Please welcome Francesco Dimitri
to The Qwillery, as part of the 2018 Debut Author Challenge
Interviews. The Book of Hidden Things
is published on July 3rd by Titan Books.
Please join The Qwillery in wishing Francesco
a Happy Publication Day!
TQ: Welcome to The Qwillery. What is the first piece you remember writing?
Dimitri: Thank you for having me! I remember it very clearly: I wrote it at eleven or so, and it was a short story with a nameless character drawing a parallel between the battle of Waterloo and the ineluctable fate of humanity. Yeah, I was an intense kid.
TQ: Are you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?
Dimitri: A total pantser on the first draft, a moderate plotter on the others. To me, a ‘story’ is people doing stuff. You put specific people in a specific situation and see what happens. If you have the right characters, and you are honest about what they do and how they feel, what happens is your story. Then you go back and tidy it up.
TQ: What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?
Dimitri: Having a life while I am working on a first draft. Everything that is not the book is annoying. There are moments in which I truly hate myself for needing food and sleep.
TQ: What has influenced / influences your writing?
Dimitri: Other books, yes, and films, sure, and TV series, of course, not to mention songs. But mostly people. I am a very sociable guy (when I am not writing a first draft): I enjoy being with other humans, listening to them. I don’t want my stories to be about other stories, books concerning other books. I want to write echoes of real life, with all its messiness, confusion, and glory.
TQ: Describe The Book of Hidden Things in 140 characters or less.
Dimitri: Your best friend disappeared. He did some nasty things. He might also be a saint. What do you do?
TQ: Tell us something about The Book of Hidden Things that is not found in the book description.
Dimitri: It is a very sensuous book. I really, really like being alive, and I wanted this story in particular to communicate the joys of food, scent, sex, even against the backdrop of pretty dark events. It is mind-boggling how fine-tuned to physical pleasures we are, and how often we deny them to ourselves for no good reason whatsoever.
TQ: What inspired you to write The Book of Hidden Things? What appeals to you about writing Contemporary Fantasy?
Dimitri: The very idea of magic is wonderful. We have this word, that sometimes is a metaphor, sometimes is not, sometimes indicates a theatrical performance, sometimes is shorthand for love, sometimes is cheesy, sometimes terrifying. It is a maddenly vague, beautiful word. Magic to me is a topic on its own, rather than a tool to explore other topics. I want readers to feel the possibility of it, its strangeness and beauty. And I just find it easier to do that against a contemporary backdrop.
TQ: What sort of research did you do for The Book of Hidden Things?
Dimitri: It is set in the place where I grew up. My main sources were memory, friends, and family.
TQ: Please tell us about the cover for The Book of Hidden Things.
Dimitri: It is beautiful and upsetting. It is so perfect that, had I not written the book first, I would write it now just for it to have that cover. Julia Lloyd, the artist, got perfectly well what I was trying to do, and came out with a work that is brazen but not gimmicky, a rare balance.
TQ: In The Book of Hidden Things who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?
Dimitri: The easy one was Tony, because I see the world like him: at the end of the day, what matters to a good life are family and friends. You stick to them and they stick to you. The hardest… well. The landscape, I would say. I wanted to make the landscape a character, which required a touch of lyricism and a lot of restrain, and it was very easy to mess up. I hope I didn’t. All I can say is, I tried.
TQ: Why have you chosen to include or not chosen to include social issues in The Book of Hidden Things?
Dimitri: There are social issues echoing through the book – organised criminality, the taken-for-granted sexism of the place and of people’s gaze - but this is a book about personal matters, and I wanted to keep it close and personal. A lot of social issues would go away if only we were better adjusted grown-ups.
TQ: Which question about The Book of Hidden Things do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!
Dimitri: The question is, ‘was it a pleasure to write?’, and the answer is, ‘yes, and I hope it is going to be a pleasure to read.’
TQ: Give us one or two of your favourite non-spoilery quotes from The Book of Hidden Things.
Dimitri: A gentleman does not quote himself.
TQ: What's next?
Dimitri: I am putting the last touches on a nonfiction book on sense of wonder. Very soon I will start writing my next novel, but I tend not to talk about stuff that is not finished or at least almost there…
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
Dimitri: Thank you, guys!
The Book of Hidden Things
Titan Books, July 3, 2018
Trade Paperback and eBook,
Four old school friends have a pact: to meet up every year in the small town in Puglia they grew up in. Art, the charismatic leader of the group and creator of the pact, insists that the agreement must remain unshakable and enduring. But this year, he never shows up.
A visit to his house increases the friends' worry; Art is farming marijuana. In Southern Italy doing that kind of thing can be very dangerous. They can’t go to the Carabinieri so must make enquiries of their own. This is how they come across the rumours about Art; bizarre and unbelievable rumours that he miraculously cured the local mafia boss’s daughter of terminal leukaemia. And among the chaos of his house, they find a document written by Art, The Book of Hidden Things, which promises to reveal dark secrets and wonders beyond anything previously known.
Francesco Dimitri's first novel written in English, following his career as one of the most significant fantasy writers in Italy, will entrance fans of Elena Ferrante, Neil Gaiman and Donna Tartt. Set in the beguiling and seductive landscape of Southern Italy, this story is about friendship and landscape, love and betrayal; above all it is about the nature of mystery itself.
Francesco Dimitri is an Italian author and speaker living in London. He is on the Faculty of the School of Life. He is considered one of the foremost fantasy writers in Italy, and his works have been widely appreciated by non-genre readers too. A film has been made from his first novel, La Ragazza dei miei Sogni
. The Book of Hidden Things
is his debut novel in English.Twitter