Dean Italiano is a Canadian writer, artist, musician, parent
his skills publishing several short stories, Dean broke out with his
first novel, Pain Machine, written under the name of Marcy Italiano
in 2003. Dean's sharp wit and talent for capturing real life
experiences, both harrowing and beautiful, and then squeezing them
out of his pen for all their worth can be found in 2008's Spirits and
Death In Niagara, and again in 2009 with Katrina and the Frenchman: A
Journal From the Street in which Dean portrays his and his spouse's
story of survival upon having barely made it out of the horrors of
The Starving Queen, Dean is back in full form with a riveting novel
about inner demons and personal evolution written from the point of
view of someone who has battled his own share of inner demons. Packed
full of scares, humility and raw emotion aplenty, Dean once again
takes us on a journey which promises to leave us altered for the
better having read it.
us as we discuss how the Starving Queen was born, Dean's struggles
and triumphs with his own inner demons, and a few things in between.
DARK BITES: Dean, thanks for taking time out of your very busy life to
discuss your most recent novel, The Starving Queen, with me. Let's
get to it and start at the beginning, shall we? How did the concept
and eventual writing of the book come about?
DEAN ITALIANO: Ha! You are unknowingly cutting me to the quick with this
question. It started in a therapy session. I was battling one of my
familiar demons and it was suggested, since I write, that I describe
what this particular demon would look like. To embody and visualize a
very complicated problem, was surprisingly quite easy. Once I had the
Queen, I sat back and decided what to do with her. This was a short
story at first. Back when I was able to go to more conferences, I met
up with one of the editors who had turned down my submission. Some of
those reading this might know Tom Monteleone, who told me, “This
isn’t a short story.” I was confused at first, but when I went
back to work on the story some more, I understood what he meant.
There’s more to it, more layers, that needed to come alive in the
story. There were many horrid versions since then, it was hard to
find a balance that worked between the other characters and the
Queen. Once I found a balance I liked, it was difficult to edit as
many of the scenes jabbed at the original demon I battled in therapy.
Thankfully I have not had to deal with that for a few years, I’m
with the character “Bev” now, standing above the demon.
far as I'm concerned this is a book which could hold a candle to any
of those being published by the big houses today. Can you walk us
through the process of deciding to publish The Starving Queen on your
own terms and the rewards and challenges that came with publishing
under your own banner?
P.I.C. Publishing was actually created for the music side of our
creative output. In Canada, when royalties are collected, a
percentage goes to the “publisher” and a percentage to the
artist. If you’re both, you need a company name to collect full
royalties. It was this name that we started using as an umbrella for
all of our creative work, including art, music, and in this case, The
Starving Queen. During the years when ebooks crashed into the scene,
self-publishing became a heated topic, and some mid-level publishers
were disappearing, I sat back and looked at my options. I have many
friends in the industry, and Shikhar Dixit offered to edit for me. I
also found Mary Madewell, a fantastic artist. There’s a printing
shop in town, and I’ve done this journey before with my earlier
book, Katrina and the Frenchman. I knew exactly how much work was
involved, and the quality of the print shop.
whaddaya do? Despite the busyness that comes with kids, a job, and my
own personal transformation, I wanted to handle this one myself. I
had faith in my editor and artist, so G (spousal unit) and I decided
to have a triple release for the book, a little one-act play I wrote
called The Narrowing, and our new horror/Halloween based CD called
From Skull Tavern.
tale of The Starving Queen really hit home for me on several levels
as I believe it will for many readers. Considering all that the Queen
represents, was there anything that surprised you as far as what the
book meant to you in the beginning compared to what it might have
mean for you along the way or even now as you reflect back on it?
Surprises? Oh jeez, where to start with this one. Should I roll my
eyes or just shake my head? When one discovers that they are
transgender, very often a weight is lifted from their shoulders.
Another thing that can happen, is the shedding of light on many
issues from your past that at the time, you didn’t understand. To
look back and think that the signs were so muffled, trickling out in
this book in bits and pieces, is disturbing.
many of us are very harsh judges of our bodies. We change, we evolve,
we age, and we have far too many moments of hating our bodies. But to
not know why, to not understand why I couldn’t accept myself, makes
me feel sad for my “ex” who lived in such a dark place for so
long. As much as the Queen needed to come alive, so did Jasmine. I
needed her to to poke and prod at herself, to hide it from everyone,
and then to smile. There are specific scenes in the book that I
previously felt as if I was screaming them out, but now they simply
aspect of The Starving Queen do you hope has the biggest impact on
readers and/or the one thing you hope they take away from the book
long after the final page has been read?
You’re not alone. I can’t stress this enough. None of us are
alone. Readers might see themselves in one or more of the characters
in the story, and some readers might have completely different demons
they’re battling. I personally believe invisible demons are the
I wrote this book, social media wasn’t the powerhouse that it is
now. But media in general has been dangerous for decades. We need to
step back and see the messages for what they are, what they’re
trying to sell us, and what they’re telling us to like, love, and
accept. Because if you’re not good enough, you will buy what
they’re selling to make yourself acceptable. If you watch how the
media puts it’s SPIN on everything, it’s easier to tell yourself
that you don’t have to buy into it all. You don’t have to keep up
with the Kardashians. Be healthy, be strong, be the best you.
Kick your demons in the face.
you haven't published any novels since the Starving Queen mid-2017,
you haven't exactly been a slouch when it comes to your creative
output. You've completed music projects, short stories and some
really cool paintings along the way. What do you hope to unleash
creatively into the world next in the foreseeable future?
During the time I’ve been re-writing my life, my second sci-fi book
has been put on hold. I just didn’t have the brain-space to finish
it. I’ve got FIVE chapters left and G says I can’t quit or die
before it’s done because he wants to know how it ends. I don’t
know if it’ll be a trilogy yet, but I’m going to finish the whole
story before I go back to edit and adjust for continuity. I’ll
occasionally submit a horror short story to a market, but I haven’t
spent a lot of time on that recently. I have a Haiku-length attention
span for writing right now.
artwork has gained some attention the last couple of years. Some
friends and family insisted I share more of it, and I’ve since been
in two juried shows, and an art gallery downtown for a season. I’m
surprised people are liking my work as much as they are. There was
one painting I was going to throw in the garbage and it ended up
selling. So what do I know, eh? I’ll keep at it, and hopefully sell
some more before we run out of wall/storage space at home.
well this is the funny part of the story. G and I generally write
music together. When you hear From Skull Tavern, that voice was more
in the ...Bonnie Tyler range? In the past year my voice has
dramatically dropped and I’ve approached the Brad Roberts range
instead. I think it’s settling in and we have to test out what we
can write for this
G says he already has some ideas. I’m looking forward to giving it
a whirl, it’s been kinda trippy. Will we keep the horror/Halloween
theme for new songs? Very, very likely.
finally, where is the best place for folks to enter the world of The
Starving Queen and to further get their fill of your work?
website is https://picpublishing.ca/,
and we’re on FaceBook and Twitter and so on. Our music can be
downloaded on Spotify, Apple Music/iTunes, Amazon Music, YouTube,
Deezer… and we have CDs for the older folks like us. *wink* Some of
my paintings and artwork are on our website, and some are listed
online at Fine Art America.
Starving Queen is on Amazon and our website, and of course I’ll
sign and send hard copies if people prefer a book in-hand.
so much for your interest in peeking into my world. It’s a zany one.
DB: Thank-you, Dean! And for anyone who may have missed the review for The Starving Queen, you can check it out here!
*This interview first appeared on Hell Notes.*