Interview with author Phil Nork

Interview with Fran Lewis

In writing this book you wanted to find your own voice and your own identity? What made you take the first step to writing this book and trying to reveal who you really are to everyone?

A few years back I moved my family from the Midwest to Nevada. Shortly after moving into our new house, I started having dreams—very vivid dreams—of my past. They were so lifelike and real it felt like I was being transported back in time. On business trips I couldn’t sleep, so I started keeping a journal of these dreams. As I awoke and wrote down the things and people I dreamt about, I realized there must be a reason why this kept happening. After I got all the “lessons” written down, the dreams stopped. I knew I was on the right path. I believe this was closure for me for the things I had experienced in the past. And once all my feelings were written down I felt much more comfortable with myself. I believe the move ended my one life, but began a new one. Hence, “There are no endings, just new beginnings.”

What are some of main lessons that you hope readers take away from reading your insightful novel?

That the little things you do in life always affect someone—whether you know it or not. We are really all the same inside, we want to be accepted for who we are and we want to be happy (whatever that means to each individual). But along the way, the people who you encounter can influence you to go against your better judgment sometimes. Even if you do, the God you choose to follow understands. That God never leaves you, although you may think differently. Look for the good in people and trust in them…in the long run it does work out.

As I read your book I realized that there were many different voices that came through of many people that entered and left your life? Which voices were the strongest and made lasting impressions on you and why?

In the early part of my life my mother and great-grandmother (Nana) became my heroes. My mom in particular could have just stopped living after the divorce, but she kept going, no matter how hard it was. She wanted me to have a normal childhood. Later, the most influential person I met was “Joyce”. She was a lesbian who trusted her secret with me. I learned from her, and her friends, that we are all the same, just in different packages. She allowed my inner confidence to blossom. I don’t know where I’d be without meeting her.

What was your relationship with Nana that tied you to her so much? What was it about her that helped to center you and bring about your many positive changes?

I think that she understood my feelings the best. I was able to talk to her so freely. She respected who I was and wanted me to know that she and God were there for me. She knew the divorce had changed my outward appearance from one of fun-loving to one of feeling lost and alone, but buried deep down the “old” me was still there. It was a long time before I was able to see that.

Which one of the many girls that you met helped you to realize who you really are?

I don’t think that any of them did at the time. Each one brought something new to the table and made me feel alive while I knew them. I believe that all of them came into my life just when they did to help me grow as a person. When you add all of those components together, that’s what made me the person I am today.

Why did you agree to go along with “Kayla” and her plan?

At the time, I was enjoying what I did and really thought I was helping them out. In retrospect, I probably shouldn’t have followed her lead.

Have you kept in touch with any of these girls/ women along the way? If so which one/ones and why?

The characters in the book are all based on real females I knew. All the names were changed “to protect the innocent” (if there were any). I do still know and talk to some of them. “Lisa” and I are still friends after 40 some years. Others, (most of them) were just passing through on their own journey of self-discovery. In fact, Facebook has reunited me with some of these ladies.

What was your relationship with your mother and your siblings? You mother must have had her own thoughts about what you were doing. Did she know what you really did each day? What did she really feel or think?

My mom was so busy trying to make ends meet, that she had no idea what I did. She saw the lonely kid at home staying to himself being absorbed into music and books. So when I did start going out and found a “second home” at the skating rink, she was just happy I did. She never knew what I was going through until she read the manuscript of this book a few years back. It opened some new doors and some new conversations which just further developed our relationship. My brother and sister were too young to know any better.

“Joyce” made a real impact in your life. Why were you able to open up to her?

She actually broached the whole relationship. She saw I was hurting and having those same feelings reached out to me. When she told me about being a lesbian, she was taking a great risk. When I didn’t tell anyone she realized I was trustworthy and as we worked more together we became great friends. After meeting her friends and accepting them for who they were, our friendship continued to grow. She was the one who taught me “we all can get along.”

What was the real turning point when you realized that it was time to make yourself happy and not just everyone else?

