Yesterday I had the strangest experience. I was being interviewed on Radio Cumbria about Ciao Bella and they played a recording of someone reading from the book. There was atmospheric Italian music in the background and I found myself being swept away by the description of Florence. It was most odd, it didn’t seem like my book at all, it seemed to have nothing to do with the thing I created sitting at my desk, it had taken on a life of its own. I suppose writing a book is a little like having a baby. It’s all yours for a while and then it goes out into the world.
That this book made it at all is a miracle. It has had several false starts. It was the book I was always being told as a child that I would write one day. When adults heard how mad my life was (three schools in as many months, mother’s psychotic third husband beating us up, lunatic Italian father in the background whom I didn’t know, stepfather taking mother to court over custody) they would nod sympathetically and say: “One day you’ll write a book about all this” almost as if that made it all all right. When I met my husband-to-be I told him the whole saga on a four-hour boat trip on the Bosphorus River in Istanbul. His reaction was the same, but this time I actually started to write it.
About ten years and over 100 rejection letters later it still hadn’t been published. It wasn’t until I went to Italy last year, to write a book about Italian women, that I hit on the right formula for it; mixing the past with the present. It also helped that by then I had a publisher who believed in me and had already published two of my books. When I got back I told him there was good news and there was bad news. The bad news was I wasn’t going to write a book about Italian women. The good news was I was going to write something better. He took it in his stride.
So Ciao Bella, or Learning with Dante or Roma as it has also been called in its earlier inceptions was born. Which title do you prefer?