Sunday, July 25, 2010
Barabra Quick Interview
Northern Edge: A Novel of Survival in Alaska's Arctic
- Which of your books is your favourite?
That's like asking a mother which is her favorite child! Hmm. I love A GOLDEN WEB. But VIVALDI'S VIRGINS holds a very special place in my heart. Each of my books, both the fiction and the nonfiction, has taught me something tremendously important--something I needed to bring with me to the next stage of my writing career.
- Which of your characters is your favourite?
I love Alessandra in A GOLDEN WEB. And I really adore Otto, her fiance, who turned out to be so much like the man I later met and fell in love with--my fiance now... Alessandra's brother Nicco is someone I would like to have in my court--I really loved creating him.
I love Anna Maria in VIVALDI'S VIRGINS. I also love Anna Maria's friend Silvio, and the Jewish seamstress, Rebekkah. And Sister Laura. And Vivaldi, of course! I love the villain, too: La Befana.
You know, a writer has to love all her characters, or else they won't come to life. Did you ever read the kids' book, "The Velveteen Rabbit"? It's kind of like that: make-believe friends become real when you love them.
- Which of your characters is most/least like you, and in what way(s)?
Oh, I put a lot of myself into both Anna Maria and Alessandra. I felt lonely and abandoned as a child. And I also felt like an adult trapped in a child's body until I managed to move away from home, at the age of 17, and started college at UC Santa Cruz. Anna Maria's yearning is mine. And Alessandra's pluckiness is mine, too. I think life is too short not to be brave every single day. That's what it takes to be the best version of yourself you can be. Every day requires courage.
- Which of your characters would you most/least to invite to dinner, and why?
Interesting question! When I'm writing a novel, I'm basically living with my characters morning, noon, and night. I might like to have Mondino de' Luzzi, Alessandra's mentor and the father of modern anatomy, over for dinner--although I bet you anything he'd be very smelly. Europeans didn't do much in the way of washing in the 14th century. But it would be fascinating not only to talk to him about Medieval science, such as it was, but to see his face as I told him about how far science and technology have come in the past 700 years. Can you imagine someone like that confronted with Skype, or Google, or even a dishwasher? Even an aspirin and its medicinal powers would amaze him--to say nothing of antibiotics or automobiles or electric lights...
- What would your ideal career be, if you couldn't be an author?
I've always been interested in biomedical research--and I often wake up in the morning with some theory or another about how to cure some terrible disease. Maybe that's why I was so drawn to Alessandra's story--and lived out my fantasy a little bit through her career in medicine.
I guess I'll write about a dancer someday, because I've had a lot of dance training and I absolutely love to dance--any kind of dance! I like acting, too. The truth is that being a fiction writer allows me to be whatever I want to be, far beyond the limits of my ability, training, and limited time on this earth.
- If you were to do your career as an author again, what would you do differently, and why?
Did you just hear me sigh? I would have had an easier time if I had gone to graduate school, either in literature or (ugh!) creative writing. I did it the hard way--and it's still a bit hard, in terms of actually making a decent living as a novelist.
VIVALDI'S VIRGINS has been translated into 14 languages--but my income is a joke. If I hadn't quit my day job so soon... If I'd been less exuberant and optimistic and saved more... If I didn't love traveling quite so much... But, then again, I would be someone else, in that case. So I have to say, I wouldn't do anything differently--but I wish that everything hadn't been quite such a struggle.
- Do you read reviews of your books? If so, do you pay any attention to them, or let them influence your writing?
Oh, yes--of course I read them! I get Google Alerts anytime my name or the name of one of my novels appears on the Internet. I'm wildly grateful for the good reviews--and feel terribly injured if someone is less than complimentary about my work, or misunderstands it. Of course, it's ridiculous to take reviews personally--but it's almost impossible not to do so.
What I have found to be true is the old adage about any publicity being good publicity. People don't generally remember what a review says--they just remember that your book was reviewed.
- Have you ever been surprised by a controversy among fans or reviewers - for example, you created a character without thinking too much about what people would think of him, and found some readers loved him and some hated him?
There was a controversy generated in Italy when that country's highest literary prize, the Premio Strega, went to a novel that a newspaper columnist there and several others said was a direct rip-off of VIVALDI'S VIRGINS. Here I was, struggling to stay financially afloat when this novelist--who even had the nerve to say in his acknowledgments that he did his research by reading my novel!--got a great huge cash prize.
- Have you ever written anything that you thought would be controversial and found it wasn't?
- Which question are you most sick of answering in interviews?
A lot of bloggers have asked me what my inspiration was for writing a particular novel. I answer that question in some depth on my web sites--but, of course, I answer the question, anyway, for the interviews. I always try to find something new to say. But, like most writers, I pretty much love talking about my work.