Tag Archives: women in WWII France

Interview with Trini Amador, author of Gracianna, Talking Gratitude, Wine, and Writing

Today I have such a thoughtful and beautiful interview with Trini Amador, author of WWII-set story Gracianna, which is based on the true story of his great-grandmother. We talk about some amazing things and you won’t want to miss this interview. Learn about gratitude, how he came to write Gracianna, their inspiration for wine-making, and what he has planned for the future!

To see my review of Gracianna, click HERE! And don’t forget to enter the giveaway that is right after the interview!

Gracianna

Hi, Trini! Welcome to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! Very pleased to have you here today to talk about your debut novel, Gracianna—the story of your great-grandmother, Gracianna Lasaga. How is does it feel publishing the story?

Trini: Hi Erin-Thanks so much for inviting me to join you. I started this journey a while back. It took 8 months to write the book but 20 months to edit it. I took a great deal of effort to bring my editor, Hillel Black around to join the process. He is a professional and works with established authors in most cases. But I persisted to help him understand the essence of the story and my conviction. Just having him on board was a “win” unto itself.  I am blessed everyday thinking about this accomplishment.

Erin: It turned out beautifully! We can’t wait to hear more about it.  I’d love to walk through a fabulous vineyard such as what you must overlook each day. Let’s take a stroll and get started with more questions….

Q:  Your novel is inspired by true events based on your great-grandmother Gracianna, who lived in Paris during World War II. Stories of our ancestors are always interesting, sometimes astounding, and many times chilling. How would you describe how you felt when you first learned of her story? What inspired you to tell her story in book format?

A: I don’t think many of us really get to know our great grand-parents.  It is a shame since they pass along a great deal to subsequent generations. They are a link to the past and we are generally too young to fully appreciate who they are. But my grandmother Gracianna used to say to me to always be “thankful,” so much so that as I got older that value stuck with me—even though I don’t think one understands the concept of gratitude until much later in life. What was it that she had to be grateful for is what drew me to write. As the story unfolded I wondered, in this day of Facebook and other social media, with young people uploading photos and spending time in this activity, what could they believe in so much that they would act in the way Gracianna does in the story?

Q:  Since this is an account of her life, is this a non-fiction biography, a historical non-fiction, or a historical fiction?  Why? Can you talk about your choice in how you wrote it?

A: My publisher told me that once you put dialog in it is nearly automatically “fictional.” “How do you know that they said that?” Aside from the factual aspects there were other parts of my family experience that needed to shine through. My beliefs and attitudes about life that were shaped by my family are included. So it was important that I had the ability to expand on the story to incorporate the message that I wanted to deliver as well.

Q:  Besides your other work as a winemaker and businessman, have you always been a writer or is this something new for you?

A:  I have always loved to write. It is a free form of expression for me. Aside from writing a “screenplay” 25 years ago (it was shelved) I have written a lot, such as copy for advertisements and reports, but not for publication.

Q:  How did you manage your time in order to write Gracianna? What were some of your challenges and some of your most positive moments during the process?

A: In the last few years I have traveled nearly 750,000 miles (not a typo). Since I have spent so much time on airplanes I managed to find time to write between catching a few winks here and there. I wrote Gracianna in 13 counties and only did the polish work in the US. I was inspired by people and places that I traveled to and many of their spirits are manifested in the book.

Q:  Your wine company, Gracianna Winery, is named after your great-grandmother.  Has this been in your family long? Was she a part of it? How do you feel the winery continues on your family legacy?

A: We stared the winery only 8 years ago when we caught our son making wine in the garage. Until then we had no idea we would be in the wine business. However, when it came time to name the brand it was obvious. The Gracianna name in my past had represented all things to be grateful for and that became the foundation for what we wanted this wine to stand for. Even though we struggle with day to day “life” and stress, just like everyone else, “being grateful” and acknowledging that, is important to our family. And now our daughter is about to become a mother herself and the emotion overwhelms me. We have come full circle. Gracianna would be proud and overjoyed but humble at the thought of it all.

Erin Comments: That’s amazing! Both that your son’s actions inspired you, your family focuses on being grateful (we live by that too), and that your daughter is going to have a baby! Congratulations! 🙂

Q:  If someone wanted to buy a copy of the book, and a bottle of wine to drink while settling in to read the novel, which bottle do you recommend? Why?

A: HA! Well, folks always ask me which wine is my favorite and I always say that is like asking which of my kids is my favorite (I alternate by saying, “my son” and then “my daughter”). It really is whatever a person’s taste is but if white then sauvignon blanc or chardonnay if it is warm outside and zinfandel or pinot noir if in front of the fire and snuggled in for the evening.

