Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Welcome Francesca from La Mia Biblioteca Romantica

HI. Cindy here. We have a special guest today all the way from Italy! How cool is that? I hope you will all make Francesca feel welcome here at Top Down. Do ask her any question you want - whether it be about Italian tastes in reading, her wonderful blog or Italian men :o) We all want to know about Italian men, right? Since there is a 7 hour time difference from the East coast to Italy, you may not see her response right away depending on the time of day you post a question. She is so sweet, she told me she'd stay up all night so her responses would be immediate but I begged her not to. I don't want to have her staggering into her class room sleep deprived. But don't let that stop you from asking questions. She is eager to answer. Here's hoping we hear from some Italian bloggers too!! Without further delay, here's Francesca!

Hi everybody! My name is Francesca and I was kindly invited to blog with the ‘Riders’ by Cindy, who I contacted not a long time ago as I’m a great fan of hers. I told her some bits of my experience as a romance reader -- and a writer of a blog about romance books -- in my country, Italy, and she thought it would be nice if I could share my experience with the other readers of RWTTD, too. It was a chance I couldn’t miss and here I am! (Thanks, Cindy,I’m honored.)

I’m a high school teacher and I live in a town in the North of Italy. I’m a big romance fan. I like reading any sort of books, but romance books are the only reads I think of as a treat, a way to pamper myself with. I don’t know you, but reading a good romance book has the same effect as eating good chocolate on my endocrine system --- it makes me relax and feel in peace with the world. No calories and no contraindications, to boot!

I started reading ‘romanzi rosa’ as a teenager because my mom was herself a big fan of the genre. ‘Romanzi rosa’ (‘pink novels’) is what romance books are commonly called here in Italy. I don’t know much about the origin of the word, but I guess they were called so because since the beginning romance books have always been looked at as something ‘for girls only’-- Yeah, prejudice against romance books and their readers is the same here as in the States. Nothing new under the sun.

Anyway, most of the ‘Romanzi rosa’ I used to read were translations of romance books by American and British authors and I used to feel very frustrated every time I read a book I liked and realized it must belong to a series. Because it meant it had a prequel or a sequel I would likely never have the chance to read. I went on reading Italian translations -- sometimes bad translations, sometimes adaptations half the size of the originals -- until 1998. That year my reading habits were to change for good because I got connected to the Internet from home and I discovered ‘the joys’ of Amazon.com. I remember I felt like Alice in Book-wonderland. The choice was so huge I could hardly believe my eyes -- I would never have to depend on the whims of the Italian publishers for my romance books again!

Now, ten years later, I still buy my books from online bookstores and I still surf the net regularly in search of juicy bits of information about my favourite books and authors.-- I've found it’s a wonderful cure for everyday stress. -- As a result of my passion for the romance genre, I've recently started a blog --- ‘la mia biblioteca romantica’ / ‘my romantic library’ – in which I write about the books I read and the authors I love . My blog is in Italian , thou the books I deal with are almost all in English and lots of them haven’t even been translated into Italian yet. While blogs and sites about romance books in English are hundreds, there are only a few of them in Italian. I just wanted to contribute to the enlargement of the community of the Italian romance readers online. There are lots of my site readers who like to know about new books , even though they can’t read them in English. And the ones who can are glad to have the chance to talk about them in their own language.


When picking up romance books I’m not fixed on a single genre but I like changing stories and time periods according to the mood of the moment. I love historicals, but I’m also into romantic suspense -- Cindy, did I tell you how much I love your books?—and I’m sorry romantic suspense is not that popular in Italy. Apart category romances, which are the best sellers of the genre in my country, romance fans who want to read longer books tend to choose historicals or contemporary romance here. Chick lit and paranormals have also started gaining favour among some readers, but their diffusion is still limited if compared to the great success such subgenres have met in the States.

I know it might sound strange, but thou romance is one of the bestselling fiction genres in Italy, most of the romance books that are sold here are translations from American. The Italian romance writers who are able to sell their books for the mass market distribution are few. Some others prefer to label their works as ‘women’s fiction’ and be published in hardcover. As a consequence, Italian romance readers are used to reading about people and places they don’t belong to. We are used to American heroes and heroins and stories set in American cities . Does it bother us? Not at all. We Italians have a passion for foreign things. A hero called Mike or John sounds much more appealing to us than a Michele or a Giovanni. A love story set in New York or Chicago makes us dream more than one set in Milan or Florence. Despite our ‘taste for the exotic’, we love reading about heroes and heroins of Italian origins in the book we read. So, dear writers, why not choose an Italian heroin for your next book? Your Italian fans thanks you in advance!

Francesca

www.bibliotecaromantica.blogspot.com


24 comments:

Michele Hauf said...

Welcome, Francesca! Glad to hear romance is alive and well all over the planet.

