Bestselling Author


The Sicilian Inheritance by Jo Piazza

The podcast welcomes bestselling author, podcast creator and award-winning journalist, Jo Piazza to discuss her latest book. The Sicilian Inheritance is a multigenerational mystery and adventure about a woman who returns to Sicily to claim her family’s land and is threatened by the same forces that murdered her greta grandmother a hundred years earlier. It is an adventure filled with food, wine, gorgeous landscapes and just the right amount of kicking the patriarchy’s ass.

Jo Piazza

Jo Piazza is a bestselling author, podcast creator and award-winning journalist. Jo is the national and international bestselling author of The Sicilian Inheritance, We Are Not Like Them, You Were Always Mine, Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win, The Knockoff and How to Be Married. Her work has been published in ten languages in twelve countries and four of her books have been optioned for film and television. Jo’s podcasts have garnered more than twenty-five million downloads and regularly top podcast charts.

In this episode, Jane welcomes Jo Piazza, a multifaceted author known for her bestsellers and impactful journalism. They dive into Jo’s latest novel, “The Sicilian Inheritance,” inspired by a family legend and set against the rich backdrop of Sicily’s storied past and vibrant present. The conversation explores the novel’s foundation in family history, the compelling blend of mystery and history, and the powerful portrayal of women’s lives in early 20th-century Sicily.

Timestamp and Topics:

  • [00:00:00] Introduction to “Historical Happy Hour” and guest Jo Piazza.
  • [00:01:07] Jo’s background as a bestselling author and podcaster.
  • [00:01:43] The inspiration behind “The Sicilian Inheritance.”
  • [00:03:52] Transitioning to historical fiction: Jo’s experience and process.
  • [00:06:04] Detailed exploration of the novel’s setting and characters.
  • [00:08:11] Launch of Jo’s true crime podcast related to the novel.
  • [00:11:36] The theme of women supporting women across different timelines.
  • [00:14:40] Impact of Sicilian emigration on women and the community.
  • [00:17:15] Potential adaptation of the novel for screen, casting ideas.
  • [00:20:07] Jo’s favorite Sicilian dishes and their significance in the book.
  • [00:25:45] Jo’s writing process and the balance between fact and fiction.
  • [00:28:20] Future projects and engagement with readers.


[00:00:00] Jane: Welcome, everyone, to Historical Happy Hour, the podcast that explores new and exciting historical fiction novels. I’m your host, Jane Healy, and in today’s episode, we welcome Jo Piazza to discuss her latest novel, The Sicilian Inheritance. Welcome, Jo. Yes, please hold it

[00:00:19] Jo: up. I have it right here because it’s so freaking pretty that I just, I literally carry it around with me.

It is so pretty. Yeah, I put it on the table and I’m just like, Oh yeah, gorgeous book.

[00:00:32] Jane: I love it. So I’m going to do a quick bio and then we’re going to jump into questions. All right. Jo Piazza is a podcast creator and award winning journalist and national and international bestselling author of We Are Not Like Them.

You are always mine. Charlotte Walsh likes to win the knockoff and how to be married. Her work has been published in 10 languages in 12 countries and four of her books have been optioned for film and television. Jo’s podcasts have garnered more than 25 million downloads. And regularly top podcast charts.

Her latest novel, The Sicilian Inheritance, releases on April 2nd. Welcome, Jo!

[00:01:07] Jo: Yay! Hi! That was such a good intro. I loved it.

[00:01:11] Jane: Thank you. And I have to do a shout out for your podcast. But when I knew you were coming on the show, I started listening to Under the Influence, Jo’s podcast, and it’s so good,

[00:01:20] Jo: So good.

Thank you. It’s so fun. I love it. I started that podcast four years ago. When I had my first daughter, and I was like, I’m just gonna do eight episodes about social media, and now we’ve done 100 episodes about how social media changes our lives every single day.

[00:01:34] Jane: And it’s so good. You have such good guests, and my daughter and I she’s 17, and we love talking about these topics.

It’s so good. Yeah.

[00:01:42] Jo: Yeah, that brings me so much

[00:01:43] Jane: joy. Tell her I said hi. I will. So talk to me about the premise of the Sicilian Inheritance, which is inspired by your family history. It is,

[00:01:52] Jo: it is. For years, my family has been telling this story about our family matriarch, Lorenza Marsala that she was murdered a hundred years ago, back in Sicily and before she could join her husband in America.

Her husband immigrated, her sons immigrated and she was allegedly killed before she could come over. But this story is a hundred year game of telephone, and my family is very Italian American, so they love telling stories. Some of them are liars, and they make a lot of stuff up. But I’ve known this story for so long, and I was just fascinated by that piece of it, of what would it be like to be one of the million women left behind in Sicily when all of the men immigrated?

And I did some research and found out that there were entire towns that were just women, children, and old men. The women took the men’s jobs, they learned to read and write for the first time, they were buying and selling land. And it was this really cool moment, like this feminist moment in Italian history that no one had explored before.

So I decided to novelize the story. I didn’t want to know the real story. I was like, I’m just going to take this nugget about what it would be like to be a woman left behind. And then bring a modern day woman in it who goes back and tries to solve the murder. And one of, one of the reasons that my family said Lorenza might have been killed was by the Mafia, and another one was that she might have been a witch or a healer.

