Expat Focus talks to Catherine Tondelli about her book "Three Coins in the Fountain", a funny and helpful memoir of her life as an expat in Rome.
Catherine, please tell us a little bit about yourself.
I was born – along with my twin sister – into a large Irish/Italian family in Chicago, the ninth of 11 kids (six boys & five girls). Growing up as part of this large, chaotic family has provided me with many entertaining stories that are woven in my memoir. Most significantly, at the age of 13 my father walked out on us all and never looked back. Against all odds, my mother, a school teacher who made sure we all got an education, while raising us with no alimony or child support on her pauper’s salary.From those humble beginnings and after having met my Italian Roman husband, I am today a cross-cultural expert, living and working abroad for the past 13 years with several multinational companies in marketing, PR and business development. I am an American living in Rome and globetrot as a luxury hotel expert and event manager, assisting companies with their meetings and events worldwide.
You recently published "Three Coins in the Fountain: Falling in love through faith, family & frequent flyer miles", what is the book about?
My book recounts how my entire life changed in one fateful trip to Italy, with my mom. It all started from the title, “Three Coins in the Fountain” where I threw them in – in Rome’s Trevi Fountain, wishing for love and of course, a return trip to Rome. It is not just a love story but a story about faith, hope and survival. As they say all roads lead to Rome and my road went from Route 66 in California to Via Veneto in Rome.
How did you come up with the title?
As most people know Three Coins in the Fountain was a 1954 American romantic comedy film about three American women working in Rome who dreamt of finding romance in the Eternal City. My story wasn’t that much different. I won a dream trip to Italy and at the age of 39 had given up hope on every finding my true love. My mother encouraged me to throw the 3 coins in the fountain on our first night in Rome – and the next thing I knew, the man of my life was chatting us up! It was a GMC moment – as my mom would call it, a “God Manufactured Coincidence.
What inspired you to write "Three Coins in the Fountain: Falling in love through faith, family & frequent flyer miles"?
I would have to say both my husband and my mother but it is my mother who has been the huge inspiration in my life, she is where I get my strength, faith and determination. My mother’s unwavering faith in God is instilled in me and what got me through so many difficult periods in my life. She would make us pray to saints to help find lost keys, sell houses or get us through our darkest moments. I would tell people some of the wild stories from my upbringing and the struggles my mother had to face as a single mother raising us kids. Coupled with the hilarious antics of my Italian husband, Fausto, well, everyone told me I should share these stories in a book.
What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Writing about my father, we had a very challenging relationship and I harbored resentment towards him for many years. It was hard to forgive him for walking out on us and never looking back but writing about him helped me to heal. I finally accepted that he did the best he was capable of doing and after 20 years of not speaking to him I called him and forgave him. We reunited and had a good relationship up until the day he passed last year. As Carrie fisher says “resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die. ” I didn’t want to drink anymore poison.
Did you self-publish or follow a more traditional publishing route?
After phoning countless publishing houses I was tired of getting no’s so I went the self- publishing route. We are lucky to live in an age where just about anyone can get there work published. Publishing a book is not easy but if you can actually manage to write a good story, then you at least have options to get it out there. Living as an expat our friends become our extended families, many of these friends are now getting inspired to publish their memoirs this way.
What advice can you offer to new expat writers?
I would advise them to write about what they are passionate about and make it humorous and uplifting.
What book are you reading now?
Almost finished reading Ava Gardner’s memoirs “The Secret Conversations” by Peter Evans
What are your plans for the future?
Spending more time with my mom who turns 89 this year and thinking about the next book which will delve into the quirkiness of my husband and the humorous observations of living in Italy over the last 12 years.
Where can people buy your book?
My book is available in paperback from Amazon.