Interview with Author Trini Amador



Hello, Trini. I am currently reading, Gracianna and it is a beautiful story. Please tell your audience a little about it and what inspired you to write it.

Hi Stephanie and thanks so much for inviting me to Layered Pages. I really appreciate your work.  I was inspired to write Gracianna because my great-grandmother, Gracianna, used to say to be “thankful” when I was little. At four-years old how can a little boy understand that concept? But over the years I wondered about its meaning. As I say, to many folks, one may not be able to fully understand what “gratitude” really means until we are in our 40’s or 50’s or even older.  

What are some of the true aspects in your book?

The story is bookended… the very open of the story and the very end are factual. And interspersed throughout the book are many, many factual elements.  When I was a very young boy I was found walking around my grandmother’s living room with a loaded German Luger in my hand.  While doing research for the book I learned that my aunt met her grandmother Gracianna’s sister, who I had not heard of and remembers seeing the “mark,” the “tattoo” under her forearm.  She remembers the whispers and that it was not polite to point it out.  My grandfather was a shepherd when he came to the US with his wife. The story of the coin (as an IOU) in the book is all true.

Was there research involved?

Yes, there was tons and tons research! Everything from learning the myth of the Pyrenees Mountains to learning details of World War II, the French Resistance and Auschwitz. I traveled to the Basque Country – my great-grandmothers homeland to get the feel of the topography, (steep) culture (hard work, food and wine) and feeling (a contradiction of the old and the new). That took me to Paris. I learned about the occupation and the attitude of the Parisians and France as a whole. It was depressing.   I sat in the middle of the city taking it all in and then imagined the panzers and half-tracks rolling down the streets. I studied the Le Meurice Hotel, a grand dame hotel whose history is undeniable. I wanted to ensure readers considered what it must have been like for frolicking glitterati of Paris to have been there one day and the entire European Nazi Command rattling through its halls the next.

Then there was Auschwitz. My research took me to Warsaw and Krakow. It was bitter cold. The day I arrived at the concentration camp it was sunny but still bitterly cold. Everyone I came in contact with had a red nose and cheeks. One’s breath fell from the weight of its moisture. The area was devoid of emotion. It was sullen, silent and sunny…but frozen. I could not imagine the desperation. But I tried to convey the feeling I had that day.

What is the most challenging thing about writing stories that take place in the past?

For me writing about to day or the past is the same. Am I able to convey the emotion appropriately? Can my reader appreciate what the character is feeling?  Am I appropriately delivering an evocative scenario? Is it real? Is it relevant? Believable? Does it move the story forward? Is it compelling? Is it interesting?

What was the most challenging scene you wrote and why?

Wow, there were several but one that comes to mind, without spoiling the story line was the very traumatic experience that Gracianna experienced when she was eight years old. Born, “Father Unknown,” Gracianna’s mother was her only link to the future. But when her mother had complications in childbirth everything changed. I dug deep to find an experience that I could relate to in my own life that helped me to express the depth of fear, anger and hurt that she may have experienced.

 Is there a character in your story you relate to the most as far as personality?

It’s funny. Readers that know me have recently told me that they see me in Gracianna. I did not write the story from that perspective. In reality I think I am reflected in parts of each character.

What is your next book project?

Why Stephanie… you are incorrigible. My publisher and others are encouraging me to write the sequel to the Gracianna story. But I have already written an outline for a book that depicts an experience that I had when I was in the music business in Hollywood in the early 90’s. My editor, Hillel Black, who has edited 20 New York Times best sellers has also expressed his interest in working with me again as well. What a joy! I may have to write another book just to have the chance to collaborate with Hillel again.

What genre do you like most?

I enjoy reading short stories. I enjoy to feeling a story develop quickly and get to the point. The opposite of what I just wrote. I knew the story I was telling but I purposefully tried not to get there too fast. This piece need a long introduction to clearly understand the characters and their motivation. I wanted the reader to fully appreciate why they would act the way they would in the future.

What is the truly last great book you have read and that inspired you?

