That’s right. Robbi Perna’s book, My heart Still Surrenders, won the 2014 Royal Palm Literary Award from the Florida Writers Association. Don’t you love the title? Join me in welcoming a new friend and fellow Muse author. She’s a fascinating person. I’ve enjoyed getting to know her, and I’m sure you will as well.
ROBBI PERNA, AUTHOR AND LECTURER
Award winner and multi-published author Robbi Perna started penning romantic fiction as a respite from her career as a military analyst specializing in strategic communications. Her historical romance, “My Heart Still Surrenders,” is a first place winner in the Florida Writers Association’s Royal Palm Literary Award Competition. At two recent signings, the book drew crowds of more than one hundred people. Another lecture presentation and signing is on the author’s schedule for March 2015.
Robbi grew up in a strong Italian-American family background in Colorado where she spent the first half of her life. She later relocated to northern Virginia where she built a successful career as a defense consultant. As the only girl, she gained unique insights on the Italian male psyche over the years. Her stories often reflect her heritage and the traits many Italian men and women exhibit, a facet of her stories that appeals to readers. In a recent review, one reader remarked, “I enjoyed how she developed the characters while introducing interesting information about Italy.”
Robbi brings a diverse perspective to her stories. Her degrees in the Art History of Augustan Rome and a professional background in business, strategic planning and communications, and military analysis provide a wealth of inspiration and bring her writing full circle. At a recent reunion, a classmate approached her and remarked, “I remember two things about you. You always wanted horses and you were always writing stories.” Robbi happily confirmed she had owned Arabian horses for a number of years before moving from Colorado and she still wrote stories.
Robbi’s genre fiction encompasses romance, the paranormal, history, adventure, and women’s literature. She is the author of thirty-one published credits that include novels, short stories, articles, essays, and editorials. Muse It Up Publishing has released eight books, all available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBookstore, Kobo, the Muse Bookstore, and other online retailers. Robbi’s ninth book, “Where the Lion Dwells” is scheduled for a summer 2015 release.
When not hard at work developing plots and writing her stories, Robbi speaks to groups about the writing skills a successful author must develop. While still living in Virginia, she presented a guest lecture to an English as Second Language class at a Maryland college about the importance reading plays in the development of English speaking and writing skills. She now resides in central Florida where she is happy to report snow is a figment of her overactive imagination. Her parti-poodle, Santino, manages the house while she enjoys the Florida sunshine and works on her latest book, “Robes of Destiny.” Robbi’s goal is to live up to one reviewer’s comments, “When you find a writer who can tell a wonderful story that captures your heart and can tell it superbly, well you simply have a great find. Robbi Perna’s stories fit the bill to a T!” Readers may contact her through her website, http://www.RobbiPerna.net or by E-mail, Robbis_Stories@RobbiPerna.net.
Carolina, the Contessina DeSimone, is young, beautiful, and wealthy. Helpless in her father’s quest for power, she finds herself living at the Palazzo Reale in Turin as a lady-in-waiting and confidant of HRH Margherita, the Princess of Savoy. When the childhood friend with whom she elopes dies while on a mission for Pope, Carolina finds herself disinherited and disowned by her father, the powerful Count Aurelio, financial advisor to Vittorio Emanule II, the first King of a unified Italy. Left in disgrace at a dilapidated villa that once belong to her late mother, Carolina is easy prey for the rogue elements who roam the 19th century Italian countryside until the mysterious Navarre comes to her rescue. He is a soldier of fortune once in the pay of King Francis II of the Two Sicilies, a dangerous mercenary accustomed to taking what he wants without regard for the consequences. What could he possibly offer her—and why?
“Cara mia, be sensible. You know as well as I—there is nothing we can do.” Carlo’s agonized voice sounded unnaturally loud in the stillness of the cemetery. His tall, strong build, black hair, and dark eyes were hallmarks of the Roman aristocrat. The red regimental dress uniform of the Pope’s Guardia Nobile only intensified his handsome good looks.
“Why does life have to be so hard? If my mother were still alive, she would never have allowed this to happen. She always liked you and we would have had her support. I would have had the hope of a better life, a life of my own choosing.” Emotion she couldn’t hide trembled in her voice and she clung to Carlo’s hand.
He looked down at her, his face full of the love she’d found there for all the years she’d known him. “Hope. What a laugh. There hasn’t been any hope for us since the day your father sided with the House of Savoy. No, Carolina, we have no hope and this is the last time I will risk meeting you. Go now, it is dangerous for us both, and you need to return home before the day grows much later.” He gave her hand a brief squeeze before he removed it from his arm and turned to escort her over to where the coach waited. Her companion, Maria, and Giuseppe, the coachman who had served her mother stood waiting by the door.
“Come, Ma’donna. We must return to Rome before the Count sends someone to look for you.” Giuseppe let down the steps and helped the two women into the coach. Carolina observed the long look he gave Carlo before he climbed up to the box.
Carlo leaned his head into the carriage window. “Farewell amore mio. I’ll pray to our Heavenly Father for your safety. I leave tomorrow for my assignment with the Guardia Nobile. Like you, I also have no choice. My family remains faithful to the Holy Father. Only those few misguided fools like your father fail to realize Vittorio Emanuele is an opportunist who offers nothing except empty promises. The rest of us still believe the future security of Italy lies with Pio Nono. You’ll see—he will triumph in the end.” Carlo stepped back, spun around in an abrupt about face, and stalked in the opposite direction to mount his horse.
“Ma’donna Carolina, don’t cry so. You will make yourself ill. Come, let Maria hold you.” The woman, a distant cousin of her late mother’s, had been her companion since childhood. She enfolded Carolina in her arms and held her against her amble, dark clothed bosom.
