Why I wrote these books
To entertain of course, and when reviewers say (as they have often said) that my books are "page-turners", I'm pleased, that means I've reached my goal - or, more precisely, one of my goals.
Because novels, in my view, are not just for entertainment. They are also a way to reveal reality, to open up new windows on our world, to help us see things we would never see otherwise. For me, a good fiction book does precisely that - it expands my reality, in fact, it makes reality look even more real.
The "Luna Rising" saga (which started as the "Circle of Conversation") is a plunge in the past of Sicily, a fascinating island I have come to know intimately over the years (my husband is Sicilian).
Yet it is much more than a romp through History, it is an exploration of our genetic inheritance, and the possibility that our destiny is more shaped by nature than nurture - in other words, that we have genetically inherited the traits that characterize us. At one point in the book, considerations of epigenetics are brought forward, and they reflect my own research and meditations on the subject.
I really believe that we are not born a blank slate to be shaped by our parents and education. Education, of course, matters and matters a lot but there are elements on that slate that you can't remove, they are embedded by our genetic inheritance. The main character in the book discovers his family's past when he goes to Sicily and steps into an abandoned palazzo by mistake. The place is teeming with family ghosts and as he meets them (and falls in love with one of them, the Duchess of Floridia, a real historical character known as one of the great beauties of Sicily in the 18th century), he learns things about himself that he never suspected. His trip to Sicily is a voyage of self-discovery. And this new knowledge makes him a stronger man, ready to meet the challenges of the 21st century.
"Crimson Clouds" (originally called "A Hook in the Sky") is more than a novel about retirement (though it can certainly be read that way); it is a novel about self-discovery, the kind that happens AFTER one's working life is over.
As average life extends to 80 years and more, that is likely to happen ever more frequently: your career stops at 65, or perhaps 70, but you've got 15 to 25 years ahead of you (and if all goes well, you could be in relative good health - my mother was doing fine and painting every day until she was 98, then she finally quit due to eye problems and passed away when she was 101).
You need to figure out what you will do with the rest of your life - almost as long as the first part of your life. The temptation is great, as in the case of my main character, to try out something you have never done before, even something unexpected for those who've known you all your life, like, in his case, painting (that is what I did the first few years after retirement). But suddenly, and to your complete surprise, you find that society is against you; ours is a culture fixated on youth, and if you try an entirely new career at 60 or 65, good luck to you! The best that can happen is that people will think that you're into a new "hobby" - right, you're retired after all, you can't be serious about working, can you?
"Gateway to Forever": that's my most recent book and it is by far my most speculative piece.
I take a hard look at the current trends that shape our society - rising income inequality, climate change, increasing political instability and failed states - and project those trends into the future. What do I get? The world 200 years from now.
Why 200 years? I needed to set the plot far away in time, enough to make it credible but not so far that we could no longer connect with it.
The implied questions are pressing: what will be the future of mankind? Are we really headed for extinction and if so, what should we do about it? Naturally, the answers to such questions could have formed the basis of several non-fiction books but I was intrigued by the idea of fictionalizing it, of imagining how people like you and me would react, what the end of the world would really feel like. And I picked a heroine I love: pretty Alice, a trained nurse looking after old people in a Swiss home by lake Geneva - she is a young woman born on the wrong side of the tracks, but she has what it takes to "make it" in this harsh world governed by the ultra rich. Eventually she will find a way to save our planet (but that part will come out in a second volume yet to be published).
A traveling childhood - following my diplomat father in all the countries where he was posted, Sweden, Egypt, Belgium, Russia, Colombia, the United States, in that order - undoubtedly opened my eyes to the world at a very early age. I started writing a "newspaper" (for family consumption) when I was eight, and it was full of traveling news (of course) and pictures of far-away lands.
I wrote my first novel when I was 15, a dark story about incestuous love in the mountains of Colombia among narco-paramilitary bandits - I never tried to publish it, I wasn't concerned with pen names (Claude Nougat was in the future), I just enjoyed writing it...
Then I became serious and, after studying economics at Columbia University, I held various jobs ranging from banking to editing and college teaching before joining FAO, a UN specialized agency dedicated to fighting hunger and poverty in the rural world. I served there for 25 years, first as a project evaluation expert and ended my career as Director for Europe (the title was a mouthful: Regional Representative for Europe and Central Asia). I was very busy those years, hugely enjoying my job that took me to many fascinating developing countries, Cuba, Peru, Thailand, Nepal, Rwanda... But I never stopped writing fiction on the side.
While at FAO, I wrote two books directly in Italian (a language I love) and they were both published in Italy (presently out of print). Here they are:
1. a book for children inspired by the tales my father told my children. The book won many awards, including the Mediterraneo Prize 1991, the Vanvitelli and the Premio della Presidenza del Consiglio; it was published under the name Claude di Linguaglossa:
2. a historical/paranormal romance and coming of age story set in Sicily, the forerunner of Luna Rising, published under the name Claude Bonanno:
This book, Un Amore Dimenticato (A forgotten Love), was reviewed in all the major Sicilian journals when it came out in 2007 and earned high praise from Sicilian literary experts.
When the digital revolution came along, I jumped into the melée. I started this blog (in 2009) using the name "Claude Nougat" (if you wonder about that name, I explained how it came about in one of my earliest posts, click here).
Eventually Claude Nougat became my pen name for all my fiction work in English - from 2011 to 2014. Books published so far are mentioned above.
I also did something else: I founded the Boomer Lit Group on Goodreads (here), with attendant Boomer Lit accounts on Twitter and Facebook (with 624 members as of September 2016, and still growing).
Two years ago, I joined Wattpad that has become a well-known incubator of strong new talent as well as another new cool site: ReadWave, a meeting place for readers and writers. The level of the writing here is remarkable, you will discover many talented writers. Curious about it? Click here.
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