Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Paul Salsini Uses Real Events and Family Stories to Inspire His Fiction

It is said that self-published and subsidy-published fiction has an uphill battle, but we've all heard of books that have crossed over to mainstream success, such as Still Alice and The Lace Reader. Though he is still selling his books himself, our own homegrown success story has been Paul Salsini, author of The Cielo, Sparrow's Revenge, and now Dino's Story.

For the first two books, I watched their success from afar, and with a bit of surprise. It is so hard to make fiction work in general; for subsidy-publishing, the normally uphill trek is that much steeper. That said, Salsini had an edge over many others making the attempt--he's a longtime writer, and that not only left him with a superior product, but he had the knowledge and contacts to get his novels the best shot they could get. If you met Paul (and many of you have), you'll also know he's an charming, personable man; you just want to go the extra mile for him.

Salsini has been inspired by both true events and family stories for his fiction, and though the family stories are his own, the historical events have actually been the source of inspiration for other writers. Th
e Sant'Anna massacre was the jumping off point for James McBride's novel Miracle at St. Anna. You probably know him best for his memoir, The Color of Water, but we booksellers remember that book because they did two covers for the paperback, one of soldiers and one of a young child. The young child outsold the soldiers at our stores, by the way.

Similarly the new novel is inspired by the flood of Florence (picture at left and below right) that was the jumping off point for Robert Hellenga's
The Sixteen Pleasures, a writer with Milwaukee roots. But that's the beauty of fiction. There are so many different ways that true events can inspire stories. I can see how one historical event (ok, let's take something broad like World War II) can inspire science fiction, mysteries, romances, and surrealism.

In Salsini's case, the stories are somewhat tied together. Dino Sporenzo is just a twinkle during the start of The Cielo, but when his own Dino's Story starts, he's a young student gone to Florence to study art. But Dino's life is transformed by more than the flood--it's also forever changed by the people he meets in the process. Hey, can I write jacket copy or what?

Lawrence Baldassaro, UWM professor emeritus and author of The American Game: Baseball and Ethnicity called it "an intriguing coming-of-age tale," while Martha Bergland, author of A Farm Under a Lake" praised it as a "fascinating inside look at Florence through the eyes of Paul Salsini's warm and complex characters. I couldn't put it down."

Salsini is appearing at Boswell on Tuesday, April 27th, at 7 PM to discuss and sign copies of
Dino's Story. We will have a light selection of Italian refreshments. Salsini will discuss and sign his three books, and his Italian inspiration, some of which is displayed here.

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