I actually just got a few copies of one of my books in Italian the other day. The title is: La Cacciatrice Di Draghi How would you translate that? (I'm guessing Draghi is dragon.)

I've often wondered about us American authors writing stories set in foreign lands. Do we do it right? I write a lot of settings in France. So, have you ever picked up a book set in Italy, written by an American author, and thought she just didn't get the atmosphere right?

Playground Monitor said...

How interesting about names and places. I'd much rather read about Giovanni in Firenze than John in NYC. I don't read Presents, but don't a lot of them take place in Italy?

I think it's wonderful you do so much to further the cause of romance novels in your country. Keep up the good work!

Marilyn

Betina Krahn said...

Francesca! Welcome to our blog! I'm not certain but I think we've corresponded via e-mail, too. I've had a number of books translated into Italian and out in hardcover there.

It's wonderful to hear that you love American settings and characters. And a huge number of writers use Italian-American characters in their books. . . my friend Karen Rose, for instance. Her last book "Die For Me" (a fantastic romantic suspense) was the second book featuring a big Italian family from Philadelphia.

Welcome again and thanks so much for sharing your love of reading with romance readers on both sides of the POND!

:)Betina

Helen Brenna said...

Welcome Francesca!

I'm fascinated with all this market information. And like Michele, always wonder how well I do with my setting details. I've done the Bahamas and Peru. I'm working on Mexico City and Argentina in my current NASCAR book and the book coming out in October is set in Greece. Sorry, no Italian heroes. Some day, maybe!

So you order off Amazon and have the books shipped to Italy. Is that expensive?

What the covers on the Italian translations look the same as the American covers?

Liza said...

Welcome Francesca!

I guess everyone wants to read about other locations. I love to read books that take place in Europe and other places I've never visited.

Kathleen Eagle said...

Hi Francesca!

It's been way too many years since I visited Italy--loved loved LOVED Florence! And Rome. And Venice. Each city has such a unique personality. And the history! And the art! And the FOOD!

So interesting that Italian readers get more American romance than Italian. Let's talk men. What do you think is the appeal of American heroes?

Cindy Gerard said...

Hi Francesca. Just checking in with a couple of questions of my own. Why is it, do you think, that Romantic Suspense is not such a popular sub-genre in Italy? Inquiring minds want to know.

Christie Ridgway said...

Hi, Francesca! Thanks for taking the time to visit us. I'm glad Italians enjoy our American settings. I've written more than one Italian-American character. Growing up, I had very good friends of Italian descent (and then there's my uncle with the last name DiGiovanni), so that comes natural to me.

And is it true that men in Italy live with their mothers for a long time?

Francy said...

Thanks 'girlz' for your warm welcome to your lovely blog!It's great to be blogging with you!

Ciao MICHELE! You guessed right -- 'draghi' means 'dragons' in Italian and the title of your book could be translated as 'the huntress of dragons'.
Actually, I've read a few books set in Italy and I guess the writers did their research well, because I didn't find anything wrong with the atmosphere and the details of the setting. At least nothing that prevented me from enjoying the reading. The only problems I had were when the authors added some Italian in the dialogues, just to give them a touch of 'Italian flavor'. Most of times the use of the language was wrong, with forms and expressions that would probably sound nice to the American ear, but were quite annoying to mine. I remember a book whose author had made a big effort to fill her dialogues with lots of Italian, but most of it was incorrect. When I finished the the book I felt the need to send her a mail and tell her about it - yeah, I made a list of all the mistakes. It's the teacher in me, you know, I just couldn't help myself! ;-)

MARILYN : I guess it's the way of the world -- the neighbor's grass is always greener.;-)
I've noticed that category romance novels with Italian/Spanish/Greek heroes are very popular at the moment. Is it the 'latin lover' thing?

BETINA : sorry, I'm not the Francesca who wrote to you, but I know some of your novels have been published in Italy (some of which I read and appreciated) and that you have many fans in my country. Thanks for your welcome and for the hint about that book by Karen Rose. I didn't know about it. I'll put it on my wish list.

I know there are lots of writers who use Italian-American characters in their books.I've read some of them and found it funny to read about those very big Italian families where everybody seems to talk a lot, cook/eat a lot and be usually overprotective with the other members of their family. You know, I like to read about these 'typical Italian families' because for me they belong to the past. The image of Italians that sometimes comes out from these novels is a bit stereotypical. There always someone who's cooking tomato sauce with garlic ! I'd like to read a book in which the heroin is an Italian woman like me, who's got a small family and a 'mamma' who doesn't like to cook and isn't obsessed with food -- does anybody have some titles to suggest?

HELEN: I haven't read any NASCAR book yet, but I'd love to. We have 'Formula One' racings in Europe and they are very popular. Italians are all for the 'Ferrari Team',of course.We won the cup last year.