And so I also wanted to explore, what does it mean to be a woman who cares for other women? Not just a hundred years ago, but today, too. And why do we call certain women witches, and why are we afraid of certain women and their power? And that’s how I created this little guy, and it’s my first historical fiction.

Which I can tell you, when you were listing my other books, all of which I love, my agents and publishers were freaked out. They’re like, you don’t write historical fiction, you also don’t write thrillers and mysteries, how are we going to sell this? And I was like, you’re going to sell it like a book.

[00:03:52] Jane: Very good.

Yeah. And I was going to say, so this is, you’ve written several books, but this is your first historical and that’s actually one of my next questions. So it’s a dual narrative. Present day Sarah, and she goes back to Sicily to find out what happened to her great grandmother, Serafina, in early 1900s Sicily.

And you weave the tori I love the novel, and you weave the two stories together so well. And did you did you find writing historical fiction difficult? What were what was different about this one? And, what did you love and what was not as, not as fun?

[00:04:24] Jo: Alright, so I totally I do I usually write women’s contemporary fiction.

I loved it so much. I don’t know if I can go back. That’s the thing. I’m like, oh my gosh, this book has to do really well because my next three book ideas are historical fiction. It was hard. It was a new muscle, right? And I wanted to do it really well. I’ve been a journalist for 20 years, so I really, I based the historical part in so much reporting.

So I began reading all kinds of Diaries and novels set in rural Sicily at the turn of the century. I talked to all of the researchers at Ellis Island. I talked to a lot of academics who studied women during this time period. Just because I wanted to get it right. It was so important to me for it to be historically accurate.

And not just for the reader, but because it is based on my great grandmother’s story, and, for so long, my family has been trading this story of how she was killed, and I really wanted to show how women lived. How did women live at the turn of the century in Sicily? And so that was hard.

The research was the hardest, but also the most fun part about it I was back, I went back to Sicily and I’ve been back, I’ve been there about a dozen times, I was a travel editor for a long time. But I went back specifically at the end of writing this book mostly for the food. So I would just sit in restaurants with my laptop and eat and make sure that everything that was in the book was like described in perfect detail.

I would ask other diners in the restaurant, I’m like, how would you describe that squid ink pasta? And this one guy is It tastes like I’m eating the ocean. I love that. That’s going in the book, kind sir. I’ll thank you in the acknowledgments.

[00:06:04] Jane: So yeah, I loved the food descriptions. I loved all the descriptions of Sicily, both present day and past.

So I’m your research notes in the back. I of course always read those. That was the best. So you, you did trip trips for this. You traveled, but you also, you read a lot. Did you rely on a lot of like professors or people like that too, or talk a little more about your research? And you just thought I started to go into that, but.

[00:06:28] Jo: Yeah there’s this one academic who is here in the US, Linda Reader, who has done almost the majority of the American research on the Sicilian migration and how it impacted women. And so I talked to Linda a lot, and Linda and I have now become text friends. And I was like, I just want to, she’s I really enjoy historical fiction.

I don’t really I don’t need to know if it’s accurate. I’m like, but I need you to know if it’s accurate, Linda. So we’re going to do this together. And yeah, she was really great. I had a lot of friends who are in Sicily read it for me. I made sure that we hired an Italian copy editor. Actually, so that I could, and it really made all the difference for just like even the tiniest of things that like you just, you don’t pay attention to when you’re writing.

My favorite one was, I said closet at one point, and she’s there’s wardrobes in all these old houses. And I’m like, you’re so right. That was so dumb of me. And like that really made the difference. And the craziest thing that I’ve done, though, is that I didn’t, like I said, I didn’t want to research the real story because I wanted to write fiction.

I wanted to have fun with this is based. It’s set in a similar town to the town where my family is from. They’re from Caltabalota. I call it Caltabalesa in the book, just so I could give myself a little bit of leeway. But once I turned the book in, I was then like, alright, I have to solve the murder in real life.

So I am, I’ve been going back to Sicily and rummaging through old documents, and I just got back, I was just over there because I got access to the homicide and mafia records from the turn of the century to try Amazing Solve her actual Murder for a True Crime podcast, which the first episode dropped at three in the morning last night.

[00:08:11] Jane: Oh, it did? Okay. I saw that on social media. I, because I was like, that is a such a brilliant idea. I have in my notes here, you described it as. What was it? Oh, only murders in the building meets white lotus. And I’m like, I am in, I’m in.

[00:08:26] Jo: That’s how it is. That’s awesome. Yeah. Really, my goal with the Sicilian inheritance is to whisk readers away to Sicily.

There’s so much to unpack in terms of how women lived in this time period. But I also want you to go on this adventure to this gorgeous and strange place and to walk away like Feeling like you just took a trip, like feeling really good about it. And I want to do the same with the podcast. I’m solving a murder, but you’re also coming on a trip to Sicily with me and my entire family, including three children under the age of six.

So yeah, it’s white, white lotus meets only murders in the building meets a little bit of bluey. That’s all right.

[00:09:04] Jane: Yeah. Sprinkled in. Yeah. So we you talked a little bit about The Strega character, Ros is it Rosalia or Rosalia? How do you Rosalia. Rosalia, yeah. So I loved her as a character. She was like this mysterious old woman who lived and but she was more of a healer than a witch and I loved her.

