A Writers' Chat about Italy: How it Inspires Them
When I met Beate Boeker at a writers' retreat, a session of "brainstorming at the spa" in Matera, in the South of Italy, I knew I had met a nomadic soul mate. Here she is, sitting and chatting with fellow writers in one of Matera's suggestive caves-turned-hotel-and-spa:
|The spa, an underground hot water pool (left) and Beate (right)|
Beate is from Germany and brought up all over the place, I am from Belgium and equally cosmopolitan, we both function in English. And further, we share something that is still relatively rare: we’re both published authors in a language we didn’t learn at our mother’s knees, and, unlike the novelists on the Granta list, neither of us even lives in an English-speaking country. It takes a certain craziness to persevere with this kind of handicap, but we’re comfortable with it!
Today, we decided to sit on a virtual sofa together and share a bit about our lives and our books with you. Here are some of the highlights of that conversation:
Beate: Ever since I met you, I’ve wanted to ask about your life as a writer and painter in Italy. My (not so secret) dream is to relocate to the South one day, too! What made you decide to settle in Italy?
Claude: I’ve moved around since I was a baby, including a long time in the United States. Then I got married to the love of my life . . . a Sicilian. No, he’s not a Mafioso and doesn’t carry a gun! I’ve lived over 35 years in Italy now.
B: Wow, that’s a lot! Is there anything that grates on you or that you miss in Italy? What do you most love about it?
C: I love Italy’s dolce vita! Do I miss anything? I guess I miss New York, back in the 1960s. Things like walking into a Greenwich Village café with my father, late one night, and hearing Peter, Paul and Mary belting out Lemon Tree, and listening to the jokes of a scrawny student with thick glasses; he had us in stitches. He was none other than . . . Woody Allen! But then, don’t we all miss our youth?
B: I’m not sure. I for one am happier now than with all the angst back then. Tell me, what do you find that is different about Italians?
C: I don’t see them as anything else but Europeans with a smile. Nowadays, with the recession, they are a lot less happy but on the whole, it’s a country where people are in love with life.
B: And compared to Americans?
C: Americans have a “can do” approach to life that Europeans don’t. Here, people are more cautious, they don’t really believe that things can be changed and improved.
B: Boy, do I agree with that! This American approach of “you can make it if you want it” is liberating and so very un-European. I love that attitude, and I think it can move mountains! I’ve noticed you’ve started posting political rants on your blog under the title “our daily burnt bread” – what makes you so angry and does this anger impact your writing?
C: Many things make me very angry: pollution, climate change, unemployment, social injustice in general. For a long time, literature for me was an escape from the world I was living in.
B: I believe literature is an escape for most people, that’s why I write what I like to call “happy books”! Life is already difficult enough . . .
C: I agree! That’s definitely the case with my trilogy The Phoenix Heritage: high fantasy! But the setting is Sicily, and in a way, it’s an evocation of 900 years of Sicilian history through the ghosts my protagonist meets; they are all historical characters . . . I dedicated the book to my husband; it is his homeland that inspired me. I did my research in his family archives and his library of Sicilian history books.
...Beate, it’s my turn to ask questions. Is writing for you a form of therapy, an escape from your own reality or a way to comment on our society and culture?
B: Definitely escapism!
C: Who cannot but notice that you’ve set your books in Italy even though you’re German and have never lived in Italy. What draws you to Italy?
B: It’s a mix of the weather (few Germans can resist sunny climates) and the Italian way of making every detail beautiful. Italians have that certain flair of paying attention to detail, and I enjoy that so much. Take the way they stack ice-cream cones until they look like sprays of a fountain or the colorful paint of their houses and shutters.
C: Their colorful shutters? I noticed a bright blue shutter on your latest book, Delayed Death! But with such a somber title, how can it be one of your “happy books”?
B: If you don’t count the murder itself, it’s not dark. I would say it’s as happy as a mystery can get!
C: Delayed Death is on top of my to-read list. I remember reading with great pleasure your Rent-a-Thief novel, that’s a great title! And it did feature a baby boomer, and you’re a member of our Boomer Lit Goodreads Group. Do you plan another boomer book or will you go in a new direction?
B: Oh, my next boomer book is already in the wings. It’s called Mischief in Italy and starts with a man who tries to tell his grown son that he should find a better suited woman than the floozies who only look for his money. I had endless fun with this romance, and again, it’s set in Italy, at the Lake Garda.
For a full transcript of the chat, go to Beate's website, here.
About Beate Boeker:
She is a traditionally published author since 2008 and now offers many full-length novels and short stories online. Several were shortlisted for the Golden Quill Contest, the National Readers' Choice Award and the 'Best Indie Books of 2012' contest.
She is a marketing manager by day with a degree in International Business Administration, and her daily experience in marketing provides her with fodder for her novels, either hilarious or ironic.While 'Boeker' means 'books' in a German dialect, her first name Beate can be translated as 'Happy'...and with a name that reads 'Happy Books', what else could she do but write novels with happy endings?
Find Beate on:
Facebook: Beate Boeker Author
Author Page on Amazon: here
Link to Delayed Death: click here
Link to Rent a Thief: click here