Yes, I still order some books from Amazon but I do it from Amazon.uk now -- it's much cheaper. Fortunately, there are also some Italian bookstores from which I can get books in English. When I started buying books online from Amazon.com the shipping costs were really huge,sometimes even higher than the total amout of the order, but they didn't stop me. Now I spend less for the shipping
but I buy more books, so in the end nothing has really changed. I still spend too much money on books.

Italian translations of American books usally have different covers. Clinch covers are still very popular, especially for historicals. There are many readers who would like the covers to be less explicit and who feel uneasy when reading a romance book in public. I know that authors can't complain about a bad cover art, is it true?

Cindy Gerard said...

Hi Francesca! You must be home from school. As I write this it's around 2:00 pm in the Midwest. Does that make it around 7:00 pm in Italy? I'm never quite sure.

And in category romance, we rarely have any say about cover art even though the publishers pretend that we do :o) In single title, however, I've found that I have a lot of opportunity for input. I love that about ST.

Karin Tabke said...

Love the name Francesca, so much I named one of my heroines Francesca! Thanks for staying up so late. :)And I'm so happy to hear romance is alive and well in Italy.
Ciao for now,

Karin Tabke

Francy said...

Hi Kathleen! I'm glad you liked Italy -- you must come again soon!

What's the appeal of the American heroes? As I said in my post, we Italians 'have a thing' for everything that is foreign. What looks exotic whets our curiosity. I like All-American heroes like cowboys, SEALs, CIA agents, football pros -- guys I don't like the risk to bump into when I take out the garbage -- they make my imagination fly and that's exactly what I ask from a romance book.
Another reason is that one of the most important publishers of the romance genre in our country has made a joint-venture with Harlequin and most of the books they publish in Italy are by Harlequin American/British/Australian authors. Consequently heroes in those books are American/British/Australian. If they had a joint venture with a German publisher we might be reading books by German authors with German heroes. Well, that wouldn't be the same for me -- cowboys and SEALs are great dream stuff!

Cindy Gerard said...

Me again.
I'm curious, are blogs a big thing in Italy as they are in America? Do you get quite a bit of traffic on your site and do you see any common requests for reading material?

Helen Brenna said...

Hey Francesca! You mentioned Formula One and I just have to tell you - the new NASCAR book I'm writing now - for 3/09 - has an ex-F1 guy switching to NASCAR. He's a yummy Artentine!

It's been fun learning about the whole Formula One gig.

Francy said...

Ciao Cindy!

I think it's about 8 hours difference. But I'm not sure too. Anyway, it's 11.46 pm now.

Your question about the moderate popularity of romantic suspense in Italy is like the one million dollar question! Who knows? There can be a number of reasons.

First of all, Italians aren't good readers. We don't read enough and there are people who never read books. Consequently, the book market is not a big one and publishers, who have to share a small bone, can't afford to run risks when choosing genres and authors. For a long time 'romanzi rosa' in Italy were only historical, contemporary and category romance. Some single titles by bestselling American authors of romantic suspense were also published, but they weren't more than a few a year.

The changes that have occured in the American romance book market in the last few years -- I'm referring to the rise in popularity of subgenres like paranormal, fantasy, romantic suspense, romantic intrigue, erotica -- have influenced the Italian market too.As a result, books of new subgenres have been added to the usual production with alternate fortune. One series of paranormal romance books was discontinued after only a few months because sales weren't satisfactory. Now there's a new one which seems to be more successful. The same can be said for romantic suspense. New series have been issued recently, but Italian romance readers seem to warm slowly to the new subgenres. I hope for some changes in the future.

Cindy Gerard said...

Francesca, I see what you're saying. I have a dead friend in Rome who is a HUGE romance reader - Rossella, I think you and she have talked - and from her I thought that EVERYONE read romance. Guess I was wrong.

You need to go to bed. I'm hoping others will have questions for you but you can answer them tomorrow and they can check back. Your post will still be up on the site for a while.

Thanks again, Francesca for taking time from your busy schedule to visit with us. It's wonderful having you
Ciao!

Francy said...

Cindy, I thank you all for your kind hospitality. I'll get back as soon as possible to answer questions I haven't managed to answer yet.

Just a few lines before going to bed...

CHRISTIE : It's true, Italian men tend to live with their families until they get married. There are also many men who live on their own, of course, but even in these cases they tend to live in the same town and go to mamma's every other day! Okay, rents are very expensive for single people in Italy,that's one of the reasons.The other is that, you know, nobody cooks and presses shirts like mamma!

KARIN: Thank you! I've read some books by American authors with heroins called Francesca.Of course I loved that!
You know, my full name is Francesca Romana. If you go to Rome there's a wonderful small church near the Roman Forum dedicated to Saint Francesca Romana,who's the patron of car drivers.

