“Ciao”, or “salve”, as the expression goes nowadays.
It is really cold here in Tuscany at the moment. As I write, I am wearing two jumpers – one of them a thick Aran faithful, plus my cosy socks. Not many people understand why we live here in the summer and Sussex in winter. But, we’re high in the Tuscan Apennines, the winters are bighting-cold and summer rolls up when it wants. It’s arriving late this year, like a bride. When it decides to come, it will be glorious.
Here I am, wearing my warm Aran. Snow fell on the Mountain of the Moon last night.
We are being warned that our planet is in danger. The world is topsy-turvy and our way of life is having dire effects on climate change, amongst other problems. At the moment, the radio tells me it is over 20 degrees in Scotland. Here it is 6!
I know that before too long, the bees will be buzzing over my lavender and our meadow will brim with butterflies and orchids, but in the meantime, I need to warm up by chatting to somebody else who loves Italy. Welcome back, Daisy James, who has recently published another of her Limoncello novels. As you know, I am passionate about Italy and, even though I haven’t read Daisy’s book yet, I wanted to find out about her writing career and what she thought of la bella Italia. I’m saving the read until I can laze by the river when the sun arrives.
Daisy, what makes you want to write about Italy? Have you visited?
Italy is one of my favourite places to visit. We were lucky enough to take a trip to Florence last summer where we explored the city, all the wonderful little nooks and crannies, and ate some wonderful food too – the gelato is to die for! My favourite was saffron flavoured, I didn’t fancy the marmite and walnut flavour for some reason! Whilst we were there, a Hollywood movie was being filmed around the streets and famous monuments which was fun to watch. It was really strange seeing movie directors hanging from helicopters over Il Duomo!
Florence has a special place in my heart too, Daisy. But, I never came across Marmite gelato in the 70s. Yuck! I spent a year there as part of my university degree, when I was twenty. In fact, I fell in love with a handsome Florentine who drove me all over Tuscany in his Alfa Romeo Spyder. I lived in a tiny flat with a view over the terracotta tiles, near the station. Not a particularly desirable area at that time, (a bit of a red-light district, if I’m honest), but I learnt lots of Italian! Later, I realised I hadn’t been in love with my handsome boy – I’d been in love with Italy and that continues.
My next question concerns your writing. I have lots of indie author friends and they are always interested in how people come to be published. How did you get with Canelo?
I’m really fortunate to have my novels published by the people at Canelo. Everyone there is incredibly supportive, friendly and approachable. I saw a call-out for submissions a couple of years ago and thought I’d nothing to lose so I sent of my manuscript for The Paradise Cookery School – set in the gorgeous Caribbean – which is the first of the books I had published with them. I was fortunate enough to have it accepted by my wonderful editor there, Louise Cullen, and I have a new series this year – Villa Limoncello which is set in Tuscany – the second of which is due out in June.
What other books have you written and how did you come to writing?
Apart from my two series with Canelo, I have standalone novels published by HQStories who were my very first publishers. I’ve been writing since I could hold a pen, sketching pictures to go with my stories and then binding the paper with string to make them look like books! I wrote throughout my teenage years, but stopped whilst I was at university, then started again when I had my family – just short stories at first. I wrote my first full-length novel in 2012 and it’s still in a shoe box on top of my wardrobe where it’s definitely going to stay! My next was The Runaway Bridesmaid which was my first published novel, set in New York and Devon.
I wonder if you will ever develop that story stashed in the shoe box! Maybe modify it, use some passages for another book? They say you should never throw anything away!
For anybody who has never visited Italy before, where would you recommend?
Gosh, that’s a really difficult question! There are so many wonderful places – Florence, Siena, Pisa, San Gimignano are all amazing places to spend time and I thoroughly enjoyed our trip there last year. I also love the south of Italy too – I had a fabulous break in Sorrento a while ago, and especially enjoyed the boat trip over to Capri – the views were stunning! However, top of my list for a first timer would have to be Venice. My tip would be to catch the train and arrive at the station, then to simply wander around the streets and soak up the atmosphere rather than rushing from one tourist attraction to the next. I went when I was a student, so we couldn’t afford to visit these places, but I think I found more of the real Venice this way. I’d love to go back!
I need to return too. The last time I visited Venice was when I was eleven. But, we are very busy in our six months here with our holiday guests in our converted watermill. This September, we are running a Writing Week for the second time, so time slips away in a flash. The best thing to do would be to mark free weeks at the beginning of the season on our calendar and then take off to explore. Last year, we visited the Abruzzo region. Wild and beautiful too, but afflicted by earthquakes, unfortunately.
Daisy, what are your three top writing tips?
Read, read, read.
Write, write, write.
Never give up – rejections, although difficult, are part of the journey.
I agree with you. Plus, when you’re writing, try not to edit as you go along. There’s a danger of blocking yourself. Chop, change and restructure afterwards. For me, it’s probably the hardest part of writing. But, so important.
Do you have a picture of where you write?
When it’s warm – I love to write in my little summerhouse (aka: shed!)
That is so cute! I’m trying to imagine what it’s like inside… tidy? No internet for distraction? A kettle and mug for tea or coffee? A bottle and opener for celebrating when the writing flows? A comfy chair for sitting in when reading over what you’ve created? Or is it untidy and that’s why you don’t want to show us?
It’s been great fun chatting. I could do with a glass of Limoncello right now… in fact, I think I’ll have one by my side when I manage to find time to read your book. Before you go, tell us something we would never guess about you!
When I’m not writing, I like nothing better than to spend time on the archery field!
That’s original. Hope to catch up with you soon! A presto and thank you. Mille grazie! Good luck with your books.
Here are a few more facts about Daisy and you can click on the links below to see her book.
Daisy James is a Yorkshire girl transplanted to the north east of England. She loves writing stories with strong heroines and swift-flowing plotlines. When not scribbling away in her peppermint-and-green summerhouse (garden shed), she spends her time sifting flour and sprinkling sugar and edible glitter. She loves gossiping with friends over a glass of something pink and fizzy or indulging in a spot of afternoon tea – china plates and tea cups are a must!
Escape to Villa Limoncello… where dreams come true in the most unexpected ways.
Izzie Jenkins never expected to find herself living in a gorgeous oasis in Tuscany but when life gives you Villa Limoncello you say thank you and bake treats to celebrate!
Izzie and debonair chef Luca Castelotti are officially setting up shop together but when their inaugural ‘Pasta and Painting’ venture is sabotaged and one of their guests poisoned they’re forced to turn detective. Because if they can’t find the culprit, they’ll be out of business before they’ve even begun…
A gorgeous holiday read.