Saturday, 9 July 2011

Words with... Annarita Guarnieri

Thanks to Annarita Guarnieri for this interview

How long have you been writing?

Well, actually I’ve been writing all my life, at an amateur level. In the Eighties I used to write inside the Star Trek universe and I was publishing on an Italian Star Trek fanzine. A couple of my works even won amateur awards. A short story about Spock, How do you Feel, won the award as best amateur short story and a short novel, The Caves of Arcadia, was classified third-best amateur novel. Then I had a “black hole” period… a lot of changes in my life prevented me from writing for a long time. Recently, I've picked up my pen again and I’ve written a few short stories, and I’m working on a couple of novels too. One of my short stories will be published in September in an anthology here in Italy. It's an ironic vampire story, Till the Sun Part Us.

Do you have a day job or do you write for a living?

You could say my job and my hobby are the same thing, Vickie. I’m a translator; have been since 1979, when I sold my very first translation while still attending University. Of course, I chose this profession because books are one of the great loves of my life, and being a translator allows me to read (and thus learn non-stop from other writers) and allows me to play with what I call “the music of words”. I’m tone deaf when it comes to singing, but when I work or write, words sing to me.

What do you feel is the ideal recipe for a good novel/story/poem?

This is a difficult question, Vickie, because I suppose each writer has his/her recipe. Moreover, the recipe may change from one work to the other. When I write a short story, for example, I love to build up a crescendo and then give the reader a surprise in the end, something totally different from what he/she is expecting. With a novel, things are different; since they have a wider breadth, I try to give the reader something of a “view”. What I mean is that I look at my story as at a movie… there must be eye-catching scenarios, a good plot to hook the reader and interesting characters. I suppose this is the recipe, in the end.

What/who inspired you to write and still inspires you?

Well, I suppose it all stems from my love for books. I was taught to read by my mother when I was 5 years old, and the first things I ever read were comic strips they sold here in Italy at the time. They were about famous novels, such as the Jungle Book by Kipling, or Gargantua, or even Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Taming of the Shrew. So I was introduced to the classics when I was still very young, and from there I went on reading the children editions of Iliad, Odyssey and Aeneid. Perhaps my love for fantasy and epic was born there. Growing up, I discovered other worlds, other genres (adventure, historical novels, science fiction and, at last, fantasy). My favourite authors, those who have been with me all my life, are a few. An Italian writer, Emilio Salgari, who lived at the beginning of the Twentieth Century and wrote almost a hundred adventure books. Among others, he created the characters of the Black Corsair, and of Sandokan and Yanez (my favorites); then there were Zane Grey (he wrote western books) and Raphael Sabatini (historical books). But the writer I admire the most, the one who informed my writing in the last decade, was David Gemmell. I have read all his books and translated most of them. He was a great writer.

What books have you written? Do you stick to one genre?

I suppose I already answered to this, but there is something I can add. No, I do not seem able to stick to one genre, even if I still love fantasy best. The novel I’m working at is a gothic, somewhat historical novel set in Italy in the year 1200. It should be the first of a trilogy, with the second novel set at the beginning of the Twentieth Century and the third one a contemporary one. I also have a fantasy novel, one third of which has already been written, closed in my drawer. I may go on, sooner or later. My short stories cover different genres too. One is a comic fantasy story (Save the Tiger), another is a sort of Twilight Zone story (The Room), the third is a short version of the gothic novel I’m writing (The Demon of Duino), and then there is the vampire story I already mentioned. Oh, and I also wrote four booklets about cats… suggestions about how to take care of them, all mixed up with amusing anecdotes coming from sharing my life with cats for over 19 years. They have been published in Italian, but I’m planning to translate them into English too.

How long did it take you to write your book/s?

I cannot really give a precise answer for I work at my writing in between translations, and since I translate a book a month this doesn’t leave much free time. I can give an estimate about the short stories… it takes me a day, two at most, to put one together… and about the booklets, which required more or less five days of work each. My first, real novel is still at the stage of “work in progress”, however.

Do you have any works in progress?
Yes, my “Demon” trilogy. Right now I’m working at the first book, The Golden Pendant, and I already have a title for the second book, The Cursed Icon. I still have to find a title for the third one, however.

Which character from your books do you like most/are most like?
This is difficult to say. I suppose the character I love best is the prince from the fantasy book I have in my drawer, Kilnar. He’s young and carefree, and he’ll have to grow up fast to keep his reign and his world together. Perhaps he’s also the one who is most like me too, for, like me, he comes from a mixed stock and has to deal with that. Usually, however, it’s difficult to find anything of myself in just one of my characters.

Where and when do you write­ – do you have set times during which you write or is it just when the mood takes you?

Well, I write when I find the time to do it, usually at night, unless I have a deadline to meet (as it was with the booklets) because then I set aside the translations and work non-stop on what I have to write. As for where… well, it depends on the season and the weather. Having a laptop, I can work where I please, so if it’s really cold I stay holed up in the kitchen; if it’s sunny but still cool outside I migrate to my bedroom, with its wide, arched windows, and in the summer I work on the patio.

