One Story One City: Readers meet the author 

Avid reader and library community member Toni Adams (left) gets her free book “The Woman of the Castello,” signed by author Kelsey James at the “One Story, One City” annual series hosted at the Centre on Friday. Katherine Quezada/The Signal
Avid reader and library community member Toni Adams (left) gets her free book “The Woman of the Castello,” signed by author Kelsey James at the “One Story, One City” annual series hosted at the Centre on Friday. Katherine Quezada/The Signal
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Avid readers and library members joined historical suspense novelist Kelsey James to discuss her book “The Woman in the Castello” at the Centre last week.  

Guests heard about James’ creative process when writing her first published novel, the development of her characters, and her next project. The evening was hosted by the Santa Clarita Public Library series “One Story One City,” almost a decade-long program that aims to promote reading.  

The book is set in Rome, Italy, during the year 1965 and follows an upcoming actress named Silvia Whitford and the mysterious disappearance of her estranged aunt. In the book, Whitford seeks answers about her aunt’s disappearance and “triggers a chain of events that illuminate dark secrets in the past — and a growing menace in the present,” stated the One Story One City webpage on the Santa Clarita Library website.  

“They [the city] started back in 2015 and it was developed to bring the community together in Santa Clarita,” said Zoriada Martinez, a senior librarian at the Newhall branch. “To have everyone read one book and have events surrounding that book.”  

“The Woman in the Castello” author Kelsey James (left) answers questions asked by Valencia Librarian Morgan Lazo (right) about her book, characters, and writing process to share her thinking process with guests at the “One Story, One City” annual series that promotes reading, on Friday at the Centre. Katherine Quezada/The Signal
“The Woman in the Castello” author Kelsey James (left) answers questions asked by Valencia Librarian Morgan Lazo (right) about her book, characters, and writing process to share her thinking process with guests at the “One Story, One City” annual series that promotes reading, on Friday at the Centre. Katherine Quezada/The Signal

The monthlong series also includes activities such as a movie night, arts and crafts where attendees will create a book safe, and a murder mystery scavenger hunt, she added.  

James, who uses a pseseudonym, began her writing career at TripAdvisory creating travel content by reviewing and photographing hotels in countries such as Cuba, Costa Rica, Turkey and Norway.  

Like many aspiring writers, she took the chance to work on her novel during the COVID-19 pandemic, a time that allowed many people to pick up new hobbies and explore new avenues during quarantine and social distancing. With a lot of time on her hands, like millions across the country, she was able to hone in on the project and complete the first draft within six months, she said.  

Although the book is entirely fiction, James gained inspiration from real-life locations and implemented them in various ways within her novel. Her decision to set the novel during the 1960s was tied to the political landscape of the time.  

Valencia Librarian Morgan Lazo asks questions to “The Woman of the Castello,” author Kelsey James about her book at the “One Story, One City” annual series on Friday at the Centre. Katherine Quezada/The Signal
Valencia Librarian Morgan Lazo asks questions to “The Woman of the Castello,” author Kelsey James about her book at the “One Story, One City” annual series on Friday at the Centre. Katherine Quezada/The Signal

She visited Italy once for three months and had the opportunity to study Greek and Roman archeology, and credited that as one of the factors to her novel’s setting.  

“I’m a historical fiction writer. I think we’re always seeing what can we learn about the present and relate it to the past, so I was like, ‘What other landscapes were like this?’ and somehow I started reading about 1960s Italy … and it was a country that reached the height during the war,” said James. “It just got me thinking, you know, ‘What would that look like to see a family that’s a part of this and they had to confront their pasts many years later?’” 

The event at the Centre drew approximately 40 individuals who read James’ book and were eager to get a more in-depth perspective on how the novel was developed.  

James also shared advice with the audience, many of whom were aspiring writers.  

“Really think about what your goals are, what are you looking for … a community of writers, [ask yourself], ‘Am I looking for people to read my work, am I doing it to be rich and famous?’ Don’t do that!” James said, with a laugh. She also advised the diverse audience to not be afraid of rejection and emphasized that they will hear a bunch of “Nos” before hearing a “Yes.” 

“The Woman of the Castello,” author Kelsey James interacts with readers at her booking signing hosted by the city of Santa Clarita for they “One Story, One City” annual series held at the Centre on Friday. Katherine Quezada/The Signal
“The Woman of the Castello,” author Kelsey James interacts with readers at her booking signing hosted by the city of Santa Clarita for they “One Story, One City” annual series held at the Centre on Friday. Katherine Quezada/The Signal

The evening was also livestreamed for those who could not attend in person.  

James works as a full-time content marketer but hopes to one day be able to be a full-time novelist and has goals to write a wide range of genres such as romance and dramas.  

James signed dozens of books that attendees could take home for free, donated by the Friends of the Santa Clarita Public Library, an organization that provides funds for the library’s special programs, Martinez said.  

Along with a signed copy of “The Woman in the Castello,” guests took home a goodie bag with fun stuff for them to enjoy that matched the theme of the book.  

Among items were a pair of sunglasses and a nail file, items that had significance in the book, said Martinez.  

“I love the One Story, One City event. I always get super excited about it,” said regular library member Toni Adams. “It adds a whole other level to the whole reading [experience] and adds more memories to [the book]. I already enjoyed the book and now I have more awesome memories to add to it.”  

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