Interview – Olazzo Owner

Fantastic Friday Friends!

As promised, I wanted to share with you the amazing conversation I had with Roberto one of the owners of the Olazzo restaurants in Maryland. Do you ever go somewhere and just want to talk to the owner about what an awesome thing they have done? Sometimes, when I visit a store or a restaurant, I just want to know the story behind it. Do you ever feel that way? Well in this particular instance, I was so lucky to actually get to speak with the owner of Olazzo!

He was very kind to take the time to speak with me about his restaurant, his family and food/life in general.

RGR – To start with how did you and your brother get the idea for a restaurant?

Roberto – Me and my brother (Ricardo) were in the restaurant business working as servers for awhile ( me about 13 years and he about 5). So I was living in California at the time and wanted to open a restaurant. Originally I wanted to open up a sushi place because there was a lack of them in our area. This was in 2001. So I moved back and decided to go with Italian instead of sushi because I was more comfortable with it being a first generation Italian. So I found a location that was a small seafood restaurant name south beach. They were moving to a bigger location up the street and was selling it for $60,000. It was a 1000 square foot space. So our opening chef backed out about a month before we opened. My brother had never cooked before and became our opening chef. We new a lot of people in the area. The place became a hit pretty much right away. It was only 46 seats but became a hot spot in the area.

RGR – Who is the head chef at each location?

Roberto – My brother pretty much heads the kitchen in both places

RGR – Where did your recipes come from?

Roberto – Family grew up Italian so we pretty much had a lot of family stuff. My brother also trained at my best friends place in California.

RGR – What is your favorite food item (dish) on the menu?

Roberto – I would say that our tortellini with mushrooms, dates and spinach

RGR – Where is your family from?

Roberto – My family is from Alatri, Italy

RGR – I know that this is a family business, is it just you and your brother or are other family members involved?

Roberto – The restaurant is owned by me and my brother. But the others helped a lot with the buildouts. We are in the construction business.

RGR – What is your favorite non-Italian thing to make and/or eat?

Roberto – Well I love Octopus to eat. I love making crab cakes

RGR – Do you have a favorite cookbook/chef that is an inspiration?

Roberto – Well my grandmother was a phenomenal cook. She was well known back home as one of the best gnocchi makers in town.

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I was lucky enough to have a conversation with Roberto after he answered all of my interview questions. He told me the one thing he realized about the restaurant business that he thinks he likes the most is the buzz of the place and the ambiance that keeps people coming back. He said there are always clients that find a place and make it their regular hang-out but when there’s a couple that only go out once per month, you want to be the place they want to be. It’s work to be the choice of the customer, especially when there are so many restaurants that are competing for the clientele.

Roberto also told me that the first night they opened the restaurant, he was so nervous he didn’t want to turn on the open sign. Can you imagine? They are so very successful and they now have two locations of Olazzo, plus two other restaurants. Please check out the website for Olazzo. https://www.olazzo.com/

I would encourage you to visit any of their locations. Have a seat and ask some questions. You never know who you might talk to. Roberto is very in to travel right now and doing some very exciting things. I want to let you guys know, we might have to talk to our friend Roberto again to catch up with what he is doing.

Lots of Love,

Becky

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Author Interview – Mike Wells

Mike-Wells-Author

Wonderful Wednesday my brainy amazing readers! I am so excited to share this interview with you all. I came across Mike Wells on Twitter many many years ago.  He went to Vanderbilt, always a Nashville connection my friends. Most importantly he was just wonderful. So friendly and real, I will admit I geek out a little bit when an author or actor or anyone I admire really responds to a message I send.

Here is a link to his Twitter so that you can also enjoy his wit and banter! He was giving away a free copy of his book and well I am not one to look a gift horse in the mouth. I went for it. I read some of his stuff and well just really loved it.

I thought I should finally share this goodness with all of my friends. You can find my review for Book One of the Lust, Money & Murder series here. Yes, you can look forward to more reviews. I really love this guys stuff. As I mentioned before, he is so kind and quiet responsive so it only slightly surprised me when he honored me with taking some time to answer my questions about him, his life, and his books. Here it is:

RGR – Where is your favorite place to write?

Mike Wells (MW) – My favorite place to write is outside by the sea—it’s very relaxing and inspiring.  But there are other factors that are more important, such as being comfortable.  If it’s too cold, hot, windy, or there are too many flies and mosquitoes, etc., it’s better to be indoors.  With two young kids (8 months and 2.5 years), I pretty much have to snatch any time I can find and this forces me to write anywhere and everywhere.  I have a large phone and wireless keyboard which I do a lot of my writing on, highly portable.

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RGR – Who is your favorite character from literature (your creation or other)?

MW – If I named one of my own I would feel like I was shamelessly promoting my own work in this interview, which I actually have no problem doing, but I’ll say Hannibal Lecter.  Most of my favorite characters are villains, not heroes.  I love Hannibal because he’s erudite and sophisticated yet so disgusting at the same time.  Also, he has a black sense of humor.

RGR – Where is your favorite place to take a holiday?

MW – I live on the beach year round, so my favorite place to take a holiday is a big city like London or New York.  I love to go to those two cities in particular because I enjoy Broadway and West End plays. I love seeing top notch actors perform on stage, especially my favorite movie actors. I’ve seen Damian Lewis, Elizabeth Moss, Jeremy Irons, Kevin Spacey, Danny DeVito, Rob Lowe, David Suchet, Kiera Knightly, John Goodman, Kristin Scott Thomas, and more in various plays.  I believe writers can learn a lot about how to create good drama just from observing these pros in their element.

