This Christmas is very special for author E.Graziani, for her book War in my Town is one of the finalists for the 23rd Annual Hamilton Literary Awards under the nonfiction category.
In this interview, Edy talks about her writing career, upcoming books, and Christmas.
Hi Priya! As an author, I am what you would call a 'late bloomer'.I began to write in 2008, really as a hobby, when I discovered one of my old university essays in my basement. It was entitled, ‘The Role of Women in the Renaissance’ from there an idea began to formulate in my head about the differences between women’s roles in society then and now. The basics of ‘Alice’ were thus born.
I thought it would make a great premise for a novel to transport a girl from our age into Renaissance Florence and observe the culture shock that ensues when everything that she takes for granted is taken from her. The idea was to educate girls about the sacrifices that were made in order that they may enjoy the rights and privileges attained for them by their predecessors. Throw in all the other things that I love, maybe a little time travel, science fiction, romance and of course, the Tuscan backdrop and soon, ‘Alice of the Rocks’ began to take shape. ‘Alice of the Rocks’ is my first novel and first published work I consider myself extremely fortunate.
2. Which authors did you grow up reading? Is there any book that has inspired your writing?
I grew up reading an eclectic assortment of authors. Stephen King was all I read for a long time, then I discovered the Bronte Sisters, Jane Austen, Dickens, Petrarch, and of course, my hero, J.K. Rowling. As far as inspiration, I look to events around me for inspiration. Ideas pop into my head about future projects and I make note of them, hoping one day, I’ll get to extend them into a full length novel.
3. War in my Town is a memoir relating to your mother’s experiences living in a Nazi occupied village during the second World War. How did it feel writing this novel? Would you call it a personal or emotional account?
Genre: Memoir, Historical Fiction, War Fiction
Publisher: Second Story Press
Teenaged Bruna's life is turned upside down when her small Italian village becomes the centre of fighting in the last months of the Second World War.Bruna is the youngest of seven children, living an idyllic life in a small village in Italy in the 1940s. As the Second World War unfolds Bruna's life remains largely the same. By 1943, her biggest disappointment is that food rationing means there is no cake to celebrate her fourteenth birthday. The Italian leader Mussolini's allegiance to Hitler and the distant reports of fighting seem far away from their lives.But when the Italian people turn against their fascist regime, war comes to their region. Bruna struggles to cope as Nazi soldiers descend to occupy their village, and she must help her mother and sisters stand up to the occupying soldiers. Her peaceful life is turned upside down by the fact that her beloved little village is now the centre of the final stage of fighting between the Allies and the Germans, the only front left defended by the Nazis in Italy.Including photographs and maps, War In My Town is a true story based on the experiences of author E. Graziani's mother and her family.
This was a very personal journey for both myself and my mother. There were times when I interviewed her for the memoir when she became very emotional. I really had to pace my research as reliving such memories was stressful for her, but she did want the story to be told. I’ll admit that when I wrote the ending I became emotional myself at how my mother and her family were able to pull together and survive such hardship we can only imagine.
4. You did your Bachelor’s in History and still teach History apart from penning novels. Was it your love for history and flair for writing that made you write this War in my Town, or was it something else ?
Yes on both counts, but what motivated me the most was my mother, Bruna’s, Alzheimer’s. I really wanted to preserve these memories for her, for me and for my daughters as well. It’s so important to pass on these experiences it is what makes the fabric of our family background.
I really wanted to preserve these memories for her, for me and for my daughters as well.
5. How do you think history can be morphed or repackaged in books to interest young readers?
I really think that placing interesting characters against a significant historical event makes history easier to learn. This would apply to students who, I think, believe studying history is boring and dry. They could read about historical events like they would read a novel. There are books out there that are series, for just such reluctant readers ‘War in My Town’, is now in some schools for novel study I have created a study guide, for teachers for just that purpose. It is downloadable for free from the publisher website.
6. Since you’re so in history, you must be a reader of historical fiction for sure. What books from the genre would you recommend?