“Maria, I’ll never see him again. We’ve been planning to marry since we were children. How will I live without him?” She sat up straight and attempted to compose herself. “What will I do so far away in Turin? Why must I serve a cause I don’t understand?”
“You must be patient. Perhaps your father will come to his senses.” The older woman stroked a hand down her arm to comfort her, but Carolina found no hope in Maria’s bleak, distant expression as the older woman stared out the carriage window.
* * * *
Across the expanse of uneven ground, the man hiding in the shelter of the cypress trees lowered his binoculars. He tilted them so the sun would not reflect off the lenses and disclose his presence. He retraced his steps to the horse he’d tethered in the shelter of the stone ruins at the edge of the cemetery.
“Come Compeador. The young lovers, whomever they are, will no doubt find their way through whatever troubles them, but their presence has delayed our journey long enough. I must deliver the King’s message to my contact in the Vatican before midnight.”
The Arabian stallion snorted and sidled when the man slid a black booted foot into the stirrup and mounted. Once settled deep in the saddle, he kneed the horse in the direction of the road toward Rome, dropped the reins, and set off at a canter careful not to overtake the coach traveling along the Via Salaria. Once clear of the town, the pair cut across the countryside and covered the distance at a pace designed to eat up the remaining kilometers. The need to break his journey to avoid detection had been an unplanned happenstance for which he must now make up the time lost.
Young lovers a mysterious stranger and a stallion…how intriguing. You’ve got my attention! How long have you been writing?
I’ve been a writer for most of my professional life. My first work of fiction was an 8th grade English assignment from Sister Patriciana. The story in a play format starred my three younger brothers, me, and the family dog in a spy thriller set in Rome—a city to which most 13-year-old girls of my generation had never traveled. A popular TV series of the era, “The Man from U.N.C.L.E., inspired the storyline, probably because I recall being madly in love with Illya Kuryakin. Some fifty years later, I still have a vivid memory of the “A” the assignment earned along with Sister’s notation, “the dog was the best part of the story.”
I love that TV series and I had a crush on him as well. Tell me. Are you a plotter, a pantser or some combination of both?
I’m most definitely a plotter. My books all start with an idea I develop into a very basic outline that hits the major high points of the story. From the basic outline, I then make a video trailer, a process that serves several purposes. The first is it gives me a visual picture of my characters for physical descriptions, inspires me to keep writing at the story, and provides a sneak peek for my fans and followers because I post it on You Tube and my website far in advance of the book’s release. It never hurts to start advertising early and creating a buzz of anticipation.
I never thought about making a trailer before you’ve finished a book, but I can see why it would give you the impetus to continue writing. Tell us about your current WIP.
My current work in progress grew out of a suggestion my business partner made to me. Since he is a very buttoned down individual, pragmatic and not a fan of fantasy or science fiction, the suggestion took me by surprise. However, it was an excellent idea, one inspired by a cruise I took several years ago aboard Cunard Lines that offered the option of shipping luggage to the ship. I took advantage of the service and shipped a steamer trunk full of evening clothes. Apparently the idea tickled my friend’s fancy and he came up with the idea for “Robes of Destiny.” The basic premise of the story is the heroine’s flamboyant aunt disappears while on a cruise. Her trunk of clothes arrives at the heroine’s house and when she touches them, she sees visions of her aunt’s experiences while wearing the item. The hero who had an unpleasant experience with the aunt several years earlier during his career as a Delta Force operative thinks the whole thing is a publicity stunt. He agrees to help the heroine after she has her first experience with the clothes. I think the story will be a fun read. The video trailer is on my website for anyone who is interested in seeing how the story unfolds.
What is the best compliment you ever received as a writer?
In this particular instance, having the Florida Writers Association honor me and my story with a 2014 Royal Palm Literary Award ranks echelons above anything I can name. However, there are two other compliments I treasure. When I decided to switch to fiction from my day job of technical writing, I enrolled in an adult education class at Northern Virginia Community College. The professor, Kevin G. Summers who is a published author in his own right, taught four, two hour sessions on the fine art of fiction writing. After our second assignment, he told me I certainly knew how to tell a story from start to finish without getting bogged down in the middle. I treasure the comment and try to live up to it with everything I write.
The second compliment comes from a review on Amazon from someone I don’t know who commented, “When you find a writer who can tell a wonderful story that captures your heart and can tell it superbly, well you simply have a great find. Robbi Perna’s stories fit the bill to a T!” I try to keep the both the spirit and the words of the compliment in the forefront as I spin my stories.
Who is your favorite character from your book and why?
In “My Heart Still Surrenders” the character of Navarre is my favorite character. He is a Basque who is a hired mercenary of questionable parentage, but he is the true gentleman while the heroine’s father, Count Aurelio who is born a nobleman is the true bastard.
What is something we’ll never catch you doing?
There are two things will never catch me writing: vampires and explicit sex scenes. While I like my stories to have romance with a twist, vampires isn’t one with which I’m comfortable or have any interest in writing. I don’t write explicit sex scenes for two reasons. The first is I believe what one reader finds sensual may not be the same for another. I prefer the art of suggestion and leave the details up to the individual reader. The second reason is I like the person I see in the mirror everyday. I believe my books succeed because they are good stories, not because I’ve used graphic sexual content to capture an audience’s interest.
If you met a genie, what 3 things would you wish for?
A long life well-lived, a peaceful death, and no computers in the afterlife.
It’s been great fun chatting with you, Robbi, and I sure everyone has enjoyed it as much as me. Visit the links below to learn more about this lovely lady.