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An Interview with Charlene J. Centracchio, Author of The Pirate’s Conquest

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Charlene J. Centracchio is a native of Rhode Island with multiple degrees from Rhode Island College and Providence College in Social Science/Education (BA), Secondary Education/Gifted Education (M.Ed.), Counseling (M.A.) and Curriculum & Instruction (CAGS-Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies, which is similar to a Ph. D.). She worked in the public school system from 1980 until her retirement (2010) serving the district as a high school social studies teacher and guidance counselor. During her tenure in education, she served on many committees for the school itself and the district, including the School Improvement Team, curriculum writing, and NEASC Standards Chairperson. She served as a mentor for many students in the district through various activities such as Class Advisor, Drama Director, Cheerleading/Majorette coach, and the Booster Club Advisor. She was on a team of people who won the Presidential Award for Drug-Free Schools and Communities, resulting in the key to her hometown. As a guidance counselor, she was nominated for and won the New England Association of College Admissions Counseling: Margaret Addis Memorial Scholar (2010) for the State of Rhode Island. Writing has been an important part of Charlene’s life, starting at an early age when she started writing short stories, poems, and multitudes of educational documents. She currently works part-time as a paralegal.

Charlene is also an intuitive psychic card reader ( utilizing a regular deck of playing cards as a tool to connect with the vibration of energy from the person’s name. She has been reading cards for 35 years and has many clients whom she helps achieve their highest goals for the betterment of their lives. She is trained in Reiki Healing as well as Magnified Healing. Her psychic gift has been passed to her from both sides of her family with the greatest gift and direct lineage coming from her mom’s side. Her spirit guides are those who passed on such as her mother and father, as well as various pets and other animals who come to her.

You can buy The Pirate’s Conquest here.

Who/what made you want to write? Was there a particular person, or particular writers/works/art forms that influenced you?

Writing has always been a part of my soul; it has always been inside of me. I am extremely creative and writing was an avenue to express my creativity—whether it was to handcraft a birthday card/special birthday story for a milestone birthday for friends/relatives or to write short stories, poems, and, obviously, The Pirate’s Conquest.

In order to write, one must first be a reader themselves, followed closely by creativity, and lastly by dreaming/visualization.

Over the years I have read an enormous amount of books, with some of my favorites being Hemingway’s A Farewell To Arms, Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, John Knowles’ A Separate Peace, Margaret Craven’s I Heard the Owl Call My Name, Hans Ruesch’s On Top of the World, and J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye. However, around 1973, I purchased a copy of The Flame and the Flower by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss. I was mesmerized by the historical romance genre from that point forward. I am an extremely fast reader and sometimes would read a novel with 500 or so pages within two days. I literally could not read enough in this genre. I have read all of the novels by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss, Rosemary Rogers, Celeste DeBlais, Day Taylor, and many more. I would definitely say these grand dames of original bodice-ripper historical romances influenced me.

What other professions have you worked in? What’s something about you that your readers wouldn’t know?

Well, considering I started working at age 5 (I’m 65) in my mother’s soldering shop that was in our basement, I have had a lot of experience in both the costume and fine jewelry industries. I worked in the jewelry industry from age 5 to age 46. I have been in all facets of jewelry-making from pricing right down to soldering. The only thing I did not do was plating/tumbling.

Being an educator was my primary job. I was a high school social studies teacher and for the last ten years of my career in education, I was a guidance counselor. Writing was an important part of my job as an educator and guidance counselor. I am fortunate that I am a good writer because the year that I was involuntarily transferred to guidance by the Superintendent of Schools, I had seniors. My job was to prepare all guidance counselor recommendations and certify all college applications. I was literally thrown to the proverbial wolves because these students were individuals that I had never met in the classroom. The year I would have taught them in Ancient History was another year I was pulled out of the classroom to go to guidance as it was cheaper to hire a sub for a social studies teacher. I immediately drew up a questionnaire to gather information and within three weeks I had interviewed the top 50 students and wrote pristine guidance counselor recommendations for each of them. My colleagues were blown away because they didn’t think I could do it.

Another profession I had for approximately 5 years (also part-time) was as a ghostwriter/editor for a woman that I randomly met through a friend in 1994. My friend didn’t want to do her psychology project and recommended she give me a shot at it because I actually taught psychology for almost 17 years. I worked on that project and two books that she published.

Paralegal work started when I was in college in the 80s. My first legal job was interviewing potential divorce clients. My second job as a paralegal began in 2020 during the pandemic. Although I had retired in 2010, I worked randomly for my school district until 2020. The attorney that I work for is a friend of mine and her front office girl quit so she asked me to work for her. I currently prepare all the bankruptcies and all the estate planning documents in that office.