And how did so how did you come up with her?

[00:09:26] Jo: Yeah, so like I said, one of the one of the ideas about how my great grandmother Lorenza was murdered is that she may have been a witch or a healer who failed to cure. The wrong person who maybe crossed the wrong family. And I started doing research into what it meant to be a quote unquote witch in Sicily at the turn of the century, and it was really this idea of the strega, the town healer, midwife, apothecary, the catch all for all of women’s health.

And it wasn’t necessarily a negative thing, but it also wasn’t a positive, mostly because the Catholic Church was so ingrained in Sicily at the time. This had been something that had been passed down through Sicilian women for the ages, but they also had to hide it from the church and step aside.

These women often lived on the outskirts of town. They weren’t welcomed in until they had to be welcomed in. They would arrive at a house in the dead of night and they To deliver babies and to care for women. And so there’s, there were a lot of like pretty good sources that I found just to describe the strega and what their lives were like and how they passed down their knowledge.

I really wanted to focus on a lot of the medications that they gave women and how they helped women both in childbirth and also in preventing childbirth. Because I thought that was such an interesting thing to explore. How have women been helping other women? Control how they want to reproduce for so long.

That was one of the main roles of the stray guy. About 100 years ago. So we have an old straight character who’s living on the edge of town and Serafina our character in the past. She’s a young girl. She gets pregnant very early. She had a lot of ambition and then she’s forced to be a wife and a mother.

She meets this strega and the strega teaches her everything she knows and she becomes a healer and a midwife and she loves it so much. She is so passionate about it and for the first time in her life she’s like finally feeling her all of her ambition fulfilled and that was such a fun thing to explore.

A woman who thought that she wasn’t going to have the life that she wanted to have and then finally realizing that she could have it if she made certain choices.

[00:11:36] Jane: Yeah so fascinating. And, in both timelines, you talk about women helping women and women supporting women, but it was really interesting.

I didn’t know a lot about Sicilian history and our culture. And her husband goes to America. Most of the men in the village are gone. And all these women are living these unbelievably hard lives, right? And, but as you say, like you illustrate how these women also became empowered for the first time, like they had lives for the first time.

So talk a little bit about that, how that really changed the culture of their, of these villages.

[00:12:07] Jo: Yeah, it was so many men that left a small island, and a million men left Sicily. And yes, entire villages were just women and children and the older men. The men that remained were mostly mafia bandits.

They were involved in a lot of the criminal activity. Or they were the very rich, right? The men left because they wanted a better life. They wanted to make money in America. But someone had to do their jobs. So all of a sudden, women become the farrier, they become the butcher, they become the town accountant, the notario they’re buying and selling land, and that’s one of the cool things that I found when I went back to Sicily.

I got access to the land archives in Agrigento, which is where all of the Greek ruins are, so it’s so cool. You’re in this very bureaucratic building. And they open the shutters and you’re like, overlooking the temple of Athena from 600 BC and I’m like, what am I, what is my life? This is crazy. But in those records, there are these big cloth books and they’re all handwritten and it’s just land records, the passing of land year after year.

And during that time period, you start to see a lot of women buying and selling their own land for the first time. And that’s so fascinating. Oh, Hey, from Iowa. My family’s from Iowa. Jimmy is used to be a judge in Iowa, Marsha, and he’s on the podcast. I don’t know if he’s happy about it, but Yeah, so I can’t help but but say hi to people.

Oh, absolutely. Hey, Barbara. So you too. So yeah, so women are buying and selling land, they’re loaning money. They’re doing all these things that they weren’t able to do before because their primary place was in the home. They were mothers and they were wives and they were there to support their husbands and not just mothers and wives.

These women had 10, 12 children. My great grandmother. started having babies at age 18, and seven of them lived to adulthood, but she had something like 14. And so for the first time, too, imagine that you’re not just a wife and a mother anymore, especially if your children are slightly grown, you’re not getting pregnant every 10 months.

It’s this is a really interesting time for women to come into their own. What I wanted to play with at the end of the book was, what happens when you have to go back? Because then a lot of women join their husbands in America and they’re like, great, get back into the kitchen. And how does a woman feel about that when she has to give up this autonomy and agency that she could have had for about 12 years?

My great grandmother was left there alone for 12 years.

[00:14:40] Jane: Unbelievable. It’s, yeah so interesting. So you mentioned your family in Iowa. I’m really curious, how is, how has your family reacted to the novel? Have many of them read it yet? Like, how are they feeling about it?

[00:14:51] Jo: No, they haven’t. Not that many of them have read it.

They’ve all pre ordered it. I’m trying to indoctrinate them into order early and often and literally for everyone you know. So they’ve all ordered it. My mom has ordered it. My mom’s read half of it and she loves it. She also doesn’t understand that it’s a novel in so many ways. She’s oh my god, is this character so and and I’m like, no. I really this is so fictional. But they’re all excited. But I will say, When it came to solving the real crime, they don’t love it as much, and I think it’s because they really like the stories they’ve been telling themselves. They don’t want to know if those stories aren’t true, and I’m not going to spoil the podcast because I think it’s so much fun to listen to, but a lot of it’s not true.

