I grew up in England where I attended a draconian boarding school. My escape from all the regulations and deprivations was reading. It’s an addiction for which I’ve found no cure.
Admiring other writers’ words and stories, however, didn’t prompt me to think that I myself could become a writer, or that I would be any good at it if I did. Without really meaning to, I published my first short story in a local magazine when I was twelve, and still I never considered writing as a life’s work. After high school graduation, I went to law school at a university in England. I’d thought I wanted to be a lawyer, but one term of contracts and torts quickly disabused me of that notion. My sister, who had just moved to the States, suggested I try journalism school there. I applied and loved it, and after I got my degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia, I moved out to California and started my journalism career, writing for a wide variety of publications including the Los Angeles Times, W magazine, the San Francisco Chronicle, Town & Country magazine and Travel & Leisure magazine. I covered everything from the Democratic Convention to the Oscars, and interviewed everyone from Sophia Loren to Hillary Clinton. It was the perfect mixture of learning and doing.
When I left my newspaper job I decided I wanted to start writing fiction—a kind of writing that is as far from journalism as you can imagine. Looking for a professional organization to join, I discovered the Romance Writers of America’s San Francisco branch. I had never considered writing romance but the more I learned about that sector of the market the more vibrant a genre I saw it was. A friend looked at me quizzically when I told her what I planned to do. “If you’re going to write romance novels,” she said dryly, “you might want to read one.”
I did, and, frankly, I was surprised. Pleasantly so. Who thought the book with that cowboy on the cover, a sculpted, shirtless, Stetson-wearing guy with a panty-melting smile, would be so smart and sexy and funny and witty and just plain good?
The rest is . . .
Tell us about your book –
To Rome With Love is about Gaby Conte, a San Francisco chef who’s had it with men. Especially Italian men, like her cheating husband. She flies to Rome, seeking refuge with her best Maria, only to find love and passion with another Italian man. Oops! It’s a wonderful case of serendipity, and a reminder that there’s always some nice surprise waiting for you around the next corner. Or at least, that’s what I’d like to believe!
What inspired you to write To Rome With Love?
I like small town love stories a lot but I’ve have always loved romance novels the way the movies do them, as a ménage à trois: Her. Him. A city. The city becomes another character in the book, and in this novel, Rome really does provide a fitting backdrop for the development of Gaby’s and Silvio’s romance.
How much time per week do you spend writing / editing your work?
– A lot! As much as I can wrangle, given my other obligations.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m just finishing up the second book in my four-book series Love in the City and then will be on to the third.
Title: To Rome with Love
Author: Mandi Benet
Genre: Contemporary Romance
When Gaby Conte’s Italian husband, Danieli, abandons her for a young Peruvian waitress at a restaurant they co-own in San Francisco, Gaby seeks refuge in Rome with her best friend Maria. There, she swears off romance for a long while and Italian men forever. That’s until she meets Silvio, who belongs to an old, aristocratic Roman family and lives in a palace alongside the best private art collection in Rome. Silvio, who is the cousin of Maria’s husband, is going through his own divorce. He’s gorgeous, of course, which Gaby doesn’t tell him. And arrogant and condescending, which she does. The last thing Gaby needs is more Italian trouble, but the attraction is instant and powerful, and against the backdrop of one of the world’s most romantic cities, both try—and fail—to resist the chemistry between them. But both Gaby and Silvio have made a rule never to make the mistake of trusting in love again. Will they realize some rules are made just to be broken?
Mandi Benet grew up in England and published her first piece of fiction when she was twelve. She has been scribbling away ever since as an award-winning journalist— covering everything from the Democratic Convention to the Oscars for major American national newspapers and magazines— and as an author, writing women’s fiction and contemporary romance with rich, original characters. Mandi is a member of RWA National and the San Francisco branch of RWA.