Author Spotlight and Giveaway: Phillipa Fioretti…

Welcome to the Author Spotlight, Phillipa and congratulations on the release of ‘For One Night Only’. Could you tell us a little bit about it?

For One Night Only is the story of a budding romance disrupted by a terrifying turn of events which throws the lovers into a maelstrom from which it seems they will never escape, or not with their lives.

The lovers are Ornella, a young Sicilian-Australian actress, who is visiting Sicily before going onto Rome for her big break – a screen test at Cinécitta Studios. While staying in the glamorous town of Taormina she meets a handsome young British archaeologist, Hugh, who is excavating a newly discovered, ancient Roman mosaic under an old palazzo. Fascinated by one another, they spend a day on the island of Stromboli doing an organised hike up the live volcano, and then a passionate night together on the island. But in the morning Hugh disappears.

Ornella is faced with a terrible choice, leave for Rome and a career opportunity she’ll never get again. Or try to find Hugh in a place where everyone is grappling with austerity and corruption, a place where antiquities and mosaics are as valuable as gold to criminal enterprises and a place where those who stand in the way of these criminals can vanish, sometimes forever.

I had so much fun writing this book, even though the story is hair-raising at times! Ornella has been a delight to create, and Hugh is everything you’d want a rugged and sexy young archaeologist to be, and more. Putting them together has been like a little party on my screen each day. It’s hard to let them go and part of me can’t, so I am thinking about a sequel.

Cover. For One Night Only

Prior to becoming an author you lectured in art and were a practising artist. How has this inspired your work?

My mother, indirectly, inspired me to become an artist, a career that ultimately led me to writing. She had a great eye for beautiful things, she was always noticing a plant in full bloom or an interesting piece of ceramics or fabric, she loved beautiful interiors and dresses, smartly dressed women, antiques and so on. When she saw something she liked she’d always draw our attention to it. She taught me and my sister that housework is about arranging flowers and hanging paintings, the rest of it is boring and get through it as quick as you can.

My formal training and experience in art practice and education honed the processes my mother had unintentionally begun. When you learn a new language, like writing or painting, you take that training with you wherever you go and it colours your way of being in the world. It’s like a doctor noticing a lesion on the face of a stranger in a cafe, or a writer noting the rhythm of a conversation. If you have a bit of art training you notice shadow and space, pattern and form, texture, scale and so on. It’s more about being shaped to think that way.

The inspiration comes from a complex and unknowable melding of background, training, experience and memory.

Classical Rome and the ancient worlds are clearly your passion, do you think that is the secret to a commitment to writing – passion?

I do. Writing a book is a long game and you have to love playing that game to be able to sustain the energy, interest and optimism.  It’s isolating work, frequently rejected, criticised or ignored, and encounters with the business end of things can be confronting at best. This is just the nature of the leisure industries – art, books, film, music – they’re all similar. But if you are fierce in your love for the work itself,  then it can become the bedrock of your resilience.

Without that drive and passion the job of writing a book would be hellish, absolutely not worth the effort and probably impossible to write a good one. I always experience a little shiver of anticipatory pleasure when I sit down to work. I get a hunger for it after a few days of not writing. If ever that hunger disappears I’ll know it’s time to move on. But I hope it never happens.

You write of very detailed worlds in your books – food, fashion, art – how important are these finer details in relation to setting?

I think they are very important. The choices people make in what they eat, wear, view and the objects they have in their homes tell you an enormous amount about who they are and what values they hold.

Detail provides clues to character and place. Detail such as the way the light falls, the ambient sounds, the smell of toothpaste, the way a character’s expensive shoes pinch her toes, his five o’clock shadow at ten in the morning, the dent in the car, the stains on the tablecloth – all of these speak to the reader of a place, a feeling, a mood, and help thicken the story and pull the reader further in.

The detail must be thought through carefully for what it adds, or conflicts with or amplifies. Nothing can go in if it doesn’t somehow carry its weight in telling the story.

Cover. The Fragment of Dreams

In 2008 you participated in the Hachette Manuscript Development Program. What was that experience like? How much did you benefit from it?

It was a formative experience and I was lucky to be selected for it. When I was told that my application had been a success I’d say it was the most exciting moment of my writing life. Writing is a solitary experience and getting a perspective on your work is difficult. And so for a publisher, who sifts through hundreds of manuscripts a year and is paid for their judgement, to detect something in my work which they felt was worth developing, well, let’s say it was a bigger moment than ‘the call.’

The manuscript went on to be published as The Book of Love and it did very well. So needless to say I benefited enormously from the program. But it wasn’t just the publishing. It was an opportunity, a gift of time – time to work, time to listen and talk and think and to focus on the manuscript and nothing else. I made friends with the other participants, all talented writers. I learned more about how the writing/publishing industry works as well as about the craft of writing. I think the Hachette/QWC program was one of the first publisher sponsored development programs. It demonstrated, and still does, local publishing’s commitment to Australian writers. It’s definitely worth entering.

Cover.The Book of Love

What authors / books have impacted you the most?

There’s been so many it’s hard to single out the big favourites, but the authors who spring to mind are Maggie O’Farrell, Edith Wharton, Daphne Du Maurier, E.M. Forster, Sebastian Faulks, and the list could go on for page after page. I can’t name a most favourite book, author, film or actor, there have been so many and to choose one would be unfair to the others.

What is your writing space like?

A bit of a mess. But I’m lucky, I have a whole room to myself. It’s piled high with books, papers and general stuff that I really should do something about.

What do you do for fun when you’re not busy working?