Q: What is it you love most about winemaking? Now that you are a debut author, how do you feel about being a writer? Is it something you hope to continue or was it a special, one-time thing?

A: Winemaking is an expression of the earth. Writing is an expression of the mind. I would love to write again. So Erin, I have already outlined a second book based on my experiences of working in the record business in Hollywood in the 90’s. But I have had discussions about writing the sequel to Gracianna. There certainly is another story to tell. I will decide next year if that is in the cards. I will never be finished writing.

Erin Comments: Wonderful! Both sound intriguing! Keep me updated!

Q:  I noticed that the words Grace, Graciousness, and Gratitude are all important to your family. Can you explain why and how it continues to mold your family today?

A: The basis of Gracianna Winery is “Grace, graciousness and gratitude.” Our belief is that grace is elegance in a casual way – helping those around you feel comfort with themselves. Graciousness is yielding to whatever situation as a servant host. Gratitude is the value that Gracianna bestowed in us…actively acknowledging what we have and being thankful for it. Our family aspires to live up to those tenets and inspire others to live that way too.

 Q:  Besides purchasers of your wine who would love to hear the ancestral story, what other readers do you hope to target with Gracianna? What feelings and lasting thoughts do you hope the book creates in them?

A: Embedded in Gracianna is a story of unconditional love. It is filled with contradictions of thought and action, “How would I act facing the specter of impossible decisions?”

Erin Comments: Ah, yes. that has so much depth. As you know from my review, I also took away from it the idea of not judging others because they are different from you, as well do all you can to pursue your dreams.

Q:  Besides your family story, you must have put in a lot of research into the WWII era in France and other surrounding areas. What were some of the most memorable things you found in your research? Maybe things that surprised you, or shocked you, or things that warmed your heart?

A: You are right Erin.  I did do a ton of research and I learned more about WWII than I thought I would care to know. But I came away feeling like that knowledge informs my future.  My research took me to the Basque country to understand the humble beginnings of the family and the culture of Basques. Then to the majesty of Paris and the sorrow of its occupation. Then to Poland and its searing winter.  I was drawn to Auschwitz after I learned our linkage to the camp.  I had no idea about the actual relationship to Auschwitz and was heartbroken. Through the kindness of some friends I was given a winter coat to weather the trip to the death camp. The story of the jacket being given to Constance at the end of the story was a nod to my Polish friend, Anna and her father encouraging me that way to make the trip as fearful as I was.

Erin Comments: I like that you truly tried to experience the locations and use that in the book.

Q:  Did your novel cover the fact that she finally immigrated to California? (We won’t tell the complete ending!)  If so, did you also have to research immigration of the time period? How did people end up settling in California, which to me seems so far from New York?

A: I know that my great grandparents did end up on the West Coast. It is a bit of a blur as to how they got here from New York really. I know little about that but am actively seeking answers.

Q:  Do you enjoy reading historical fiction? Who are some authors who have inspired you to take on the task to tell your family story? Or what are some books you’ve enjoyed?

A:  Erin, you are killing me here. There are so many.  I love F. Scott Fitzgerald but when it came to telling a historical story I am inspired by Stephen Ambrose and the Lewis and Clark tale and by Richard Hough and his Captain James Cook: A Biography. It was beautifully told. Both direct. However, I had the benefit of being intimately connected to the family and I was sure that I wanted to take care to allow the emotion of Gracianna spill out of the pages.

Q:  What words of advice might you have for other aspiring writers who hope to tell an interesting family story?

A: DIVE IN! Allow your voice to express itself and other than following the Chicago Manual Style of editing allow yourself to break some rules. Gracianna is full of non-traditional writing elements. It is not “accepted” to make a word bold in a book but I did it. I allowed the words to pour over the page like letters spilled from alphabet soup in some places.   Some reviewers have said this is “not allowed” and my reaction is “Says who?” Readers are subjected to certain sameness in today’s written word feeling bound by convention. I was unbound by what I did not know.  That does not relieve a writer from understanding how to draw a reader in, from developing a character so a reader can empathize, from showing a compelling story…but I would say, “Give yourself some latitude, tell your great story and make me ache for the next page.”

Erin Comments: Writing is an art! I love when people take risks, be creative, and think outside the box. I loved how your entire book experience made me feel…from the type of paper, the cover, the crinckled page endings, the art with the birds, the letters….it makes for a beautiful keepsake!

Q:  Where can people purchase your book and your wine?

A: Major chains such as Barnes & Noble and Hudson’s Booksellers as well as Amazon and many other online sources.

I personally sign and emboss any book that is purchased from http://www.gracianna.com/gracianna-the-book.

