There’s some tension in the room as Adriana Licio looks up at Giò Brando with a certain dose of suspicion. She still doesn’t feel right that her character should take the lead and interview her. Giò on the contrary seems rather at ease, you can easily tell she’s enjoying the moment.
Adriana Licio an Introduction
Giò Brando: What’s your name?
Adriana Licio: Adriana Licio
GB: Is that your real name?
AL: Nope, it’s a pen name, but one that means a lot to me. It comes from my mum’s first name – Adriana – and my father’s – Licio.
GB: When did you decide you’d be a writer?
GB: Come on…
AL: Really, I’ve always thought it was such a painful process, not the writing part, but searching for an agent, have people laugh out loud at your manuscript, waiting year after year for more rejections…
GB: And then?
AL: Then I happened to listen to The Creative Penn Podcast and realised that nowadays, if you really want it, you can write and publish your books as an indie [I.e. independent author]. And if they’re any good people will buy them. So, without much thought, I joined her scrumptious writing course and two months later I was writing Murder on the Road, the first book in An Italian Village Mystery series.
GB: Why did you decide to write cozy mysteries?
AL: Look at my bookshelves, I’ve only got cozy mysteries, travel books and classic literature (mainly children classic literature). But the longer shelves are full of Agatha Christie’s mysteries, I bought those book when I was a teenager and I keep reading them quite often.
GB: You’re not really answering my questions, today.
[Adriana laughs guiltily] I soon got used to be on the other side: as an author I’m often interrogating my own characters, I think it’s rare that it happens the other way round. But what do you want to know more?
GB: Well, why as an artist you decided Cozy Mysteries are your universe?
AL: Hmmm, it’s an intriguing question. In fact there’s so many things in the genre appealing to me. A good mystery with little violence, no gore, plenty of a community’s life, quirky characters and… gossips.
I’m forever in love with happy endings. I don’t like cynicism of any kind. I adore heartwarming stories, exploring the problems we all experience in daily life but always with a good dose of humour since I’m a firm believer in the power of a good laugh. I like people working their way out of difficulties, redeem themselves in the little things of life, often you’ll see some of my side characters changing or getting out of their comfort zone to become better individuals…
In what other genre can you find all the above but in cozies?
GB nods in approval: Well, no where else I believe.
AL: And last but not least, cosies give me a chance to create a kind of “world as I’d like it to be”, with less of the things I don’t like and… of course a nice murder here and then!
GB: What do you love doing when you’re not writing?
AL: Traveling has always been an important part of my life… since a kid. Then walking, which I regard as the closest thing to traveling. One or two times a week, my hubby, Frodo and I get a long walk in the mountains around where we live, and I believe this is mainly what maintains me a sane person.
Of course, I love reading – also audiobooks. Then I love spotting the first crocus, narcissus, poppy of the season. I can’t do without my dark chocolate fix at night time. And I adore fresh homemade food, not so much cooking it, but there’s hubby for that.
I’m also fond of homeswapping, we’ve done that for almost 15 years. Since Frodo, our adventurous golden retriever joined the family ten years ago, we decided to homeswap only within Europe. Frodo loves traveling too, and he has visited the UK, Sweden, Denmark, Czeck Republic, France, Spain… and more!
Adriana Licio and the United Kingdom
GB: When you write about me you often mention the United Kingdom, is it just a chance?
AL: No, in fact I need to admit, I gave you, Giò, some parts of me… [Giò backs off in horror at the idea] I swear only the best parts! And the six years I spent in Scotland, are amongst the most important in my life. I still love Scotland, and its people and I’d leave for the next trip to the UK tomorrow.
GB: What is that you love about the country?
AL: I love British food (yes, that includes fish and chips). I find British people are just so kind and respectful (almost all the time), I love Agatha Christie, MC Beaton, RL Stevenson, I love how stubborn Brits can be, their love for their gardens be they the huge parks as in Kew Gardens or the tiniest garden at home. The fact they decide to drive their car once a year and that’s typically in August on a busy highway and mostly I love their genuine amazement when their car breaks down when it seemed it was doing so well in the garage.
I love that they had a campaign inviting people to consume more veggies, and the spot said ‘Do you remember when you thought an aubergine was a musical instrument?’ and most of the students in my university canteen wondered what an aubergine could ever be if it really wasn’t a musical instrument. Also, they were genuinely convinced that the chips in their dishes were veggies.
I loved that in Britain we found some hotels where kids were not allowed, but our dog was. I love that British Museums are freely open for visitors, whilst you must pay to visit churches (ok the famous ones!)…
I’m a big fan of the National Trust, they not only save and maintain important monuments but they help visitors learn appreciate and care for them. I loved the work they’ve done at Agatha Christie’s Greenway and Beatrix Potter Hilltop homes. They both gave me that quirky feeling that their respective owners were still living there and just left for a short walk…
But there’s not only the National Trust, in one of our trips in Devon we found the ruins of a church which were maintained by the Friends of the Friendless Churches… which is something awfully beautiful, and so very British, I don’t think you can find anything of the sort anywhere else in the whole world/galaxy/universe.
GB: The best book about “Britainness”?
AL: Easy-peasy, Bill Bryson’s Notes from a Small Island.
