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Local finishes, publishes her own novel

Rosemarie Romeo is something of a rebel. Or perhaps just an independent spirit. Or maybe she’s a bit of both.Either way, when the Glenwood resident’s first novel, “Ambrose,” was finally finished, she chose not to endure the mainstream packaging and marketing deals that most publishers consider part and parcel of the book business.Instead, she borrowed money from her daughter, Marie, and founded her own publishing company, Bookcliff.”I didn’t want to go through the publishing process, so I started my own publishing company and went ahead and published it,” Romeo said.Indeed she did. The novel, which is based on the life of Sister Mary Ambrose (who happens to be Romeo’s Great Aunt), is selling these days on Amazon.com for $9.95, plus shipping and handling.Romeo, who calls her novel “just something I had to do,” first got the idea for her novel in 1953, when she was 12 years old and living in New York City. That year, her mother took her to Rockaway Beach, Long Island, for a day trip. While there, Romeo visited a building that would inspire a lifelong project for her.The building was, at that point, a convalescent home for nuns. “When I walked in, I was like, wow, this is so cool. And then my mother told me, your great aunt built this building,” Romeo recalled.Originally, the home had been an orphanage, constructed in 1908. And when Romeo listened to the stories of the Mother Superior and several of the other nuns who still remembered her Aunt Ambrose, something just clicked inside of her.”When we got back to our hotel room, I told my mother, I’m going to write this story someday,” Romeo said.Romeo began the work in 1965, and worked on it sporadically for the next 38 years. Though she finished her first draft in 1988, Romeo said she just wasn’t satisfied with it, and it was another 15 years before the book was finally published in 2003.”You could call it a life’s work,” said Romeo, who is only 65 years old.The novel itself is an exaggerated concoction of stories that she gathered from nuns, family, and assorted friends.”I took all those stories and I embellished them and made them into a novel,” Romeo said.The book is only 254 pages long, however. What took so long to write it?For most of her life, Romeo said, “I had to think about putting food on the table.”But throughout the years, her book was always there, waiting for her to return and finish it. And she finally did.These days, Romeo said she has three projects she’s working on for publication: a sequel to “Ambrose,” another about narcotics, and a third about a local photographer friend of hers, Alice Koelle.


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