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!