Interview: Phillipa Fioretti

What a treat for cupcake’s book cupboard! Author Phillipa Fioretti, who wrote For One Night Only, answered some questions regarding her newest novel and writing process.

For One Night OnlyA warning, though. If you have not read For One Night Only – and WHY HAVEN’T YOU READ IT YET?? – this interview does contain spoilers.

Please do read her book. It’s fantastic. And as you can see from the interview, she is, too.

How did you research Hugh’s background in archaeology?

I studied archaeology at uni when I left school and many years later did a postgrad in Museum Studies so I know enough, in general, about archaeology to know where to look for detailed information. I am a whiz at finding what I want on the Internet and tracking down the right information becomes an obsession. I did have to read some scholarly articles, but the research is all part of the fun. I love it.

How important was Italy as the setting for this story? It’s difficult to imagine it being set elsewhere.

I’ve loved Italy since I was a teenager and saw some Lina Wertmuller films set in Italy. I was entranced by what I saw on the screen. It was so European and exotic, so civilized and pagan and sophisticated and full of history. Unlike suburban Sydney where I grew up! So Italy has always been important to me. I married an Italian eventually and I love being there, so it was a matter of personal preference. But the story could be set in any part of the Mediterranean, any part that has remnants of the Roman Empire and endemic corruption. Which leaves a lot of places!

When you began writing what did you want to happen to Hugh and Ornella’s romance?

I knew they’d get together at the end. They have to as the genre dictates an optimistic ending. It’s how they get together and how they resolve their issues that provides the knotty problem for me to solve. She couldn’t and wouldn’t give up her acting career entirely, although she was prepa

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red to compromise. A huge sacrifice on her part and an indicator of how she feels about him.

Ornella had never committed to any lover before and knew Hugh was going to test her passion for acting. But she’d never felt this way about a man before either. How could she have both? In the real world it’s never easy and people sacrifice work or love to be together, or not. That’s why I used the motif of Dido and Aenaes. Aenaes had a terrible choice to make, but being a Roman meant he had to choose duty over love – every time. Ornella faced the same choice and she wants to have it all, as we all would. But can she? I have a draft sequel I’m working on at the moment ….

I loved the way you framed the story with Hugh and Ornella’s ‘one night’. Was that a conscious decision or did it come about through the drafting?  You divulge their evening together piece by piece as opposed to telling us exactly what happened.

I had an idea of two people meeting in a foreign location and being really struck with each other, basically falling heavily and then one being kidnapped. The person left behind is left with an awful lot of questions. Did they dump me or has something happened? Do I look for them or just leave? It would be a tough decision to make. The strength of connection Ornella and Hugh make in that one night unbalances Ornella and I slowly reveal to the reader why she is risking everything for this man. I think when you fall in love so heavily, you don’t think rationally, you obsess about the love object, and, add enormous stress and lack of sleep, your decision making ability goes out the window. If I’d told the story chronologically then maybe the reader would have forgotten just why Ornella acts as she does.

Both Hugh and Ornella emerge as having changed from the people they were when they met. Perhaps the changes aren’t cataclysmic but even their subtle changes are interesting. Did they end up being the characters you wanted them to be?

Oh yes. Wonderful characters to work with. So playful and imaginative and so fundamentally good natured. They do change, as anybody would, because of what they went through. I feel a little sorry for them both, betrayal, violence and the loss of that notion we carry that the world is fundamentally a good place, are all experiences that mark you. Coming close to death at the hands of another human – for reasons of greed alone, must be a horrifying experience and  as a novelist I couldn’t ignore the effects.

I only have space to hint at the long term effects, but as I mentioned I am writing a sequel where I explore the consequences of the trauma on their love and careers. It won’t be heavy, and in fact I have some fun ideas I’m working with, but they are still Hugh and Ornella.

There are so many different nationalities and the ‘bad guys’ are not necessarily Italian. How did you decide to feature such a diverse cast of characters?

Ornella, Fernanda and Tyler have a very strong connection through all being children of the Italian Diaspora. Growing up Italian in Australia or America is a specific experience that only those who have been through it understand. This is why Ornella ends up trusting Tyler – foolishly. He’s like her, he’s from the New World visiting the Old World where their roots are. I wanted this to be a feature because Europe is full of people whose parents migrated after the war and go back to see what the old country is like. It’s a totally different experience for these people, not at all like the travel experiences of Australians or Americans who have no roots left in Europe.

I wanted to have local Italians to show a little of how tough life is at the momnt for the young in Italy. Crime is one of the few ways they can make a living. Masso is essentially not a bad guy, he doesn’t want to kill anyone, he just wants money. Hugh is English as most foreign archaeologists working in Italy are American or British – if not Italian.

Which novelists have influenced your writing?

Every book I’ve ever read has been an influence so I couldn’t point to a specific writer on whom I model my work. But I did read Glen Duncan books in the early drafting of this book. I love The Last Werewolf and I love his ability to write intelligent, funny genre fiction. That’s my goal.

What sort of story are you working on now? Another mystery? More romance? More Hugh?

Hugh is on his way back, along with Ornella in a book with a working title of Smash Hit, set in New York and Spain. But I’m currently finishing off a manuscript about two lawyers who get dragged into a murder and food substitution disaster. He’s from Trieste in Northern Italy and she’s from Sydney and they have some serious emotional issues to confront. There’s a lot more emphasis on the psychological and emotional in this story and writing it takes longer as you have to get that emotional temperature exactly right. It’s the conflict and trauma within the characters that drives this story. Naturally I’m madly in love with them at the moment, but I’m impatient to get back to Hugh and Ornella too.

Thanks for having me on your blog. It’s very satisfying to be asked questions like these, I appreciate your interest and I’m glad you enjoyed the book. I could talk about Hugh and Ornella for months and not get sick of the topic! I have their back stories in my head – their school life, siblings, past lovers, parents – it’s all there. And in the sequel more of their lives will be revealed.

For more information on Phillipa, head over to her website.

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