Erin: Thank you so much, Trini, for discussing your book, your life, and your wine with me and my readers today. I hope the best for you in the future and look forward to your future writings!

Trini: Wow, Erin this time has flown by. We can do this again anytime. I really appreciated the depth of your questions and your interest in things other than the book. It is refreshing. I wish you much success in the future and I look forward to walking you through the vineyard in Healdsburg in Sonoma County someday.

Erin: I would totally embrace a chance to not only see California one day, but to come to your winery! I look forward to talking to you more in the future.

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Giveaway~

The giveaway is for one copy and open to US/Canada only. Enter by leaving a comment below with your email included to contact winner. You can also leave it on the Hook of a Book Facebook Page under the link: www.facebook.com/HookofaBook. Or you can email me to hookofabook(at)hotmail(dot)com.

Extra entries: +1 for following blog and +3 for “liking” the Facebook page (link above)

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GRACIANNA, Synopsis~

GraciannaPublication Date: July 23, 2013
Greenleaf Book Group Press
Hardcover; 296p
ISBN-10: 1608325709

The gripping story of Gracianna–a French-Basque girl forced to make impossible decisions after being recruited into the French Resistance in Nazi-occupied Paris.

Gracianna is inspired by true events in the life of Trini Amador’s great-grandmother, Gracianna Lasaga. As an adult, Amador was haunted by the vivid memory of finding a loaded German Luger tucked away in a nightstand while wandering his great-grandmother’s home in Southern California. He was only four years old at the time, but the memory remained and he knew he had to explore the story behind the gun.

Decades later, Amador would delve into the remarkable odyssey of his Gracianna’s past, a road that led him to an incredible surprise. In Gracianna, Amador weaves fact and fiction to tell his great-grandmother’s story.

Gracianna bravely sets off to Paris in the early 1940s–on her way to America, she hopes–but is soon swept into the escalation of the war and the Nazi occupation of Paris. After chilling life-and-death struggles, she discovers that her missing sister has surfaced as a laborer in Auschwitz. When she finds an opportunity to fight back against the Nazis to try to free her sister, she takes it–even if it means using lethal force.

As Amador tells the imagined story of how his great-grandmother risked it all, he delivers richly drawn characters and a heart-wrenching page-turner that readers won’t soon forget.

Praise for Gracianna

“Gracianna is a riveting and remarkable narrative. The characters come alive through their unassuming but compelling stories, as Nazi-occupied Paris unfolds before our eyes. We come to care deeply about the characters, which makes putting down the book almost impossible. Highly recommended.” – Stacey Katz Bourns, Director of Language Programs, Dept. of Romance Languages and Literatures, Harvard University

“While wine is obviously a significant part of life’s enjoyment, the story behind the wine can be even more gratifying. You will be fixated on this thrilling story written by Trini Amador which was inspired by Gracianna, his great-grandmother, the French Basque namesake of his family’s award-winning winery in Sonoma County.” – Bob Cabral, Director of Winemaking & General Manager, Williams Selyem Winery

Author Trini Amador, Biography~

Trini Amador AuthorTrini Amador vividly remembers the day he found a loaded German Luger tucked away in a nightstand while wandering through his great-grandmother’s home in Southern California. He was only four years old at the time, but the memory remained and he knew he had to explore the story behind the gun. This experience sparked a journey towards Gracianna, Amador’s debut novel, inspired by true events and weaving reality with imagination. It’s a tale drawing from real-life family experiences.

Mr. Amador is a traveled global marketing “insighter.” He is a sought-after guru teaching multinational brand marketers to understand how customer and consumer segments behave based on their needs, values, motivations, feeling and values. He has trained over five thousand brand marketers on how to grow brands in over 20 countries in the last 15 years. His counseling has been valued at global brands including General Electric, Microsoft, AT&T, Yahoo!, Sun Microsystems, Google, Jack Daniel’s, The J.M. Smucker Co., DuPont, Mattel, and Rodale, Inc..

Amador is also a founding partner with his wife and children of Gracianna Winery, an award-winning winery located in Healdsburg, California. The winery also pays tribute to the Amador Family’s maternal grandmother, Gracianna Lasaga. Her message of being thankful lives on through them. The Gracianna winery strives to keep Gracianna’s gratitude alive through their wine. Amador resides in Sonoma County with his family.

Learn more at: www.gracianna.com, like Gracianna Winery on Facebook or follow them on Twitter @GraciannaWinery.

Thanks to Historical Fiction Virtual Tours!

