Interview with author Dina Santorelli
Contributor
Written by
Doreen McGettigan
September 2012
Contributor
Written by
Doreen McGettigan
September 2012

I stumbled upon a blog close to 2 years ago.  Making Baby Grand was Dina Santorelli’s way of sharing the writing/ publishing process with her readers.  Dina offers weekly writing tips to her readers as well as supporting and featuring other debut authors.  I am so excited to introduce you to author/editor/freelance writer, Dina Santorelli. Her debut novel Baby Grand had me hooked from page one and did not disappoint.

About the Author:

 

author Dina Santorelli

 A freelance writer for over 15 years, Dina Santorelli has written for Newsday, First for Women and CNNMoney.com, among other publications. She served as the “with” writer for the well-received Good Girls Don’t Get Fat and most recently contributed to Bully, the companion book to the acclaimed film. Dina is the Executive Editor of Salute and Family magazines for which she has interviewed many celebrities, including James Gandolfini, Tim McGraw, Angela Bassett, Mario Lopez, Gary Sinise and Kevin Bacon.

 About Baby Grand:

 

In Albany, New York, the governor’s infant daughter disappears without a trace from her crib at the Executive Mansion. Hours later, newly divorced and down-and-out writer Jamie Carter is abducted from the streets of Manhattan. Jamie is whisked upstate, where she is forced by her captor, Don Bailino, a handsome, charismatic ex-war hero/successful businessman, to care for the kidnapped child in a plot to delay the execution of mobster Gino Cataldi – the sixth man to be put to death in six years by hardliner Governor Phillip Grand. What prevails is a modern-day thriller about family ties, loyalty, murder, betrayal, and love that’s told in deftly interweaving narratives that follow the police investigation of the missing Baby Grand, the bad guys who took her, and the woman who found the strength to protect her.

Interview:

1-Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Queens, one of the five boroughs of New York City, right next to Brooklyn. It’s a special place, sort of a mix of city and suburbia. I’ll be writing a lot about Queens in my second novel, In the Red, another thriller. There’s so much that I want to capture about the place and about my childhood there.

2-Was reading and writing part of your life growing up?

I wouldn’t say that writing was a skill that was particularly valued in my home growing up or that we sat around the dinner table as a family to discuss Mark Twain. My grandfather, though, was a writer, but he had long abandoned the craft by the time I came along. As the story goes, my grandfather worked on a novel day and night after he returned from the Navy during World War II, using details culled from his life in Brooklyn, the neighborhood and the military. When he finished, he sent the first chapter—his only copy—to someone someplace in Manhattan, nobody remembers the specifics. He never heard back. Still, he was hopeful, until a film came out in 1955 called, “To Hell and Back,” the title he gave his novel, and that was that. He never wrote again, and the rest of the novel sat in a closet for some 30 years until it was given to me. I still have it and hope one day to have it published for him.

We were more of a movie family. LOVED the movies. Still do. When I was little, my Mom took me to see a cartoon and Disney movie every week. I remember it like it was yesterday. I loved it. I loved the magic, the storytelling, the ability to be pulled into other worlds.

I have found stories that I’d written on colored construction paper when I was about eight years old. Apparently, I fancied myself a storyteller early on. However, in my teens and early twenties I didn’t think I had the vocabulary to become a novelist—or, rather, the kind of novelist I wanted to be. For that reason, I started playing around with the idea of becoming a screenwriter for a while, until I found out that—although it looked pretty easy—screenwriting was more difficult than novel writing.

Still, I never really lost the desire to become a novelist. Plus, over the years I had strengthened my writing skills by working as a journalist and freelance writer/editor. I became a more confident writer. Gradually, I started to write down ideas I had for books, and in the past twenty years I must have started ten or fifteen novels, but finally decided three years ago while in graduate school to choose one of those ideas and make it happen. That idea was Baby Grand.

3-While writing Baby Grand did you intend for it to be a series?

Absolutely not. It was going to be a stand-alone novel, for sure. I knew from the beginning how it was going to end, and that would be that, and then I’d move on. But when I was writing some of the final scenes of Baby Grand, something changed. A lot of people think that I had dollar signs flashing before my eyes as the reason for turning Baby Grand into a series, but that’s not true. I had the sense, all of a sudden, of the possibilities beyond Baby Grand, what was going to happen with these characters that I had grown to love and live with. I saw their futures in my mind’s eye, and I thought to myself, “There’s more I can do here.” I plan for the sequel to be out in the summer of 2014.

4-What are you working on now?

