Why did you set the plot in Italy, or rather, in the most stunning medieval towns of Tuscany (Florence and San Gimignano, in the district of Siena)?
The history, art and architecture of Florence and San Gimignano played perfectly with the story. I’m drawn to the people of Italy: their emotive gestures, their passion for life, and their culture drenched in history, not to mention their fabulous food and coffee! The medieval castles and towns dotted among the Tuscan hills, the mountains of Northern Italy, and the coastal town of Ventimiglia, are perfect locations for the Allegiance to be based.
You were born in a very little town: Pyramid Hill, Victoria, Australia and spent your childhood in Tasmania, where your family relocated when you were four years old. Later, you lived in London and Los Angeles. Why do you love Italy so much if your roots are overseas?
There are certain cities in the world where I feel grounded: Florence is one, and Melbourne and Vienna too. Plus all three cities have incredible coffee! When I was a little girl growing up in Australia, I used to dream of living somewhere cosmopolitan; taste food from other cultures, see how others dressed, listen to their languages, etc., and so I think that’s one of the reasons I first settled in London, and later in Los Angeles. When I arrived in L.A. in 1982, the city was like a melting pot of culture, and I loved it. I still do. But L.A. is a young city and as such, does not hold the collective history like the city of Florence.
By the way, to write a book or an article, is it better to live in a little and silent town or in a big and crowded city?
Personally, I believe that to write, one can live anywhere. What matters most, is keeping your heart open and your mind focused. I enjoy country and urban life for they both have characters and stories lurking everywhere. I use my iPhone to take photos constantly while I’m out and about, and draw from these when I’m writing. I also carry journals so I can write anywhere, and it’s comforting to write away from a keyboard. When life gets too noisy, I use earplugs!
Do you write full-time? If so, what’s your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
At the end of the 2014 school year I stopped teaching full-time high school art and theater to focus on writing The Creatives Series. When I’m in the early phase of research and jotting down notes on legal pads, I take the time to write everyday, if not on my current book then an essay, blog post, or a piece of poetry. Writing is no different from exercise; if I go a day without using my creative muscles then it hurts like hell when I get back to it! I think my creative essence goes into mourning when I don’t reach out to her and put her to good use. Sometimes I paint instead of writing, but in reality, for me, this is an essential part of my creative process. I paint my nightly dreams, and have found this action pushes ideas past the clutter in my brain and storylines become clearer.
When I’m in full-blown hurricane-force writing mode, I find it difficult to stop writing. I think eighteen hours straight, stopping only to feed my much-loved dog, Cash, and cat, Luna, is my record for a full day of writing. That same evening I fell into bed, slept for four hours, and then repeated the same pattern for five consecutive days. From other creative people I’ve spoken with, this kind of schedule is fairly normal. When I’m on a roll and the characters are talking to me, time flies by without me knowing and I’m like a mad woman possessed! Those days are magical ☺
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
My desk and office are kind of out-of-bounds to anyone; this isn’t much of a problem due to the utter chaos of the entire area! Luna sits in a basket on my desk, like a kind of writing guardian – she is my Thalia (read A Secret Muse and you’ll understand what I mean). I need absolute quiet to write, and with a husband who writes and records music at the other end of the house, I’ve found that earplugs are essential. Because writing means I sit on my backside for hours on end, I tend to walk Cash early in the morning and either swim, or attend dance classes five times a week. Obviously when I’m in the middle of a full-on writing binge my exercise schedule suffers – and so do I. When I hit a brick wall it’s normally an indicator that I need to step away from my desk and exercise. Some of the most important plots of my stories have come to me while either swimming or hiking.