1960s, Italy, classic cinema, mystery and so much more
It was a night characterized by what happens when the community comes together to make something great.
The Syosset Public Library, Theodore’s Books in Oyster Bay and Mongo’s Coffee on Aug. 29 teamed up to put together a book talk with author Kelsey James, who wrote The Woman In The Castello.
From the many reviews of this book, one aspect of it was made abundantly clear, this book is a fun page turner.
“It’s Gothic fiction, it’s romantic suspense, it’s historical fiction, it’s a mystery,” James said. “It’s just all of the things I really like to read.”
James provided a summary of the book on her website, kelseyjamesauthor.com:
“Rome, 1965: Aspiring actress Silvia Whitford arrives at Rome’s famed Cinecittà Studios from Los Angeles, ready for her big break and a taste of la dolce vita. Instead, she learns that the movie in which she was cast has been canceled. Desperate for money, Silvia has only one choice: seek out the Italian aunt she has never met.
Gabriella Conti lives in a crumbling castello. Silvia’s mother refuses to explain the rift that drove the sisters apart, but Silvia is fascinated by Gabriella, a once-famous actress. And the eerie castle becomes the location for a new horror movie—and she lands a starring role.
Silvia immerses herself in the part of an ingenue tormented by the ghost of her beautiful, seductive ancestor. But when Gabriella abruptly vanishes, the movie’s make-believe terrors seep into reality. No one else on set seems to share Silvia’s suspicions. Yet as she delves into Gabriella’s disappearance, she triggers a chain of events that illuminate dark secrets in the past—and a growing menace in the present.”
James was connected with the Syosset Public Library through her publisher and publicist. Coincidentally, she was very familiar with the area because her husband is from Cold Spring Harbor.
But James’s journey to getting her book published, and onto readers’ book shelves, was no easy feat.
Much of James’s writing process took place during the height of the pandemic while working from home and taking care of her two-year-old. Prior to the pandemic, she did much of her writing on subways and New Jersey Transit.
“I’ve been working towards this goal for a really long time,” James said. “I’ve been doing creative writing my whole life, and becoming a published author has always been the dream. So I think having practiced my craft for so many years, you just get closer and closer. Even when my plate became fuller, I was able to be more efficient with the time I had. You find those spare minutes when you can.”
Another hurdle in her journey was being laid off the day she submitted her first draft of The Woman In The Castello.
“It definitely was one of those life is stranger than fiction moments, where it was a confirmation of sorts that something needed to change,” said James, who now works as the senior content marketing manager for Door Dash. “It’s interesting because in the first pages of my novel, the heroine gets fired from the movie that she’s casted in.”
James spilled many aspects of her real life onto the page; exploring motherhood and family, as well as her love of history. She also took inspiration from the non-fiction book, My Life with Cleopatra: The Making of a Hollywood Classic written by film producer Walter Wagner and columnist Joe Hyams, to explore the beginning of the paparazzi and the obsession with Hollywood actors in light of the affair between Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, as well as Italy as a popular movie set.
“One of my majors was classical studies, and so I was studying ancient history, where you really had to put together stories from the past without a lot of information,” James said, later adding during her book talk that “one of the first trips I ever took in my life was to Italy. I spent three months there in college… I had this dream trip where I got to travel all over the country, exploring archaeological sites and museums.”
To purchase a copy of The Woman In The Castello, visit kelseyjamesauthor.com or stop by Theodore’s Books in Oyster Bay.