I’m working on both my second novel, In the Red, and the sequel to Baby Grand. I hadn’t planned on writing two books simultaneously, but for the past three months, as I was grappling with trying to promote Baby Grand and work on In the Red, I have been inundated with TONS of ideas for the sequel to Baby Grand, which I had planned on writing next year. Since Baby Grand premiered on Kindle back in May, so many readers have come to me with excitement and theories and questions/ideas for the sequel that my mind had begun to shift away from my current WIP and back to the characters and world I created in my debut novel. Plus, as I worked to release the POD paperback of Baby Grand, additional eBooks and an audiobook (coming in October), I have had to read and reread my manuscript, which has made those characters’ voices only become louder. So after fighting those voices off for months, and just jotting down things here and there to be written another day, I finally decided to dust off the document that I had begun for the sequel a while back. So now I find myself working on two manuscripts at once — not ideal, in my opinion, but what are you going to do?

 5-How did you choose the title?

It was just one of those things. Not planned. In fact, for a while I didn’t even recall how the title came to me. But when I was working as a trade journalist in the 1990s for a home furnishing publication, a sister magazine had put out an issue about luxury linens, and the headline on the cover was “Baby Grand.” I remember thinking, What a smart and clever headline. But I really didn’t think all that much about it after that. Somewhere along the line, though, when I was thinking about titles for this thriller novel I had started writing about the kidnapping of a politician’s infant, that headline came back to me. Baby Grand. And it just seemed perfect.

6-Does the diner and house in Baby Grand exist?  Did you scout for locations?

 In May 2010, I took a road trip to Albany, New York, while I was writing the last half or so of Baby Grand so I could get feel for the city. I mainly wanted to take a tour of the Executive Mansion there, since the building is such an important setting for the book. Perhaps it’s the journalist in me, but I like incorporating true-to-life details in my descriptions, Although I don’t feel any obligation or pressure to be accurate, I do like that mix of fact and fiction in novels—when novelists play with the facts in such a way that the story seems real, even though it’s not. I think it keeps readers on their toes. But while there are details about the governor’s Executive Mansion that are real, lots of things have been imagined. I completely made up Taryn’s Diner and Bailino’s log cabin. I saw both locations very strongly in my mind’s eye. Still do.

7-What is your writing routine? Do you have a designated space?

When I’m in “serious writing mode,” I write 1,000 words a day. I commit to it every day. No excuses. No exceptions. If I am forced to miss a day, I double up the next. I stick to the schedule because if I don’t I find that I won’t write. That’s how I managed to finish Baby Grand after stalling for months. And that’s how I assume I’ll finish In the Red and others. I’m not advocating that all writers write 1,000 words a day, but I do think writers should find a daily routine that suits them – writing a paragraph, a page, for an hour – and stick to it.

As for my workspace, I live in a modestly sized split-level, and my writing station—after being located in various parts of the house over the years—is now in the corner of my dining room table. For some reason, I like this spot (I’m here now).  I have a big window beside me and can view the entire level of the house from here, so I see the kids come and go and still feel connected to them even though I’m off in my own world.

8-What do you do for you when you are not writing or caring for your family?

Wow, what do I do when I’m not writing or caring for my family? I have to think about this one… I love to read, go to the movies, play tennis, bike ride, spend time with friends, eat out—but I haven’t done all that much of those things lately since I spend most of my time writing and caring for my family. J

9-What genre do you read?

I’m a lover of thrillers, of course. I just finished the Dragon Tattoo series and loved it. Lots of fun. I tend to like edge-of-your-seat, can’t-put-down books—because for me to pull myself away from my life (i.e., writing or taking care of my family) the book has to be enough of a draw for me to want to pick it up. But I read just about anything—nonfiction, literary fiction, young adult, romance, chick lit. I like being open to all genres to keep the ideas and experiences flowing.

10-Coffee or tea?

Believe it or not, neither. I’m a bit of a Coke-aholic, though. I do limit myself to one can a day, but when I tell you I look forward to that can, I’m not kidding.

My Review:

I fell in love with the cover for Baby Grand and anxiously awaited the novels release. It was well worth the wait.

Every guess I had as to what would happen next in this novel was wrong, shockingly wrong.

The characters hooked me from the first to the last page. I fell somewhere between love, hate and sorry for all of them.  They are still running lines in my head.  Dina’s writing style made the reading effortless, I swear I could smell baby powder at one point. It is honestly hard to believe this is the author’s debut novel. I highly recommend this book and I will be anxiously awaiting the sequel to Baby Grand and In the Red.

You can follow Dina on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest, and on her blog. Baby Grand, her first novel, is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Kobo, among other retailers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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