Sunday, 1 July 2012

Author Interview: Rosanna Ley

Today's interview guest is author Rosanna Ley whose new book, The Villa, was released last month. She kindly agreed to answer my random questions as well as tell us a little bit about her book...
Can you tell us a little bit about The Villa 
The Villa is a romantic mystery narrated by three generations of women, all looking for answers.  The novel begins when Tess Angel receives a solictor's letter inviting her to claim her inheritance - the Villa Sirena, perched on a clifftop in Sicily.  She is stunned as her only link to the island is through her mother, Flavia, who left Sicily during World War II and cut all contact with her family.

Initially resistant to Tess going back to her roots, Flavia realises the secrets from her past are about to be revealed and decides to try to explain her actions in a journal which includes the traditional recipes of Sicily; her legacy to her daughter.

Meanwhile, Tess’ teenage daughter Ginny is stressed by college, by her blooming sexuality and filled with questions that she longs to ask her father, if only she knew where he was. 
In Sicily, Tess encounters the enigmatic Tonino and his childhood enemy Giovanni, sons of two feuding Sicilian families still living the bitter rivalry of the past and still seeking 'il tesoro' - an ancient treasure.  Tess joins in the search.  But she has no idea who to trust in this golden landscape where shadows lurk around every corner.

I've read that you've taught creative writing courses abroad, is that what inspired you to set The Villa in Sicily?
I do love travelling and I am interested in the myths and stories behind different landscapes.  But it wasn't really anything to do with the writing courses.  Sicily is a magical landscape.  I was fascinated by the contrasts there: the darkness and light; the tranquil with the undercurrent of menace' the beauty next to the undeniably rather seedy.  These contradictions intrigued me.  When I read up on the history of the island and the Sicilian fairy tales and myths it all started to make sense and I decided to use Sicily as a setting for the novel.  And then of course there was the Sicilian food...

Do you have a set daily writing routine?
Not really!  My main aim is to avoid looking at e-mails and social networking sites until I've got some work done!  If I am in the middle of writing a novel, I deal with anything urgent first thing and then try to work in the mornings planning a scene - often longhand - or thinking something through.  This might involve going somewhere like a cafe or a beach (depending on the weather) to write in a notebook.  Then I get on to the computer and do a long stretch until lunchtime.

After lunch I try to have a walk - it's too easy to sit hunched over a computer all day; it's important to stretch out, exercise and take some thinking time - and then I'll either do revisions or some research, depending on what stage I'm at.  The internet is incredible for research but it is a distraction.  Sometimes you can lose hours that way!    

If I'm doing mentoring work I'll spend a lot of time reading and also writing up reports for authors or chatting with them.  If I'm travelling and doing research then I'll be out and about with my notebook all day and I'll try to write things up in the late afternoon or evening.

Once I feel I've achieved a day's work (and this doesn't always happen!) I'll sort out post, admin work, e-mails and so on.  I usually have a list of tasks to be achieved that day and I take great pleasure in crossing off each one when it's done...
Last thing at night before I go to sleep I try to think about the scene I'll be writing in the morning so that it can start composting in my head...  Unfortunately, I'm often so tired that I don't get very far with that one.  But who knows what's going on in your subconscious while you sleep..? 

If you could write another style of genre, what would it be and why?
I've often wanted to write crime - because I love reading it.  It is fast paced and exciting to read.  I also love historical writing so I would like to increase the focus of this in my writing one day.  All the research is fascinating too!

If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?
Never give up!  Write a bit every day.  Listen to the feedback of others (preferably those who know what they're talking about) but ultimately listen to your own heart.
Are you able to give us a hint about what your next novel is about?  And when is it likely to be published? 
My new novel again weaves a contemporary narrative with a historical storyline and features three women discovering about their shared past.  The central theme is whether everyone has the right to know the truth surrounding their birth and it is based on the true life happening of the scandal of Spain's stolen children - ninos robandos.  The novel is set in West Dorset, Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands and Barcelona.

Ruby discovers that her family is not what it seems and embarks on a quest to discover her true identity, Vivien has a secret burden which is about to be revealed, and Sister Julia has to decide whether to hand over a document she has kept hidden for decades.
Do you have much spare time to read books?  If so, what was the last book you read or what are you currently reading?
I love the writing of Anita Shreve.  I also very much enjoyed 'Cuckoo' by Julia Crouch.  But at the moment I'm doing lots of research so I'm mainly reading books that pertain to the novel I'm currently writing (I'm reading about Spain and midwifery right now!) and about the one after that too which hopefully will be set in Burma.

If you were going to be stuck on a desert island and could only take 3 books with you, which ones would you choose?
Great question!  I would take a volume of poetry - one that includes contemporary poets such as Wendy Cope and Carol Duffy and also that of the late and great John Donne! (if such a tome existed).  I would take DH Lawrence's 'Women in Love' because DHL is my favourite 'old' author and the writer who first inspired me!  And then a compendium of all Anita Shreve's novels would also be great...

Can you describe The Villa in 20 words or less?
Probably not.  Let me see... 'The Villa is the story of three women looking for answers - and love.'  13 words.  Not bad.  

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