Authors & Events
Peggy Guthart Strauss never studied abroad, but every time she travels to Europe it is a valuable learning experience. When she isn’t writing, Peggy works as a graphic designer at the promotional advertising company she runs with her husband. They live in New York City with their rambunctious cairn terrier.
Name: Peggy Guthart Strauss
Hometown: New York, NY via Long Island
Countries you have visited: Canada, Mexico, England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, France, Germany, Holland, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Spain, Switzerland, China, Japan.
Country you wrote about: Italy
Destination you would most like to visit: Australia and New Zealand
Why did you choose to write about Italy? My editor asked me to! Also, I’ve been there several times, and had recently spent 2 weeks traveling all over Italy on vacation, so my experiences were very fresh in my mind.
What was your favorite place to visit in Italy? Pompeii. I’d wanted to go since I was a kid, and it was an experience I’ll never forget. It was beautiful, eerie, and surprisingly emotional walking through the ruins of the city. I feel like I learned enough to fill a book, and can’t wait to get back and see even more.
What was your favorite food? Pizza, of course. Though I still get cravings for Ribollita, a fantastic Tuscan soup. I try to make it myself every winter, but it’s never as good. Italian food is very simple, very fresh, and really delicious.
What was your favorite souvenir? A Prada bag, from their outlet store. Kelly and I do have something in common!
What was the most surprising/memorable cultural difference you noticed? I live in New York City, where the traffic is pretty crazy. But NYC seems like a small, sleepy town compared to Rome. Whether they’re in a van or on a Vespa, Italians are the most aggressive drivers in the world. I’ve never had to jump out of the way of a speeding vehicle so many times in my life!
What was your funniest experience? Let’s just say it involved getting horribly lost at night in Rome, and one person in our group had to pee desperately. Let me now take this opportunity to apologize to the citizens of Rome for some very bad American behavior!
Have you traveled anywhere “off the beaten path”? If so, what brought you there? My husband and I went to Hong Kong last year on business. We had a free afternoon, so we took a ferry to Macau, a small island that is now part of China but used to be a Portuguese colony. The main areas were pretty touristy, so we spent the day roaming back streets, seeing how local people live. We checked out a busy outdoor barbershop, wandered through blocks of crowded with interesting food and knickknack shops, visited some lovely Buddhist shrines, and ended the trip with a great Portuguese dinner. It was fascinating and felt much more like “real” China than cosmopolitan Hong Kong.
Is your main character like you in any way? Are your characters based on anyone in your “real” life? Well, I do love to shop. And I was seriously into art when I was in high school, and still am—my day job is in graphic design. Otherwise, Kelly and I are pretty much opposites. As a teen, I was more a cross between Sheela and Marina, Kelly’s two best friends in the program. Like Sheela, I was always fretting over whatever test was coming up, and would have preferred death to speaking in front of a large group. But I was also a bit of a rebel, like Marina. My friends and I weren’t interesting in looking or acting like everyone else. We spent hours listening to alternative music and wandering around Greenwich Village, where I now live. Also, Kelly’s rapport with Sheela and Marina is very much based on my relationship with my roommate in college, who is still my closest confidante.
What made you want to become a writer? I grew up surrounded by books in a family of avid readers. I was one of those obnoxious kids who read at the dinner table and stayed up until all hours trying to finish whatever novel I was reading. I guess that made me want to try my hand at writing novels myself.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell readers? A wonderfully-written, evocative book truly can transport you to a completely different world. Nothing beats traveling and experiencing things for yourself, but reading is a fascinating and rewarding journey in and of itself. Bon voyage!
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