Another ongoing profession is educational writing for various individuals. I am so good at creating curricula, lesson plans, rubrics, etc., that I can churn them out rapidly. Many have asked me to help them with these projects.

My family has a long history of psychic ability, which I also possess. I am an intuitive psychic reader and have been reading people’s cards for about 35 years. I am also trained in Magnified Healing and Reiki. My spirit guides in general are wolves and, since I can’t own a wolf, I have two Siberian Huskies. Siberians are probably the closest thing to a wolf that I can own. I also have three Maine Coons.

Most of my readers wouldn’t know that The Pirate’s Conquest was fed to me psychically through a form of automatic writing. Not one piece of the book was planned out. Many authors plan out chapters, but I don’t. I literally pick up the pen and write. I actually hand-write in notebooks, doing my initial corrections as I go along. I absolutely cannot write creatively on the computer. It must be written in a notebook with a pen. The Pirate’s Conquest was written when I was between the ages of 22 and 24. I wrote it, copyrighted it, and sat on it for 40 years. I did that because I was a public-school teacher and felt that I could lose my job if it were published due to the content. The book is violent and sexually graphic, including assault and many other triggers. I am writing about pirates and, generally speaking, pirates are not nice people. Probably the final thing my readers wouldn’t know is I have had a fascination/obsession with pirates since I was about 10 years old.

Tell us the story of your book’s title. Was it easy to find, or did it take forever?

I actually wrote the title first. Then I wrote the novel and the last line of the novel incorporates one word (“conquest”) from the title. I work backwards. If I am writing, I first write the title and then I go back and write the story. If I am painting on canvas, I do all the inner pieces of the painting first and then do the background.

How did it feel when you first saw your book cover? Or when you first held your book in your hands?

My amazing cover artist worked closely with me, making suggestions as we went along. But then she sent me the final proofs and I was beyond excited. This was 40 years in the making. I will say that I chose this cover artist because as a psychic I am always looking for signs. This cover artist is a teacher (sign number 1), and her last name is Lockwood (sign number 2 because my male lead character is Timothy Lockwood).

So many emotions the day I held the completed novel in my hands. The first thing was excitement because it took 40 years to get to that point. Next was pride—because I did it! Then sadness as I wished my parents could have seen. And finally, nervousness, because when you write a novel you are exposing yourself for both good and bad.

If your book had a soundtrack, what are some songs that would be on it?

This is probably the most difficult question to answer. When I write and/or read, I am concentrating only on what is written or being read; music doesn’t fit it into it. My brain is not wired that way at all. With that said, I would say Percy Sledge’s “When A Man Loves a Woman,” “Wicked Game” by Chris Isaak, an instrumental of George Michael’s “I Want Your Sex,” and music from just about any pirate movie ever made.

What is one thing you hope readers take away from reading your book? How do you envision your perfect reader?

I would say that the one thing I would want them to take away is that relationships, particularly romantic relationships, are never smooth sailing. There are a lot of twists and turns in the sails of the relationship ships, some really bad ones and some really good ones. In the end, true love is always left standing even if it was tattered along the way.

My perfect reader essentially would be someone who enjoys reading old-fashioned “bodice-ripper” historical romances. A person who understands that there are two kinds of historical romances. One kind of historical is very historically accurate, using real pieces of history, and the other kind is set in a historical time period. The Pirate’s Conquest fits into the historical time period. I hope for a reader who understands that the characters are written for a time period in which they lived.

What was the most rewarding/meaningful part of publishing your book?

This is a tough question because, as an educator, I am all about validation of work. Everyone wants to know that their work is good and how you get there. First, I think it was seeing the book in print. Second was selling copies of the book. Right now, there are approximately 325 copies out there in either paperback or ebook. Personally, I think that is pretty good for an unknown author’s first novel being published a year ago. And finally, entering multiple contests for independent authors. Last November I was notified that I placed as a finalist in the first contest I entered at the last moment. I felt like my heart was going to jump out of my chest when I read that email. I could not breathe for several moments. I had to calm myself down and read the email three times to let it sink in that The Pirate’s Conquest was a finalist in an awards competition. The book did very well in multiple contests with results such as short-list semi-finalist, semi-finalist, finalist, and winner. It is one thing when a friend or family member says that they loved your book. It is another whole ball of wax when complete strangers judge your book and put you into award status. Total validation for me as a writer.

What new writing projects are you currently working on? Or, other projects that are not writing?

I am currently in the process of writing The Pirate’s Passion. This book is a continuation(sequel) of the lives of the characters in the first novel. I have 18 chapters written, which is about half of a typical historical romance novel. My target date is next summer for release, but that could change. I am about to start baking for the holidays. Last year I baked 6,300 cookies to be dispersed to friends, family, and colleagues. In addition, I just finished making homemade orangecello and limoncello that I will be bottling soon.

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