I am inspired by anything that F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote. I love the pacing and the clarity and the delivery. There are some linkages between Gatsby and my story. Constance, Gracianna’s sister had many of the characteristics of Daisy Buchanan. She was an attractive and bubbly, shallow and selfish unaware how her actions could affect anyone. Both became acutely aware of their actions along the way.

What is your favorite quote?

…from Chilkoot Charlie’s in Anchorage, Alaska, “Where we cheat the other guys and pass the savings on to you.” 🙂

Thanks for inviting me, Stephanie!

Thank you, Trini!




Trini Amador  vividly remembers the day he found a loaded German Luger tucked away in a nightstand while wandering through his great-grandmother’s home in  Southern California. He was only four years old at the time, but the  memory remained and he knew he had to explore the story behind the gun.  This experience sparked a journey towards Gracianna, Amador’s debut  novel, inspired by true events and weaving reality with imagination.  It’s a tale drawing from real-life family experiences.

Mr. Amador is a traveled global marketing “insighter.” He is a  sought-after guru teaching multinational brand marketers to understand  how customer and consumer segments behave based on their needs, values,  motivations, feeling and values. He has trained over five thousand brand marketers on how to grow brands in over 20 countries in the last 15  years. His counseling has been valued at global brands including General Electric, Microsoft, AT&T, Yahoo!, Sun Microsystems, Google, Jack  Daniel’s, The J.M. Smucker Co., DuPont, Mattel, and Rodale, Inc..

Amador is also a founding partner with his wife and children of  Gracianna Winery, an award-winning winery located in Healdsburg,  California. The winery also pays tribute to the Amador Family’s maternal grandmother, Gracianna Lasaga. Her message of being thankful lives on  through them. The Gracianna winery strives to keep Gracianna’s gratitude alive through their wine. Learn more at:, like Gracianna Winery on Facebook or follow them on Twitter @GraciannaWinery.

Amador resides in Sonoma County with his family.


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Twitter Hashtag: #GraciannaTour


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Review: The White Princess by Philippa Gregory

the white princess


The White Princess opens as the news of the battle of Bosworth is brought to Princess Elizabeth of York, who will learn not only which rival royal house has triumphed, Tudor or York, but also which suitor she must marry: Richard III her lover, or Henry Tudor her enemy.

A princess from birth, Elizabeth fell in love with Richard III, though her mother made an arranged betrothal for her with the pretender to the throne: Henry Tudor. When Henry defeats Richard against all odds, Elizabeth has to marry the man who murdered her lover in battle, and create a new royal family with him and his ambitious mother: Margaret Beaufort, The Red Queen. But, while the new monarchy can win, it cannot, it seems, hold power in an England which remembers the House of York with love.

The new king’s greatest fear is that somewhere, outside England, a prince from the House of York is waiting to invade and re-claim the throne for the house of York. Fearing that none of his new allies can be trusted, Henry turns to his wife to advise him, all the time knowing that her loyalties must be divided. When the young man who would be king finally leads his army and invades England, it is for Elizabeth to decide whether she recognizes him as her brother and a claimant to the throne, or denies him in favor of the husband she is coming to love.

Description from Goodreads.


Expected publication: July 23rd 2013 by Touchstone


My review:

There were a few things in this story that stood out and I found interesting considering some of the history facts or speculations- if you will- that I know. In Gregory’s story Elizabeth of York and Richard lll were lovers. I don’t know a whole lot of details during this period but from what I heard there is evidence that Richard was extremely fond of Elizabeth, but not to the extent of being lovers.

Henry and his mother (Margaret Beaufort) were often times harsh, belittling, and unfeeling towards Elizabeth. That did not sit well with me at all. I felt that if Elizabeth would only wise up to the fact that she indeed had power, and if she would only discover it... (Did she discover that you ask? That is something you will have to find out.) I came to the conclusion early on in the story that maybe one of the reasons why she was treated as she was by her husband and mother-in-law…. was because they knew what power she could possibly wield and kept her down because of it. That is one way to look at it.