And a lot of the story that we have been told, is something else. It’s still fascinating, but it’s I love how people shape their identities by the stories we tell ourselves about our families. And sometimes you don’t want that story to change especially a lot of my older relatives.

[00:15:50] Jane: Yeah, I understand that. That’s really interesting. So the setting, Sicily and the village, like they’re gorgeously detailed, and I could see this. Translating to screen so well has there been any like buzz about that? And also, who would you have in mind to play Sarah and Serafina?

[00:16:11] Jo: Such great questions.

There’s lots of buzz. And We’re working on selling it and packaging it right now. Hollywood is just so weird and wild. And I love, like we say in my bio, most of my projects get optioned. And then who knows how things even get made, right? Like it’s, everything is in a different stage, but right now we’re trying the bit, what you’re supposed to do is attach an actress first.

So we’re going out to actresses. I know we just went out to Rose Byrne and Lizzie Kaplan. I love Lizzie Collins. I would watch her do anything and then for Serafina’s character, we really want to cast a great Sicilian actress. I think it’s really important to cast someone who’s local in that role.

Although we were saying, for Sera, we’re like, wouldn’t it be awesome? Because Sera, my modern day woman she’s going through a divorce, her husband, and it’s set in Philly, where I live. Her husband is like, a local prosecutor here in Philly. We’re like, it’d be so great if Bobby Cannavale could play Rose’s husband in the movie.

Good one. So much joy. I just I like texted my producer that last night. She’s I’ll ask. And I’m like, Great.

[00:17:15] Jane: Good job. Can I make a suggestion for Sarah? I agree with you about Serafina. I think that, Italian actress, of course, but I was picturing Jenny Slate. I thought she would be a good one.

[00:17:25] Jo: I love her. Oh my gosh, that’s great. All right, I’m writing a note because I’m going to text Laura, the producer, right now and be like, can we get Jenny Slate? She is amazing.

[00:17:33] Jane: I think she, and I, that’s what just her look, everything about her I love

[00:17:36] Jo: her. Yeah.

No, that, that is perfection.

That is total perfection. Love that. And then we’ve got this other character that I’m obsessed with in the book named Juicy, Giuseppina. And she’s she’s a Sicilian woman. She didn’t exist when I started writing this book, I swear to God. She just emerged out of thin air and was like, Great character.

You will create me. And I’m thinking about Jodie Comer who plays Villanelle in Killing Eve. Yes,

[00:18:01] Jane: Love her. Yeah, that’s another good one. Yeah. And so you talked about the food. My next question is also about descriptions and the food descriptions are so amazing and I love food and I love cheese and Italian cheese is the best.

Do you have a favorite Sicilian dish or dessert?

[00:18:17] Jo: Oh, it’s so hard because I love everything I do. And I have two recipes that I want to share with people if they want it. It’s a Bussiati Trapanese, which is it’s a Sicilian pesto sauce, but it’s a pesto sauce that’s made out of almonds and pine nuts. So it’s almonds.

pine nuts, ricotta, and cherry tomatoes with little corkscrew pasta that has like these like perfect little tendrils that suck up the sauce and so the sauce gets stuck in them and then they explode in your mouth and like it’s just perfection. I love a cannoli at all of my book events. I will be making cannoli while I do the talk.

I have a cannoli necklace and I don’t I’m like thinking maybe it’ll go viral on TikTok. Cause I feel like that’s the publisher’s like marketing plan these days. So could you just go viral on TikTok? And I’m like, I’ll try. I love a cannoli, I love a tiramisu. Sicilian food is so different from Italian food.

We’ve got so much fresh fish and just spices and sauces. It’s very Mediterranean, very North African, very Arab influenced. And I could talk about Sicilian food literally all day long. And my favorite thing, so there’s a big restaurant scene in The Sicilian Inheritance, and I based it off this one restaurant in Caltavolta, the village where my family’s from.

It’s the one restaurant in town. Last time we were there, the mayor of the town, who like we went to go say hi to because he’s just hanging out in the town square, calls them to make sure they’re gonna open so that we can go and have a four hour lunch with no menu. And they just start bringing you things.

Just bring you things, right? It’s pork cheeks that have been braised for decades. Wild boar ragu. It’s insane. And yet, because it’s Sicily and it’s a magic place, you somehow don’t get any weight.

[00:20:02] Jane: Oh, yeah, we talked about that. My husband and I talked about that. Like, why? Why? Why? Because you walk so much?

I don’t know.

[00:20:07] Jo: Because you walk. This village is on top of a rock, on top of a mountain. The legend about it, and I have this in the book and I love it so much because what you don’t realize until you go to Sicily is that so many of the Greek myths take place in Sicily. Because Sicily was Greece, right?

And the legend about my family’s village is that when Daedalus escaped the labyrinth that he landed in Caldebolta and created it. To mimic the labyrinth, so that invaders couldn’t get in. And when you’re walking around those little streets, you’re like, Yep, this is a maze.

[00:20:37] Jane: Amazing. Yeah. So cool. Okay, so I have a few writing related questions that I ask every author that comes on, and then I will take questions from the audience.

