The champers corks are popping!
Publication Day in America is always very special and I love to connect with my readers there. THE ITALIAN WIFE is my new book, set in 1932 Italy at a time when Il Duce – Benito Mussolini – was in power and his Blackshirts marched through the streets, enforcing his word.
But let me tell you more about the book by answering these questions put to me by One More Page Blog.
Your new novel, The Italian Wife, has just been released. Please could you tell us a little about it and your inspiration for it?
I have been extremely interested in architecture ever since my son and his wife became architects. So I was drawn to the idea of a young woman, damaged by her past, building a new life for herself as she builds a new town, the two inextricably intertwined.
Isabella Berotti is an architect who is part of the team building a town for Mussolini in 1932. Her life changes when she agrees to look after an unknown child for a few minutes and the mother throws herself off the top of a tower that Isabella has designed. Why did she do it? And what is her connection to Isabella? This is the start of a search for the truth behind a web of secrets and lies. Isabella turns for help to photographer Roberto Falco, and together they are caught up in a complex story of intrigue and danger.
My inspiration for the story came from Mussolini’s remarkable decision to drain the Pontine Marshes and build five new towns on it. I was fascinated to explore what it would be like for Isabella Berotti to be a cog in that huge Fascist undertaking, and the way in which she finds a new path for her life.
Please could you introduce your leading lady, Isabella Berotti, by summing her up in five words?
The novel is set in beautiful Italy and particularly the Agro Pontino near Rome. Did you visit as part of your research and do you have a favourite place in Italy?
Wild horses would not have kept me away from going to see in person what is left of Mussolini’s five new towns. I knew they had suffered severe damage during World War II, but I was desperate to see for myself what remained. When I arrived there, it warmed my heart to see that much of the grandiose architectural style that Mussolini insisted upon remains, and I was impressed by the way the post-war reconstruction uses many of the same techniques. In an odd way it made me feel that Isabella’s work – even though fictional – had left its mark.
I loved my stay in Latina, but the place that totally stole my heart lies further along the coast – beautiful Sorrento. It is one of the wonders of Italy.
The story plays out against the backdrop of Mussolini’s rise to power in Italy; how did you go about your research on the period and what was the most surprising fact that you uncovered?
For me the best way to get the feel of a place is to read as many biographies as I can get my hands on about the lives of people who lived there. So I began with a stack of books on Mussolini and ended up feeling that I knew him intimately – his ruthlessness, his charm, his ego, his lust for power and his passionate desire to turn Italy into a modern industrialised nation. So I felt able to write a scene where he visits Isabella’s architectural office and another where he asks her to dance. But I also trawled through hours of film footage that Mussolini ordered to be made by LUCE Films covering the reclamation of the Pontine Marshes. This was invaluable. But it was my visit to Latina that brought it all together in sharp focus.
The most surprising fact I discovered was that Mussolini brought 125,000 workmen into the malarial swamp to dig the canals and burn the forest. 125,000! Can you imagine the logistics of that? They were poorly fed, paid a pittance and kept in barbed wire camps where thousands died of malaria. I was deeply shocked by this.
What drew you to historical fiction as a genre and have you or would you like to write in other genres in the future?
I have always read historical fiction – I love the window it gives into the past. But I was only drawn to write about it when I learned that my grandmother was a White Russian who fled to China after the Russian revolution in 1917. I was entranced by her story, dived into a year of research and at the end of it wrote The Russian Concubine. From that moment, I was hooked. As for writing in a different genre, I never say never. My stories are becoming more focused on mystery and intrigue, so maybe Crime is beckoning …..
The Italian Wife is your eighth novel and previous books span a number of time periods and exotic locations. If you could travel to any time and place, where and to what period would you go?
Ancient Egypt. I want to talk to the builders and mathematicians to understand how they built those gigantic inch-perfect pyramids with their bare hands. Architecture again, you see. I am a glutton for it.
And finally …. What can we expect next from Kate Furnivall?
Well, I am in Italy again. A different time, a different place. But here’s a clue – I’m drinking limoncello and looking at the Bay of Naples!
This is a great week for me. My book THE ITALIAN WIFE will be published in the United States on October 6th, so I just want to share a bit about it with you and delve into why I wrote this particular story. I will be posting interviews and articles here over the next few weeks to get you up to speed on how the book developed in my mind … and offer a glimpse into my weird and wonderful writing life!
This first interview is with Chick Lit Uncovered:
Tell us about your latest novel in 15 words.
Italy 1932. Love and danger as architect Isabella seeks the truth behind corruption and lies.
What inspired you to write The Italian Wife?
Italy itself inspired me – along with Mussolini’s incredible engineering feat of draining the 300 square miles of malarial swampland of the Pontine Marshes and building five new towns on it. The audacity of this bravado caught my imagination and I couldn’t stop thinking about what it must have been like to be a part of it, as the new towns were being built – a cauldron of strangers forced to live together. What were their hopes for this strange new future, and was corruption rife in the huge honey-pot of finances involved? What would happen if one of the architects were female and fell in love with the wrong person. I couldn’t wait to pick up my pen.