It was after meeting “Cheryl.” I wanted so much to find one girl and have a meaningful relationship, but never could because of these expectations that I thought the girls had in me. Meeting her, and the situation which arose, made me realize that the things that I did wasn’t helping my cause at all. She made me think hard about what I was doing.

Why is it that every time you decided to stop going out at night and not continue on with what you were doing you gave in to someone who called or saw you and approached you to “Make them feel good or happy?”

As any adolescent will tell you, “I loved the attention.”

At any time did you feel that you were being used and you were using them?

Not until after it was all said and done. During this growing up phase all I thought about was how fun it was to be “popular.” As I grew older, and quite possibly not until the dreams started in Nevada, did I realize that these little trysts of my past may not have been as innocent as I thought.

Why do you feel or how do you feel young adults and teens can learn some positive lessons from reading your book and the many messages you teach your readers?

We all have self doubt growing up. We do what we think is right or what others want us to do to fit in (peer pressure). I believe if you have a good foundation that good is the only thing that can emerge. I know other kids of divorce feel depressed and alone. I know that when you’re the “new kid on the block” or you feel different from the norm that you try your best to ignore those feelings or do things against your will that allow you be accepted. What I’m saying is that whoever you are, whatever you believe in and whatever you do, you are special just being you. Although you may not feel that way when you’re young reconnecting with old friends on Facebook has allowed all of us to see that we all felt the same way—we all felt different, we all felt afraid and we all had self-doubt. Hence the saying, “I wish I knew then, what I know now.” Sometimes life does give you a second chance.

One important lesson that I feel should, and must be imparted to everyone. is that outer appearances only help people to tell the difference between you and everyone else. It is your outer shell and not who you really are as a person. Why do you think that people judge others by how handsome/pretty they are or if they are overweight/thin or a perfect TEN? What do you think are the real attributes that make you unique and who you really are?

I’m nothing special and I’m no expert in relationships or why people do what they do. What I can say is that society puts unnecessary burdens on everyone—none more than the young. TV and movies dictate what you look like, what you should do and who you should be seen around. In my mind, success is not what you do for living, what kind of car you have parked in your driveway, or how many “toys” you have. Real success comes from learning, sharing and helping. Life is an on-going journey. You must learn something new everyday, share that with those around you and help those who can’t help themselves. When you do this, regardless of how you get to that point, you have succeeded in life.

The Trophy Bride’s Tale reviewed by fran lewis

The Trophy Bride’s Tale

Author: Cyrillia Barr


Publisher: Bascom Publishing

Abuse of any kind is wrong. Author Cyrillia Barr brings to light an issue that is not indicative of just the 16th century but the 21st as well. Too often men feel that they can hit, beat, berate and abuse a spouse without just cause making the person feel inferior or dejected. In “The Trophy Bride’s Tale,” Prudenza Beltramonto finds herself in a marital nightmare and her final actions might cost Prudenza her life.

Imagine being the bargaining chip in a business deal. Alfonso Beltramonto creates dyes for fabrics that are quite unique. But, without alum, the element needed to create these dyes his business would fail. His funds are depleted and the quality of the dyes and the alum received are inferior. In walks Matteo Cecchi and things are about to change. Forming an unholy alliance with smugglers he enlists the help of these men in order to gain the needed alum and hopefully win an even bigger prize: Prudenza. Formulating a diabolical plan in his mind he convinces her father that he will attain the necessary alum and the payment needed would be sufficient if he gives him his daughter’s hand in marriage. The money tucked away for her dowry to provide her with a safe haven for the future would be used to pay for the alum and she would be the final prize. Prudenza is truly a victim of poor circumstances and winds up in a no win situation.

Matteo Cecchi is a devious and clever man who uses his father’s name and friend with Alfonso, Prudenza’s father to bait him and convince him that he truly wants to marry her for the right reasons even though it is apparent that all he wants is the sum necessary to pay the brigands and his new band of smugglers the money needed for the alum so that he might profit. This will prove to be disastrous for Prudenza who is the pawn that is sacrificed in this plot. Pawns play a specific part in a game of chess and poor Prudenza in trying to please her parents and not disappoint them is naïve enough to think her choice will be right and is sacrificed in more ways than one as the reader will find out as the plot unfolds.