Gregory gives an interesting perspective of Henry’s character and it was a real issue for me. He became agitated, fearful and obsessed with being de throne. His behavior reminded me of someone on the edge of losing it completely. As I continued reading on I kept on thinking, “If Henry’s name or his obsession and fear of a pretender who could possibly over throw him was mentioned one more time I was wanting to jump right in the book and give him a good shake and a what for!

The overall dynamics of Henry, Margaret Beaufort and Elizabeth’s relationship is bold and complicated- in this story- to say the least. I did rather liked how Elizabeth’s character developed towards the end and the outcome of that. Elizabeth’s thoughts and feelings toward her husband and mother-in-law is certainly a complex one and she is someone I think we could all learn a thing or two from. Although it is in the present tense, it was interesting to read this story in her point of view. I felt it could have been presented to the reader a bit stronger than written.

History in my view tends to be subjective. Whether how an historian or an historical fiction writer is interpreting the past, the key is to make it believable. In historical fiction- readers asked themselves, “Could this have possibly have happen this way and does it blend well with the fictional aspects of the story?” “Or is it historically accurate?” As an avid reader of history and historical fiction-this story I did not always get that feeling, if you will. Although, in the author’s notes, Gregory says, “This book is written on a number of levels. It is a fiction about a mystery-so two steps from any historically recorded facts; but at the heart of it are some historical facts that you can rely on, or study for yourself.” So I will leave it up to you-the reader-to form your own opinions.

How this story was written and the characterization certainly has given me food for thought and I look forward to doing further research to draw my own conclusions. I recommend this novel to people who enjoy lite Historical Fiction.



Book Review: The Secret History by Stephanie Thornton

the secret history book cover

Publication Date: July 2, 2013
NAL Trade
Paperback; 448p
ISBN-10: 045141778X

Where Theodora went, trouble followed…

In sixth century Constantinople, one woman, Theodora, defied every convention and all the odds, and rose from being a common theater tart to become empress of a great kingdom, the most powerful woman the Roman Empire would ever know. But the woman whose image was later immortalized in glittering mosaic was, in fact, a scrappy, clever, conniving, flesh-and-blood woman full of sensuality and spirit whose real story is as surprising as any ever told…

When her father dies suddenly, Theodora and her sisters face starvation on the streets. Determined to survive, Theodora makes a living any way she can—first on her back with every man who will have her, then on the stage of the city’s infamous amphitheater in a scandalous dramatization of her own invention. When her daring performance grants her a back-door entry into the halls of power, she seizes the chance to win a wealthy protector—only to face heartbreak and betrayal.

Ever resilient, Theodora rises above such trials and by a twist of fate, meets her most passionate admirer yet: the Emperor’s nephew. She will thrive as his confidant and courtesan, but many challenges lie ahead. For one day, this man will hand her a crown. And all the empire will wonder—is she bold enough, shrewd enough, and strong enough to keep it.

Where to begin in this review was the question when I first begun to write this. There are so many highlights to this story and what can be discussed on different viewpoints. Here is only a glimpse of my thoughts and feelings. Theodora is my new favorite heroine who will capture your attention from the beginning and leave you with wanting the story of her life to continue. She is an incredible and courageous women who inspired one not to give up on what life might throw at you and she is the model of a strong, vibrant woman. I’m looking forward to more of Thornton’s stories to come. I hope you enjoy my review below and I’m sure this story will give you newfound appreciation for the wonderful stories writers bring to their readers.

My review:

Historical Fiction is the echo of the past. Where the writer draws you in its fold and as you explore the timeless treasures it has to offer, you want to hold on tight to the- what if’s and the voices that resound through the pages. Thornton gives you that and much more…Every word, every emotion and thought awakens new senses and transcends you back to sixth-century Constaninpole.

She writes a wonderful backdrop of how the city must have looked and the daily life of its people. You can imagine how the different scents of spices must have smelled like at the markets, hear the street merchants as they sell their wares, the cries of babies wanting to feed and the beggar’s unrelenting voices as they beg for food and coin. Not only that- her story is rich with wonderful historical detail and beautiful characters. The love of Theodora and Justinian is one I will never forget. They are forever in my heart.

