would never take a bribe or graft. I always liked the name McGlory—then, years after the book first came out, I remembered that was the name of my first car mechanic—Ronnie McGlory.
Did you have an interesting experience in the research of this book?
Oh, yes… I visited the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, set up to display different eras when immigrants lived there. They also have lectures and guest speakers. If you’re ever in Manhattan, it’s well worth a visit. The website is www.tenement.org.
How important is setting to your story?
New York City’s history always fascinated me—how it became the most powerful hub in the world from a sprawling wilderness in exchange for $24 paid to Native Americans by the Dutch in 1626.
Growing up in Jersey City, I could see the Statue of Liberty from our living room window if I leaned way over (luckily I didn’t lean too far over). As a child model, I spent many an afternoon on job interviews and modeling assignments in the city, and got hooked on Nedick’s, a fast food chain whose orange drinks were every kid’s dream. Even better than the vanilla egg creams. We never drove to the city—we either took the PATH (Port Authority Trans Hudson) train (‘the tube’ in those days) or the bus through the Lincoln Tunnel to the Port Authority Bus Terminal.
Which is more important: characters or setting?
I’ve learned that most genres should be character-driven. Except for possibly thrillers or mysteries, where the plot drives the story, in romance it’s the hero and heroine, and in general fiction, it’s the characters the readers connect with, grow to care about, and root for. So I’ve made all my books character-driven. The settings provide a backdrop, and the characters get involved with actual events that happened.
What do you hope readers take away from your work?
I want them to forget their problems for a while, have a laugh, and learn a bit about history.
What do you do when you are not writing?
I bicycle, golf, play my piano and devour books of any genre.
Which book impacted you as a teenager?
In 7th grade, we had to read TUNED OUT, a novel about the summer of 1967, where a teen finds out his older brother, who he idolizes, is taking LSD. It’s set in New York, written in first person, and opened my young eyes to the reality of drug addiction.
One more I must mention—a short story—The Cask of Amontillado by Poe; I had to read that in 8th grade. From then on, I became a huge Poe fan.
Creepy! I love that story. Have you ever written a scene that ‘creeped’ you out?
Yes. In my New Adult thriller STILL CRAZY, an obsessed man stalks his former girlfriend. Many of the scenes in that book creeped me out!
Do you have a reoccurring theme to your books?
Yes. Love overcomes all obstacles: hatred, poverty, prejudice, and inner conflicts such as opposing views and goals.
What are you reading now?
I just finished SALEM WITCHES by Stacy Schiff, and am studying THE EMOTION THESAURUS, a thorough source for digging into your characters’ emotions.
What’s next for you?
I’ve always wanted to write a novel set during the Salem witch trials; I’m getting an outline into focus.
Would you share an excerpt from your book?
As Vita gathered her soap and towel, Madame Branchard tapped on her door. "You have a gentleman caller, Vita. A policeman."
"Tom?" His name lingered on her lips as she repeated it. She dropped her things and crossed the room.
"No, hon, not him. Another policeman. Theodore something, I think he said."
No. There can't be anything wrong. "Thanks," she whispered, nudging Madame Branchard aside. She descended the steps, gripping the banister to support her wobbly legs. Stay calm! she warned herself. But of course it was no use; staying calm just wasn't her nature.
“Theodore something” stood before the closed parlor door. He’s a policeman? Tall and hefty, a bold pink shirt peeking out of a buttoned waistcoat and fitted jacket, he looked way out of place against the dainty patterned wallpaper.
He removed his hat. "Miss Caputo." He strained to keep his voice soft as he held out a piece of paper. “I’m police commissioner Theodore Roosevelt.”
"Yes?" Her voice shook.
"I have a summons for you, Miss Caputo." He held it out to her. But she stood rooted to that spot.
He stepped closer and she took it from him, unfolding it with icy fingers. Why would she be served with a summons? Was someone arresting her now for something she didn't do?
A shot of anger tore through her at this system, at everything she wanted to change. She flipped it open and saw the word "Summons" in fancy script at the top. Her eyes widened with each sentence as she read. “I can’t believe what I’m seeing.”
I hereby order Miss Vita Caputo to enter into holy matrimony with Mr. Thomas McGlory immediately following service of this summons.
Diana's passion for history and travel has taken her to every locale of her stories, set in Medieval and Renaissance England, Egypt, the Mediterranean, colonial Virginia, New England, and New York. Her urban fantasy romance, FAKIN’ IT, won a Top Pick award from Romantic Times. She's a member of Romance Writers of America, the Richard III Society and the Aaron Burr Association. She lives on Cape Cod with her husband Chris. Visit her at:
An Interview with Vita Caputo, heroine of FROM HERE TO FOURTEENTH STREET:
What kind of person do you wish you could be? What is stopping you?
I wish I could be calmer and slow down. I do too much—run the household because I refuse to hire help, raise our 3 kids, work and invest our savings. I follow the stock market and purchase stocks that have long-term growth potential. What’s stopping me is my drive to get ahead.
When Papa and my brother Butchie were arrested for the murder of Tom’s cousin Mike. It tore me into pieces, because Tom didn’t want to believe Papa and Butchie were the killers, but evidence pointed to them. We made it our quest to find the real killer, and we did. It created a huge rift in our relationship of course, but we overcame that as we got through all the other hardships and prejudices that tried to keep us apart.