Author Interview: Phillipa Fioretti

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Phillipa Fioretti is an Australian author and has just completed her debut novel, “The Book of Love”. We decided to find out more about the writer behind the book in this recent interview:

Tell us about your book, “The Book of Love”….

The Book of Love is a mystery, a romantic and sometimes funny adventure set in Sydney and Italy. It’s intelligent but light and when I wrote it I had in mind many of my friends – smart working women, juggling careers and family and not wanting to flop down at the end of the day with a copy of The Economist.

The story begins in Lily and Robbie’s antiquarian bookshop in Sydney, when, in a shipment of old books from Nairobi; Robbie discovers a rare and valuable book documenting Classical Roman erotica. With only four in existence, and valued at twenty million dollars, he is determined to sell it, despite Lily’s suggestion that they return it to the Italian Government.

Only days after finding the book, the enigmatic William, employed by a Fine Arts firm in London to retrieve stolen art works, visits Lily and Robbie. He’s traced the book to their shop but before he can convince Robbie to hand it over, Robbie and the book disappear. Lily doesn’t know where he’s gone and is thrown into an alliance with William in race against time to find Robbie – and the book – before the real owner does. And while obviously attracted to each other, William doesn’t trust Lily, nor does Lily trust William. And with good reason ….

How did you get started as a writer?

I started by writing down an anecdote I’d heard about speed dating that I thought was very funny. I just wrote the dialogue as I imagined it could be – and it took off from there.

You got your big break from the QLD Writer’s Centre / Hachette Manuscript Development Program, can you tell us how this came about?

As I was finishing up my third manuscript – The Book of Love – I saw an ad for the Hachette Livre/Queensland Writers Centre Manuscript Development Program 2008. Applications were open to all Australian commercial fiction writers. Eight were selected, including myself, and we attended a five-day retreat with two publishers from Hachette, an agent, a published writer, a bookseller and the head of the QWC.

We attended seminars on how the industry works, had one to one feedback sessions with the publishers, time to work on our manuscripts and make the improvements suggested. It was a brilliant opportunity and a great five days.

We were all told at the start that no one would be offered a contract straight away, but to submit the improved manuscripts when ready. There were no guarantees because, of course, the manuscripts had to go to an acquisitions meeting and run the gauntlet of sales and marketing. I was very fortunate to be offered a two-book contract a few months later.

Where do you get your inspiration?

Life, friends, films, paintings, books, memories, people watching, travelling, family, music, non fiction books, museums, supermarkets – just about anywhere.

Who is your favourite author right now?

Kate Atkinson

Do you ever suffer from writer’s block, and if so how do you combat it?

Not really. I have good writing days and bad writing days, and if I’m stuck I go for a walk or do something else, but I always go back and write – anything, just keep at it.

Where do you like to work?

In my study.

How does your family feel about you being a published author?

Some were astonished but all my family are proud and happy for me.

What is next for Phillipa Fioretti?

More writing, more reading, and then more writing. I have about a dozen ideas I’d like to explore, all in romantic comedy/adventure. I’ll be spending some time in France and Germany later this year and I’ll be interested to see what comes out of the trip as regards stories and ideas.

What made you decide to write romantic comedy?

When I decided to try writing, I wasn’t sure whether I’d enjoy it. A writer spends a lot of time in their head and I didn’t want to dwell in a dark place day after day. I didn’t want to write literary fiction, nor science fiction or fantasy. I don’t like gory autopsy thrillers – so that pretty much narrowed the field.

I enjoy writing lighter fiction and find it a better, healthier headspace to be in than something deeper and perhaps not so funny. I like romantic comedy – I think it can be done with intelligence and wit, and there is enormous scope for plot, atmosphere, dialogue, humour and best of all, characters.

Do you have any advice for young writers thinking about writing a novel?

Be clear about whether or not you want to write commercial genre fiction or literary fiction, research what’s already in the bookshops, be professional in all your dealings with the publishing industry and work hard – and I mean very hard, because that’s what it takes.

What does being a woman mean to you?

Now that’s a very big question, and a tough one to answer – but I’ll have a go.

My experience of being a woman, and I’m only talking about me – is about a deep creative urge, for children, to grow things, to feed and nurture, to make and care for, to bring things into being – a home, fruit, stories, love, puppies (never again), meals, vegetables, paintings and prints, children, all these and more.

It’s not what I thought my life would be like as a teenager, but I’ve always been drawn back to this creative core. I see that now; see the femaleness of it and I value the satisfaction and meaning it’s brought to me.

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