If you’re planning a trip to Italy in the near future, now that international travel has reopened, I have a book suggestion to read prior to your trip (or in-flight!) Earlier this year Jennifer Probst’s latest book, Our Italian Summer was released. It couldn’t have arrived at a more perfect time when most of us need a bit of an escape.
The book centers around three women: Sophia, Francesca, and Allegra. Francesca is a workaholic who has found success in every part of her life except when it comes to her family. Her daughter Allegra has fallen in with a new group of friends that sends her in a downward spiral and Sophia dreams of spending the summer in Italy chasing after their family roots could be just the escape they’ve been looking for.
In this interview, Jennifer shares how her own trip to Italy inspired the novel, who she would like to play the main characters in a feature film and an intriguing sneak peek at her next novel.
When did you first come up with the storyline for Our Italian Summer?
I came up with the story when I was touring Italy with my mother, my godmother, and my niece. We were celebrating my mother’s 70th birthday and I was inspired as we toured from Rome to Tuscany to create a story based on our experiences and to dive into the complicated layers of female/daughter relationships.
Do you plan out the entire novel in advance or see where the characters take you (plotter or pantser)?
I am definitely a pantser! I do a loose outline and then follow my characters to the end.
Through your novels, you’ve been given the chance to be an airline pilot, a dancer, an archaeologist, and a vineyard owner. What do you enjoy most writing characters who have some of your dream jobs?
I love characters who live richly and love their work. I’m endlessly fascinated by careers people choose to do in their lifetime and it gives me a unique experience to delve into their world. I love interviewing and researching professions to know what’s involved with each one and like to match up certain personalities.
Prior to writing the book, you had an Italian getaway of your own, have you visited all of the locations in the book?
Yes, I was lucky enough to get to Italy twice and was able to be in all those locations, even if some were brief.
Out of the three female characters: Sophia, Francesca, and Allegra, which character has characteristics that remind you the most of yourself?
Such a great question! I think all three of them truly reflect pieces of me at different ages. Allegra has the passion and zeal of youth, Francesca has the dedication and perseverance to be successful, and Sophia has the heart and soul that adores her family. I can relate to all of them.
Which of the characters’ storylines was the most fun (or hardest) to write?
I loved writing Sophia since writing at 70 was a challenge. I got to imagine the wisdom received and how you may look back at your life with various regrets or judgments, and the relationships with your family may not be the way you expected. She was a wonderful character to explore.
If Our Italian Summer was turned into a feature film, who would you want to play the main characters?
That would be a dream come true! I’d go for Meryl Streep, of course, and then Rachel McAdams and perhaps Hailee Steinfeld.
Where is your favorite place to write either at home (or outside the home pre-COVID)?
I adore writing in my office – it’s truly my sanctuary. Besides being surrounded by books, my fave knick-knacks, and candles, it houses a dog bed so my two little fur babies can nap beside me!
What is one of the books you’re reading right now?
I’m a voracious reader and always in the middle of two! Right now it’s A Good Marriage by Kimberly McCreight and The Checklist by Addie Woolridge.
Are you currently working on the next novel and if so can we get a sneak peek?
Yes! I’m finishing up editing The Secret Love Letters of Olivia Moretti – my next women’s fiction novel that takes place in Positano Italy. It’s a sweeping tale of three sisters who discover love letters and a deed to a home in Italy after their mother dies, and decides to travel there to track down her mysterious lover. It comes out on February 1st, 2022.