BERLIN — Against a hectic schedule, other commitments and a lost manuscript, local author Kelly Roberts was still able to complete her first novel, “The Road to Chianti,” an accomplishment that she said has been a lifelong dream.
Set in 1977, “The Road to Chianti,” focuses on the struggles and adventures of two young siblings who were recently orphaned. The novel, which Roberts said she wrote for both children and adults, follows the two orphans across Italy through small towns, forests and the countryside as they flee from a corrupt orphanage and struggle to return to their home in Chianti.
While the plot is fiction, Roberts draws from her travels in Italy for much of the inspiration for the scenery.
“I went to Italy with my best friend probably eight years ago … it’s all of the towns that I saw in Tuscany,” she said, adding that an idea for a book about the area has been brewing since then.
Life interrupted writing, however, and it eventually took Roberts the better part of a decade to take the idea from her mind and put it on paper. She spent that time blogging and freelance writing, raising a family, cooking, gardening and serving as a health and fitness instructor. Roberts also has a bachelor’s degree in Communications from Salisbury University.
When she finally put herself in front of a computer and started writing, Roberts revealed that it took about four years from the first letter typed until “The Road to Chianti,” was completed. Much of that went to research, since Roberts wanted to use more than her brief trip for background. She spent a lot of time actively looking into the geography of the region and the culture of Italy and the villages the siblings visit.
“It has a lot of their traditions,” said Roberts.
There were also a few bumps during the writing period, including the loss of a large portion of the work in progress.
“I lost 50 pages of the manuscript for six months,” said Roberts.
Luckily, the majority of the missing pages were eventually recovered, allowing Roberts to finish the novel.
In describing the story, Roberts said that she begun the book as strictly children’s fiction with mice as the main characters. Over the four years of writing, however, she realized that she was incorporating more serious and adult themes into the narrative that would hopefully reach audiences both young and old, causing her to switch the siblings to real children. Roberts said that she would like “The Road to Chianti,” to be a novel that parents pick up to read after their kids are finished.
Once completed, Roberts eventually got together with a small press publisher to distribute her novel. While the arrangement means that she retains a lot of creative control of her work, going with a small press also necessitates Roberts doing a lot of self-promotion for the book. Fortunately, she said that a lot of businesses and others in the community have stepped up to help her get the word out and introduce people to “The Road to Chianti.”
In Berlin, The Globe will be hosting a book signing event and wine tasting with Roberts from 1-3 p.m. on Dec. 1. Similar signings will be held in Rehoboth, Ocean City, and West Ocean City at the end of November.
Though writing the book was a lot of work and promoting it continues to be, Roberts said that the satisfaction of finally telling a story that she created far outweighs the sacrifices. She hopes that there are more novels to come in the future.
For more information on “The Road to Chianti,” and Roberts’ book signing schedule, visit www.kellyhughesroberts.com.
Copies of “The Road to Chianti,” are available on her site and other locations and can be downloaded as an e-book from www.amazon.com and www.barnesandnoble.com.