GB: Is English your first language?
AL: Nope. But I have a super editor doing all the muscle work, and turning my international-Italian-Scottish interpretation of English into something that makes sense to an English ear.
Adriana Licio on Being an Author
GB: Is there anything unexpected that you experienced as an author?
AL: Plenty things. One for example, I always thought I would avoid “action endings” to embrace Christie’s style ones where my sleuth explained from the comfort of a sofa what happened, the reasons why and finally revealed the murderer.
GB: Instead, what’s happened?
AL: I found myself enjoying putting my heroine in dangerous situations and only then find out the exact truth of her intuitions. It’s happened for all the three books I wrote so far.
GB: How very nice of you [Giò says disdainfully] daring with someone else’s skin…
AL: Well, no really I didn’t mean…
The Series – An Italian Village Cozy Mystery
GB: I know exactly what you meant. But let’s carry on. You set your first series in a small village on the sea – Maratea – is it a real place?
AL: Yes! Have a look on Google Maps. Maratea is there, as well as Acquafredda, the Maratea harbour and most of the places I talk about. But… and it’s a big but… the Maratea of An Italian Village Mystery is a fictional version of the real village.
For example in my Prequel And Then There Were Bones, I feature an island, which is really the Isola di Dino, it’s in Calabria a few kilometres south of Maratea. But, for the purpose of my book it happened to be just a bit too close to land (100 meters or so, I believe) so I decided that I would push it further into the sea, and to avoid any confusion change its name from Dino to Pino and get done with it.
This is because I might need to tweak things for my story to get going. An author’s brain works in a weird way – we turn and twist things without even realising what we’re doing. While we’re creating, all we are writing is just as real as you and me right now.
GB: In that case, why not create a totally new village with an imaginary name, location and businesses?
AL: I have at least three reasons for not wanting to do that. The first one, I’m almost ashamed to confess, is that I’m a strong believer that the best lies are the ones that are the closest to the truth. You may shake your head in disapproval and remind me that lies are not a good thing at all, but I’ll pretend you’re agreeing with me and carry on regardless.
The second reason is that I love travelling (sometimes in slippers and pyjamas from an armchair) and there’s nothing like exploring (in person or on the web) the places where my favourite novels are set. That may be Camilla Lackberg’s Fjallbacka, Beatrix Potter’s Hilltop, Anne of Green Gables’ Prince Edward Island, or Viveca Sten’s Sandhamn. As a reader, I also love it when authors name a few businesses, real places where the locals live and spend their time, so it was natural for me to do the same with Maratea.
The third reason, is that I’m a lazy bum, why taking the trouble to invent something totally new when all you have to do is to use what’s already there?
In the story, 90% of it is as it is, 10% comes from my imagination, but no – not even under torture will I reveal where the line is between the two.
Adriana Licio and Creativity
GB: For creating your characters, do you take inspiration from real people?
AL: For people, things are completely different. In order to stay creative, you don’t want to involve real people at all. I might combine the traits of 10 different people to create a new character for example, but the end result is a new person (often an exaggerated one) who bears no resemblance to anyone I know.
It’s more likely that the person who fires my imagination is the stranger on the bus, a lady I’ve never spoken to, someone making a weird remark in a café. From that spark I can create a fictional character. But on the whole, unlike places, real people bog down the imagination. The more I know them, the less I have the freedom to do with them as I wish.
GB: Why did you call me Giò?
AL: My instinctive reply would be because it works well with the surname Brando, a surname that captured my imagination a few years ago while I was sipping a cappuccino at Iannini’s bar in Maratea unaware that I might be writing a book years later.
Also, I have to acknowledge that my life has always been full of Giovannis. It was my grandfather’s name (and my great great grandfather’s), and it’s now the name of my brother and the man I’ve shared my life with for the past 20 years. My dog’s first son was named Giò, too.
And of course there’s Jo – Josephine March, whose deeds will accompany me forever, and now Joanna Penn, whose writing course I joined when I decided I really wanted to write a book. Without Joanna, I’d probably never considered that I could possibly write a book.
GB: Do you live in Maratea?
AL: Unfortunately not yet. I live on the Apennines in a little town that’s not as quaint as Maratea. In fact, some say it’s a rather boring, anonymous place, but I like it nonetheless.
In my ideal life, I’d spend the off-season months in our house in Maratea to write, two to three months travelling (mainly in Europe – we love home swapping), and the rest of the year where I live (writing some more and walking in the mountains).
[As they shake hands almost cordially, one member of the public approaches Adriana and asks her…]
Man in the Public: Who does really decide what’s going to happen in a story?
AL: Me, the author, of course. Who else? [Adriana is set, but Giò looks at her in utter surprise and disdain]
The man nods satisfied with the reply, then he turns to Giò.
Man in the Public: Will you, Giò, be available to be interviewed by Adriana Licio?
GB: I’m very busy finishing a travel guide project right now, maybe later on [You can’t tell she ’s not too enthusiastic about the idea.]
Man in the Public: “Couldn’t you give us a date? Later when?”
GB: “Later. Like in Autumn.”
The man pencils down the deadline in his diary.
But you too, if you have any questions for Giò or Adriana please leave a comment below.