The Writing Life: Mary B Gennusa Patterson
Author of the novel Franco and Anna Gennusa:Their Journey, artist, poet, answers the Proust Questionnaire, and the answers are revealing!
We recently reconnected with Mary B Gennusa Patterson and thought that Proust Questionnaire would be an excellent way to see how this artist, poet, and now novelist was thriving. Mary was born in Sicily near the end of World War 2. She is the youngest of six sisters, and her parents — Franco and Anna Gennusa were the inspiration of her first novel. She has several sequels completed.
Ms. Patterson has been an artist for years and has a home filled with her paintings and collages. She became a poet and then turned her hand to writing prose. “I never studied, I never had ambition. I read a lot, and not find something to read, I decided I could do this, and I did. I decided to write about what I knew best and that was my family. When my oldest sister told me the story about the German plane strafing us, and my father was pushing us up a tree, I knew I had the beginning of a compelling book.”
Mary continued, “When I told my sister that I was going to write a story about our family, she told me a story about the German pilot circling us and how she had gone through so many emotions.
From the Introduction to Franco & Anna Gennusa: Their Journey
My oldest sister Terry was telling stories about our early life in Sicily during World War II during dinner one evening in her home. This was the subject of so many wonderful evenings we regularly spent together.
“Mary, she said, “you were just a baby on a on a cold autumn day, riding in our cart, going to our village home from our country farm. Suddenly, father abruptly stopped the cart. He screamed for us to get out. Mother jumped at his command, and the rest of us did the same. Father demanded we run to a tree that stood alone a short distance away. I heard a loud roaring sound and looked up to the sky. A German plane was coming towards us. Mother was holding you in her arms as we all ran together. We got to the tree and father yelled for us to climb to the highest branches.”
My sister told that story filled with fear, a bit of humor and so much confusion. She looked at me, puzzled and asked “what was father thinking? Did he really think that the tree was going to protect us?”
In our conversations with Mrs. Patterson we discovered that her focus is on family — both her current family of three sons with her late husband, and her parents and siblings’ tales. Franco and Anna Gennussa: Their Journey is a novel that is intimately based on the experiences of her parents from their arranged marriage through to their embarking for America.
The story is based on anecdotal ordeals that Mary Patterson’s five older sisters experienced during the German occupation of Sicily. Although only a bit over three when the family emigrated to the United States (her mother was born here), Mrs. Patterson was able to tap into her sister Teresa’s memories to share these stories in her book. While fiction, Franco and Anna’s life stories ring true. She is currently at work on her other two novels in this trilogy -which she confesses is more fiction than fact — as well as a screenplay and several other works.
“Writing energizes me,” she told us when we started asking her about her writing life. “I tend to write most of the day, usually in the morning, and then I come back to it. Other times I am busy promoting my work.”
“As I said, I love to read. I had a high school teacher who turned me onto the power of words, and I’ve never really looked back. Even when I was doing my artwork, I continued to read, until there wasn’t anything that interested me, and then I tried my hand at writing. I write what I know and like!
Mary has also had a book of poems published “Poems on Life’s Simplicity”.
The moon is high and bright
It paves a path of light.
The waves swirling around my toes
Fingering my cares before it goes.
The tender wind in motion,
Caresses my senses, an exotic potion.
My body feels so warm,
My soul at dorm.
Wanting to share my solitude,
Bring on a romantic mood.
Remembering his last kiss,
It is him I miss.
Not wanting to end the salty feel of night,
Soon the morning mist will bring its light.
Mary’s own life has had some romantic moments. She moved from Connecticut to Maryland to work in a sister’s restaurant and met her future husband Dennis “Pat” Patterson– who proposed three weeks later! Although one of six sisters, (and show grandparents also had six girls) Mary became the mother of three sons. She found time in between caring for her family to take up painting and making collages and other artwork before turning her attention to writing.
Currently, Mary has three books completed in her series. Franco and Anna Gennusa: Their Journey has been published and Anna Gennusa: Her Story and Anna Gennusa: Her Daughters are completed and in the publishing process. She is also at work on a screenplay and hopes to submit it to an agent or producers once it’s completed.
“I think this story is compelling and would make a wonderful film or even mini-series that follows this family — loosely based on my own — through war and emigration. It’s a story that resonates today.”
The Proust Questionnaire is a questionnaire about one’s personality. Its name and modern popularity as a form of interview is owed to the responses given by the French writer Marcel Proust during a parlor game and provides some fun insights into a person’s psyche!
What is your idea of perfect happiness? Peace in my life
What is your greatest fear? Losing a son
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? Not having confidence with what I don’t know
What is the trait you most deplore in others? Vanity
Which living person do you most admire? My oldest son Daniel
What is your greatest extravagance? Chocolate
What is your current state of mind? Happy Content
On what occasion do you lie? To protect one of my sons
Which living person do you most despise? I don’t
What is the quality you most like in a man? Kindness
What is the quality you most like in a woman? Sincerity
What or who is the greatest love of your life? My deceased husband, Dennis “Pat” Patterson
When and where were you happiest? When I am with my family
Which talent would you most like to have? Singing
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? To be more confident
What do you consider your greatest achievement? Giving birth to my sons, and secondly, my writing
If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be? A performer of any kind, singing and dancing mostly
Where would you most like to live? Here in the US
What is your most treasured possession? My 3 Sons
What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? Betrayal of a sister
What is your favorite occupation? Writing
What is your most marked characteristic? Writing
What do you most value in your friends? Love for their family
Who are your favorite writers? Jane Austen
Which historical figure do you most identify with? Jane Austen
Who are your heroes in real life? My son Daniel,
What is it that you most dislike? Going to an Italian restaurant
What is your greatest regret? Not showing more love to my husband.
How would you like to die? Quickly and painlessly