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Soon after the release of Journey to Marseilles, I received an e-mail about which I immediately became suspicious. At the top it said, “From Sam DiFranco.” Well, for any of you who have read my novel you know that one of the main characters is, of course, Sam DiFranco. My first reaction was that this e-mail must be one of those “phishing” scams that everyone has heard about, and most of us have experienced. After I read the first line I wasn’t so sure, for it mentioned someone who had been such a close friend to my family Back East that she was practically family, and I had e-mailed her about my novel. This new “Sam DiFranco” claimed to have received my forwarded e-mail from the family friend. Then he wrote that he was glad that I had used his name in my novel and even spelled it correctly. Here is the part that convinced me that Sam DiFranco was on the up-and-up:

I enjoyed reading “Journey to Marseilles”. The parts about your father’s family brought back many fond memories. My parents and grandparents were born in the same Sicilian village as were yours. They were close friends in Sicily, Pennsylvania and Detroit. Although our families were not related, we considered your family as if we were. I called your grandparents Aunt Sara & Uncle Louie and considered their kids as cousins.

When I began doing research on character names for my book, I looked up all the most common surnames in the little Sicilian village of San Biagio Platani, where my family originated. A couple were very familiar to me as families who had lived near my grandparents in Detroit. One – DiFranco – I only vaguely remembered hearing my dad mention a few times, so I decided to use DiFranco as Sam’s last name. It turns out that was quite the fortuitous choice, for this is the next paragraph I read in the Mr. DiFranco’s e-mail:

“ . . . my parents and your grandparents knew each other since they were kids. When your mother and father returned to Detroit after the war, they lived next door to us on Kitchener Street. My sister, Nina, was your baby sitter for a while. Your Uncle Tony was Best Man at my sister Phyllis’ wedding.

What?! His sister was my baby sitter? He knew my Uncle Tony, who was my dad’s brother? I was hooked! I had to connect with this Sam DiFranco. Fortunately, he had included his phone number in the e-mail. When I called him we ended up talking for about an hour, exchanging family stories and ‘do-you-remembers.’ I had made a new ‘old’ friend and through him, several new ‘re-acquaintances.’ What an unexpected surprise and pleasure my novel had afforded me! I have included my grandparents’ wedding photo, and I discovered that in that photo are indeed a couple of people named . . . you guessed it: DiFranco.
My original goal for writing my book was as a gift to my family, but I never envisioned the gifts I would receive in return.