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Q&A: New York Times bestselling author Adriana Trigiani discusses her work ahead of her appearance in Lancaster | Entertainment

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The Council of Friends of Lancaster County’s Public Library’s 20th annual author event in 2021 raised $27,000 – the most money ever raised in the 20 years of the fundraising events. So, for the 21st annual fundraising event, the Council of Friends decided to pull off another unprecedented feat: bringing two authors to the stage.

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New York Times bestselling authors Adriana Trigiani and Chris Bohjalian will be in conversations with WITF’s Scott LaMar at Calvary Church in Lancaster 11 a.m. May 24.

Tickets to the event are $65 and include complimentary copies of Trigiani’s latest book “The Good Left Undone” and Bohjalian’s newest novel “The Lioness.” Ticketholders must show their ticket at the event to receive the complimentary books.  There will be no luncheon at this year’s event. Tickets order forms are available at lancasterlibraries.org and at Aaron’s Books in Lititz. 

Trigiani is the author of 20 books of fiction and nonfiction including her latest book “The Good Left Undone,” which was published late last month. She is also a playwright, television writer and producer, podcaster and filmmaker.

Trigiani lives in Greenwich Village in New York City, but is originally from Big Stone Gap, Virginia. She honored her hometown with her “Big Stone Gap” series of novels and the film of the same name. And, along with co-founder Nancy Bolmeier-Fisher, she recognizes her Appalachian roots with the Origin Project – a journal writing project offered in 17 Virginia schools for students in grades 2-12, which focuses on identity and origins. The program, which started in 2014, publishes an anthology of student writing every year.

Her latest novel, “The Good Left Undone,” is a family epic about secrets, love, loss and legacy that spans the globe and generations. 

Chris Bohjalian is the author of 24 books including his latest “The Lioness” – a historical thriller set during an African safari. 

For more than 20 years, Bohjalian wrote an award-winning newspaper column about small town life in Vermont for the Burlington Free Press.. 

His work has been translated into 35 languages and his 20th novel, “The Flight Attendant,” was adapted for a miniseries starring Kaley Cuoco, now streaming on HBO Max. 

Trigiani took some time to talk over the phone as she walked the busy New York City Streets. (Click here for a Q&A with Bohjalian.)

How have libraries helped you develop as a writer and reader?

Libraries were my essential home away from home. I’m the daughter of a librarian, so I was raised to revere books and reading. I always say that my superpower is I’m an avid reader. It makes all the difference in my life. If I struggle with something, I can always find the answer in the library, and I learned that from my good mother.

We lived in Appalachia in a town called Big Stone Gap, and when we moved there, we did not have a library. The library wasn’t built until the late ’70s, so the county library had a bookmobile. We were regulars at the bookmobile in the 1970s and loved it. I thought the bookmobile was very magical. In fact, in my first novel (“Big Stone Gap”) I wrote about the bookmobile – that’s the impact that libraries have had on me.

And also, when I first began writing books, my mother said, “I hope you’re going to visit libraries.” So, I made really the lion’s share of what I do around libraries.

You’ll be sharing the stage with Chris Bohjalian, can you talk about his work?

He is a master of every genre of contemporary and historical fiction. He does it all. He is a master craftsman. Chris Bohjalian is a national treasure and one of our great American writers of all time and I think “The Lioness” is a must-read.

Your latest book “The Good Left Undone” is an epic work of historical fiction. What sort of research did you do to prepare to write this book?

I hire researchers and I spend a lot of time at the library – in this case, New York Public Library and also libraries in Italy  – to glean information. My researchers also used university libraries like Gonzaga University library out in Spokane, Washington. In England, there’s a library dedicated to Winston Churchill’s work and other work pertaining to the times when he was in power. In the United States, often you’ll find programs built around like World War II or certain subject arenas. It’s really helpful to work with the libraries because you can truly find anything you need.

A lot of the information we gleaned about the S.S. Arandora Star (Editor’s note: The Arandora Star was torpedoed by a German U-boat on July 2, 1940 resulting in the death of more than 400 Italian civilians) was from microfilm in international libraries. It was really interesting, because there was propaganda involved in this particular situation. They lied about it, basically, because they didn’t want to alarm people when the war started. And in fact, in the book, I paid handsomely to print one of the pieces of propaganda against Italian Scots.

You’re a novelist, a film director, a podcaster and you’ve written for television – how do you juggle all of these and know what you want to focus on?

You just kind of do one thing at a time. If I’m writing a novel, I’m writing a novel, that’s it. Then you sell it, then you write the script. Then you’re going to direct it and you’ve got to raise the money and go into production. So it looks like I’m juggling a lot of things, but what I’m really juggling is this bouquet of ideas that I have and I massage them and wait for the right moment for that particular story. Everything I write is based upon my family.

Were there specific episodes from your family that made their way into the book?

When I got married, my grandmother called me in and said, “Pick a piece of jewelry.”  I said, what a wonderful tradition, and she said this is what the Venetian Italians do. Then I found it was Southern Italian, it was Northern Italian – it was an Italian thing. I got married once and that was it and the traditions come out when that happens. You don’t know them before you’re part of them. You may give your fiancé a diamond ring, but that diamond spent millions of years in the earth. Then it was cut from raw stone and split down through history many times, so you could have on an Indian Raja’s ruby that’s been cut into 25, 50, 100 stones and you have a shard of that. So I thought, that is really phenomenal to have that kind of antiquity there. That’s what a family is. We’re not hatched here from nothing. We’re connected. That’s really what this whole thing is about.

Can you talk about The Origin Project?

We’ve been in classrooms for 10 years and we publish an anthology ever year. I bring in authors of note to talk to the kids – we did it in person and Zoom. It’s a wonderful project because at the beginning of the school year, we give every child a journal and I encourage them to make it their own. I say scratch it up, put pictures on it, do whatever you want it’s yours. It’s a year-round, in-school writing program. And the topic? Your origin. We encourage the telling of the story. If you’re proud of where you come from you’re likely to do all right.



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