Melissa Muldoon, Lakeway author and connoisseur of all things Italian, said her long-standing relationship with Italy has grown slowly, starting when she studied abroad at university. Today, decades later, she has four novels and an active blog that explore different aspects of Italian language and culture to share her love for the country with others.
“I had studied in Florence and I was living with a family. It was during my college years, and I came home and threw away my Italian dictionary, thinking I would never need it again, ”she said. “But Italy has a way of wrapping around your heart and I just feel like I really regret not having learned the language well.”
Muldoon remedied this by launching his blog in 2010, Studentessa Matta, which means “crazy student”, a name that derives from Muldoon’s language learning philosophy.
“I believe that if you let go of your inhibitions, you are much more free to take on new things, learn new things and are not so afraid of failure, and you can kind of laugh at yourself- even a bit.” she said. “I write about anything and everything on the blog, from politics to music to cooking pasta. As long as it’s in Italian and I move forward with the language. It has become very popular. “
After years of running her blog, Muldoon expanded her writing repertoire to include her first novel, “Dreaming Sophia,” which she self-published in 2016.
In her four books, Muldoon has drawn on her travel experiences in Italy and her knowledge of history and art history from her studies to tell female-centered stories in the Italian art world. With her training as a graphic designer, she also created the covers herself, she said. Her second book, Waking Isabella, tells the story of Isabelle de Medici and a painting of her that was lost during World War II. Her third novel, “Eternally Artemisia”, immerses the reader in the life of Artemisia Gentileschi, one of the most famous female artists of the Baroque period.
“I would say my books are for anyone interested in art history, anyone interested in Italy, anyone interested in a good story about a strong woman,” she said. “My stories all revolve around women and self-actualization. On how they can move forward with their lives, how they don’t have to stay in the shadows, how they can stand up. ”
Her most recent novel, “The Secret Life of Sofonisba Anguissola”, is based on the life of a real woman, who studied with Michelangelo and became the court painter of Philip II in Spain.
“I am very fascinated by the stories about the art world and the women who are champions,” she said. “I want a younger generation of women to also know that women can be uplifting and very confident and, you know, have their own story.”
The novel was published in December and she wrote much of it during the pandemic, she said. The coronavirus lockdown didn’t change her writing process much, but she said this fourth novel and the process of turning her first three books into audiobooks helped give her a purpose during an uncertain time and stressful.
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Muldoon returns to Italy at the end of August for the first time since the pandemic struck as part of a trip she organized for those interested in learning more about the Italian language and culture. These trips, which Muldoon takes periodically, were another endeavor that emerged from his blog. The adventures attract people from all over the world who want to improve their Italian or explore different parts of the country – often Americans of Italian descent who want to reconnect, Muldoon said.
For her part, Muldoon said she looks forward to returning to her adopted home, where she draws much of her inspiration.
“When I go to Italy and travel I am really inspired by stories, legends, things that I see,” she said. “I have several ideas for a fifth book. When I start to write, it’s like a black hole I’m sucked into and I write, write, write. I really like this kind of creative process.