A Q&A With Rebecca Serle, Author of March Indie Next List Top Pick "One Italian Summer"

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Independent booksellers across the country have chosen Rebecca Serle’s One Italian Summer (Atria Books) as their top pick for the March 2022 Indie Next List.

In the weeks following her mother’s death, Katy takes a solo two-week trip to Positano, a magical town that her mother had spent a summer in right before meeting her father. There, she finds someone she never could have imagined: her mother, in the flesh, healthy, and 30-years-old.  

One Italian Summer is pure magic,” said Kaitlin Smith of Copperfield's Books in Healdsburg, California. “Rebecca Serle marvelously creates a literary world that feels full and alive, like I can catch a flight with Katy and experience Italy alongside her. This treasure of a book is sure to delight readers.”

Here, Bookselling This Week talked about writing the book with Serle.

Bookselling This Week: Where did the idea for this book come from?

Rebecca Serle: In the summer of 2019, I took a trip with my mother to Italy. She had always talked about this summer she spent in Rome when she was 20 years old — and this man named Remo she fell in love with. We ended up finding Remo’s sister on Facebook and she put us in touch with Remo. My mom and I met him at The Trevi Fountain — the place they had originally met nearly fifty years before! I took a lot of photos. But seeing my mother as the girl he once knew — nervous, excited, etc — got my wheels turning. What if…

BTW: Katy really comes to life on the page. How did you craft her character?

RS: In order for the conceit to work, Katy would have to be someone who doesn’t have a lot of agency when we meet her — someone who thinks her life has been decided for her. In many ways she’s the anti-Dannie (my protagonist from In Five Years). Her journey over the course of the book is to find her own autonomy.

BTW: I saw you mention on social media that this book is inspired by your own relationship with your mom. Do you want to talk more about that?

RS: My mother is my best friend and my first phone call. She is, to me, the person with all the answers. I spend a lot of time worrying about what my life will be like when she is no longer here. I think in many ways One Italian Summer is a love letter to my future self, the one who will have to walk this earth without her.

BTW: Why Italy?

RS: Where else? I wrote this book between April and July of 2020 when we couldn’t leave our homes much less travel internationally. I kept dreaming about pasta and wine on a sun-drenched stretch of sand. It felt like where the story belonged, and of course, where my own story with my mother had taken place. There’s also something very timeless about Italy (Positano especially) that lent itself well to the material.

BTW: Is there any one thing you’d hope readers take away from this book?

RS: I hope One Italian Summer transports you like it did me. I wrote this book as an escape for myself and I hope it serves to give you a bit of a vacation, as well. I am just so honored that people express that my books sometimes move them. If that happens here, I’m very glad for it. I often write to probe the absolute edge of something I’m afraid of looking at head-on in my own life, so if I can name something in my writing that makes other people say “yes,” then I’ve done my job.

BTW: What role do indie bookstores play in your life?

RS: I think as book people it’s very simple: if we have a spare hour in a foreign town, we’re finding the bookstore. It’s a way to ground and feel at rest absolutely anywhere in the world. Independent bookstores are home. And I just want to say thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for this incredible honor. One Italian Summer is a very personal book that was written in a very uncertain world. Being invited into your homes through my words is the greatest privilege of my life. I don’t really know what else to say. If I can do this forever, I’d consider myself the luckiest woman in the world. So, thank you.