Remember, you can put ’em in the chat or the q and a and I’ll feel questions. Or Jo, you can feel free to answer if you see them first. So are you, what is your writing process like? Are you a plotter or are you a answer? Do you write by the seat of your pants? Like how, what’s your process?

[00:21:00] Jo: Guys, I just learned the word panther like three weeks ago.

I was in conversation with El Cosimano and someone asked El that question and I was like, I’m obsessed with it now. I’m like, I’m a panther! I’m a total panther. I don’t plan. I know the general plot of a book. I know how I want it to start. I know how I want it to end. And then I sit down and do 2, 000 words a day when I’m like really in the thick of it.

Yeah. I don’t go back and edit until I’m at about like 50 pages. Sometimes I’ll bang out the whole thing. And for me, there’s magic in that, especially because I’ve been a journalist for so long that I’m like, it’s magical to just let things happen and to let the characters become who they want to be.

Like I said, the character Juicy, just appeared. And the crazy thing is, I didn’t even know that Giuseppina was a name in Sicily. Okay. I had no, nor did I know that Juicy is the nickname for it, but it is. She told me, it’s like the most woo thing ever. So yeah, I just fly by the seat of my pants. I did not know how the Sicilian inheritance was going to end.

And then like, when the ending came to me, I was like that’s a banger. That was unexpected. Awesome.

[00:22:07] Jane: Oh, that’s, yeah, I’m always fascinated. Everyone has different way of doing things. I’d love to hear about it. What about, so you’re new to historical fiction. How do you, how did you strike a balance between fact and fiction in your storytelling?

And was there any strict rules you abided by?

[00:22:23] Jo: Yeah, No. The things that I wanted to get right were historical details, like what is happening during the time period, what did the language sound like, and especially because Sicilian is very different from Italian, the dialect, and also because Sicilian a hundred years ago is very different from Sicilian today.

Those were the things that were my non negotiables. I was like, you will get the time period you will get those things right. But then, I did want to have the liberty to create place and characters, so like I said, I made the town Caltabalota Caltabalesa, which is not a real town, but it is also adjacent to the very real town of Xhaka, and about the same distance from the sea, and from Palermo, I loosely based one character there’s an old sculptor in the town of Caltabalesa, and he’s loosely based on an actual sculptor who still lives in Caltabalesa and creates beautiful art. Yeah, the backstory is totally different and everything but I just, I visited his studio and I love the idea.

Of someone who’s a now world renowned famous artist coming back to this tiny village on top of a mountain. And every day you can just walk by his studio, the windows are open, he’s just creating beautiful art inside. And so little things like that I did want to throw in there and pepper it.

[00:23:38] Jane: Oh, I love that. I, yeah, I love that little, that, that part of the story. What is your favorite part of the writing process and what is the part that you dread?

[00:23:47] Jo: Oh my gosh, okay. I adore the right, like the actual creation process, like I said, the flying by the seat of my pants, I don’t know what’s gonna happen, like stories just coming out of thin air.

I also adore connecting with readers. I could talk to readers about my book all day long. I hate publicity and I hate marketing. I really yes. The process of because it’s harder than ever, I think, to get someone to discover your book, the air gets sucked out of the room by the big book club picks which I’m allowed to say because we were one, We Are Not Like Them was a GMA book club pick, and I feel like, it’s really hard to compete with these three books, and also everyone’s attention is so fragmented these days, so I find that part exhausting, that part to be like, all right, we’re here, see us, yes, so it’s like a sandwich, like I like the sides of the Oreo, and I don’t like the stuff in the middle.

[00:24:37] Jane: Yeah, it’s funny. I I think you’re so good at it. That’s why I’m surprised you hate it because I find it exhausting too. I find it so exhausting. I had three conversations with authors this week about how exhausted we are.

[00:24:47] Jo: Yeah, we’re all exhausted. I’m like, I feel like a show pony and I’m like, look at me.

Yes, so much. So much, but the connecting with readers makes it worth it. Like, When I did We Are Not Like Them with Christine, we zoomed into 300 book clubs. , that was awesome. I get to go into people’s homes and I’m doing that with Sicilian. Guys, if you want to bring us, to your book club, I’ll be on making cannoli while we talk at people’s book clubs.

And that’s I love that part of it.

[00:25:16] Jane: Me too. I love that part. I did one with the U. S. Virgin Islands Red Cross Book Club last night and it was so awesome. Shut up. That’s so awesome. Yeah, it was really fun. And like you said, like that part is so rewarding and fun. It’s the other promo stuff that’s, yeah.

[00:25:29] Jo: The other promo stuff. I’m like, I’m just, I just tried to make a TikTok and I’m like, what am I even doing? I know. I know.

[00:25:38] Jane: Yeah. What’s the best advice you can give aspiring authors in the audience about writing and publishing and all of that?

[00:25:45] Jo: Yeah. Yeah. The publishing process is so crazy right now.

I think that we’re on the verge of seeing it completely transform. We thought that was true with eBooks and it wasn’t, but I think this is it. I think the democratization of content and how authors create their own platforms now is going to change things in terms of writing. And so many people told me they want to write a book and I was like, great, do it.

