Launch: Tessa Floreano’s Italians in the Pacific Northwest


Tessa Floreano is a community historian and writer of history about Italians set in Europe and the Pacific Northwest. Her historical tales include elements of mystery and romance and always feature Italian protagonists. Her upcoming 1899 Christmas-wedding-in-a-castle novel is a prequel of sorts to her 1920 romantic mystery, Slain Over Spumoni. To celebrate the launch of her book, she is offering an enticing Giveaway. Read on.

How would you describe Italians in the Pacific Northwest and its themes?

My book traces the lives of the early Italians who settled in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington from their hardscrabble days as homesteaders, miners, and railway workers in the pre-WWI era to becoming successful entrepreneurs of the post-WWII boom generation.

You call Italians in the Pacific Northwest a “pictorial narrative.” Can you describe what that means? Does writing a pictorial narrative differ from writing history?
History is told through different mediums and a book about history that is a mix of text and images is still writing history in an enhanced two-dimensional way. Images of America is the imprint from my publisher, ARCADIA PUBLISHING, under which Italians in the Pacific Northwest is published. This imprint is a vehicle through which local authors explore the history of their hometown or region and help open a window into yesteryear for eager history lovers. The imprint focuses on historical images—most of which have never been made public—along with captions for each image as well as a 1–2-page description for each chapter.

I had no idea the United States sent some Italian nationals living here to internment camps during WWII. Can you tell us more?

During WWII, about 50,000 Italians were placed in 21 camps in 18 states. Many were captured from Italy’s campaign in North Africa. Those who were the least indoctrinated in Fascism were allowed to join the Italian Service Units (“ISUs”)—part of the US Army Service Corps—contributing over a million hours to the war effort for the Allies. They were more humanely treated than the German and Japanese POWs, wore uniforms with an Italy patch on their sleeve, were given jobs as ditch diggers, dockworkers, farm workers, etc., and were housed in camps near or with American soldiers.

When they arrived at the camp, their valuables were inventoried and packaged, they received any necessary medical and dental treatment and were paid about 80 cents a day for their labor. The ISU soldiers were initially treated with suspicion regarding their loyalties, but after Italy switched sides from the Axis to the Allied powers in June 1944, the ISU soldiers had more freedom from curfews and such. Enlisted officers were allowed to be “checked out” by local families, broke bread with them, attended church, and sometimes, after the war, even married into the family and became Americans.

Do you have a personal connection to the book’s topics?

After WWII, my parents were the only ones in their family to leave Italy and immigrate to Canada. As such, I am a dual Italian-Canadian citizen. In 1999, I immigrated to the United States for love. The Seattle community of Italian Americans welcomed me when I moved here, and as I neared my 25th wedding and immigration anniversary, I decided I wanted to give back outside of the volunteering and donating that I had been doing.

Because I write as a vocation and an avocation, a book was a natural outlet. When I realized there wasn’t an easily accessible historical narrative available to the community, I took up the mantle to create one as a labor of love. I am an immigrant from an immigrant family, and immigrants are well aware of how giving back benefits everyone.
Much of the discrimination and hardships faced by people I interviewed in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington, were similar to my own family’s experience, even though it was in Canada, thus I felt like I could give the researching and writing justice.

However, I wanted to move beyond just documenting the tribulations of immigrants and showcase their triumphs as well. Compared to some other immigrant groups, Italians in North America assimilated quite successfully—all while maintaining and preserving their culture, and I wanted to contribute to those preservation efforts. My work is now being considered for a documentary and will include Italians from British Columbia as well. Hopefully, in the next year or so, a traveling exhibit, together with the film, will join my book as a lasting legacy for future generations of Italian Americans and Canadians in the Pacific Northwest.

What advice would you give a budding history writer?

You can write history just because you love or are curious about history. You don’t have to stick to a particular historical period, location, or subgenre however, I think choosing a niche early on in your career helps agents or publishers sell you and your work. That niche helps you establish a platform and build an audience, then later, you can pivot into potentially uncharted territory and most readers will usually follow.

Your readers will be open to new material you create as long as there is something comfortable and familiar in it. If you remember to balance meeting reader expectations with the story you want to tell, your readers are going to love your fresh spin on their familiar and comfortable.

If you’re new to writing history, be sure to read the book descriptions or blurbs of bestsellers in the subgenre(s) you want to write and read the reviews—the best and the worst—so you get a sense of what readers love and hate. You can also buy genre research from specialty companies such as and and drill down to the sub-genres. I’m not suggesting you write to the market, but if you’re just starting, doing the research will help you focus on writing to the reader.

For me, the personal connection to the narrative is everything. It fulfills my brand promise of writing history about Italians set in Europe or the Pacific Northwest. At this stage in my author career, I’m building awareness, and eventually, I expect increased sales will follow. I believe my nonfiction gives me additional credibility with any new publisher of fiction I choose to pursue. For new writers of history, you might wish to publish articles about your genre or theme on your website, Substack, other author sites, history forums, and magazines—all of which should help lend credence to your expertise to prospective agents and publishers.

What’s the last great book you’ve read?

The Book of Longing by Sue Monk Kidd.


The first five people who read this interview and send Tessa the receipt of their book purchase will win a tin of Zesty Chocolate Paradise, the special Italian-flavored black tea blend that she has developed exclusively for her readers.


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