Very excited! Today is Publication Day for THE LIBERATION and already great reviews are coming in:-
“The Liberation is complex, captivating and so, so cleverly plotted. An AMAZING read!” My Book Shelf
“A powerful and enthralling read.” Rea’s Book Reviews
“Atmosphere, cracking characters and an air of mystery – Kate Furnuivall has written a beautiful new book.” Juliet Ashton
This is a picture of an author hard at work! Here I am enjoying the delights of glorious Sorrento perched high on its cliff, with the brooding presence of Mount Vesuvius in the background – a reminder of the dangers that lurk across the bay in Naples.
Sorrento is a town that I never wanted to leave. Its exquisitely beautiful buildings captivated me and I loved the way there were trees bearing oranges growing in abundance along the main shopping street. While the vast luscious lemons drew me irresistibly to the wonderful bottles of limoncello liqueur that flashed from every street corner.
I was there to research a setting for my new book, THE LIBERATION, but even I wasn’t prepared for what I found there. I stumbled on to workshops of the most superb inlaid woodwork. This craft is a speciality of Sorrento that I knew nothing about and it was a huge light-bulb moment for me. Yes, that was exactly what I needed! So I made my main character, Caterina Lombardi, a skilled craftswoman who was fighting to prove herself in a man’s world. But it was that skill that was to lead her into the twists and turns of a story of love and violence in post-war Naples.
It has been a roller-coaster of a year, full of excitement and drama, with thrills and spills and a lot of hard writing along the way. I am delighted to announce that I have moved publisher to be with the brilliant Simon & Schuster UK who will be publishing my new book – THE LIBERATION – on 3rd November 2016. They are a wonderfully warm and supportive bunch of people, and boy, do they know how to throw a party! (I am already looking forward to their Christmas beano.)
THE LIBERATION is set in Italy 1945 when the war has just ended and the British and American troops still control the devastated country. The story of Caterina Lombardi takes place in beautiful Naples and Sorrento, so of course I had to make an extended research trip to those sumptuous cities – as well as to the exquisite Isle of Capri. Tough, I know, but somebody has to do it!
Here’s the atmospheric cover that Simon & Schuster have created for it. I adore it. I hope you do too.
The champers corks are popping!
Publication Day in America is always very special and I love to connect with my readers there. THE ITALIAN WIFE is my new book, set in 1932 Italy at a time when Il Duce – Benito Mussolini – was in power and his Blackshirts marched through the streets, enforcing his word.
But let me tell you more about the book by answering these questions put to me by One More Page Blog.
Your new novel, The Italian Wife, has just been released. Please could you tell us a little about it and your inspiration for it?
I have been extremely interested in architecture ever since my son and his wife became architects. So I was drawn to the idea of a young woman, damaged by her past, building a new life for herself as she builds a new town, the two inextricably intertwined.
Isabella Berotti is an architect who is part of the team building a town for Mussolini in 1932. Her life changes when she agrees to look after an unknown child for a few minutes and the mother throws herself off the top of a tower that Isabella has designed. Why did she do it? And what is her connection to Isabella? This is the start of a search for the truth behind a web of secrets and lies. Isabella turns for help to photographer Roberto Falco, and together they are caught up in a complex story of intrigue and danger.
My inspiration for the story came from Mussolini’s remarkable decision to drain the Pontine Marshes and build five new towns on it. I was fascinated to explore what it would be like for Isabella Berotti to be a cog in that huge Fascist undertaking, and the way in which she finds a new path for her life.
Please could you introduce your leading lady, Isabella Berotti, by summing her up in five words?
The novel is set in beautiful Italy and particularly the Agro Pontino near Rome. Did you visit as part of your research and do you have a favourite place in Italy?
Wild horses would not have kept me away from going to see in person what is left of Mussolini’s five new towns. I knew they had suffered severe damage during World War II, but I was desperate to see for myself what remained. When I arrived there, it warmed my heart to see that much of the grandiose architectural style that Mussolini insisted upon remains, and I was impressed by the way the post-war reconstruction uses many of the same techniques. In an odd way it made me feel that Isabella’s work – even though fictional – had left its mark.
I loved my stay in Latina, but the place that totally stole my heart lies further along the coast – beautiful Sorrento. It is one of the wonders of Italy.
The story plays out against the backdrop of Mussolini’s rise to power in Italy; how did you go about your research on the period and what was the most surprising fact that you uncovered?
For me the best way to get the feel of a place is to read as many biographies as I can get my hands on about the lives of people who lived there. So I began with a stack of books on Mussolini and ended up feeling that I knew him intimately – his ruthlessness, his charm, his ego, his lust for power and his passionate desire to turn Italy into a modern industrialised nation. So I felt able to write a scene where he visits Isabella’s architectural office and another where he asks her to dance. But I also trawled through hours of film footage that Mussolini ordered to be made by LUCE Films covering the reclamation of the Pontine Marshes. This was invaluable. But it was my visit to Latina that brought it all together in sharp focus.
