Your story sounds like a movie or a book. You should write one. The gazzillionth time I heard those words when first meeting someone was when I decided to take that advice. So began a nine year passage to learning and self-discovery; almost a decade dedicated to writing a story inspired by a chance encounter with a Venetian gondolier that brought me to leave my life in the U.S.A. and make Venice, Italy, home.
Yet in my developing writer’s mind, it wasn’t a memoire nor a simple love story that I wanted to write. So, I used the knowledge I had gained through my inability to speak Italian—a deficit that for years forced me to listen, and observe my surroundings like a child. I used privilege, too. My life choices had made me an insider to the gondolier trade, a world where few locals, let alone foreigners, are permitted. My enchantment with this trade, its traditions and limits—rare and contradictory—handed me inspiration to develop charming characters, including a principle player, the city of Venice.
By writing this story, I faced and, I think, overcame the loneliness that comes from leaving everything you know, especially one’s career and dear friends. Starting over in a place where you have no history, where who you were before doesn’t much interest others or seem to matter, can be difficult, and daunting.
Longing to be accepted in a town and country that is as foreign to her as she is to it, Victoria, my main character, finds she’s more easily, and respectfully, accepted by the local men than by the women. The ladies want no part of this outsider who, after all, has taken one of their own. Enter Ivana, Venice’s only female gondolier. A fictional character I enjoyed creating. Based on the centuries-old mold of ‘being a gondolier is a man’s job’, which women in Venice have faced until recent years, Victoria sees that Ivana, like her, is battling as an outsider in her own city. Might she not understand Victoria’s sense of being a fish out of water?
Still, writing my debut novel was the easier part. Through highs and lows, a myriad of revisions, twists and turns in a story that was my own, and then wasn’t. Near acceptance from a Hollywood producer who was so mercurial that over a 3-year period he was going to make a movie out of my unfinished manuscript, and then he wasn’t. Twice. Professional edits. More revisions. Querying, waiting, hoping. Agents who ignored my emails while others wrote back, “You write well, but I just don’t know where to send it.” Then the final rejection, and my acceptance that the time had come for this book-child to become an adult. It was time for me, the writer, to move onto something else.
They say write what you know, what you experience. So I did, and in doing so I wrapped my arms tighter and opened my imagination wider around a city I have come to love, deeply. I’ve told a story that goes beyond falling in love. Beneath the Lion’s Wings speaks about making choices, taking chances, and stepping into the unknown.
It is with gratitude that I share my women’s contemporary fiction, Beneath the Lion’s Wings, with you on Delilah Devlin’s Blog.
Beneath the Lion’s Wings
“…Good escape reading in this tale of love and tough decisions in Venice… In her well-researched debut novel, Nardin does a fine job evoking Venice’s atmosphere, culture, and history. The particular practices and customs of gondoliering, along with women’s efforts to enter the profession, make for absorbing reading.” – Kirkus Reviews
After years of focusing on her career and neglecting her love life, Victoria meets a handsome gondolier while vacationing in Venice and decides to take another chance on romance.
Victoria Greco has given up on finding love. A thirtysomething single woman who works as an executive assistant for a prominent Hollywood talent agent, she’s fully focused on building her career. But then, while she’s vacationing in Venice, a handsome fourth-generation gondolier rows alongside her water taxi.
When Alvise invites her to dinner, Victoria is hesitant. But their chemistry is too strong to ignore, and it would be a shame to pass up a date while in one of the most romantic cities in the world. Hoping she’s not making a big mistake, Victoria goes out with Alvise and then happily spends the night in his arms.
When Victoria returns home to Southern California, she’s surprised to discover she can’t get the charming Italian boatman out of her mind. She’s thrilled when he e-mails her, confessing he can’t stop thinking about her either. Daringly, Victoria invites him to visit.
Once reunited, they fall completely in love. But when Alvise starts talking about settling down and starting a family, Victoria is torn. She’s always put her career first. Should she continue down the current path? Or should she follow her heart to Venice?
Read an excerpt
They came to a smooth halt before the bridge. The boat engine rumbled to a purr, gliding under the lyrical sound of an accordion serenading a group of gondolas exiting a small canal. The taxi driver performed a series of sweet maneuvers to keep the boat steady and waited until the last stripe-shirted gondolier motioned that all was clear. Then he turned the boat down the narrow canal, proceeding with caution. He came within centimeters of docked boats, algae-lined walls, and footbridges, never once endangering the health of his boat. Regardless of his issues with maintaining fidelity, Victoria had to admit to herself that he had meticulous navigating abilities.
The taxi took them through a labyrinth of waterways until once again the driver limited his speed so as not to disrupt the delicate balance of a gondola heading in their same direction. The water taxi crept up beside the gondola. The sleeves of the young gondolier’s red-and-white-striped shirt, rolled up to his shoulders, exposed a pair of taut, tan arms and matched a red bandana tied through waves of golden hair. He turned, and locked eyes with Victoria—his were as green as the water beneath them. They gave each other a smile only fate could have arranged.
Victoria’s heart danced, and her face flushed and glistened. The gorgeous gondolier’s smile made her eyes sparkle, and brought about that nervousness she tried to hide whenever a handsome movie star arrived unannounced in the office. Unexpected, his good looks attracted her like no man had in a long time. She blushed and fumbled with the camera, and then hid her embarrassment by snapping a photo of the attractive young man. She turned and watched as their water taxi slipped by and left him, and his shiny black gondola behind. The corners of her mouth still turned up, she leaned back against Jackie, and said, “I think I’m going to like Venice.”
About the Author
Marie Ohanesian Nardin, born in Los Angeles, California, has always loved to travel. That passion brought her to Italy where she fell for a man and his city; a serendipitous occurrence that changed her life, and inspired her to write her debut novel Beneath the Lion’s Wings.
Since her move to Italy, the former banker has restored a two hundred year old rustic barn that became the home where she raised her two children, and where she learned to appreciate a good glass of red wine and cook delicious risotto, homemade soups and pasta, and the Nardin family’s secret tiramisu recipe, which she says “…never comes out quite as good as my mother-in-law’s”.
Marie writes for various news outlets and travel media magazines, teaches English, and is currently working on a short story collection, and her next book. When Marie is not writing or traveling around Italy and Europe, she returns to her beloved California to visit family and friends, watch the sun set over the Pacific Ocean, and stop by her favorite Mexican “mom and pop” eateries.
Marie lives in the Venetian countryside with her husband, their daughters, and their dog, Bacco.
Contact her at www.MarieOhanesianNardinAuthor.com
And on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authormarieohanesiannardin/