Dating DaVinci and Interview with Malena Lott

Today I’ve got an interview with the terrific Malena Lott, author of Dating da Vinci.

About the Author

Malena Lott writes humorous and heartfelt mainstream women’s fiction novels. With national speaking experience, she is a brand and marketing consultant and facilitates personal and professional development workshops for women. Dating da Vinci is Malena Lott’s second novel. Lott is a married mother of three and resides in Oklahoma. Lott invites you to her web site where she has posted cooking videos, contests and an excerpt of the first chapter:

Author Photo of Malena Lott

The Interview

Give us the premise of your book in 2-3 sentences.

Dating da Vinci is a Texas-based Under the Tuscan Sun meets How Stella Got Her Groove Back. A young widow, 36-year-old Ramona Griffen, searches for joy with the help of a handsome younger Italian immigrant named Leonardo da Vinci. Her humorous and heartwarming journey takes her on some unexpected adventures of body, mind and spirit as she learns to let go of her grief to make room for a wholly new life.
Cover of Dating da Vinci by Malena Lott
How did you get the title of your book?

The title came pretty quickly, early on. I love alliteration and really wanted to incorporate da Vinci since he’s the catalyst that starts Ramona’s renaissance. Since publishers have final say, I don’t get too attached to my working title, though. I do like getting credit for this one, though! Of course the book isn’t just about da Vinci and romance is only a part of the story, but I think it’s catchy and hopefully it will catch people’s eye to learn more about the book.

What pulled you into this story, and as a writer made you think I have to write this What do you consider the heart of your story?

Women, especially mothers, tend to put themselves last on the list. I wanted to share the story of someone who has lost the love of her life and has focused on just "getting by" each day, but is ready to find a way to be joyful again, even through the pain. The heart of the story really is, is there love after death, and the courage it takes to not only survive but to build a great life again.

How do you come up with the names for your characters?

I spend a great deal of time with character names, even when I snatch them from real life. I used a lot of word play in Dating da Vinci. For Ramona Elise Griffen, you can pull "Mona Lisa" and "Grief" from her name. Leonardo is of course named after the real da Vinci and shares a lot of common traits with the genius. Pretty much all the characters have meanings in their names since Ramona is a linguist and it fits with the theme of the book.

How do you go about choosing a setting for your novel? Does it, like New York in Sex and the City, almost play the part of another character in the book, or could the plot be transported to another setting and work?

Picking the setting is one of my favorite parts of brainstorming upfront, because I do think it’s so important. I selected Austin, Texas as the setting for Dating da Vinci because I wanted a college town and Austin is the home of UT (rival to my beloved Sooners), because I needed Leonardo da Vinci to be in America on a student visa and Ramona is finishing her Ph.D. And I’ve actually been there several times, so that helps, too.

What would you change about your life if you became the next Sophie Kinsella?

After hiring the cook, the nanny and the housekeeper, I guess I’d start interviewing stylists and personal shoppers (loathe grocery shopping.) No, seriously, I don’t think much about my life would change except that I wouldn’t get "that look" from my darling husband when I’ve gone on a shopping spree and I’d get to vacation more and feel good that my kids can go to college easily and perhaps not have to work as much as I did. *Not* that I’m complaining. On second thought, maybe I would spring for the housekeeper. Loathe laundry nearly as much as grocery shopping. That reminds me, that load needs to be changed out. Be back in a sec.

Any tried and true tricks for beating procrastination?

I have to say, I’m pretty lucky. Hugh (Jackman) typically promises a shirtless steak dinner (him, not me) if I meet my word count goal. If that’s not enough motivation, Brad’s aromatherapy massages usually get me in the mood, though sad to say, it’s not for writing. Heck, usually my imagination can trick me into getting back on the laptop to write away into the sunrise. Like, "finish this and you’ll be as famous as Sophie Kinsella and you’ll never have to buy groceries again and you can spend all your time lounging on the beaches drinking frozen Flirtinis!" I’m so easy.

If you were in charge of casting the movie adaptation of your book, who gets the call?

I did envision the book as a movie as I was writing it. It helps if you can find actors that you can draw from. I imagine Kate Winslet (in her plumper roles) as Ramona, a sexy unknown Italian for da Vinci, Greg Kinnear for handsome, charming doctor Cortland, Jane Krakowski for her egotistical sister, and Sandra Oh for her best friend Anh. I’d only want a bit part. Perhaps the barista at Starbucks? Or be the bed salesperson when Ramona is shopping to replace her marital bed Lumpy. (I do a mean rolling of the eyes.)

