Review Fix Exclusive: Michael DiSchiavi Talks ‘Nellie & Mrs. W’

Review Fix chats with author Michael DiSchiavi, who discusses his book, Nellie & Mrs. W, detailing its creative and research process, goals and so much more.

Review Fix: What inspired this book?

Michael DiSchiavi: The inspiration was inspired by a dream.  I dreamed I was sitting in Virginia Woolf’s kitchen listening to her talk to her cook, Nellie Boxall, about that night’s dinner plans.  Woolf mentioned wanting lamb, which surprised me since I know from grad school how much she hated food.  I woke up in the middle of the night actually seeing a sentence on the computer screen.  “Mrs. Woolf said she wanted to have lamb for dinner.”  I knew when I woke up that this was the first sentence of a book and I wrote it on a piece of paper on my night stand. Indeed, it remained the first sentence through a couple of drafts.  

Review Fix: What did you learn about yourself while writing it? What changed over the course of writing it?

DiSchiavi: I learned that I could be resilient and that I had more determination than I knew.  When I started the project, I was working a full time job teaching at a very troubled school.  It took determination and rigid scheduling to get the book into my day.  Not far into it, there was a change.   I had emergency brain surgery and had to take a health sabbatical for a few months.  I now had the time to research and write but not the energy / mental stamina.  A few years after I had a workable draft, I had to put the MS aside because my husband took ill.  Then he died and the book was shelved, almost permanently.  

Review Fix: What advice would you give to anyone working on fiction, based on your experiences?

DiSchiavi: My advice would be first and foremost read extensively in the fiction genre you want to write.  See what’s out there, what is selling, what publishers are looking for.  You want to make sure that the novel you feel compelled to write is one others will be compelled to buy.  Why would anyone want to read your book?  Why would they spend money to buy it?  What target audience does it reach?

Review Fix: What was the initial goal of the book? Do you think you succeeded? What are your long-term goals for the book?

DiSchiavi: The initial goal for the book was to be represented by an agent who would negotiate a contract with a smaller publishing house.  Eventually, I decided that it was more important to put the book out and went with a hybrid version of self-publishing.  I would love to see the book picked up by a house interested in re-publishing it (I own the rights) along with another book I am working on.  

Review Fix: What was the research process like?

DiSchiavi: The research process was minimal since I already had extensive knowledge of Virginia Woolf’s world and writing.  I re-read all the diaries (the servants are mentioned extensively, especially Nellie) and I saw some of Woolf’s letters in the Berg Collection at the NY Public Library.  The hardest part was writing the book so that Nellie was the protagonist, not Virginia.  

Review Fix: How do you want this book to be remembered?

DiSchiavi: I think this is a cross between The Hours and The Help.  I think readers (or watchers) of either will enjoy this (although it leans more towards the side of The Hours).  I think the audience is largely female since (much as I hate to admit it) women read more than men, especially in terms of literary fiction / historical fiction.  Women also buy books more than men do.  I want this book to be remembered as a look at life and relationships between women, where one of the women just happens to be a literary genius.  I also think it would make an excellent Netflix miniseries.  

Review Fix: What’s next?

DiSchiavi: I am currently doing major edits to a manuscript I worked on for years before Nellie & Mrs. W.  It takes place in the mid eighteenth century, largely in London.  It is the novel of an English queen whom history has at worst forgotten and at best maligned; a woman who inadvertently changed the course of English history.  That’s all I’ll say for now.  

Review Fix: Anything else you’d like to add?

DiSchiavi: Final thoughts: The book business is in fact a business.  It takes herculean efforts to transform a book from an idea in the author’s head to a tangible item sitting in the bookstore.  When you love a book, please consider buying it instead of borrowing it from the library or a friend.  Publishers don’t publish future books from authors who don’t sell and authors don’t get paid from books that don’t sell.  When you buy a book, you are showing your appreciation in the most tangible form.  

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About Patrick Hickey Jr. 12180 Articles
Patrick Hickey Jr. is the Founder, Editor-in-Chief, Master Jedi and Grand Pooh-bah of ReviewFix.com and is the author of the book, "The Minds Behind the Games: Interviews with Cult and Classic Video Game Developers," from leading academic and non-fiction publisher McFarland and Company. He is currently the Assistant Director of the Journalism Program at Kingsborough Community College and is a former News Editor at NBC Local Integrated Media and a National Video Games Writer at the late Examiner.com. He has also had articles and photos published in The New York Times, The New York Daily News, Complex and The Syracuse Post-Standard. Love him. Read him.

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