Andriana Trigiani Interview

As her 17th novel debuts, she’s thankful for librarians, local theater, and her Virginia upbringing.

New York Times bestselling author Adriana Trigiani grew up in Big Stone Gap and, while she now lives in New York, her Virginia roots run deep. In The Good Left Undone (Dutton, April 2022), Trigiani, also a filmmaker and philanthropist, explores her Italian heritage. We caught up with her to find out more. 


Konstantin Rega: How did you begin writing?

Adriana Trigiani: It always starts with the librarian. My mother was a librarian. I look at a book and the first thing I see is her face. If you want to write you gotta read. To this day, I go into a library like a church. It’s a sacred space to me. It’s a wonderful thing to have a life-long mountain to climb. And every day you try to master it. I feel a debt to great teachers and librarians.

Virginia was an essential landscape for me, as well. I grew up in Big Stone Gap. 1970s. Felt like we were in the heart of Appalachia. The first place I saw a play was out of the University of Virginia theater. I remember that like it happened yesterday. And I’m certain that was why I went to college and majored in theater and became a playwright. 

And what does your work usually focus on?

I grew up in an Italian-American home where the word “immigrant” was a word of honor. My grandparents were immigrants. And coming from a working-class family, I’m also very proud of that. So that’s what I write about. 

I try to make sense of the world through writing. When I started getting granular with my grandparents, I was going through the family lore, and what I discovered was the incredible stories. The Good Left Undone is a sprawling story of family, love, and war. The heart of the story was inspired by my grandmother giving me a piece of jewelry for my wedding.

You also co-founded “The Origin Project” to promote writing. Can you dive into that?

The Origin Project was developed because we needed an Appalachian story from the younger generations. It’s an in-school, year-round writing program, K-12. The kids work on one story the whole year, and it gets published at the end. 

Virginia—the Merry ol’ England of the U.S.—is a unique state: you have the coast, the piedmont, the mountains, the industrial, the military, every aspect of the working class trade that built this country. Really it’s the base-note of the whole opera, and I benefited from it. The Origin Project was an extension of everything I’d grown up with that I thought was important to the development of a child and their imagination. 

What do you want readers to get from your work?

So many of us are searching for a way to tell our family stories. I want people to come away with an emotional sense of how important and essential family is for your happiness. At the end of the day, you just try to make it work. 


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Konstantin Rega
A graduate of East Anglia’s renowned Creative Writing MA, Konstantin’s been published by the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Poetry Salzburg Review, www.jonimitchell.com, the Republic of Consciousness Prize (etc.). He contributes to Publisher Weekly and Treblezine.
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