Link to Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/graciannavirtualtour/
Twitter Hashtag: #GraciannaTour

Gracianna Tour Banner FINAL

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Gracianna by Trini Amador is the Story of a Woman’s Strength During Nazi-Occupied France

Gracianna

Gracianna is the true story of author Trini Amador’s great-grandmother, named Gracianna, a woman of the WWII-era who was adventurous, courageous, and had, in what I sensed, a beautiful spirit. As well, this was the story of his great-grandfather Juan and her sister, Constance.  I certainly feel after reading this book that Gracianna spoke through the pages of this novel in a way that I imagine she must have mostly walked through life, gracing people with her presence–a hard-working, forward-thinking woman from the mountains with a zest for life and learning that was contagious.  Through family stories and research, Amador captured her and brought her three-dimensionally to my home in a way that inspired me and has left a permanent imprint on my heart.

Not only did I cry many times through reading this novel, I also smiled at her innocence and her small joys, at her independence, her perfectionism, and then as the story continued, her growth and bravery which catapulted into her having to take on doing things that most would have never thought possible. Her innocence lost, her dreams halted due to horrible circumstances, I could feel her emotions, her quiet or silent thoughts, as she went through many painful experiences that history should not forget.

Gracianna Arrayet was born in the Pyremees, which are the mountains that serve as a tangible border between France and Spain.  She lived in a village with her grandmother (after seeing her mother dead from childbirth when she was 8) and her younger sister Constance. She was Basque. Most of the country men around her were either isolated shepherds or sea-faring marine workers, both jobs which left them unmarried, but sometimes wanting the affections of women, so many women lived with children produced by them. Life was hard, even if the scenery was beautiful and supplied healthy weather.  They grew up to be independent, strong, and hard-working as they had to care for themselves.

I admired Gracianna as she was always learning about the world and thinking of new places that she’d like to visit. She made up her mind in 1940, when she was 18, that she wanted to go to the American Riviera (in California) she had heard about so she moved to Paris to work to save money to afford her trip. She took a job in a cafe waiting tables and scrubbing floors, with a smile in her heart and a dream on her soul.

My favorite parts at the beginning were her letters home and her thoughts about the world around her. I wish more people felt as these messages in the book. I felt I related so much to Gracianna and I was moved by Amador’s beautiful, eloquent sentences and thoughts written for her.  The belief of treating others with kindness resonated with me.  “Even though we did not learn much about other kinds of people, I am glad how we learned to be tolerant of others no matter their difference.” —Gracianna, page 46.

The novel juxtaposes with the story of Amador’s great-grandfather Juan as well. In his side of the story, growing up in the area with Gracianna, he always held a fondness for her in his heart. As a lonely shepherd at such a young age, he often thought of her once she had left so he took up himself one day and moved to Paris to be with her. He surprised her and though she was happy to see him, Gracianna wasn’t one to depend on a man so she enjoyed his friendship (usually more than she let on) and he waited patiently for her to return his longing affections.

As the war heated up, the Nazi regime overtook France and set-up headquarters in a hotel near the cafe where Gracianna worked.  She was from the French countryside and if anything, Catholic, but just a wrong look or action from anyone could get people into trouble.  Soon Constance, Gracianna’s whirlwind of a sister, also came to them and married a local rich man.  After Gracianna endured a horrible experience with an SS officer, and another situation which put Constance on a train to the Nazi Auschwitz-Birkenau camp (where one million people were ultimately abused, tortured, murdered or died), Gracianna becomes embroiled in the work of the French resistance. It’s an amazing story that you’ll not want to miss reading.

I don’t want to give more away with details, but the strength and resolve of Gracianna left me gasping in disbelief. I began wondering if I could act the same if lives depended on it? Even if I wanted to, could I do it? I enjoyed reading about her courageous actions, as well as Juan’s turmoil for her. In the midst of it all, they were married quickly, but really not able to even celebrate their nuptials. Someone told Juan that in relationships one must be the lover and one must be the fighter. I could see that worked for them and I admired him for always being there for her, yet giving her distance as well. What a wonderful patient and loyal individual he must have been.  Though he loved her unconditionally, she rarely returned it, but instead withdrawing into herself.  She seemed to be in constant perfectionism mode and unable to show love as she believed she didn’t deserve love herself.  Yet, she did love and she was grateful for Juan.  The ending of the book, in fact, portrayed this so well.

It must have been a very scary time of upheaval not only for them, but for the many common residents who never knew if they might live from day-to-day or see a family member shot point-blank. An occupation as what I read about in Gracianna gave me chills all over again and reminded me of all the horrible movies and information I watched and read for Holocaust classes during the pursuit of my history degree. But there is so much more out there that people don’t remember or think about. The chapters that switched and focused on Constance’s time in the concentration camp, where she was “lucky” enough to become a cook, were harrowing. I could imagine their distress and confusion and fear, and yet also their will for survival.

