Mysteries surround us...

Inspiration for the Ella Perri Mystery Series: Franco (Poppy), Gianna, and Nonna

Inspiration for writing a book could come from anywhere. It might be something small and seemingly insignificant like observing someone at a park that sparks one’s imagination, it could be something deeper perhaps from a specific experience, or it could come from a combination of things. My inspiration for Buried Secrets and One Last Secret came largely from my family, my Italian upbringing, and my love of mysteries. Today, I’ll reveal who inspired some of my biggest characters.

Poppy’s character (also known as Franco) was largely inspired by my own beloved grandfather whom we lovingly called Poppi. Choosing a slightly different spelling allowed me to separate the real person from the fictional character I created. Like the fictional character, the real Poppi was larger than life, always wanting to spread love and joy everywhere he went. He loved food, family, and God and he loved to laugh and make others laugh.  My grandfather was a soldier in the army during World War Two and he was asked to become a cook just like Poppy was in Buried Secrets. Many of Poppy’s phrases in Buried Secrets such as “whatareyougonnado?” also came from the real Poppi. My grandfather was the glue in our family and like Ella, we suffered a profound loss when he left this world much too soon after a heart attack.

The other part of Poppy’s character, the part that had to overcome a difficult upbringing from a strict and unfair father came from someone else in my family. Yes, many things about Poppy’s father and the way he treated Poppy when he was a young Franco were purely created for his specific character. But a small portion of Poppy’s character was pulled from what I had observed as a child. In Buried Secrets, Poppy endured harsh treatment by his father and even with his tough upbringing, he became a loving and wonderful father. He chose not to repeat the cycle of mistreatment but instead rose far above it. This is an important and admirable character trait of Poppy’s. It is this part of Poppy’s character that was inspired by my father.

Nonna’s personality was inspired by my grandmother whom we lovingly called Mana. Mana and Poppi were my grandparents and the way I described them as Poppy and Nonna in Buried Secrets were spot on to who they were in real life, especially the scene when Ella was reflecting about their visit on Christmas morning when she was a child. My sister, brother, and I adored them, just as Ella, Liv, and Sal did. Nonna’s wild hand gestures, her “yelling at the ceiling”, praying out loud, scolding with her crooked finger, and her side comments completely came from my grandmother. Her loving, gentleness, and nurturing came from a combination of both of my grandmothers.

The idea for Gianna came from one of my Poppi’s oil paintings. It was a painting of a woman with her hat slightly laying on her shoulders. I always wondered what inspired him to paint her, maybe it was merely from a picture he’d found (he often painted pictures from other pictures) but I never thought to ask him. Gianna’s character was completely fictional until the second book came along, One Last Secret. When it was time to reveal who Gianna had become after all that time, it was important for me to show that although her life had not become what she’d expected, she overcame the saddest parts and found happiness in the end. The loving side of Gianna, the one who her granddaughter, Emma calls her Nani came from my mother. My children and nieces and nephews call her Nani too and interestingly enough, Nani is a shortened form of Nonnina, an Italian term of endearment for “little grandmother”. The relationship and closeness between Nani and Emma is similar to that of my mother’s relationship with my daughter, Sarah.

You might be wondering then if Ella has any connection to me. The only similarities that Ella has to me are in her connections with her family members. Her deep bond to her grandfather was much like mine and Poppy’s and her connections with her other family members are similar to mine. Ella’s love toward her family is also the same but that’s really where it ends. Everything else about Ella’s character is unique only to Ella.

I hope you enjoyed learning about my inspiration for my characters. If there’s another character you’re curious about feel free to comment on this post and I will respond to it!

Next post: What inspired the locations and the plot? What’s coming in Book 3?

Thank you for reading!


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