Bye for now, I'll come back tomorrow. CIAO!

flchen1 said...

Wow! Just wanted to say hi, Francesca! I haven't yet had the pleasure of visiting Italy--I SO want to! I'll read a little differently now, knowing that someone in Italy might be reading and enjoying the same book!

Do you have favorite books or authors? And do you mainly find new-to-you authors through the Internet? Blogs?

Thanks for taking the time to share!!

juneross said...

Hi Francesca!
I agree eveything you said, I would like to say more about the Italian readers, but my english is not good enough.
Greetings from Italiaaaaa!

Juneross

Anonymous said...

Hi Francy, it's Rossella from Rome
I'm sorry I couldn’t check in yesterday to participate , but I 'd like to thank-you for giving to all the bloggers the "whole picture" about Italians and romantic books .
I agree with you that Italian man cooking with garlic and tomato , make us smile!
But what make us really disappointed in reading American books , is to see bad translation even for the few words writers put in their stories ,to add the "Italian flavour". I think they should have someone Italian correcting them.
Cindy , I'm sorry that seeing all my "Romantic Suspense” books, in my house you got the wrong impression. Me and Francesca are a kind of exception because, like she said, Italians have the bad habit of “Not reading” . People like us, that have more books than time to read them ,are not so common . Italian readers don’t not what they loose not grabbing all your stories and let them be carried away, with one of your super alpha men !!
Francesca, you did a great job!
Ciao
Rossella

Cindy Gerard said...

Thanks again to Francesca and everyone who stopped in to say hello to her. We really enjoyed having you!
Ciao

Anonymous said...

Hi, Francesca, I'm weirde, thanks to have sent me the message about your guest starring here, it's awesome!!
All you have said is perfectly right we italian love to read about foreign heroes and it is also true that in last months paranormal romance and urban fantasy are rising to our attention, you know they are my fovorite genre, with historical and fantasy books.
Why now? And not before?
I' don't know...maybe is been the huge success of Harry potter or the film about The lord of rings....but italian readers now wants supernatural a little more than in the past. The huge success that Stephenie Meyer with her Twilight series had had in Italy, is an example. Young girl are just crazy about her books.

ciao

Francy said...

Ciao a tutti!
Here I am again, after my internet connection suffered a momentary breakdown yesterday -- I was fuming with my internet provider!

I'd like to answer the other nice comments readers of this great blog have left.

First of all Cindy, again I want to thank you for giving me this wonderful opportunity, it's all new for me and exciting. You asked me about my blog and blogging in general in Italy. Well, I started my blog some months ago and I like the experience .It's exciting. It keeps me in touch with people who have my same passions and who I can share reading advice with but also who I can make friends with. There are other nice blogs about romance in Italian which I regularly visit, but their number is still sooo small if compared to the one of those in English!

FLCHEN1 : Thanks for your nice comment. I hope you'll be able to come to Italy soon. We have problems but Italy's still a wonderful country. If you'd like to get furtherr advice about travelling in Italy,get in touch (through my blogsite)I'll be glad to answer!
As for favorite authors,I have a lot,probablt too many to mention here -- Cindy is one of them. I also like Suzanne Brockmann, Marliss Melton, S.E.Phillips,Jennifer Crusie,Jo Beverley, Mary Balogh,Elizabeth Hoyt, Connie Brockway,Marilyn Pappano,Laura Lee Guhrke,Liz Carlyle. I usually get recs from romance sites and blogs. I usually start with the synopsys, if the story has something that pushes the right buttons I pick the book, but I also follow reviewers' advice. If a book is rated low by many reviewers I trust them and keep off -- so far this 'method' has proved to work fairly well.

ROSSELLA, JUNEROSS, WEIRDE : It was great to read your comments, girls, and that you agree with my thoughts, thank you so much!

-- Rossella: thanks for your comment. I hope to hear from you again soon.

--- Juneross: ehi, bella, yours is one of the most interesting blog about romance books coming out in Italy. You and the other bloggers are doing a great job, you know it. Don't stop!

-- Weirde: you know, I was thinking of you when I wrote about the increasing popularity of paranormals in Italy. I know you love them. We hope the publishers start to realize they could enlarge the number of their readers if they run the risk and publish more books of this subgenre, which is so popular especially among younger readers .

It was lovely to hear from all of you. Thank you!

Francesca

Olivia Ardey said...

¡¡Oh, Francy... qué alegría verte también al otro lado del océano!! Y ya que veo que la literatura romántica es multicultural.... aquí os dejo mi aportación en español.

Aunque no entiendo ni una palabra de inglés, desde España todo mi apoyo por defender la novela romántica... también en el mundo entero, Francy.

Un beso muy fuerte.