Do you have a sample chapter posted?
You can read the first chapter at

What is your author fantasy?

Writers already have active imaginations, so this one is a no brainer. Vision board, here I come! Hit the top 10 of the New York Times bestseller list, have a long line waiting for me when I arrive for book signings, have my books optioned for films that actually get made and made well, and a few national TV appearances to boot. TODAY show, The View, Oprah, you know. Just the small stuff, you know? Not that I’ve given any of this much thought. Not a bit.

What is a typical writing day like for you?

Kiss the older kids goodbye for school. Coffee next, with sugar and peppermint mocha creamer. Take my laptop upstairs to the playroom while my toddler still sleeps as synapses start firing. Re-read the last chapter I wrote the day before, however short or long that might be. Only slight modification, no re-writing, yet. First half of first cup of coffee is drunk, so now can dig in to actual words on page. Write until I hear my toddler yell my name. If he did not wet the bed (yea!) it’s downstairs for cereal and a cartoon while he eats. Second cup of joe for me. When he’s done, he usually wants to play games on the computer for about an hour, so I get at least a chapter written if I didn’t stop to look up some research fact online. (I can’t wait; I’m impatient.) Then I’ll usually close things down for my fiction writing and work on any marketing consulting work here and there throughout the day when I’m not playing with my toddler or running errands before it’s time for the older kids to get home from school. Get on laptop again in the evening, but usually only for marketing Dating da Vinci type of work.

Do you pay attention to book reviews? If so, has there been any particular review that made your heart do a little dance?

I use Google Alerts so I’m kind of like Santa. I know when people have said naughty or nice things about my book! Fortunately, reviewers have enjoyed Dating da Vinci, so that’s a thrill when you click that link and get to read what people are saying about your "baby." I’ve selected some of my favorite quotes on

What They’re Saying

Malena Lott brings a tale of love, longing and la dolce vita!

Malena Lott’s charming, heartfelt novelwill have you cheering bravissimo as Mona Lisa experiences her own Renaissance, courtesy of one very hot Leonardo da Vinci.
— Award-Winning author Jenny Gardiner, Sleeping with Ward Cleaver

Ramona Elise is in a rut- a 36-year-old widowed mother of two, she can’t seem to find what make her truly happy in life. Making sure her kids are happy isn’t the hard part; Ramona’s looking for the passion she lost two years ago when she lost her husband and her world turned upside down. When a handsome Italian immigrant walks into her English class, Ramona never expects to find la dolce vita (the sweet life) in a younger man–or in her self!

Come experience a renaissance to love and life as Sourcebooks Casablanca presents the heartwarming novel Dating da Vinci by Malena Lott (ISBN: 9781402213939; Fiction; $12.95 US/$13.99 CAN/6.99 UK; November 2008).

Written smartly…satisfying and uplifting.
— Publishers Weekly

This book was an extremely well written story that captivated me from the very beginning. I fell in love with the characters and Ramona’s journey I will definitely be reading more by Ms. Lott.
— The Book Binge

"Finding herself on a new path wildly different than the one she envisioned with [her husband,] Joel," comments BookList’s Annie McCormack, "Ramona Elise (or Mona Lisa, as da Vinci calls her) learns to open her heart to new possibilities in order to find la dolce vita in Lott’s delightfully affirming romance."

. . .a Texas-based hybrid of How Stella Got Her Groove Back and Under the Tuscan Sun. Happily, Lott takes her story in several surprising directions: she throws some serious curve balls in her wise-in-the-ways-of-love Italian stereotype, and Ramona, in a refreshing plot twist, discovers that some of her carefully nursed unhappiness was the product of her own insecurities. . . it’s thoughtful, heartfelt, and undeniably engaging.
— Word Candy

By facing the suspicions of her late husband’s infidelity, and coming to terms with the fact that love never truly dies it is just passed on Ramona paves a path to a new romance and outlook, straight to la dolce vita! This is a heartfelt, well written account of a woman’s search for self after losing her husband. Malena Lott is a skilled writer and I look forward to reading more from her.

Carolyn says, check it out!



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