Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Meet The Real Jersey Girls (And Guys)

Drew DiPalma feels like he’s living a lie. He’s had it with his Hollywood persona, the high-maintenance women, and his sleazy agent.  To escape the madness, he flees to a tourist town he’d often visited as a child. He never expected to find love on that little island. Then he stumbles upon Lainey alone on the swing set of a deserted beach.

After a dozen internet dating disasters, Lainey Riccardo has given up on romance—until she meets a West Coast hunk who has no trouble winning her heart.  But Lainey only knows him as Drew, not the Oscar-nominated actor who’s constantly scandalized in the tabloids. When she learns the truth, will the small town Jersey girl be able to accept Drew’s fast-paced life? Or will the truth drive her away forever?

 Meet the Jersey Girls (And Guys)

Since the Jersey girls series is set in my home county, many of the characters were based on people I actually know--from old high school friends to my current besties. I tried to stay true to personalities as much as possible, but there were times when I had to elaborate for the sake of the story. Even when a friend inspires a fictional spin-off, sometimes the characters take on a life of their own.  Here are a few of the people who helped to make this series a reality, each of which has touched my life in some way.

Erin, Laura, & Stephanie
Erin and I graduated together from Wildwood Catholic High School in 1994. We weren’t close back then, but ten years later we became co-workers at an insurance agency.  She became one of my closest friends and was my maid of honor at my wedding.  In our high stress level job, we learned the value of a good laugh. One of our favorite pastimes was giggling at the people who used to email me when I tried the internet dating scene, so I made sure to work this into the story. Erin was also one of my most supportive friends when it came to my writing. She helped proofread for me way before I was ever published.


I met Elisa when I went back to work after I split up with my first husband. My two older children attended her daycare. It wasn’t until a few years later that I discovered we shared a similar spiritual path. Thanks to her, I was introduced to an amazing circle of women I am blessed to call Sisters.  Her character is a little wilder than she is in real life, but I think I may have been channeling her younger self because she has some pretty interesting stories from her twenties.

Artist: Sharon Coslop

Like her fictional counterpart, Sharon is an amazing artist and a woman of strong spirit and wisdom. She became the fourth Jersey girl because I wanted one of them to stay single. While I love a good romance, I also firmly believe a woman shouldn't require a man to be happy or fulfilled. Sharon is a remarkable example of a strong and independent woman who is a role model for many.  She is someone I look up to as a teacher and adviser, and she becomes that type of matriarch to the girls in the series and even  some of the guys. The photo above is one of her sculptures.


Drew /Andy
Originally the male love interest in Falling Star was based on my crush for Leonardo DiCaprio.  When I finally decided to make a real effort at writing this story (which was on the back burner for ten years), I decided my cousin Andrew DiPalma was perfect for this role. He’s a real actor in Hollywood and while he hasn’t received mega fame status yet, I have no doubt it will happen eventually.  In addition to being a talented artist, he's also one of the sweetest guys you could ever meet.  He even flew all the way from the West Coast to be my youngest daughter's Godfather. Check out on IMDb or his face book page.

Laura, Erin, & Stephanie
When Stephanie joined the crew at the insurance agency, she, Erin and I quickly became the three musketeers. I couldn’t have a story that involved Erin without including Stephanie. We all had a lot of fun together and the Playboy Bunny outfits mentioned in Falling Star were totally inspired by actual events. That's my tail on the left.

Though sadly, she’s no longer with us, Blanche was one of my favorite clients. She was in her nineties and still running a little Doll Hospital where she repaired porcelain dolls. All the little stories she tells in the book are inspired by real events in her life that she shared with me. 

Trevor is the owner of Woody’s both in real life and in fiction.  When I started this series I decided it would be fun to include some of my favorite local hang outs, and Woody’s was the first one I thought of. Trevor graduated from Wildwood Catholic with Erin and I. Years later I reconnected with him when I dated a musician who played at his bar. Woody’s helped inspire many of the scenes in this series, especially In Perfect Harmony.  


Yet another Wildwood Catholic alumnus, Haroula was one year ahead of me in grade school and high school.  Today she manages her family business on the Wildwood boardwalk, a place called The Hot Spot which also makes an appearance in Falling Star. She was very influential in the relief efforts after Super Storm Sandy, just like she is in the story. She is a stellar example of what it means to be a proud Jersey Girl. No story set in Wildwood would be complete without this long time pillar of our community.


Adding Happy to the mix was a last minute decision. I was writing a scene with a drum circle and I knew I couldn’t leave out the best drummer ever. I met Happy years ago at an open pagan ritual. He’s an amazing musician and has been a big influence in our local pagan community. 

Just like in the story, Greg is Erin’s dad and one of the executives at the insurance agency.  He was my boss for many years and he was amazing to work for. While unfailingly strict, he always treated his employees with respect. He also was a great supporter of my work years before I ever got published. While I love being a work-at-home mom, if I ever have to re-enter the traditional work force, I hope I can go back to work for him.



Yes, even the cab driver has a real life counterpart.
Only he drives a Fed-Ex truck instead of a cab. Because of my day job as a review blogger, I see him almost every day when he drops of some packages.  He's one of those people who always has a smile on his face. Whenever I see him, he says, "Hey there, New Age Mama" (that's my blog's name) and it always makes me smile right back. 

Shadow Cat, Snowfox, Phoenix, and Misty

There are a few scenes that take place at Sharon's house and there was no way I could leave out her furry companions. All three of the cats and their dispositions are inspired by Sharon's actual pets. I didn't have the pleasure of meeting Shadow Cat before she crossed the veil, but this gray beauty lived for over twenty years. Snowfox was a magnificent  white feline who you couldn't resist trying to pet, but she often got you with her claws if you did. Phoenix, who is still with us today, is a orange ball of fluff you just can't help but fall in love with.  

Lainey's cat Misty was loosely inspired by by own little guy Onyx. I got Oynx when I was working  on final edits and changed things around a little so Misty would look like him. Originally, she looked too much like Shadow Cat and it was a little confusing, so I changed things up.
So now that you’ve met the Jersey Girls and their friends, be sure to pick up a copy of Falling Star and get to know them a little better.


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