Mary Frances sits in front of a statue of her favorite author, Edgar Allen Poe, who was also at one time a Philadelphia resident.

Mary Frances sits in front of a statue of her favorite author, Edgar Allen Poe, who was also at one time a Philadelphia resident.

by Sue Ann Rybak

Mary Frances Cavallaro, who graduated from Chestnut Hill College last May as an English major and describes herself as “terribly shy, dreadfully awkward and deliciously cynical,” has published her first romance novel, a 50,000-word tome entitled “More Than Love,” at the tender age of 22.

Cavallaro, who was born and raised in South Philadelphia and still lives there, said the book began as a short story for her creative writing class in 2012. (The short story was also titled “More Than Love.”) Kellan Publishing describes the book as “A tale of maturity, love and passion. Mary Frances Cavallaro brings you headfirst into the world of young Frances ‘Fanny’ Dickens. This young, aspiring Shakespeare professor with a somewhat senile boss seems to have her life set with a fiance in a small town back home, an exciting new job, an attitude that rivals and rebels against her patriarchic society. Until she meets Robert Joy, a young man with a mysterious disposition that shakes Fanny’s beliefs to the core. He is charming, witty, a true friend and worse, her student. What can Fanny do when she becomes torn between an old-fashioned fiance who wants her to stay at home and an ambitious student willing her to follow her dreams and her heart.”

Cavallaro, who wrote a freelance article that ran in the Local last week, originally contacted Kellan Publishing, which is based in California, about a possible freelance job, but then she saw the following words on their website: “Are you an author? Submit your completed manuscript via our submission form.” She proceeded to send her short story to them and wound up with a contract for an entire book.

Mary Frances, who is also a graduate of John W. Hallahan Catholic Girls’ High School, proceeded to write during every spare moment she could find, which was quite difficult because she was also taking classes, student-teaching, working on a senior thesis, involved in student government and musical theater, etc. Nevertheless, she would get inspired at times and compose as many as 20 pages at one time. “I like staying busy,” she explained in a serious understatement.

Cavallaro somehow managed to write a 50,000-word novel, “More Than Love,” while taking a full load of courses at CHC, student-teaching and being involved in several other school activities.

Cavallaro somehow managed to write a 50,000-word novel, “More Than Love,” while taking a full load of courses at CHC, student-teaching and being involved in several other school activities.

The youthful author said the book’s characters were influenced by several of her Chestnut Hill College classmates. “My best friend and fellow Chestnut Hill College Griffin, KayCee Flore, loosely portrays Sophia Dickens, Fanny Dickens’ sister,” Cavallaro said. “My friends truly influenced me and helped me shape and mold me into the person I am today, so I thought it would be fitting to model most of my characters after those who inspire and help me get through the day.”

Cavallaro, who started writing in high school, said while she has not received any money yet for her book, her contract calls for her to receive “35% of sales after accrued fees and 50% of print sales after accrued fees.” Currently, the book is not available in print.

Cavallaro said she loves writing and is most inspired by Edgar Allen Poe (who once lived in Philadelphia) and Shakespeare. “Poe is my all-time favorite writer,” she said.

But the CHC alumna isn’t the only writer in the family. Her grandmother, Catherine Scafidi, writes poems in her spare time. Maybe it’s just in her blood.

“Even if I don’t publish anything else, in my free time I am always going to be writing,” Cavallaro said.

Readers can buy the eBook for $3.99 at http://www.bookstore.kellanpublishing.com/index.php?mainpage=product_info&cPath=22_25_50&products_id=42. “More than Love” is not in print but should be on shelves soon for about $8.