Where do you do most of your writing?
I love to write in the garden. Under my magnolia tree with my cat shuffling herself further and further on to my writing pad. That’s where I write my best scenes, but given that this is the UK and it has been known to rain, then I retreat to my desk upstairs away from distractions. But as I write with pen and pad, when my Deadline looms I have been known to write anywhere and everywhere – on trains and on windy beaches and even in a friend’s loo!
What is your favourite book?
Oh now, that is a tough question. So many I love. Classic book – has to be the incomparable ‘Jane Eyre’. Humorous book – any P G Wodehouse. Crime – Raymond Chandler’s ‘The Big Sleep’. (I would die happy if I could write like Chandler.) Contemporary novel – ‘The Poisonwood Bible’ by Barbara Kingsolver, an exquisite, layered and complex story.
Which part of The Italian Wife did you enjoy writing the most?
The scenes between Benito Mussolini and my main character Isabella. It’s always exhilarating to write a powerful character who lacks the inhibitions of most people, and I just let my imagination run free ….
Who is your favourite literary heroine?
I’m assuming you mean fictional heroine here. Without a doubt it has to be the flamboyant but feminist Southern belle, Scarlett O’Hara. I read ‘Gone With The Wind’ when I was a teenager and she made a big impact on me. I fell in love with her character – tempestuous, courageous, determined, difficult, loving, selfish, deceitful and utterly passionate about her beloved Tara. There is a part of her in all my heroines.
Do you have any tips for readers who are looking to become published writers?
My top tip is what every writer will tell you – read, read, and then read more. Never stop. You learn as you read. Analyse each chapter. See where the mistakes are, as well as the skills. Write something every day. You need to keep exercising that writing muscle.
Also writing is a solitary occupation and it is way too easy to lose perspective. We all do at times. So get honest feedback from others and grit your teeth to really listen. It helps. And find other writers, either in a writing group or online, because a support network is fabulous when you are going crazy. Which you will. So keep an open bottle of wine in the fridge. You’re going to need it!
Are you working on anything else at the moment and if so, can you tell us?
To be honest, I was trying to keep it quiet for a bit longer but it has been winkled out of me! You have to understand, I fall in love with a place and find it hard to let go, so my next book is again set in bellissima Italy. But it takes place in 1945 when World War II is just over and times are brutally hard. It is set further south this time and it centres on a daughter trying to clear her father’s name when he is accused of crimes against Italy. Of course the research trip was dreadfully tough – all that limoncello and lobster and pannacotta to check out – but someone has to do it!
Today is Publication Day of THE ITALIAN WIFE!!!
Champers is open, so let the party begin! When you’ve exhausted your brain by deciding where to put your cross in the election, give it a break with a coffee and a thrilling trip to Italy with Isabella. So what’s the story about?
Take a peek:
Italy, 1932 — Mussolini’s Italy is growing from strength to strength, but at what cost? One bright autumn morning, architect Isabella Berotti sits at a cafe in the vibrant centre of Bellina, when a woman she’s never met asks her to watch her ten-year-old daughter, just for a moment. Reluctantly, Isabella agrees — and then watches in horror as the woman climbs to the top of the town’s clock tower and steps over the edge. This tragic encounter draws vivid memories to the surface, forcing Isabella to probe deeper into the secrets of her own past as she tries to protect the young girl from the authorities. Together with charismatic photographer Roberto Falco, Isabella is about to discover that secrets run deeper, and are more dangerous, than either of them could have possibly imagined …
From the glittering marble piazzas to the picturesque hillside villages and winding streets of Rome, Kate Furnivall’s epic new novel will take you on an breathtaking journeyof intrigue, romance and betrayal.
“Kate Furnivall has a wonderful gift for evoking a location, and her stories are always fast-paced page-turners, peppered with authentic detail.” ~ Lucinda Riley
“The Italian Wife has everything: a fascinating setting in an extraordinary period of European history and a powerful love story. I loved this book.” – Liz Trenow, author of The Last Telegram
THE ITALIAN WIFE is published this week!
I am very excited that THE ITALIAN WIFE is already receiving great reviews. Here is a fab one from Emma Crowley on SHAZ’S BOOK BLOG today:
“Kate Furnivall’s latest release The Italian Wife is easily her best yet. I feel like I say that whenever I read one of her books but it is true with this her eighth release. Kate is an author who can turn her hand to any setting or time in history and taking us back to Mussolini’s rule in 1930’s Italy certainly proved an eye opener for me. With one of the best opening chapters I have read in a long time, you are instantly drawn into the intriguing story of young architect Isabella Berotti. Kate’s books are exciting to read and a superb story always unravels but this one was extra special. This multi-layered epic was packed full of mystery and suspense, real edge of your seat stuff as Isabella becomes embroiled in the story of a young girl named Rosa and the search for her own husband’s killer.