I think one of the best books I’ve read is Underground to Canada by Barbara Smucker. A beautifully poignant and terrifying novel about the journey from slavery to freedom of two little girls. They travel from the Deep South in the U.S. to Canada, the Freedom Land, before the emancipation of slaves, with the help of some very brave people along the way.
7. As a writer of women’s fiction, would you like to talk about your take on feminism? Do you think that women’s fiction needs to be feminist ?
The meaning of ‘Feminism’ has changed so much from when I was first introduced to the word back in the 1970’s when Feminism meant the quest for equal rights for women, equal pay for equal work, equal opportunities and respect for women’s bodies, including the right to decide what is best for us as persons. Now, I think that the meaning has been somewhat distorted to mean something negative I don’t think girls today want to be thought of as feminists anymore. I don’t think women’s fiction needs to be feminist, but I do believe that women should be respected and that stereotypically weak women characters, especially in the Young Adult genre, should be avoided at all costs. Girls should look to strong independent role models, in all forms of literature.
8. In Jess Under Pressure, Jessica meets in Gananoque, “women who understand the true meaning of empowerment”. What do you think is the true meaning of women’s empowerment? Is the book inspired from real life?
Genre: Women's Fiction
Publisher: Morning Rain Publishing
Dr. Jessica Britton is on top of the world. Her self-help book empowering women has hit the best-seller’s list, and she’s enjoying the media spotlight while her family supports her growing success. Life can’t get any better for Jess.
But… hold the applause.
Everything changes in the blink of an eye. Jess’s ideal life shatters when she discovers her husband’s secret, her daughters’ rebellion, and her agent's deceit. Desperate for healing, she takes a road trip to Gananoque, Ontario, where she meets women who understand the true meaning of empowerment.
Filled with tears, laughter, and hope, Jess Under Pressure highlights what friendship and family are all about.
Empowerment for women is, I believe, support in the freedom that we should pursue whatever makes us happy in life, as long as we don’t hurt others, of course. If a career on Wall Street is what a woman wants, then so be it if being a stay at home mom makes you happy, then do it if you want both and you can make it work, then fantastic. And the support of friends and other women is what makes that work. In ‘Jess Under Pressure’ the protagonist, Jessica, is a world famous family life psychologist who seems to have it all together but she suddenly finds herself at a crossroads. With the help of other strong women, she is able to find the courage within herself to survive a crisis she never saw coming. In terms of the inspiration for the novella, the book was written as a kind of ‘gift’ for my friends. They are fabulous ladies who I’ve known since high school and who I can ring up anytime and count on their support when life gets too hectic.
|E.Graziani with the wonder women at Morning Rain Publishing|
9. You have worked with The Alzheimer Society of Canada to raise awareness and educate people regarding this disease. Could you tell me more about it?
My mother, Bruna was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease in 2011. I wanted to preserve her memories in War in My Town, so that future generations would be able to learn something from them and perhaps be inspired by my family’s strength and courage. We are blessed with having the support of many here so I thought it fitting to pledge a portion of all royalties from each sale of War in My Town to go to The Alzheimer Society, (I speak on their behalf whenever they ask me for help) in support of those suffering with the disease. So please buy a copy, the more copies sold, print or eBook alike, the more the Alzheimer Society receives!
10. You had participated in The Word on the Street Toronto Book and Magazine Festival this year. Could you tell me about the festival and your experience at the event?
I really feel that this experience will remain one of the highlights of my authoring career. I was invited to present and read from my book, War in My Town at the largest literary festival in Canada Toronto’s Word On The Street Festival, this past September and was interviewed by Quill & Quire's Dory Cerny, on one of the stages. As a featured author, I spent the day meeting and speaking with other authors, fans, festival planners and made many new friends. But mostly, I enjoyed speaking with people about the memoir, in its message and about the lessons we can learn from history, so they will never be repeated.
|E.Graziani with Dory Cerny of Quill & Quire Literary magazine at the Word On The Street Festival in Toronto, September 2015.|
11. Could you briefly talk about your writing process or habits that you think have helped you a lot?
I’ve written books from beginning to end and from the middle out it all depends on where the kernel idea originates. I do have a rough outline of what I want the project to look like, but I often change things along the way. I used to edit as I went along, but that just took too long and I found myself getting bogged down, so I just write my first draft, then revisit it a few times, and edit, revise, edit. Sometimes I wonder what I was thinking after I read a passage other times, I surprise myself the latter much less often than the former!