I am so grateful that Amador decided to put his family story into words so that his family will never be forgotten.  Not only is it a lasting legacy for his family, an ode to the grace and gratefulness that his great-grandmother Gracianna exuded, but it’s a moving historical story that allows readers a glimpse into the average streets and citizens who endured occupied-France and who died or survived the concentration camps.  It’s a toast to those who survived the unspeakable and also to immigrants who dreamed a dream of America and then made it happen.

Once I opened it, I stayed up all night reading it as I couldn’t bear to put it down.  This book will go onto my favorites shelf and I’ll treasure it. It reminded me of so much and the voice I heard through this novel will stay with me long-lasting, as well as her words and thoughts on life and the treatment of others that were brought to the page.

Thank you, Trini, for sharing your family with us.

GRACIANNA, Synopsis~

GraciannaPublication Date: July 23, 2013
Greenleaf Book Group Press
Hardcover; 296p
ISBN-10: 1608325709

The gripping story of Gracianna–a French-Basque girl forced to make impossible decisions after being recruited into the French Resistance in Nazi-occupied Paris.

Gracianna is inspired by true events in the life of Trini Amador’s great-grandmother, Gracianna Lasaga. As an adult, Amador was haunted by the vivid memory of finding a loaded German Luger tucked away in a nightstand while wandering his great-grandmother’s home in Southern California. He was only four years old at the time, but the memory remained and he knew he had to explore the story behind the gun.

Decades later, Amador would delve into the remarkable odyssey of his Gracianna’s past, a road that led him to an incredible surprise. In Gracianna, Amador weaves fact and fiction to tell his great-grandmother’s story.

Gracianna bravely sets off to Paris in the early 1940s–on her way to America, she hopes–but is soon swept into the escalation of the war and the Nazi occupation of Paris. After chilling life-and-death struggles, she discovers that her missing sister has surfaced as a laborer in Auschwitz. When she finds an opportunity to fight back against the Nazis to try to free her sister, she takes it–even if it means using lethal force.

As Amador tells the imagined story of how his great-grandmother risked it all, he delivers richly drawn characters and a heart-wrenching page-turner that readers won’t soon forget.

Praise for Gracianna

“Gracianna is a riveting and remarkable narrative. The characters come alive through their unassuming but compelling stories, as Nazi-occupied Paris unfolds before our eyes. We come to care deeply about the characters, which makes putting down the book almost impossible. Highly recommended.” – Stacey Katz Bourns, Director of Language Programs, Dept. of Romance Languages and Literatures, Harvard University

“While wine is obviously a significant part of life’s enjoyment, the story behind the wine can be even more gratifying. You will be fixated on this thrilling story written by Trini Amador which was inspired by Gracianna, his great-grandmother, the French Basque namesake of his family’s award-winning winery in Sonoma County.” – Bob Cabral, Director of Winemaking & General Manager, Williams Selyem Winery

Author Trini Amador, Biography~

Trini Amador AuthorTrini Amador vividly remembers the day he found a loaded German Luger tucked away in a nightstand while wandering through his great-grandmother’s home in Southern California. He was only four years old at the time, but the memory remained and he knew he had to explore the story behind the gun. This experience sparked a journey towards Gracianna, Amador’s debut novel, inspired by true events and weaving reality with imagination. It’s a tale drawing from real-life family experiences.

Mr. Amador is a traveled global marketing “insighter.” He is a sought-after guru teaching multinational brand marketers to understand how customer and consumer segments behave based on their needs, values, motivations, feeling and values. He has trained over five thousand brand marketers on how to grow brands in over 20 countries in the last 15 years. His counseling has been valued at global brands including General Electric, Microsoft, AT&T, Yahoo!, Sun Microsystems, Google, Jack Daniel’s, The J.M. Smucker Co., DuPont, Mattel, and Rodale, Inc..

Amador is also a founding partner with his wife and children of Gracianna Winery, an award-winning winery located in Healdsburg, California. The winery also pays tribute to the Amador Family’s maternal grandmother, Gracianna Lasaga. Her message of being thankful lives on through them. The Gracianna Winery strives to keep Gracianna’s gratitude alive through their wine.

Learn more at: www.gracianna.com, like Gracianna Winery on Facebook or follow them on Twitter @GraciannaWinery.  Amador resides in Sonoma County with his family.

Link to Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/graciannavirtualtour/
Twitter Hashtag: #GraciannaTour

Gracianna Tour Banner FINAL

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