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An Interview with Gina Tempesta


Gina Tempesta has been a broadcast journalist for more than twenty-five years and has an extensive background in on-air announcing, production, and writing. She has worked as an anchor and reporter for some of the most well-known stations Boston. While working as a traffic reporter, Gina began to dabble in creative writing and decided it was time to write a children’s book about Boston’s famous (infamous?) Big Dig. What’s a Zakim Anyway? is the second in her series A Story About the Big Dig about the massive road construction projects that changed the landscape of the city. Gina is currently the afternoon drive traffic reporter for WBZ-AM. She lives with her husband in a suburb north of Boston.

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

This book is the second in a series, which I wrote many years ago while working as a traffic reporter. I was asked to read to a local elementary school and went to the library to find a book about Boston’s infamous/famous Big Dig project. I was amazed that there were no kid’s books out about the Big Dig so I decided to write one! After doing my research, I quickly found the project was much too complicated and interesting to fit into one book, so I decided to break it up into a series about the three important pieces of the massive construction – The Central Artery (dubbed Boston’s Other Green Monster), the Zakim Bridge, and The Ted Williams Tunnel (yet to be written). I found the stories important to tell to younger generations who never knew about the incredible engineering feat and power and cooperation it took for the work to be completed – it took 20 years! The research for the books also jump started my interest in developing a TV drama series centered around the Big Dig. I also have been working on helping a woman write her memoir about a near fatal accident that happened near the construction site.

What inspired you to start writing this book?

After the first book about the Central Artery was out for a while, I knew it was time to start the next book, but at first I kind of hit a roadblock and just couldn’t think how I was going to tell the tale of the Zakim Bridge and who Lenny Zakim (a civil rights activist) was. Then one day it just hit me “What IS a Zakim Anyway?” since so many people call it the “Zakim Bridge,” but had no idea who he was or even, for a kid maybe, WHAT a Zakim is – was it a unit of measure, short for something, etc.? So I set the story up with a girl going to skate at the skatepark under the bridge with her dad when she looks up and asks him why the bridge has such a funny-sounding name.

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

The title was the inspiration for the book and I came up with the title before I even started the MS.

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

“Thunder Road” – Bruce Springsteen

“So Good: The Boston Song” – Vince Eytan

“More Than A Feeling” – Boston

“Dirty Water” – The Standells

“Roadrunner” – Jonathan Richmond

“Boston” – Augusta

“One Love” – Bob Marley

“Come Together” – The Beatles

“Shipping Up to Boston” – Dropkick Murphys

“Please Come to Boston” – Dave Loggins

“Sweet Baby James” – James Taylor

“Sweet Caroline” – Neil Diamond

“Freedom” – George Michaels

Describe your dream book cover.

I really want to follow the same style and feel of the first book over to this one. In Boston’s Other Green Monster, the cover is mainly cars traveling on the old highway with the lead characters off in the right and left corners looking up at the road way. For this book, I envision an illustration of the Zakim Bridge with the main characters, Chelsea and her father, also off in the corners looking up at the bridge. All of the illustrations only contain the colors of traffic signals and stop signs – so other than black – the drawings are red, yellow, and green.

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

Before landing my first radio job, I worked as a DJ in a night club for about 3 years. I also left radio to write and worked as a writer and video producer in the cooperate world for 10 years before coming back to my traffic gig in 2022.

What books did you read (for research or comfort) throughout your writing process?

During my research about the Big Dig, a read a lot of books about the construction projects and befriended the official journalist who captured all the information and pictures for the 20-year project. He has also given me access to all the archives, for research and to include some of those pictures in my books! Those books include: The Big Dig and The Big Dig at Night by Dan McNichol.

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

I want my reader to learn something about Boston they never knew and to know why the bridge is named after Lenny Zakim. I want them to remember the book when they drive through the city and image what it was like before the Big Dig. My ideal reader is either a parent or older child reading to a younger child and everyone learning something new!

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