I like, I tell everyone, I’m like, if you want to start writing a book, get your butt in the seat and write, just write a thousand words a day and do it for 30 days. And if you can’t, then maybe you don’t want to do this and that’s okay too, right? But I think the idea of being a writer seems very dreamy sometimes and you forget about the work that goes into it.

So I’m like, if you do the work, like it will happen. You will get there. But you have to see if you like the work. You might not. I think that I would like to fly a plane, but I’ve never done it. Yeah. Yeah, exactly.

[00:26:32] Jane: Exactly. The struggle is real.

[00:26:35] Jo: The struggle is real.

[00:26:36] Jane: Yeah. What, so you’ve co authored, I was looking at the books you’ve written you’ve co authored a bunch of books.

Like, how is that process different than writing alone? And do you prefer one over the other or?

[00:26:48] Jo: No, I like them both. for different reasons. So I wrote two books with Christine Pride. Christine was my editor at Simon Schuster. He edited my last novel, my last solo novel, Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win, and we enjoyed working together so much that we decided to become co authors, and then I got orphaned and had to find a new editor.

But Working with her is great because we had worked together before, we knew what we were getting into, but she is a planner and not a pantser. And also when you work with someone you have to have a really robust outline because I think that things get wishy washy when it’s two people trying to make the magic happen at the same time.

And so we do really intense outlines, we know exactly where all of these books are going. And That’s a different thing. That’s, it’s also enjoyable, but it’s different, and it’s nice to have a partner because writing is such a solitary thing. And also really nice to have a partner through the publishing process with all of its, and that book had a lot of crazy ups and downs.

And so nice to have someone to lean on, someone to go on Good Morning America with, and Dr. Deborah Roberts. That was freakin awesome. That’s pretty awesome. Yeah, so Christine and I have written two books together. We’re working on another one right now, and then Solo, like I said, it’s just it’s a lot more free, it’s a lot more free flowing, like I I feel like a different kind of writer.

So this is, this has been great and now Christine and I are going to get back in the thick of it. Hopefully, I think this summer. I started, I did NaNoWriMo and wrote 50, 000 words of my next book. Oh, good for you. Yeah, also historical fiction. And so we’re figuring out what I’m going to do with that right now.

Oh, excited.

[00:28:18] Jane: Are you ready to share what it’s about or not yet?

[00:28:20] Jo: Totally, yeah. No, because all of you are such historical fiction fans. I’d love to hear what you think about it. It’s It’s again, dual timeline, modern day and in the past, and in the past timeline, I want to explore the life of Jo Van Gogh.

She’s Vincent’s sister in law. And when Vincent died, his brother, Theo, who had been his benefactor and his art dealer, died shortly after, I mean like a year after. And his widow, Jo, was in her mid twenties had a one year old son and no money, and all he left her was 300 worthless paintings painted by his brother in law, or his brother, and it was Jo who made him famous.

It was Jo who pushed and pushed, who published the diaries, who was like, You know what? We’re gonna, we’re gonna take this madman artist thing and go with it. And fought tooth and nail for her entire life to make Vincent van Gogh the most famous artist of all time. Oh, I love that premise.

[00:29:11] Jane: That’s very cool.

[00:29:12] Jo: Yeah. And in the present day, we have a lost van Gogh and some art thieves trying to chase it down. Oh, very exciting. I love it.

[00:29:20] Jane: And so before I take questions from the audience, what is the best way that readers can keep in touch with you?

[00:29:27] Jo: Oh, my gosh. So I like talk smack about Instagram all the time.

I’m like, Instagram is the worst. I hate social media. And I’m like, follow me at Jo Piazza author. That’s the best way. I post all the stuff on there and I check my DMs constantly. I’m constantly connecting with readers on there. I have a sub stack to over the influence and the podcast under the influence, all of which have really just become a platform for me to talk about projects and, how women live and exist in the world.

so much.

[00:29:54] Jane: Excellent. Excellent. Okay. So let’s see. Oh questions. Andrea Johnson asks, how are you celebrating your book launch?

[00:30:01] Jo: Oh my gosh. In so many different ways. Also, I like to sleep. I’d like to celebrate by sleeping. Mostly just because I have three kids under the age of six and I’m like, wow, this is I am, starting on Tuesday we’re going for it.

So we’re launching at Bookstore Magic in Brooklyn. If anyone’s in New York, come. Like I said, I’ll be making cannoli. We’re going to have Sicilian cocktails there. And then I’m going up to Providence and then doing a book tour. big party here in Philadelphia at the Barnes and Noble. We’re going to have an Italian dance party afterwards.

And then heading to Nashville. And the most exciting is Cleveland. We’re going to Cleveland because I promised my husband seven years ago that we would see the solar eclipse. Awesome. And Cleveland. Why not? We’re in the path of totality. And so we are doing a book event with the Italian American Museum there and a bookstore during the eclipse.

Oh, fun. I know. I know. It’s going to be great. So we’re doing, I’m trying to throw Sicilian parties as much as possible. And bring Sicilian food and Sicilian wine and cocktails to everyone, wherever we go.

[00:31:08] Jane: If you ever come to Boston’s North End is great Italian neighborhood and I would definitely interview you.

We could do like a Q& A thing. Let’s do that.

[00:31:16] Jo: I’ll talk to Boston. That sounds great. I think the first phase is bookstores and then second phase is going to be like cool Italian restaurants. Yeah, cool Italian restaurants.

