About the book:Francesca "Franki" Amato is a tough-talking rookie cop in Austin, Texas—until an unfortunate 911 call involving her boyfriend, Vince, and a German female wrestler convinces her once and for all that she just isn't cut out for a life on the police force. So Franki makes the snap decision to move to New Orleans to work at her friend Veronica's detective agency, Private Chicks, Inc. But Franki's hopes for a more stable life are soon dashed when Private Chicks is hired by the prime suspect in a murder case to find out what really happened to a beautiful young boutique manager who was found strangled to death with a cheap yellow scarf. When she's not investigating, Franki is hoping to seduce handsome bank executive Bradley Hartmann, but most of her time is spent dodging date offers from a string of "good Italian boys"—make that not-so-good aging Italian men—that her meddlesome Sicilian grandma has recruited as marriage candidates. As Mardi Gras approaches and the mystery of the murdered shop girl gets more complicated, Franki must decipher the odd ramblings of a voodoo priestess to solve both the murder and the mystery of her own love life.
Interview with Traci AndrighettiTraci, how long have you been writing, and how did you start?
I wish I could tell you that I’ve been writing for years, but I haven’t—-not unless you count the boring academic papers and the thesis and dissertation I wrote in graduate school. The truth is that I wrote a Nancy Drew–style mystery with my cousin when I was twelve (which, thankfully, has been lost), and then I wrote Limoncello Yellow last year under the expert guidance of internationally bestselling author Kristin Harmel.
How did you come up with the title of your book?
Well, I wanted colorful titles with an Italian word in them. So I made a list of the types of Italian words Americans know, and I came up with types of pasta and alcohol. LOL! And I really wanted my first title to include the word “yellow,” because the Italian word for “yellow (giallo)” also means “mystery novels” in Italy (because the colors of the first mystery novels were yellow, so they became known as “gialli,” or “yellows”). Anyway, once I had “yellow” in mind, the drink “Limoncello” was a no-brainer.
How would you describe your book in five words?
An outrageous romp through NOLA!
Which character did you most enjoy writing?
My favorite character to write is definitely the aging ex-stripper Glenda O’Brien. The thing I like most about Glenda is that she says and does whatever she wants. Plus, she always brings a smile to my face because she was inspired by a real-life “adventure” I had one day on Bourbon Street in New Orleans when I asked to use the bathroom at Big Daddy’s strip club (something I don’t recommend for the faint at heart).
Are any of your characters inspired by real people?
Yes! Veronica Maggio was inspired by my dear friend Marissa Maggio, and David Savoie was inspired by David Turet, who was one of my students at the University of Texas where I used to teach Italian. The speech of the Sicilian grandmother was inspired by the great aunt of an old friend of mine.
Who are your favorite authors?
Actually, most of my favorite authors are Italian. I have a nerdy Italian book blog called italicissima, so spend a lot of my time reading contemporary Italian literature rather than American. Crazy, I know.
How long is your to-be-read pile?
I’m too afraid to look. I mean, I know how tall the tower of books in my bedroom is, but I’ve been afraid to count how many unread books are on my Kindle.
Where and when do you prefer to do your writing?
My favorite place to write is at The Flight Path Coffee Shop in Austin, Texas, on a Saturday morning. When I’m there with a double soy latte in hand, I feel like I can write anything.
Your last meal would be…
...an entire jar of Nutella, my one true addiction. “Nutella” is Italian for “Nirvana” (not really)!
Would you rather work in a library or bookstore?
Oh, for sure in a library! At a bookstore, you really only find the classics and whatever is current. Libraries are full of those hidden gems that have either been forgotten or that never really got discovered. For example, I recently stumbled upon the Outdoor Girls series (1913 to 1933) at the University of Texas library. They were the original Hardy Boys, only they were girls!
What’s one of your favorite quotes?
I don’t have a favorite quote, but my favorite saying is without a doubt, “When life gives you lemons, make Limoncello.”
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Well, if I have the money and the time, I travel. But if I’m at home, I love to watch old movies from the 1950s and 1960s. And trashy reality TV, of course!
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
I would live in one of the fabulous apartments above the Piazza Navona in Rome (but only if the apartment walls have been soundproofed to reduce the noise from the crowds below). That’s my version of paradiso.
What are you working on now?
I’m writing Prosecco Pink, the second novel in the Franki Amato Mystery series. Be sure to read the book blurb on my blog!
