A Writers' Chat about Italy: How it Inspires Them

Writers have gone global and their literary muse now travels with them. It is rare that a writer feels uninspired once he has left his homeland. As Sunjeev Sahota, one of the twenty "Best Young British Novelists" on the recently published Granta list told the New York Times : "There is a whole generation of people like me who don't have that strong instinctive sense of home". Indeed, more than half of the writers on the Granta list were not born in Britain and come from countries as far flung as Nigeria and China.

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 cafĂ© 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 
Twitter: @BeateBoeker
Author Page on Amazon: here 
Link to Delayed Death: click here 
Link to Rent a Thief: click here 

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