[00:31:25] Jane: And they do have a little bookstore there now called I Am Books. I am in a

[00:31:31] Jo: I should do I should just plan it right now.

Yeah, you should. Yeah, that sounds perfect. I want to do it. All right.

[00:31:36] Jane: So Karen Parada asked this question, and I was wondering the same thing. How do you write and do a podcast and have three little kids?

[00:31:43] Jo: Oh, no, I really don’t know. I’m like, do I have a clone somewhere? I’ve been making podcasts for a long time, so it’s been seven years now and the technology has gotten so good that it’s way easier than it was seven years ago but the best answer I can give, and I try to say this to a lot, especially when I’m talking to crowds of younger women, I’m like, I have full time help.

Like I have, we have an au pair who lives here in the house with us. We always have since my baby, since my second baby was born and I work for seven hours a day. Yeah. And I respect the hell out of the women that are like, I get up at five in the morning and I wait before my kids go to school, but this has been my full time job for about 10 years, both the podcasts and the books, like you, I like do a lot of different media.

Yeah. And I can’t do it if while I’m taking care of kids. So yeah, we have help and moved back to Philly because my mom is here. And so my mom takes my big kids. We’ve got six, four, and one. And my mom picks my big kids for one overnight a week, which is just and my kids they see me work, which I think is awesome. They came to Sicily with me and watched me record a podcast there. They’re on the podcast for better or worse. I’m like, can I say murder to a three year old? And he’s She’s seen Star Wars, so it’s fine. She’s a good thing, it’s fine. And yeah, and so that’s the only way I can do it.

[00:32:58] Jane: Yeah, excellent. This is a great question from Janet Bonica. How were you able to get access to the Sicilian archives, and were they excited that your research was for a book that you were writing, or not

[00:33:08] Jo: This is an awesome question, and I feel like I should do a whole video series on how to get access to Sicilian Archives.

A lot of it is going to be in the podcast, so you’ll see that it’s, I am making the producers do how tos. My family has gone back to Caldeboleta a bunch of times asking for records death records and things like that. And They’re, they always claim they’re like, there’s definitely something dodgy going on over there because we were shut down.

We were kicked out. They like, they slammed the book in our face and told us to get out. And after going through the process that I’ve gone through, I’m like, I just think you didn’t have an appointment. I just think it was as if some Italian had stormed into the DMV in America and been like, give me the driver’s license from like this person from 1916.

person is get out of here. So I hired an Italian researcher. Her name is Laura Lee. She works for a company called Digging Up Roots in the Boot. And she made me appointments at all these places. And we had to make them six months in advance in a lot of cases and tell them exactly what we wanted, fill out a lot of forms.

Laura is a translator who lives in Calabria and she came to Sicily and she was with me through the entire process. And if she hadn’t been, I wouldn’t have gotten access, or if I had gotten access, I would have gotten the very first level of access, but because I was able to ask questions through her, we were able to dig a lot further.

I was like, oh, but what about this? If we see this land record, I want to see what happened to it. I want to trace it here. And then they were like, oh, fine, and then they would pull it out. As for the book, They’re like excited. Some people are excited about it. It’s a generational thing.

So the people who are like 40 and under are so excited about preserving Sicilian history and like really rebuilding Sicily. And I think the people 40 and above are beleaguered and beaten down because like it has been hard to live on that island for so long. So some of the archives in the courthouse in Shaka, the homicide and murder records that it took a year to get access to, there’s a post it, a post it on the shelf that says, to be destroyed.

And my the archivist we worked with, Giovanni, was like, yeah the older generation doesn’t think they’re important, they want the space down here and he’s I’m fighting to preserve them, because my generation thinks the history is really interesting and yeah, it’s it is not easy it is not for the faint of heart you have to do a lot of digging but then when you find the right person, You’re like, oh my gosh, you’re amazing.

Giovanni and I talk on WhatsApp all the time now, too, and I’m like, oh, Giovanni, I’m like, I just got this lead from Ellis Island. I need you to go check this. And he’s I’ll go down in the archives right now. Amazing. Yeah, he’s a great character. He taught me the best Sicilian curse word of all time when we were in the records.

Can I say it or will I offend anyone? You’re good. . The whole time that we’re in the courthouse, like everyone in the courthouse knows why we’re there. Like all of these like magistrate judges and stuff, and they keep saying EV bo in Boca Depo. In Boca Depo, like in the mouth of the wolf, which means good luck because the wolves founded Italy, Romulus, Reuss, all of that.

. And the flip side of that, instead of in the mouth of the wolf, is in la cula de balena, which is, you’re in the ass of the whale. Oh! Yeah, that’s a good one. If you just want someone to get out, it’s in cula de balena, and you’re like, go to the ass of the whale. That is the most descriptive curse word that I have ever heard.

Yeah, that’s up there. That is up there.

[00:36:40] Jane: So there’s lots of really lovely comments, by the way, and I will send you the text so you can just see some of them. But but Ellen Eddington says, this has been wonderful. I just pre ordered your book on Audible. I’m so excited. And this is actually, if you want to, if you could tell people about your new crime podcast and Under the Influence, again, just so that what they are.

