Last week I reviewed the debut novel from Australian author, Vanessa Carnevale – The Florentine Bridge. I was fortunate enough to read a review copy of the novel, and I absolutely loved it. I was also lucky enough that Vanessa was happy to be interviewed and asked a few questions about her novel, her writing process, and her advice for aspiring writers.
Vanessa, like so many other Australian authors, is so giving with her time and enthusiasm for readers and the writing community. Not only is she an amazing author, but she also is the founder of Your Creative Life podcast which she co-hosts with Kim Foster, a freelance writer, a writing coach, and only recently held her first writing retreat – in Tuscany to say the least!
So without any further ado, here is Vanessa talking about her novel The Florentine Bridge. (Click here to read my review first)
Where the first seed of idea for The Florentine Bridge from?
Before I sat down to write this book, I had no idea what I was actually going to write. All I had was the setting, and then I literally just started writing about a young woman, by the name of Mia, who was an aspiring artist who had lost her motivation to paint and was facing some challenges after having gone through cancer. I literally followed her journey on the page to see where it would take me and after six weeks I had a first draft.
Although still young, Mia is quite a complex character. How did the character of Mia come to you?
Mia’s personality unfolded organically on the page. As writers, empathy is one of our best tools to be able to create these kinds of characters, so I found myself going to that raw place of trying to imagine what it might be like to have gone through a traumatic event like cancer at such a young age, considering how it might impact not only Mia but her family, the way she sees the world, and her artistic expression. I wrote this story in first person which gave me the opportunity to really immerse myself in Mia’s point of view.
How much research went into writing the book for things such as setting, painting, and Mia’s health issues? And how did you gather your research and put it in to the story?
I was quite familiar with the setting, having spent several years living and working in Florence in my early twenties, and I still travel back there fairly often. Because I travelled to Italy at a young age like Mia, I was able to look back on that experience and draw from it. As far as art goes, I’ve always been fascinated with stories of the Renaissance and the Medici family, so researching the art and architecture was a pleasure. I’d visited galleries like the Uffizi, so took lots of photos on my last trip there, but I also watched documentaries about the history, art and architecture of Florence. I also spent some time exploring my own creativity, experimenting with watercolour so I could get a sense of what it feels like to translate things onto paper with a brush and paint.
You paint a beautiful picture of Tuscany throughout the novel, how important was the actual setting and location of the story to you?
The setting was integral to the story in that Italy has all the qualities of a slow life, a life that gives one the chance to self-reflect and rediscover, which is exactly what Mia needed in order to overcome her challenges. Travelling in general usually gives us the time and space to reconnect with ourselves so I tapped into that as well. Also, Florence, the birthplace of the Renaissance, seemed like the perfect backdrop to place an artistic character like Mia, who would not only feel inspired again but could really take notice of the architecture and her surroundings. This allowed me to give the reader the experience of what it might be like to enter a rustic Tuscan kitchen, or devour traditional Italian dishes, or smell the fresh lemons on the Amalfi Coast. As I wrote the book, I felt like I was being transported back to Italy, so hopefully readers experience this as well. I wanted readers who hadn’t travelled to Italy before, get a real sense of what life over there is really like.
You said you never intended to write a love story, but Luca appeared forcing his way into Mia’s story! Did you have things plotted out otherwise, or were you writing your way into the story to see what evolved?
He absolutely did! Once it became apparent that this was going to be a love story, the major plot point towards the latter part of the story came to me. I didn’t quite know how the story would end at that point, but I knew exactly where it was heading and how that crucial moment would unfold.
The story explores such a wide range of emotions and personal struggles. Is this something that came organically when writing, or did you have to work at pulling the emotion and the story together?
It did come organically when writing, (though revision also helped strengthen many of the scenes) and I did experience a range of emotions as I wrote the book. In particular, the flashback scenes made me cry and I still feel emotional when I read over them. I think that fear of dying or losing a loved one is a universal theme that most of us have at some point, contemplated at least, and I think most people can relate to fears of uncertainty and not being able to control the future, especially during difficult times. These topics are emotionally charged in and of themselves. The Florentine Bridge ultimately is a story filled with hope and reaffirms that even if we can’t control the future, life is about making the most of precious moments.
Can you tell us about your next project or current work in progress?
Yes! I’ve just sent off my second book to my publisher. Another love story, this book is set on a flower farm, and it looks not only at the healing power of nature, but also explores the question of fate vs destiny and how our memories shape us by exploring the question, if you had your time over, would you live the same life twice?
What advice would you have for aspiring authors?
If you have the desire to write, follow it, trust it, and no matter the ups and downs, try to enjoy it.
A huge thank you to Vanessa Carnevale for such a wonderful insight into her writing processes, it was a pleasure.
If you’d like to purchase a copy of The Florentine Bridge, please check out Booktopia.
If you’d like to connect with Vanessa, you can find her at: www.vanessacarnevale.com.au