Excerpt from Limoncello YellowI parked in front of my new home. Before I could get out of the car, Veronica was already walking out her front door, smiling and waving with Hercules in tow in a turquoise fuzzy sweater that matched hers perfectly. Despite her Sicilian father, Veronica looked Swedish like her ex-ballerina mother, with long blonde hair, cornflower blue eyes, and pale skin.
"Franki!" Veronica yelled.
I bent over—at the waist—to hug her. I'd forgotten how tiny she was, and I wondered for at least the hundredth time how her internal organs could function in such a small frame.
She looked up at me and smiled. "How does it feel to be in New Orleans?"
I glanced over at the cemetery and then back at her. "At the moment, it feels fairly morbid."
"Oh, come on! You don't still have that weird cemetery issue, do you?"
"Yes, Veronica. And I can't believe you didn't tell me that there's one right across the street! You know, lots of people would find it disturbing to go to sleep at night with a cemetery basically in their front yard, especially a New Orleans cemetery."
Veronica shook her head in mock disgust as she grabbed a box from my back seat.
"Thank God there's a bar right next to it," I continued. "In case I need to drink myself to death from despair."
She smiled. "Well, if you do drink yourself to death, I wouldn't have to carry you very far for your burial."
I quickly made the customary scongiuri gesture that my nonna had taught me to do to ward off the threat of death, which Veronica had just so carelessly cast upon me. It looks like the University of Texas's hook 'em horns sign with the index and pinky fingers pointed up like horns, only you point the horns downward.
Veronica rolled her eyes. "Do you still do that silly scongiuri thing too? God, Franki, you make me so glad my nonna stayed in Sicily. You're so superstitious!"
"I do it just in case," I snapped. "I mean, you never know..."
Veronica walked up to my new front door, which was right next to hers, and pulled a key from the front right pocket of her AG jeans. "Glenda—our landlady—told me to let you in. She'll come downstairs to meet you in a few minutes."
With the box balanced on her left hip, Veronica unlocked my front door with her right hand. She gave the door a shove with her shoulder, and it swung open. She turned to me and bowed. "Welcome to your humble abode."
I excitedly entered the apartment with Napoleon at my heels. As I surveyed the living room, a number of adjectives came to mind, but humble was not one of them. The room could only be described as the home decor equivalent of Amsterdam's Red Light District. The walls were covered in fuzzy, blood-red wallpaper with shiny gold fleurs-de-lis, and hanging from the ceiling was a baroque red-and-black crystal chandelier. The couch was a rococo chaise lounge in velvet zebra print, and next to it was a lilac velour armchair with gold fringe that matched the drapery to perfection. On the opposite wall there was a mahogany wood fireplace with a hearth covered in white candles of various sizes and shapes. In front of the fireplace, a bearskin rug replete with a bear head covered the hardwood floors. The only thing that was missing was the red fluorescent light in the living room window announcing my availability for prospective clients.
I realized that my mouth was hanging open. "Wow. So…this Glenda…is she a prostitute?" I joked.
"Former stripper, actually," Veronica replied. "And she's really touchy about the difference, so don't use the word prostitute in front of her."
I gaped at my best friend. "You're serious?"
Veronica just blinked innocently, as if renting me an apartment from a former stripper across from a cemetery were perfectly normal. "You know, I was reading that the brothel look is really in right now. I believe it's called 'bordello chic.'" She began to pace back and forth as she tried to reconcile her unusually conflicted sense of fashion. "But now that I think about it, Lenny Kravitz redecorated his house here in New Orleans, and designers call his style 'bordello modern.'"
"Something tells me that Lenny didn't decorate this place. And I wouldn't exactly call this 'bordello modern.' It's more like 'bordello seventies.'"
"Well, at least you won't have to add any touches of color," Veronica said.
About the author:
Traci Andrighetti is the author of the Franki Amato mystery series. In her previous life, she was an award-winning literary translator and a Lecturer of Italian at the University of Texas at Austin, where she earned a PhD in Applied Linguistics. But then she got wise and ditched that academic stuff for a life of crime—writing, that is.
If she's not hard at work on her next novel, Traci is probably watching her favorite Italian soap opera, eating Tex Mex or sampling fruity cocktails, and maybe all at the same time. She lives in Austin with her husband, young son (who desperately wants to be in one of her books) and three treat-addicted dogs.
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