Bonnie Callahan accomplished what many said they’d do during the pandemic: write a book.
She recently released her first novel, “Remy vs. Rome.”
“During the pandemic the kids were home, and we did this really cool literature-based homeschool program,” Callahan said. “They were doing their thing and I was trying to do mine and had kind of started writing.” She decided to enroll in the online UCLA Extension Writers’ Program.
“I signed up late and the only thing they had was this romance writing class.”
Never really reading romance, outside of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series — “if that counts,” she said — the assigned reading wasn’t what she expected. They were rather well-written prose that addressed real issues.
Callahan is a Roman classicist by training and “Remy vs. Rome” is an art mystery with a romantic subplot inspired by her real-life love for the Eternal City, she said.
“I’d have scenes pop into my head,” Callahan said. “There were five scenes that I’d written and then I’d fill in those spaces.”
Living in a full house with her husband, two children and parents, she used the project as a nice escape during the shutdown.
Callahan, who graduated from the University of Arizona with a degree in classics and Italian, said her love for Rome began during her first backpacking trip through Europe after her high school graduation.
“I remember being there for the first time, have you ever just shown up somewhere that feels like home already?” Callahan said. “Like it makes sense to you, and it just feels right.”
During the summer in between her sophomore and junior years, Callahan participated in the UA study abroad program in Orvieto, Italy, where she met her real-life Italian love interest.
“They’re not really similar except he (the love interest) does cook and his love language is definitely food, which comes across,” Callahan said.
The two also coincidentally share southern Italian roots.
“It was the night Italy won the World Cup and (he) came up to me and grabbed my head and gave me a huge kiss on my forehead,” Callahan said. They’ve been married for 13 years in November.
As a way to honor her former professors, Callahan said she strived for historical accuracy throughout her work. “It was fun to be reading through textbooks again and be in that world all over again,” she said. To ensure accuracy in the Italian language, her husband helped with the translations.
“The character, (Remy), isn’t me but there are elements that are,” Callahan said.
“I really loved Rome, so it was easy in some ways to write it and feelings of being there are what I hope come through in the writing, (and) the whole experience without making it too much of a caricature of the city.”
Her affinity for Roman history started in the sixth grade after watching a video about Pompeii. She hopes readers will also be curious about Italy’s history and its culture.
“Maybe it encourages them to read something else that they wouldn’t have otherwise,” Callahan said.
As they say in Rome, do as the Romans do.