From what I gather -this is Thornton’s first published novel. She is a history teacher who has been drawn-to put it lightly- with infamous women from ancient history since she was a young girl. It definitely shows throughout this novel! An exceptional story that has left me with what can only be describe as adoration and inspired anew.


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Review: Call Me Zelda by Erika Robuck

call me zelda

Committed to a Baltimore psychiatric hospital in 1932, Zelda vacillates between lucidity and madness as she fights to forge an identity independent of her famous husband. She discovers a sympathetic ear in her nurse Anna Howard, who finds herself drawn into the Fitzgerald’s tumultuous lives and wonders which of them is the true genius. But in taking greater emotional risks to save Zelda, Anna may end up paying a far higher price than she ever intended.

In this thoroughly researched, deeply moving novel, Erika Robuck explores the boundaries of female friendship, the complexity of marital devotion, and the sources of both art and madness.




Confession: I’ve never read a Fitzgerald novel – not even The Great Gatsby. I had no idea that Zelda Fitzgerald was a talent in her own right, let alone that she had published a novel of her own. Their early years were so glamourized, and I had happily settled down for a recounting of their early, glamorous years full of maddening creativity and parties. But then – then, I heard a broken Mrs. Fitzgerald say “call me Zelda,” and with one look from her piercing eyes I was drawn quietly into Anna’s story of being nurse and friend to the famous writer’s wife.


I say Anna’s story because it is her story. This is not a book portraying an in-depth look at Zelda’s life. It’s about what comes after the party, the glamour, the ravages of broken bodies and minds, the horrors of world war and the suppression of creativity. Anna is a paradox of a character: she is strong yet susceptible – not in a cutesy heroine way – but in a true way. She has lost her husband and child, yet finds fulfillment and meaning in her work. Her work with Zelda consumes her, at first because she yearns for escape, then because she comes to love Zelda as a dear friend. Anna’s friendship becomes a necessary balm to Zelda’s soul. As Zelda retreats deeper into the dark places of her mind and away from Anna, the big question is, will Anna choose to not merely exist, but live?


Call Me Zelda touches on many themes, but Robuck makes them flow together seamlessly – or rather flow in the often jarring and crazy timing in which life produces them. The characters and setting descriptions are true to the period. Despite the numerous obstacles the characters face, I came away believing that there is beauty found in life’s mangled messes and hope for redemption in the brokenness.


Reviewed by Beth Bulow

Layered Pages Review Team Member


Review: The Chosen Shell by Katherine Sartori

The Chosen Shell

After the onslaught from a vocal and sometimes impertinent media about the troubled state of the Vatican and Catholicism, Katherine Sartori’s The Chosen Shell is a nice surprise. It is not as in-your-face flashy as some books and television series like the Borgia’s are, though that is not to say that there are not a few gritty scenes. The sincerity and genuineness of Satori’s voice comes through the narrative in a way that does not cover up what so many non-believers (and some believers) find hypocritical in the church’s teachings versus its practices and attitudes expressed in the daily life’s of its followers, nuns and leaders.

The Chosen Shell is fiction and memoir combined. Because of this and the subject matter, the life of an introverted troubled teenager who on the cusp of a turning into an adult decides to become a nun, the flow of the novel was at times a bit slow. There were times I wanted the story to move along. The Chosen Shell is not a literary novel, but it could have been, and could be, if Sartori expanded on the other characters and allowed them to bring out more of the main character, Celie, through action or dialogue.

I absolutely love Satori’s description of San Francisco and Muir Woods having visited both places a number of times. I felt at home, like I was part of the action. I also liked Sartori’s description of the convent and other places Celie and other nuns gathered. It is a world that I wanted to learn about; Sartori is a diligent charismatic guide.

I loved about the novel was the way Sartori incorporates the writing life into the narrative, from the time she was a school girl in school through to the end. Celie feels and acts like a writer in the novel. I empathized with her struggle to maintain her voice even as her identity as an author is threatened by her vocation.

The Chosen Shell is a gem, one that I would highly recommend. I would give it on Goodreads 4-4.5 stars.

Reviewed by Susan Berry

Layered Pages Review Team Member