The problem was writing it.
“I never was a writer ... because I never was much of a reader. Only in the last few years have I begun to read other people's work. So that makes it a little strange for me to all of a sudden turn out with a book,” the Harlan County native said.
The story is his; the inspiration his mother.
And because of that inspiration, he has achieved what he set out to do three years ago - publish his first book, a fictionalized autobiography that has Harlan County written all over it.
Bianchi, who grew up in the funeral home business and has worked as a licensed mortician, said he was going for a Tom Sawyer/Huck Finn adventure approach to telling his story. And he emphasizes that while most events and places in his novel are true to life, he used creativity in adding some fictionalized touches.
“I've always been a storyteller, and people always seemed so interested in those funeral home stories, whether they be funny or what have you,” he said. “And I think that I picked up on people wanting to hear those.”
Bianchi said he had all the intentions of “sitting down and just writing a story about funeral home humor and so forth” in “The Blistered Cat,” released July 25.
But his funny, light-hearted approach to telling his story - from working at his father's funeral home to enduring mishaps with his best friend and chasing a teen crush - came from a very personal loss. That, along with his belief in guardian angels, caused the author to take a different direction in writing his novel.
“I believe in guardian angels. I think that we all have something or someone watching over us and it can be disguised in other people. And that often we look at people in a negative way and we may be doing ourselves an injustice by turning away from them,” he said.
Bianchi was 8 years old when his mother, Elizabeth Sunley Bianchi, died. It was when his 17-year-old son was 14, the age of Bianchi's character in “The Blistered Cat,” that Bianchi said he really began to think about his formative years, and the impact of his loss during that time.
“As I wrote, I watched the interactions between my son and his mother, and I realized what different lives we had. And that brought on some real touchy emotions in me. It turned into much more than I ever thought it would,” he said.
Bianchi, who believes “everyone has a good book in them,” said it was his wife's encouragement and support that made his first publishing endeavor the experience that it was.
“It was her all along that made me feel like I could do it. As I wrote a little and let her read, she enjoyed it. And that kept me going on to the next chapter,” he said, also crediting many of his family and longtime friends for assistance in proofing pages and critiquing his work.
In writing his novel, Bianchi said he began to realize that he was opening up a chapter of his life, something he said he was cautious about.
“Even though the book is fiction,” he said. But some of the characters in his novel are “really close to who they were.” For the most part, however, they are fictitious and were “combinations” of people he knew growing up in Evarts, he said. And many of the situations that his young character faces in “The Blistered Cat” were similar to his own experiences, but aren't true.
After enduring a year and a half of long writing hours and roller coaster emotions, Bianchi said he finished his novel. But it took another year and a half to edit his work and make the necessary revisions.
“The writing part was easy. It was the revisions and editing and just making things right that was hard,” he said. He considers the experience a helpful and necessary one in preparing him for his next step - marketing his novel.
Bianchi's book has already been recognized for its editorial and design quality, having received the prestigious Publisher's Choice designation from his publishing company, iUniverse. That means Bianchi will have the opportunity to display “The Blistered Cat” among newly released novels at the nearest Barnes & Noble bookstore.
“They say in the writing world, that is where it comes in ... is trying to sell it,” said Bianchi, whose book is available on Internet sites such as www.amazon.com and www.barnesandnoble.com. His novel can also be found at local stores, including Southern Wholesale in Harlan and Kilgore's (called Culligan's in the novel) in Evarts. Plans are also under way to get the novel in more book stores and eventually take it to a national level, he said.
Bianchi said he has already started on a second novel, part two of what he plans to be a trilogy. He said he plans to use feedback from “The Blistered Cat” in determining what directions to take in writing the second and third novels.
For someone who said he never thought he could write a book, marketing his first novel and preparing to write his second have brought new challenges and personal triumph.
“It's never too late in life to do these things,” he said.
And while his novel is dedicated to the memory of his mother, Bianchi said he wants readers to know how appreciative he is of his father.
“My father was in such a hard place with all these kids, and I couldn't appreciate that until I had one of my own. So when I began to write the book, I started out just trying to tell some stories, but it ended up being a reality check as to what kind of life and situation he was in.
“I never fully appreciated his position and how hard it had to be for him. I didn't understand at 14 where he was coming from, but I do today,” he said.
Bianchi will have a book signing of his novel Aug. 19 at the Harlan Public Library from 10 a.m. to noon and again at Kilgore's in Evarts from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.