Years ago, I remember sitting in a crowded MacDonalds opposite the Pantheon in Rome. After wolfing down burgers, my friends and I were awestruck by the door to the Pantheon; it seemed to stretch to the heavens and I remember craning my neck to see the sky through the oculus in the domed ceiling. A moment indelibly scratched on the surface of my mind. Later, I tossed a coin in the Trevi Fountain in the hope I will one day return to Rome. I have not had the chance to return, but I am delighted to share my interview with Mark Tedsco, author of ‘She Seduced Me: A Love Affair with Rome‘, recently published by Dixi Books.
NLK: Can you please tell us about your publication journey and books?
MT: My primary occupation is teaching history (social studies) to high school students and mentoring new teachers in Los Angeles. I write in my free time.
My writing journey began when I started to record my experiences in a Vatican seminary; I wrote a sort of journal to reflect on this time of my life and understand how the pieces of my life fit together. When I completed it, I showed the manuscript to my sister, and she said, “This is good. You should get it published”. I had my doubts but went ahead and sent it to a few publishers. The Chicago Review press picked it up and published it soon after. The book is called That Undeniable Longing: My Journey to and from the Priesthood.
After that, I had another idea come to me about two soldiers in ancient Rome; the story began to play out in my imagination when I completed my first book. The book’s creation began when a friend of mine, living in Rome, told me about two 4th century men. “The last recorded words they said to each other,” my friend recounted, “were: ‘If we submit to this, we will be together forever in paradise.'” I began to wonder what type of life they lived to say this to one another. This wondering resulted in my first historical novel, I am John, I am Paul: A Story of Two Soldiers in Ancient Rome.
My experience of love and loss led me to write a book of poetry: Loving, Hoping, Believing. It was the same process: every day, a poem would come into my imagination, already composed; I would write it down, until one day it stopped. At that point, I gathered them, and the book was published.
I wrote a sequel to the first book; rather than a Vatican seminary, the title is Lessons and Beliefs: Searching for Love in the Gay World. I had many experiences in relationships, love, and commitments; I began to wonder if each relationship and experience contained a lesson. I set out on a quest to explore the beliefs and lessons held in each romantic involvement. The result was this book.
I traveled to Athens, Greece. In The Dog on the Acropolis, Draco is based on a real dog I met on the Acropolis. One evening, I walked up the Acropolis, towards the Parthenon, to see it at night. About halfway up, a black Labrador mix dog met me on the steps. I stopped and looked at him and he at me. Then he came to my side and accompanied me up the steps. Once we got to the top, he scampered away. The next evening I decided to climb those steps again, and I met the same black dog on the way. He trotted beside me as I made my way up to look at the shining city below. Once we arrived, I looked at the dog, and he looked at me; I realized that he probably lived on this hill. I wished I had a snack to give him, but I didn’t have anything on me. I reached down and scratched his head. Then, as I gazed at the city below, the dog disappeared.
As I made my way down the hill, the story of the dog on the Acropolis came to me.
My latest book is She Seduced Me: A Love Affair with Rome. This book is not a history book, though it contains history; it is not a guide book, yet it includes travel tips. The book is not a memoir, though it includes my experiences, and it is not a book of historical fiction, yet it contains episodes of history that bring the past to life.
She Seduced Me: A Love Affair with Rome is a book of stories that the city of Rome tells: its people, art, monuments, street artists, expats, Romans, and history. This makes it different from other books, since it explores the city of Rome from the point of view of its stories.
Those who participated in the writing of this book include expats living in Rome, Romans who have lived there all their life, Italians from the north and south who now live in Rome, street performers, restaurant owners as well as the ghosts of ancient figures such as Nero, Augustus, Livia and others.
NLK: What advice would you give to emerging authors?
MT: The advice I would give to emerging writers is twofold: write for yourself rather than an audience, and don’t be taken in by those who will try to profit from your dreams.
For the first point, writing for oneself unleashes one’s creativity and allows the writer to produce something unique. There are writers today who create books for an audience to be successful. These works will not be remembered because the audience and market changes. Writing for oneself is a greater artistic expression. Commercial success may be a consequence or not, but the work stands on its own.
Don’t be taken in by those who offer to review your book for a fee or try to sell expensive marketing packages. If someone is interested in your book, they will review it for free. As far as the costly marketing packages, I’ve been told by those who have purchased them that they do not increase sales.
NLK: What are your top three tips for promoting your books?
MT: Relationships; begin promoting your book with those you know. Then get to know others through social media and then promote your book. If you use social media to promote your book without connecting with your audience, you will have little result.
Bookstores and libraries: contact local bookstores and ask them to carry your book. Try to get a date for a book presentation at the bookstore or local library.
Events: if there is an event related to your book’s theme, seek out opportunities to be present.
NLK: Can you please tell us about your latest book, She Seduced Me, A Love Affair With Rome?
MT: Rome is a magical and amazing place! I used to live in that magical city, and I realized that everything in Rome has a story behind it: the people, the buildings, the statues, even the street corners. So I wrote a book about these stories. I interviewed street performers, Romans, expats, historians, and archaeologists. Reading this book will transport the reader into another world and reveal the city through its informative, funny, and insightful stories.
NLK: Can you please share something about your creative process?
MT: My creative process is twofold: experiential and content above form. By experiential, I mean my stories are born from experiences. When I wrote The Dog on the Acropolis, it was based on a real dog I encountered on the Acropolis. When I wrote I am John, I am Paul, it was based on these two soldiers’ recorded experiences. Experience is always my starting point and, when I invent experiences to carry the story forward, they stem from something real.
Secondly, content above form. The most challenging step is going from nothing to something. When I write my first draft of a story, I never go back and edit or reread what I wrote before. That would stifle my process. I write the story without worrying about the form, and I never edit until the entire rough draft is completed; this helps me move through the story and accomplish the task more efficiently.
NLK: Can you please tell us about the books you like to read? Have you always enjoyed reading? What was a favourite book from your childhood?
MT: I have a wide variety of books I like to read, from historical fiction to travel, from classical literature to contemporary biography, from bestseller to unknown works. The common thread for me is that a story has to be based on experiences to interest me. If I pick up a book and it consists of the author’s thoughts, I get bored. If it is the author’s experience, I get interested.
I’ve always enjoyed reading because getting into a book makes my life feel bigger. Being able to explore someone else’s world broadens my horizons and experiences.
In childhood, I liked fantasy and adventure books, such as Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland.
About Mark Tedesco
Mark Tedesco is a writer and educator residing in California. Having lived in Italy for eight years, he enjoys weaving stories connecting the present to the past and exploring how deep human longings are expressed in relationships, events, culture, and history.
Besides writing, Mark is an educator, and he loves to engage his students in his love of history, literature, and each person’s unique story. Mark likes to travel in his off time, but somehow, he always ends up returning to Rome where, he is convinced, other stories are waiting to be uncovered.
Mark has written in the genres of travel, historical fiction, memoir, self-help, and childrens’ fiction. His titles include: That Undeniable Longing, I am John I am Paul, Lessons and Beliefs, The Dog on the Acropolis, The Words of My Father, and Loving Hoping Believing. Mark’s Dixi Books title, She Seduced Me: A Love Affair with Rome, brings to life Mark’s love for the magic of a city, in which he weaves history, personal stories, and interviews into a tale that, little by little, also seduces the reader.
Find out more about Mark and his books