As Prudenza learns the terms of the marriage contract and she weds Matteo, she begins to sense a change in his real demeanor as she overhears him dealing with the men on the ship when traveling to Florence. But, with her companion Aunt Teresina, a wise woman, they journey into a whole new world the end is one you will not want to miss reading.

Trophies are given to the victor of a contest you when one wins a specific prize. Matteo Cecchi thought of Prudenza as nothing more than just that: a prize he won and a gift given to him as a result of a pact or contract made with her father in order to save his business. She was the price he paid for success. As the she learns more about him and observes his behavior Prudenza sees a different side of Matteo and realizes he is anything but kind. Becoming moody, jealous, belligerent and abusive to those that defy him, owe him a debt or get more attention than him his life takes on a new turn and hers becomes walking nightmare. He is truly what one might call in this day and age Bi Polar and has behavior changes that are totally erratic.

Throughout the novel the author reveals many aspects of Matteo’s personality that trigger his violence, bringing his insecurities to light and his malicious and malcontent behavior toward his workers, his wife and household. As Prudenza becomes more ensconced in her new family’s daily life and takes on the role of mistress of the house, she learns that her new mother-in-law will dominate much of what she would like to control and must acquiesce to her wishes including what she might think is best for her new born son. Living under this roof proves difficult and even more frightening as time goes on even though she has the loyalty of Gina her maid and friend, and learns about the loss of her best friend Coletta.

Matteo reveals his violent and abuse side as the truth about his pact with Alfonso is revealed to his father and once again he falters in his eyes behind that of his brother. Jealousies resurface, retaliations are made and Matteo’s true colors come forth as Prudenza fears for her life and that of her children.

The destruction of her lute, which brought her comfort and solace, the embarrassment in public and the abuse her children endured as his temper flared for no reason or he felt ignored and isolated added to the many reasons Prudenza cherished the friendship of Gina, the comfort of her mother’s understanding and a mother-in-law who tried to handle her son, but could not. With the death of Zenobi, her father-in-law Matteo’s lack of ability to handle the business and deal with his daily life came into play as his mood swings and personality deteriorated the detriment of everyone.

Prudenza withstood too much in her young life. With her faithful maid, Gina at her side guiding and helping her, she came to a forgone conclusion which would change the course of her life and her loved ones forever. How far would a mother go to protect the lives of her children and even more the rest of her family? Guided by her old friend Father Tommaso and the loyalty of so many others, her fate is sealed.

Read the events that took place prior to Matteo’s demise. Decide for yourself whether Prudenza’s actions were justified or not. Read the Lament written by her before she was taken to justice. Hear her words and read her thoughts in her own hand as she awaits the verdict of the judges.

Author Cyrillia Barr brings to light an issue that is quite prevalent in the 21st century, abuse. An arranged marriage by her father that went wrong. A man who hated the world for his shortcomings and could not take pleasure in the joys of others unless the center of attention and worked his way out of the hearts of everyone. Lacking the respect he thought he deserved, debasing his wife and children in public, Matteo Cecchi got what he deserved. You decide from the facts the author relates whether Prudenza’s fate was justified or not. A story of betrayal, loyalty, trust, friendship, hate, deceit and courage, this is one tale whose longevity will prevail. Characters that are clearly defined and whose roles are quite specific and clear- cut to the reader. Places and events whose descriptions are so vivid you can picture them in your mind and a woman whose emotional torment you feel every step of the way. Read the trial. Hear the words of the witnesses and feel the emotional pain that one young woman endured at the hands of a man who could not deal with success, life, family and accept love from those who truly cared for him.

The longevity of this tale will live on for quite some time. Abuse is wrong no matter what. To what lengths would you go to protect yourself and your loved ones from what Prudenza endured? Who was the real villian: Prudenza, Matteo or society not allowing a woman to stand up for herself against a man like Matteo?

A definite must read and a five star book.

Matteo de Cecchi: Victim or Victor: You Decide!

Fran Lewis: reviewer