The most surprising fact I discovered was that Mussolini brought 125,000 workmen into the malarial swamp to dig the canals and burn the forest. 125,000! Can you imagine the logistics of that? They were poorly fed, paid a pittance and kept in barbed wire camps where thousands died of malaria. I was deeply shocked by this.
What drew you to historical fiction as a genre and have you or would you like to write in other genres in the future?
I have always read historical fiction – I love the window it gives into the past. But I was only drawn to write about it when I learned that my grandmother was a White Russian who fled to China after the Russian revolution in 1917. I was entranced by her story, dived into a year of research and at the end of it wrote The Russian Concubine. From that moment, I was hooked. As for writing in a different genre, I never say never. My stories are becoming more focused on mystery and intrigue, so maybe Crime is beckoning …..
The Italian Wife is your eighth novel and previous books span a number of time periods and exotic locations. If you could travel to any time and place, where and to what period would you go?
Ancient Egypt. I want to talk to the builders and mathematicians to understand how they built those gigantic inch-perfect pyramids with their bare hands. Architecture again, you see. I am a glutton for it.
And finally …. What can we expect next from Kate Furnivall?
Well, I am in Italy again. A different time, a different place. But here’s a clue – I’m drinking limoncello and looking at the Bay of Naples!
This is a great week for me. My book THE ITALIAN WIFE will be published in the United States on October 6th, so I just want to share a bit about it with you and delve into why I wrote this particular story. I will be posting interviews and articles here over the next few weeks to get you up to speed on how the book developed in my mind … and offer a glimpse into my weird and wonderful writing life!
This first interview is with Chick Lit Uncovered:
Tell us about your latest novel in 15 words.
Italy 1932. Love and danger as architect Isabella seeks the truth behind corruption and lies.
What inspired you to write The Italian Wife?
Italy itself inspired me – along with Mussolini’s incredible engineering feat of draining the 300 square miles of malarial swampland of the Pontine Marshes and building five new towns on it. The audacity of this bravado caught my imagination and I couldn’t stop thinking about what it must have been like to be a part of it, as the new towns were being built – a cauldron of strangers forced to live together. What were their hopes for this strange new future, and was corruption rife in the huge honey-pot of finances involved? What would happen if one of the architects were female and fell in love with the wrong person. I couldn’t wait to pick up my pen.
Where do you do most of your writing?
I love to write in the garden. Under my magnolia tree with my cat shuffling herself further and further on to my writing pad. That’s where I write my best scenes, but given that this is the UK and it has been known to rain, then I retreat to my desk upstairs away from distractions. But as I write with pen and pad, when my Deadline looms I have been known to write anywhere and everywhere – on trains and on windy beaches and even in a friend’s loo!
What is your favourite book?
Oh now, that is a tough question. So many I love. Classic book – has to be the incomparable ‘Jane Eyre’. Humorous book – any P G Wodehouse. Crime – Raymond Chandler’s ‘The Big Sleep’. (I would die happy if I could write like Chandler.) Contemporary novel – ‘The Poisonwood Bible’ by Barbara Kingsolver, an exquisite, layered and complex story.
Which part of The Italian Wife did you enjoy writing the most?
The scenes between Benito Mussolini and my main character Isabella. It’s always exhilarating to write a powerful character who lacks the inhibitions of most people, and I just let my imagination run free ….
Who is your favourite literary heroine?
I’m assuming you mean fictional heroine here. Without a doubt it has to be the flamboyant but feminist Southern belle, Scarlett O’Hara. I read ‘Gone With The Wind’ when I was a teenager and she made a big impact on me. I fell in love with her character – tempestuous, courageous, determined, difficult, loving, selfish, deceitful and utterly passionate about her beloved Tara. There is a part of her in all my heroines.
Do you have any tips for readers who are looking to become published writers?
My top tip is what every writer will tell you – read, read, and then read more. Never stop. You learn as you read. Analyse each chapter. See where the mistakes are, as well as the skills. Write something every day. You need to keep exercising that writing muscle.
Also writing is a solitary occupation and it is way too easy to lose perspective. We all do at times. So get honest feedback from others and grit your teeth to really listen. It helps. And find other writers, either in a writing group or online, because a support network is fabulous when you are going crazy. Which you will. So keep an open bottle of wine in the fridge. You’re going to need it!
Are you working on anything else at the moment and if so, can you tell us?
To be honest, I was trying to keep it quiet for a bit longer but it has been winkled out of me! You have to understand, I fall in love with a place and find it hard to let go, so my next book is again set in bellissima Italy. But it takes place in 1945 when World War II is just over and times are brutally hard. It is set further south this time and it centres on a daughter trying to clear her father’s name when he is accused of crimes against Italy. Of course the research trip was dreadfully tough – all that limoncello and lobster and pannacotta to check out – but someone has to do it!