12. What writing or publishing advice would you like to give my readers who aspire to become an author like you?
I still have to remind myself that ‘showing’ is always better for the reader than ‘telling’ I still fall into that nasty habit. This means that the reader needs to feel like they are a part of the book, not feel as though they are on the sidelines being told what’s happening. The best compliment I get when people have read ‘Alice of the Rocks’ is when they tell me they could see everything happening as though there was a movie playing in their mind’s eye. In ‘Alice’ I aspired to this end, because it’s a very descriptive work, so I think I did my job. My other two books are less so, the focus being on other themes. I tend to write for a particular purpose, and adapt my writing as I see fit. My advice to aspiring authors is never, ever give up. I was declined so many times before my projects found a publisher I now have two.
13. What are you currently working on?
I am working on another Young Adult project novel about teen mental health. It’s darker and grittier than my other projects, but then again, so is the topic.
14. Could you tell me a bit about ‘Alice of the Rocks’ and its upcoming sequel?
‘Alice of the Rocks’ will always be my favourite book, because it was my first and it contains everything that I love. ‘Alice of the Rocks’ interconnects the stories of two young couples who fall in love in 16th century Renaissance Florence and the Florence of 2029. In Renaissance Florence, Claudio, a young count and a promising pupil of Leonardo da Vinci, and Elisa, a low level domestic who works in the Medici palace where Claudio lives, fall in love despite the disparity in their social and class status. In present day Florence, a baby is found in a convent chapel. Baby Alice is adopted by Italian parents who immigrated to Toronto, Canada and grows up to become a beautiful young woman. Alice, the strong female lead character, comes back to Florence on holiday, at the prompting of her aunt and uncle, only to fall in love with a local boy. The two love stories play out simultaneously as the story progresses, both couples coming to grips with very different obstacles to reach a place in their relationships where they can truly be happy. But very different unforeseen events will soon change that. Alice’s new love reveals fantastic truths about a science experiment gone horribly awry five hundred years in the past. He reveals where she comes from, who she really is and why he desperately needs her help, all the while, delving in the opulent world of the powerful Medici banking dynasty. The sequel picks up where Book One leaves us. It’s filled with romance, historical fiction, Renaissance big names, time travel and of course, a climactic sword duel between the evil Medici lord and the handsome Claudio. I recently sent my manuscript for Book II to Morning Rain publishing and am awaiting a response! My readers have been begging for a conclusion for Ali and Claudio, and I think they will be extremely satisfied with Book II. Wish me luck!
15. How’s Christmas spirit at home and what are your plans for the holidays? What are you reading right now? Is there any Christmas/ holiday themed book that you would suggest me?
Christmas around my house is especially busy I am a full time teacher, a mother of four, wife and now, author! Needless to say, I rely on my husband a lot. Right now, my reading is restricted to textbooks, as I have a week or two left to teach until holiday, but if I were to recommend a book for this time of year ‘A Christmas Carol’ by Charles Dickens I love it and have read it over and over again!
E.Graziani is the author of three books – War in My Town, Alice of the Rocks and Jess under Pressure. Alice of the Rocks and Jess under Pressure are available from Morning Rain Publishing and War in My Town is available from Second Story Press. Subscribe to her website and follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Youtube for her writing updates and more.
Alice of the Rocks reached #1 on Amazon in its category during last Valentine’s Day weekend and War in My Town was listed as one of 2015’s Best Children’s Books by the Canadian Children’s Book Centre !
Congrats Edy, on your wonderful accomplishments and my best wishes for your upcoming sequel to Alice of the Rocks.
And it was an absolute pleasure working with you for this interview. Thanks a lot for taking out time from your busy life. Also wish you a very merry christmas ! :)