RGR – Do you have any interesting rituals associated with your writing process?

MW – Definitely.  The quality of my writing depends highly on the T-shirt I happen to be wearing when I’m sitting at the screen.  For example, if I’m writing action scenes, I wear my AC/DC T-shirt.  If I’m writing tense, frightening scenes, I wear my NOTHING CAN SCARE ME – I HAVE TWO DAUGHTERS shirt.  If I’m doing heavy research or writing technical explanations, I wear my SCHRÖDINGER’S CAT- WANTED DEAD-AND-ALIVE shirt.  You get the idea.

(This might be my favorite question and answer, of any interview!)

RGR – You write suspense and with a suspenseful undertone to all of your work (my opinion), what is next in store for you?

MW – My main focus will be to continue to develop the Lust, Money & Murder series because that’s the most popular series I have, and keeping my readers happy is my number one priority.  I’m working on the fourteenth LM&M book right now and see no end to the series in sight. It’s somewhat of a challenge to keep from repeating myself, but I don’t really seem to have that much trouble with it.  If ideas for future books feel repetitive to me, I just discard them and come up with more. I will definitely continue on with other series (Wild Child and Baby Talk, for example) but those have to take a back seat for financial reasons—I’m a professional author and I make my living writing books.

RGR – Part of the first book (Lust) is based in Bulgaria. Have you been there? Why did you choose that location? Where did you learn Russian to use in the books?

MW – I chose to set that part of the book in Sofia, Bulgaria for several reasons.  First, I visited the country once and its better to write about a setting from first-hand experience.  Second, I wanted a remote-seeming place (to Western readers) that would probably be seen as an undesirable European location for a government job post, compared to a more “glamorous” place like Paris or Rome. Third, those glamorous locations are grossly overused in international thrillers, almost cliches — I wanted to choose a less known location that readers could learn something about and perhaps be pleasantly surprised, as Elaine was. The posting there was intended as punishment for her, yet it turned out to be a delightful, relaxed place where she also met the love of her life. About the Russian language bits used in my books, I speak basic conversational Russian because I studied it at one point for work. My wife is fluent (bi-lingual in English and Russian), so she checks everything I’m not sure about, which is most of it!

I want to thank Mike for taking the time to answer all of my questions. He is really just the best. His novels are something that anyone into suspense or strong female characters, should absolutely read. I would highly recommend that you check out his website here.  He is great about keeping up his website and making sure you know the latest and greatest that is going on with him and his next fabulous book.

I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I do. Also, if you think of any questions, you would like me to ask, please let me know!

Love in Reading,

Becky

Author Interview – Michele Campbell

I recently reviewed It’s Always the Husband, author Michele Campbell. You can check out that review here. Michele was kind enough to join our book club for some discussion about the book as well as some personal questions. She also was kind enough to let me share that interview with you all here.

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RGR (RealGirlReview) – Where is your favorite place to work/write?

MC (Michele Campbell) – I write in a home office or else in libraries. I need to be free of distractions. I like silence, good light, a desk and an officey sort of chair. I’m not one to write in coffee shops, in bed or lounging on the sofa.

RGR – What is your favorite vacation/relax place?

MC –  I love to travel and see the world. I prefer going to new places over returning to a favorite. My last trip was to England and Scotland.

RGR – Who is your favorite character from literature?

MC – Lily Bart from The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton. She’s a tragic figure because she was too independent for the times she lived in.

RGR – Do you have any rituals associated with your writing process?

MC – I send myself notes via email constantly then print them out every morning to update the WIP that day.

RGR – This has been my first of your novels to read, is your style consistent with suspense? Do you have a favorite style?

MC –  I’d say my style is relatively consistent with standard suspense novels except probably more character driven than most.

RGR – Your next novel is coming up, do you have a book signing tour scheduled? If so, where will we be able to meet you in person and get a signed book?

MC –  I tour virtually all the time for all my books. I do chats like this or book club skypes several times per week and am very accessible on line. IRL, I do larger marquee events when I’m asked. For example, last weekend I appeared at PopSugar Playground which was heavily featured on all my social media if you’d like to see photos. I’m on Facebook and Instagram as Michele Campbell Books, and those who would like signed copies should follow me there bc I do lots of giveaways.

RGR (Question from a bookclub member) – I really enjoyed the character development in this book, I often wonder where the profiles come from. Do you have a particular source for inspiration?

MC – Life plus imagination. I observe people in the real world, take bits and pieces as inspiration, and recombine. The characters grow and develop on their own once the writing process begins. They come to life, and I learn about them as I go.

RGR (Question from a bookclub member) – I read this book earlier this year and loved it. But it’s not as fresh in my mind as it is the other readers in this group.
What advice would you give to a young (12 1/2) aspiring writer?

MC – How exciting!! Twelve and a half is a perfect age to start writing seriously. Here’s my advice. Read all the time and read widely. Practice writing. Keep a journal. Write stories. Enter writing contests if your school offers them. Join the school paper or literary magazine. If your school doesn’t offer these opportunities, talk to a teacher about starting them. Junior high and high school are where real writers are born!

Michele was very kind to give us so much of her time. I am including a link to her website below. I hope that you will check her out. I am also including a link to a teaser video for her next book to be released. I hope that you will all check it out.

Michele Campbell Website

Teaser for A Stranger on the Beach

Love and

Becky