When I’m not writing I can be found parenting/washing/shopping/cooking and generally facilitating family life.  Fun is interesting people, cities, books, music and I’m a film addict with a bad binge TV viewing habit. Mad Men, The Wire, Breaking Bad, Parade’s End, House of Cards, put any of these on the television and I can watch up to five episodes at a time if somebody brings me a cup of tea now and then. 

Your books have been translated into different languages. Do you, as the author, have much to do with that process?

In a word, no.

It’s a very proud moment to hear of your book’s success but that’s about the extent of author involvement. I might have had an extra biscuit with my cup of tea after the emails informing me of a sale, woken the dog and shared the news and then gone back to slogging away at the keyboard.

The Australian publisher and I were shown the covers as a courtesy – we have no right of veto – the translations went ahead, again, nothing to do with us, money exchanges hands and if the book has not earned out its Australian advance any foreign advances and royalties will go towards paying this off. If the advance has earned out then the author gets a generous percentage of the foreign advance and royalties, which are usually quite modest. I receive ten copies of the book once it goes on sale.

Foreign rights sales is a fairly specialized area of publishing and most big publishers have personnel who deal exclusively with these sales. They have agents around the world who attend book fairs, who are familiar with the reputable publishers, who understand contractual terms and can advise the author and their home publisher on the various intricacies involved.

One thing foreign publishers aren’t terribly interested in is the author – unless you are a global phenomenon or a celebrity. Fiction is hard to sell anyway and if you can’t talk to your new Norwegian or Serbian speaking readers you aren’t much use to them.

Phillipa.Fioretti

Lastly, could you give us a sneaky peek at one of your favourite parts of ‘For One Night Only’, please?

Villas clung to the steep hill, facing the sea, half of them decorated with small satellite dishes for television reception. All the villas nearby had iron fences but the Palazzo Calafato was enclosed by a tall wire fence, topped with coils of razor wire, its heavy gates held shut by a massive padlock.

“Gosh, what do you do at this palazzo?” Ornella asked.

“I’m an archaeologist. We’re excavating beneath part of the palazzo. The owners want to develop the site into a luxury hotel, but there’s some material here they have to deal with first.”

“What sort of material?”

“I can’t tell you.”

“Because then you’d have to kill me, right?”

“I’d make sure it was a very pleasurable death,” he said, reached inside his shirt and withdrew a key on a long leather string. He unlocked the padlock and opened the gate. She stepped past him and he caught the faint scent of magnolia, luxurious and female. He was not supposed to allow strangers on the site. They’d shown visitors over the mosaic before, visitors who had been referred by reliable sources, and he didn’t know Ornella—she could be the mastermind behind an international smuggling ring. He glanced down, noting the way her thin, sweat-damp, cotton dress clung to her body in an unbearably enticing way, and suddenly he didn’t give a toss.

Three stories high and topped with a turreted roof, the palazzo sat amid an unkempt garden of flowering oleander, umbrella pines and palm trees. Beyond the palazzo lay the glittering silver blue of the Bay of Naxos and above, in the distance, loomed the volcanic Mount Etna, lending the decaying opulence of the palazzo a frisson of danger.

“It’s beautiful,” Ornella said. “Like a fancy birthday cake everyone forgot to eat.”

“Definitely crumbling at the edges,” he said. “There are a couple more levels lower down the hill. They’re locked up and we’re working around the back of this ground level.”

 You can connect with Phillipa on:

Website

Blog

Facebook

Twitter

Phillipa is kindly giving away one e-copy of her release, ‘For One Night Only’. To be in the draw to win, just answer the following question in the comments section:

 Ornella and Hugh share a love of Sword and Sandals movies. These movies are mostly set in the ancient Greek or Roman world and can be a little bit cheesy, although lots of fun. Which Sword and Sandals actor do you love? From which film, and why?

It could be Richard Burton or Rex Harrison from Cleopatra, Charlton Heston or  Jack Hawkins from Ben Hur, the young Tony Curtis or Kirk Douglas from Spartacus, Russel Crowe from Gladiator, Brad Pitt or Eric Bana from Troy, Marlon Brando as Julius Caesar or Michael Fassbender in Centurion or any other actor you care to nominate.

This competition is open worldwide and will be draw on February 11, 2014.

 

 

 

 

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7 Comments

  1. Russell Crowe from Gladiator. The line ‘husband of murdered wife, father of a murdered son…’ gives me goosebumps every time. Like *every* time. Good luck with the new book Phillipa.

    Reply
  2. Oh yes! My favourite too. He’s so damn noble yet … yet … so animal sexy. I think I watch that film every year and, like you, I get all goosebumply. I also like the female lead, she can really hold the screen, and Joaquin Phoenix is a superb baddie. It really has everything as a Sword and Sandals classic.

    Reply
  3. Just watched Gladiator recently and I have to agree with Lily – Russel Crowe. Goosebumps for sure. (We named our scarecrow Rustle Crow after him… what an honour!)

    Reply
  4. Must be one hell of a muscular scarecrow, unleashing hell on all the marauding teutonic birds!

    Reply
  5. What a lovely cover your new book has, Phillipa! An absolute grabber. And the story is right up my street.
    Well, Gladiator is my all-time favorite movie, but I can’t say it’s because I find Russell Crowe overly attractive. He DOES do a fantastic job, naturally. But for a more tasty Roman, my vote goes to Mads Mikkelsen or Ioan Gruffydd in the (rather awful) King Arthur movie.

    Reply
  6. Mmm Mads Mikkelsen … I like the cut of his jib. I haven’t seen King Arthur but I’m sure Mikkelson does Roman very well. I saw him recently in a film called The Hunter. It’s a good film.

    Reply

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