Questioner: Thank you for joining us. Welcome to this major, first-time, blog interview I’m conducting with myself, R. J. Nello – novelist, traveler, expatriate deep thinker, intellectual extraordinaire….
R. J. Nello: What the hell are you talking about with that title? Vampires? There are no vampires in my books. Although as my wife loves to barb me, they are full of French girls….
Q: It’s a grabber. A headline that wows ‘em. We want people passing through to read this, don’t we?
Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a vampire.
Nello: And I’m an intellectual? Thanks for the pat on the back. But you sure as hell haven’t seen my SAT scores.
Q: We’ve got to get those using WordPress reader to stop and look for two seconds at least. Putting your photo up sure won’t work. You’re not an attractive woman.
Nello: Uh, huh. Okay, dude, here’s another grabber: my uncle is friends with a man who was friends with Gore Vidal. Really. Top that? Okay, Vidal’s dead now. But you probably think I mean Al Gore.
Q: No, I don’t.
Nello: Oh, and Sean Connery – yes, that Sean Connery: Mr Bond, Mr. Scottish Independence – once asked for my uncle’s autograph. How’s that also?
Q: Is that why you write, to try to compete with and better your uncle?
Nello: What are you, a psychiatrist? And I don’t think I need one of those. Well, at least not yet….
Q: Okay, to Passports. What got you started? Where did the basic idea for that novel come from?
Nello: James Blunt.
Q: Excuse me?
Nello: I’d always wanted to write non-fiction. I’ve got bl-ody degrees coming out of my…. well, but who gives a damn about what I have to say about anything. Or you for that matter. Everyone’s got an opinion. Like should Scotland be independent? How the hell should I know?
Q: We all have new things to learn?
Nello: Okay, you really wanna know? One morning, I was listening to that “1973” song of Blunt’s on my iPhone for about the 247th time and I thought, ‘He’s too young to remember that year. Hell, even I don’t!’ Ah, but how about circa “1993?” Bingo! My brain shifted forward into a fictionalized historical memoir type thing….
Q: That’s fantastic!
Nello: Wait, I’m not done. Then I made my wife a cup of tea. I stopped thinking at that point. She’s English. Damn it, I can’t be distracted making tea for her. She tells me off if it’s not good.
Q: Obviously evidence of sheer genius in knowing exactly when and how to focus the mind. F. Scott Fitzgerald couldn’t match it. May I have your autograph?
Nello: Look, take it easy with that suck up stuff. It won’t work. Well, buy a copy of my book at least. A little encouragement always helps. We novelists are a fragile lot.
Q: About the content. It sounds fascinating. You’ve written fact as fiction?
Nello: No, I haven’t! You think I wanna get sued? I base my fiction on general events and on people I knew in another century. Sorta my life – very broadly – at one time way back when. But very SORTA. As many a fiction writer has done. It’s not fact. No one in Passports is a real person. Got that? No one. Not a soul.
Q: Understood. So you don’t want to end up in court. Understandable that. Okay, but I’m sure your wife wants to know, “Who’s Isabelle?”
Nello: I’m certainly not telling you. But she knows this much: I dated a French girl in college long before I knew her, today’s lovely, gorgeous, perfect Mrs. Nello. My mother’s reaction at the time was about what you’d expect after she had met mademoiselle: “Are you nuts? They hate us.”
Q: You used that very line opening a chapter, when one of James’s workmates disparages his going out with her!
Nello: Hey, you did read Passports pre-interview! That’ll win you brownie points for a question or two. I can be as tough as Gore Vidal was on ignorant interviewers, you know. People expect us novelists to be nasty sorts. Bitter. Angry. I’m working on that. Makes us more interesting, I suppose.
Q: Is that girl how you seem to know Isabelle’s mind so well? And that of her friends? What she told you? What you learned from her? All of them?
Nello: Oh, God, more pop psychology. But you’re on the right track again. That’s two good questions. Makes a refreshing change for this dumb interview.
Q: So that’s who she is? That girl from then? Your readers are dying to know?
Nello: Now you’re annoying me. I told you the answer to that. Back up. Don’t badger me. You aren’t Jon Stewart and I’m not some Republican. I swear I’ll get up and walk off this set.
Q: Sorry, sorry. May I ask, do you ever still hear from her?
Nello: The last time was through a relation of hers years after I’d last seen her. Her sister emailed me days after September 11, 2001, asking if everyone we knew in NY was okay. By then they had both married Frenchmen who weren’t too keen on them having male friends outside marriage. Shocker, ain’t it? Even if those male friends were married to other women? Probably because it’s you know, France, and they’re Frenchmen and they know how they themselves might behave…. [cough, cough, François Hollande] and why the hell am I telling you this?
Q: Because I’m the interviewer! Moving on. The tale’s got culture, travel, and politics, yeh; but also love and mushy stuff. Did you fear it perhaps being labeled, uh, “chick lit?”
Nello: I’m a romantic, okay. I admit it. I’m also an historian. Historians are, by definition, romantics. I will admit one of my proofreaders used that phrase. It made me cringe. I wasn’t aiming for that and that’s not what the books are. I also knew the tale isn’t Rambo Returns, Part XVII. No one would call The Winds of War “chick lit,” or Casablanca a “chick flick.” Or maybe they do? Anyway, I suppose anything touching on relationships in which men are also not invading a small country runs the risk of finding itself labeled “romance.”
Q: So what is your goal in writing? Is it artistic? For the generations? Do you hope to make a statement?
Nello: I hope one day my niece and two nephews will be able to cash massive cheques that their dead uncle’s typing and struggles made possible, and then they can write of what a wonderful man I was and how no one ever appreciated me while I was alive and that’s a shame. That’s the English spelling of “check,” by the way, given we’re doing this interview in London.
Q: But what about now? While you’re living? What do you hope to achieve?
Nello: If I’m totally honest, I hope people who stop and read this will buy my book, love it, and tell 900 of their closest friends on Facebook. And then they’ll also contact major film studios demanding, “Have you optioned this? It’s my favorite book! When’s the film version coming out?”
Q: So you’d like to see a film of it? Heh, heh, ya got any French actresses in mind?
Nello: No one you’d know, I’m sure. Like you know French cinema? Did you vote for that buffoon George W. Bush or something? Sorry, sorry, that’s just more Mr. Vidal popping out of me for a moment. Hey, how’s my being moody and nasty working for you interview-wise? Making this more compelling?
Q: You are telling your blog readers a sequel due for November release is in the works. Sounds great. So where are you going from where you left off in the first book?
Nello: Ahem, well, as Albert Camus once said….
Q: Uh, I’ll have to stop you there, Mr. Nello. It’s been an unadulterated pleasure speaking with you. I’m sorry, but we’ve run out of time. And frankly, I’ve had enough.
Nello: But I didn’t finish sharing my Camus quote? Damn it, I knew I should have held out for Charlie Rose.
UPDATE: The interview continues here. ;-)