As Emma Iadanza watched Mount Vesuvius erupt, wiping out the city of Pompeii and all its people, in the BBC documentary “Pompeii: The Last Day,” she asked herself, “What if someone did survive?”
That question inspired the 12-year-old Roslyn girl. Shortly after the credits started rolling, she was in her bedroom, rapidly typing away on her computer. By the time her parents, Jen and Joe Iadanza, came in to tell her to go to sleep, she had already churned out the first four chapters for her book, “Lady of Pompeii.”
One year and 40 drafts later, Emma, a seventh grader at Roslyn Middle School, is now a self-published author. Her 116-page paperback novel was released last December and can be purchased on amazon.com. The e-book will be available soon.
“I never thought I would publish a book,” Emma said. “I thought maybe I’d give it to my English teacher and get extra credit at first.”
The book tells the fictional story of Antonia, a privileged 15-year-old girl living in Pompeii in 79 A.D. When the volcanic Mount Vesuvius erupts, Antonia is killed but is reincarnated by Isis, an Egyptian goddess, and wakes up in 2012 Paris. There, she is told she must save the world from Apophis, the god of chaos, a mission that sends her on a journey around the globe.
Emma placed many of her own personality traits into her protagonist, including her love of classical music and her passion for Egyptian mythology, which started when she was only 4 years old.
Jen Iadanza, 41, a speech pathologist, had been singing a folk song to her young daughter that included a phrase about a pharaoh that intrigued her. Soon after that conversation, Emma was asking her mother to play “King Tut” and “Rameses” with her instead of “Cinderella” and “Snow White.”
“I would be Howard Carter and I would have to find her,” Jen Iadanza said. “This is that age-appropriate extension. This is ‘pretend play’ for preteens.”
In kindergarten, Emma wrote a play about Egypt, which her classmates performed. She has also taught herself how to read, write and interpret Egyptian hieroglyphics. Her goal is to be a professor of historical linguistics when she grows up.
Emma receives plenty of encouragement from her parents, who also served as her book editors.
“I was very honest,” said Joe Iadanza, 41, a professional guitar player and songwriter. “I didn’t want to change her story, but there would be times I would say to her, ‘I think you could do better than this.’”
When she’s not writing, Emma enjoys playing violin in the Long Island-based Metropolitan Youth Orchestra and considers herself an “opera-vore.” because of her appetite for operas. Her favorite book is the libretto for “The Marriage of Figaro.”
“It’s been really exciting as a parent to watch Emma stick to her guns in what she likes and be an individual even in the face of people .?.?. who will try to cut down that uniqueness,” Joe Iadanza added. “Middle school can be tough for kids who don’t go along with the crowd.”
Since the release of her book, Emma has received praise from family and friends. Some have even been inspired to write their own books.
“I’m very proud of myself,” Emma added. “I feel like I can do anything now.”
Oh, and she’s already working on the sequel.