Have you ever based a character on someone from real life? Has the person guessed?

No, I never did, even if I suppose people I know crop up somehow in what I write, since we are the sum of our experiences, and therefore also of the people we know.

How do you find the marketing experience? Any advice for other writers? Do you use a blog or twitter, etc?

Since I haven’t published any books as yet, I cannot really answer to this question. And I do not have a blog, just an author page on Facebook, Annarita.autore.guarnieri

One day you’re walking in the forest and you bump into an alien librarian from Mars. He wants five book recommendations from you…

Oh, this is rather easy. The difficult part is to stop at just five titles. Let’s see… The Lord of the Rings, of course, then Legend, by David Gemmell, The Intervention, by Julian May, Captain Blood, by Raphael Sabatini, and Nevada, by Zane Grey. Those are my favourites, but I had to think hard to keep the list down to just five titles.

Some of your fave things: Animal? Food? Drink? Film? Colour? Band? Song? Place to chill out?

Okay, this could be a long answer. I simply adore cats, I have 34 of them… or should I say they have me? And I also have a big Belgian shepherd called Shine, so I suppose you can say I love animals, even if I have a big preference for cats. Food is not among my favorite things; I eat because I have to, but I love to cook for other people. The only thing I drink is coffee, lots of it, but I also like a good glass of wine if I’m out with friends. Films have been very good company for all my life, but I’m partial to adventure movies because when I watch a movie I simply want to relax, to know the good guys are going to beat the hell out of the bad guys, and that good and justice will prevail, as it often doesn’t happen in the real world. I have many colours I like, but my favourite is green, which happens to also be the colour of my Zodiac sign, Libra. When it comes to songs, my tastes are a little quaint… I like the American music from the Forties and Fifties (Sinatra, Dean Martin, etc) and Folk and Western songs, but what I really adore are soundtracks. My favorite composer is the Italian Ennio Morricone (A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, etc), but I like Jerry Goldsmith and James Horner too. As for places to chill out, well… a nice beach or swimming pool, where to bask in the sun and in the water, or a nice stretch of country where I can go horseriding.

Which book do you wish you had written?

The Drenai Saga, by David Gemmell, of course.

Who is your favourite character from any book and why?

I have three favourite characters, and all of them share one thing in common. They are very strong men, with a big charisma and a big potential for good or evil, and both have gone bad, but in some way or the other redeemed themselves in the end. What I love is the strength of character they have. The first one is Omne, from The Price of the Phoenix and The Fate of the Phoenix, By Sondra Marshak and Myrna Culbreath; the second one is Mark Remillard from the Intervention Saga, by Julian May; the third one is a character created by an Italian writer and a good friend, Adriana Comaschi - he is Valmar d’Aurel, Mage and then Duke of Norlandy, from her Duke of Norlandy Saga (unfortunately, it’s still in Italian, and I do not know if it will ever be translated, for it is made of six books, 500 pages each, more or less).

Which three authors (living or not) would you like to take to the pub?

J.R.R. Tolkien, Julian May (I actually did LOL) and David Gemmell.

What other hobbies/interests do you have or has writing taken over?

Well, I have so many interests I cannot find time for them all. I love gardening, and the do-it-yourself thing (I adore building things with my hands), I like to go horseriding and to swim, and to go trekking on foot in the mountains. But I suppose cats and books are my main interest, together with my companion.

What would you like to achieve in the next five years?

I’d really love to be able to finish and publish at least my gothic trilogy, and to put together an anthology of short stories. I’d also like to finish my fantasy novel, but since it has been in the drawer for a very long time, and the one-third I’ve already written is handwritten and has to be typed, I do not know if I’ll ever manage it.

If you won the Lotto, what would you do with all it?

It’s easy to answer. First and foremost, I’d give financial security to my two daughters, of course. Then I’d give a big present to my vet and good friend, who has been an incommensurable help to me during the last nine years. This said, it depends on the amount of my win. If it were a really BIG amount, I’d create a foundation for homeless cats. And of course I’d personally enjoy whatever was left, together with my companion.

Please complete this story in 100 words or less…
There was a young frog called Kipper, who was very nosy. He always ventured where he should not. His mother kept scolding him about that, to no avail. One day he wandered farther than usual, into an unknown garden. There was a nice pool and a lot of grass, and by the pool there was an odd black ball. Curious as ever, Kipper jumped nearer and nearer. The black ball opened a yellow eye, and a claw shot forward…
I hope you’ll like it. I’m not good at children’s tales…

Finally, what question do you wish I’d asked and, of course, what is the answer?

I cannot think of anything, Vickie! You really covered it all!!!


  1. Great interview. This is a lady with a lot of irons in the fire. How she does it all I will never know. I like that she loves animals and that she loves helping writers.

  2. Great interview, Vickie! Informative and fun to read and get to know Annarita (always nice to learn of a fellow Star Trek fan!)a bit better.


Thanks for commenting - have a kitty cool day! :)