Isabella is living in Bellina with her father, ten years years on from the shooting which killed her husband Luigi and left her childless and suffering from damage to her back and leg. This incident has had a profound effect on her and she knows someone out there must have some clues as to why her adored husband was shot. Yes he was one of Mussolini’s Blackshirts but Isabella feels the root cause runs deeper. Even though Isabella had been through so much heartache and suffering I felt she was all the better for it as the events of the book would make a lesser woman crumble. Instead she uses every ounce of her energy to stand up to a cruel regime and find out the truth whether what she discovers will be to her liking or not. Having taken the day off on the anniversary of the shooting Isabella is sitting in a café when a woman approaches her saying she knows something about Luigi’s killer. Before she knows it the woman has jumped from a tower designed by Isabella leaving her young daughter Rosa behind. Isabella is left shocked and confused but torn in two she wants to know the truth about the incident so many years ago but also she knows Rosa cannot be left alone in this ever changing world.
Isabella begins the search for the truth, a journey which is filled with numerous twists and turns all of which kept me guessing as to the final outcome. Also it is a time of darkness and fear as hidden secrets come to light. She soon comes to realise she is part of a much bigger picture and she is merely a pawn in a huge game. Danger, unrest and betrayal are behind every corner as Isabella and handsome photographer Robert Falco do their best to uncover Rosa’s background and avenge Luigi’s death. The more I became engrossed in the story and Isabella’s determination to reveal the truth the more I realised she was a woman ahead of her time, a strong, determined woman who stands up for what she believes in. This was at a time when a women’s place was believed to be in the home producing more children to further the Italian people and make the country more powerful.
The author just really built and built upon the tension in the story I was desperate to know the history of Rosa and what connection she had to Isabella if any. There were so many layers to this story that I lost all sense of time and place as I couldn’t read quick enough. Throughout the novel we see Isabella bloom and she opens herself up more to love and life after her husbands death. This sums up perfectly the way we see a change occur within Isabella. ‘He had dragged her out of the safe numb state that she had wrapped around herself like a shell, he had cracked it wide open and brought her grasping into his warm, sensitive and passionate world but she had not been prepared for this version of love’
Kate Furnivall has the magic touch when it comes to writing historical fiction, she is adept at drawing you in right from the very first word. I felt as if I already knew these characters and was invested in a successful outcome for all concerned. There was no laborious setting up that can last for at least 150-200 pages in some books, the action started in chapter one and never stopped until the last paragraph. Packed full of historical information that was not overpowering but just made the story jump from the pages. The fact that the majority of what happened in the story is based on fact is amazing. Yes the town of Bellina is fictional but Mussolini did clear marshy swampland in order to build new towns and farmland to further his country and make them self sufficient in agricultural production.He ruled with an iron fist which emanated from the pages, his propaganda was unrelenting and one thing surprised me was that people were not allowed to gather in large numbers unless it was organised by the Fascist party itself. The scene where Mussolini was speaking at an outdoor rally was just brilliantly written. All the fear, panic and desperation at what occurs got me right in the heart. Often we never get to actually read of important historical figures interacting with the main characters. They are more spoken about and feared but here when Mussolini visits the architects office and Isabella stands up to him was a fantastic scene. The tension oozed from the page you just knew Isabella’s legs were shaking and the sweat dripping down her back.
People who have no interest in history or do not know much about Mussolini’s time in power would do well to read The Italian Wife. Kate Furnivall has captured the essence of the time and written a book full of conflict, courage and emotion that has stayed with me long after I finished the last page. This book would make a stunning film as the scenes from the last quarter of the book were like something from a big screen blockbuster. I would love to see this happen in the future. Don’t stop what you are doing Kate Furnivall this reader can’t wait to see what country and time in history you will take us to next.”
Publication Day is approaching! May 7 is the Big Day when THE ITALIAN WIFE will be released in the UK. So there is much excitement in the Furnivall household.
I’ve reached the point when nerves kick in. I start to wake in the night with mental images of its gorgeous new UK cover leaping up and down on shelves in bookstores and supermarkets with my heroine, Isabella, reaching out to entice readers into her story. Because it’s quite a story.
It is about one woman’s love for a man who is a danger to her and about her driving ambition to become the finest architect in the country. Set in Italy in 1932 the story takes place in an unusual region just south of Rome called the Pontine Marshes – Agro Pontino – at a time when the country was in the grip of Fascism. Benito Mussolini rules as a ruthless dictator and is determined to transform Italy into a modern power.
Isabella is passionate about designing the new town that Il Duce has set out to build and she blanks out all else from her life but her work. But in one single moment in the town square, her world is tipped upside down. An orphan child enters her life and everything changes.
THE ITALIAN WIFE is a powerful tale about love and ambition, about courage and betrayal. Secrets and corruption haunt the new town and lead to a hunt for a killer through the ancient mountains of Italy. And over everything is cast the long shadow of Mussolini’s Rome.