[00:36:58] Jo: Yeah, I can drop, why don’t I drop it in the chat too. I’ll drop, yeah, that’d be great. While I’m answering this, I’m going to drop in the chat. So I do want to tell you about the because I did the auditions. For Audible. And I’m an audiobook junkie, so I was very picky about the narrators. I will quit a book if I don’t like the narrators.

And so for Sarah, I went through maybe 10 different audition tapes and then finally found someone who I just love, love, loved. Serafina, the woman in the past, was harder because they kept giving me Americans doing an Italian accent, and it was like a caricature, it didn’t work for me. What we ended up going with is a native Italian speaker speaking in English, not in an Italian accent, but in just a pan European accent.

Which is like much easier on the ear, different enough, and not a caricature, but because she is a native Italian speaker. She really nails it and she nails like all the suffocations. And so then Carlotta was able to work with Rachel who did Sarah and all of the modern day characters for all the Italian pronunciations.

It’s they really, the narrators like work together so beautifully and so well. I am, I interviewed, all right, here is the Sicilian Inheritance Podcast. I just dropped you in. I interviewed Rachel who does Sarah For a bonus Under the Influence episode that’ll come out on Monday to talk about what she prepared for the audio book and stuff because I like, I love hearing that stuff.

I was like, when you do another character, do you like become a person? And she’s yes, she’s I totally like my posture changes. And yes.

[00:38:29] Jane: So who did you pick for Serafina? Who I’m just curious who the audio, the narrators are.

[00:38:34] Jo: It is hold on, let me pull up because I want to get their last names right because I’ve just been calling them Carlotta and Rachel.

Oh, Carlotta, that was her first name.

[00:38:41] Jane: Okay. Yeah, I love, yeah, I love audiobooks too, but you can make or break it with, with who the narrator is.

[00:38:46] Jo: Oh, you can make or break it, that’s the thing. Oh, so it’s Rachel Hirsch and Carlotta Brenton. Nice. Yeah, and I’m gonna, I’ll drop the Audible in. The good thing, a lot of people have been asking me now that the first episode of, here’s the Audible now the first episode of the podcast is out, people are like, oh, should I listen to the podcast first or read the book first?

I created them such that you can do them at the same time. There’s no spoilers in either one, and one is like the reality of the world, and one is completely fiction, so I think they actually just complement each other. Oh, cool. Okay.

[00:39:17] Jane: That’s a great. Yeah. That’s great to know. This has been lovely, Jo.

Thank you so much. I like I said, I’m such a fan. So it’s so fun to talk to you and everyone, pre orders are huge for books. So remember April 2nd, it comes out. So consider pre ordering the Sicilian inheritance. Hold it up again. Cause I, I didn’t get my copy in the mail up on time.

[00:39:38] Jo: Really?

[00:39:39] Jane: Yeah.

One last question. Did you have a say in the cover? Because I love the cover. I did.

[00:39:45] Jo: I did. Yeah. But, so I had a say, I had a mood board, all the things. Yeah. They freaking knocked it out of the park. It’s beautiful. On the first go, okay? But this, I have a fun story about it. And I really think historical fiction fans are going to love this attention to detail.

This is the Quattro Conti in Palermo. It’s like the old four corners in the historical heart of Palermo. And we have a woman leaning out one of these windows. So I go to Palermo, I’m there with my family, and exploring this building that we have a woman leaning out of. And I go inside, and I’m like, there’s no way for her to get up there.

So I asked for the book back from copyediting. They gave it back to me for exactly two hours, and I put a ladder in. I was like, this will be accurate. She can climb up to that window. And I didn’t have her leaning out a window at this point. I’m like, if she’s gonna be in the window, there’s gonna be a ladder.

Excellent. I don’t want anyone walking into this church and being like, there’s no way to get up there.

[00:40:46] Jane: Yeah. Oh, cause you would hear about it. Historical fiction fans are, yeah.

[00:40:49] Jo: I know. And I know that. And that that is what I love about you. I’m like no. I will do this right for you.


[00:40:55] Jane: Yep. It’s gorgeous. I love it. Congratulations on all your success. Thank you again. I’ve got, we’ve got a lot of historical happy hours this month. So next Tuesday on April 2nd, actually, we have Kate Quinn and Janie Chang on to discuss The Phoenix Crown. So you can register for that. Jo, what I will I’ll release the podcast of this episode on your launch date and the YouTube.

Yeah. Yeah. Perfect. Yeah. So congratulations. Have a great tour and thank you everyone for coming on tonight.

[00:41:21] Jo: It’s so much fun. I missed putting two of my children to bed. It’s so awesome. . I hope they’re sleeping, so there’s only one left and it’s my favorite one, okay. Good.


[00:41:30] Jane: All right. Thank you so much Jo. Have a wonderful lunch and have a great night. Bye guys. Thank

[00:41:35] Jo: you. Take care.


Hosted by Jane Healey, Historical Happy Hour is a live interview and podcast featuring premiere historical fiction authors and their latest novels.

Jane Healey

Subscribe through your favorite Podcast Platform

Goodnight from Paris Cover

Stay in the know!

Sign up to receive the latest news, exclusive content, and a chance to win free books.

You can change your mind at any time by clicking the unsubscribe link. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.