Wednesday 6 June 2018

Author Interview: Grazia Gironella

Grazia Gironella (Bologna, Italy, 1963) lives at the foot of the Eastern Alps, in Northern Italy. She loves nature, eastern cultures and martial arts, and is fond of written words, both as a reader and as a writer. In addition to Searching for Goran, to the present day she has published on the Italian market several short stories (Tarja dei lupi, Tabula Fati, 2008, plus about fifteen more on anthologies), and essays on writing (Per scrivere bisogna sporcarsi le mani, Eremon, 2011 – La via delle parole, Eremon, 2015). In her blog Scrivere Vivere ( she shares with fellow authors and wannabes the joys and problems of writing.

We recently interviewed her over email. Find below the excerpts of the same.

Where do you belong to? Our readers want to know about your education and family.

I was born in 1963 in a quite traditional middle-class Italian family, with my father a law enforcement officer and my mother a housewife. As a shy, lonely child with few relatives, I didn’t enjoy the company of kids my own age in the first years of my life, so my attention was drawn to books, that became my friends. I attended a scientific high school, then an institute for interpreters and translators, since I loved languages.

Tell us about your book.

Searching for Goran is the story of man who is struck by amnesia after a car accident. Going back to his old life, he is faced with a reality he no longer recognizes, that includes a wife who is difficult to love and a two-faced business partner. Then visions start appearing, incomprehensible and devastating, belonging to another place and time and – above all – another man.
Goran decides to find out what is happening to him and follows the clues in his visions of ice and struggle for survival across Europe, heading for Scandinavia; but he's not alone, because his past is not ready to let him go yet, for better or for worse.

As a new author, what is your favorite part of the writing/publishing process? Least favorite?

The first draft is the most exciting part. I like seeing the story take shape before my eyes, part on my own planning, part coming from who knows where. I’m also very patient and precise in the revising phase, which is really tough job, but is also rewarding in its own way. I suppose the least favorite part to me is feeling unable to write due to lack of ideas or incapacity to stay focused.      

Are you an avid reader as well? What kind of books do you read? What is your frequency of reading?

I read three-four books at a time, choosing in accordance to my mood. This doesn’t mean I’m a fast reader, because I can devote to reading just a small part of my time, maybe one and a half hour a day. I read about thirty to forty books a year, not more. I love novels that have a fantastic side, but also any other genre, if it’s well written. I read plenty of nonfiction on different topics such as nature, spirituality, eastern cultures and writing. At present I’m reading a summarized version of the Mahabharata. I like biographies as well.   

Which is your favorite book and why?

I have many favorite books, but The Lord of the Rings is “the Book” to me. I read it when I was sixteen and fell in love with J.R.R. Tolkiens’s worldview and values. I still read it the novel now and then.   

Who are your favorite authors?

Brandon Sanderson, Ursula Le Guin, Patrick Rothfuss, Diana Gabaldon… but the list is long and ever changing.

Do you pursue any other profession apart from writing? How do you manage everything? How do you find family time amidst all this?

I’ve been working as ground staff in an Italian airport for 25 years before I moved to a new town and decided to stop working. Now I have the privilege to devote my time to my family – my husband, my 21 year-old son and my dog Maya – and to writing. I also practice regularly raja yoga and taiji.   

What does your writing space look like?

I have my own desk in the very middle of the kitchen-living room area. Of course a room for me might be better, but I appreciate the company of my family while I work at a story. I’m usually able to stay focused even in the most horrible mess. On my desk I have screen and keyboard, paper for my notes, a jar full of colored pencils and a small tray that has become almost an altar to me, where I put all the small things I collect while walking in Nature, like flowers, stones, moss, wood pieces, feathers.

How do you overcome writer’s block?

Do I really? Well, sometimes I simply stop writing for a few weeks and try to get engaged in some other activity, just to wipe away the idea that I have to keep writing no matter what. If this doesn’t work… I ask heaven for ideas, and the right attitude toward a form of art I will never have the complete control of.  

What motivated you to write this book?

I was looking for a story to tell, as usual. I had read something about amnesia and found it fascinating. What is life, seen through the eyes of a person with no past? Then came the second, thrilling question: what’s the worse that might happen to a person suffering from amnesia? To start remembering something, but realizing it’s part of someone else’s past. Then came a journey with my family across Europe, destination North Cape. In Finland I learned about the dire straits people had to face during the Great Famine in the 19th century. These two elements struck the spark.   

How long did you take to finish this book? What was the process like?

The novel was written in about one year, but it underwent a new revision after a couple of years. My writing phases are planning, writing and revising. To start writing I need to know who the characters are, what they want and what will happen in the story. I prefer not to devote months to a novel before realizing that I’ve come to a dead end! During the planning I’m not deciding the details, though; there’s always a great deal of surprise waiting on the way. After the first draft is finished, I let the manuscript rest a few weeks or months (the longer the better), then I start the revision, that is thorough and demanding, with plenty of readings and different kinds of adjustments that are dealt with separately.      

What are you hoping people to gain from your book?

I think there are a few messages hidden in Searching for Goran: the awareness that to flourish as persons we need to know ourselves, and dig deep, even when what we find there makes us feel uneasy; the need to forgive in order to move on with our lives; the importance of resiliency, a gift that exists in each of us. Hopefully something of all this will stick to my readers and be useful in their lives, just as it’s been useful to me.   

What were some of the challenges you faced on the road to publication?

Oh, there were plenty! In its first version, the novel was finalist at an important literary award in Italy and was therefore published as an e-book. After a couple of years, I kept wondering: “so what?”. There was no promotion on the publisher’s side, so the novel simply agonized. That’s why I got the rights back, I reviewed the novel once more, and self-published it on Amazon, in ebook and paperback, both in Italian and in English. I think this is the best possible way to offer my novel to the readers, in this specific situation.     

What kind of research do you do for your books?

Searching for Goran includes both historical events and scientific data, so it was vital for me to make thorough research. You don’t want readers to come up with criticisms of that kind! For my researches I always use the internet, and possibly some expert who is so kind as to help me. With the social media now available it’s not so hard. 

Any story behind deciding the title of this book?

The former version’s title was (translated from Italian) Two lives are enough. It was a good title, in my opinion, but I wanted a new title for the new novel, so I chose one that described Goran’s inner and outer journey, on my translator’s advice.

Why should we read your book?

Because the novel is a mystery, but there’s much more to it. Goran’s is a fascinating story, rich in emotion and – if I may say so – very well written. I’m not taking all the credit: Juliet Bates, the English native speaker who translated the novel, really made a good job. 

Do you have any blog or website the readers can visit?

On my Italian blog Scrivere Vivere ( I deal with the many different aspects of a writer’s life. I suppose you and your readers should use the Google translator, which is not the best way to appreciate a blog, but I can assure you will be warmly welcome.   

What advice do you have for budding writers?

Don’t be hasty and keep ambition at bay. I know stories are written to be read, but if you cannot love writing in itself, regardless of sold copies and of the publishers’/readers reactions, you’ll probably have a hard time with writing sooner or later. If you self-publish your works, just as I did, demand the best of yourself. Last, write! Planning, thinking, dreaming, talking about writing is not writing.    


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