I am very lucky today to have the author Kate Furnivall answering some questions for me.
Kate: Hi, it’s great to be here. Thanks for inviting me.
Kate Furnivall was born in Wales and studied English at London University. She worked in publishing and then moved to TV advertising, where she met her husband.
In 2000, Kate decided to write her mother’s extraordinary story of growing up in Russia, China and India, and this became The Russian Concubine, which was a New York Times bestseller. All her books since then have had an exotic setting and Kate has travelled widely for her research. She now has two sons and lives with her husband in a cottage by the sea in Devon.
Where do you get your inspiration?
I fall in love. Not with a person, but with a place. That’s where the inspiration for my books comes from. For my first book, The Russian Concubine, it was the extraordinary and thrilling story of how my Russian grandmother fled from St Petersburg to China during the Russian revolution in 1917 that got me hooked. I researched Russia and its turbulent history and fell hopelessly in love with that vast country. I couldn’t bear to leave it, so I wrote three more books set there and loved every minute!
Since then other countries have seduced me away. I have set books in different exotic locations – Malaya, Egypt, Bahamas, Italy. Each time it was love at first sight. I fall for their beauty, their mystery and their magic. The setting is as important to my books as the characters, and from the setting a story grows in my head and takes over. In The Italian Wife it is the draining of a marshland and the building of a new town on it that inspired the intense love story of Isabella and Roberto.
You travel for your research, but where is your favourite place you have been?
I am torn. Russia is very special to me. St Petersburg, where my grandmother lived, feels like the place I belong. My feet seemed to know its pavements and my eyes feasted on the Winter Palace and the Bronze Horseman. When I went there, it was like going home – even though I was born in the UK.
But then there’s Italy. The most beautiful country on earth. I could stick a pin anywhere in Italy and live there, but if you twist my arm, I would choose Sorrento. It is a beautiful town perched on a cliff top, gazing serenely out across a cobalt bay to Vesuvius. The cafes are buzzing, the lobsters are awesome – and the men are hot!
From all the books you have written, which is your favourite and why?
Authors are fickle. I always love best whichever book I am writing at the moment. Its characters are still alive and vociferous in my head and I worry about them at night. So right now it’s Isabella and THE ITALIAN WIFE. But like I said, I’m fickle. The next book and its new characters are already shadows on the horizon!
When you’re writing, where is your favourite place to write?
Under my magnolia tree in the garden. No contest. With my cat, Misty, draped on my lap. Its peace and calmness enable me to leap off into the drama and excitement of my stories – racing through tunnels or confronting Benito Mussolini. I write by hand using pen and paper, so working outdoors is no problem. And a robin always serenades me from its branches.
This book is set in Italy 1932. How did you decided to write about that era?
I have always been a huge fan of the 1930s. It is so deliciously stylish. I am a sucker for art deco design – in fact much of my home is furnished with it. I also adore the music of the period – Glenn Miller and the Big Band era, along with the magical songs of Cole Porter and Gershwin. And, oh my, the 1930’s dress styles. Think Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, swishy gown and top hats. Totally irresistible.
But it was also an era of major upheavals on the world’s political stage. The Great Depression was followed by the arrival of F D Roosevelt, Hitler, Mussolini, Franco and the Spanish Civil war – plus our own Winston Churchill and then World War II. It was a fascinating, if fearsome, decade which constantly provides a wealth of themes and conflicts for an author to explore.
I chose Italy because I was fascinated by the spectacular story of Mussolini draining the Pontine Marshes to build five new towns. So I made my heroine, Isabella, an architect and threw her into the lion’s den of power struggles and ambition that surged through the brand new town of Bellina. She had to learn to play a dangerous game.
If you had not become a writer, what do you think you would be doing instead?
Something dangerous. Something thrilling. Like a tightrope walker or a parachute jumper. I am hooked on the adrenaline of my heroines who dash into burning buildings for me and hurl themselves at raging gunmen. If I didn’t write, I’d have to go looking for those kicks myself!
IF YOU WERE GIVEN A DAY OFF FROM WRITING, WHAT WOULD YOU DO?
I’d be off on Dartmoor like a shot. Writing means a woefully sedentary lifestyle – ‘writer’s bum’ is a well-known occupational hazard! So at every opportunity I head up to the bleak achingly-beautiful moors on my doorstep and let the wind drive all the knots and brambles from my head.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR BOOK IN FIVE WORDS?
Exciting, exotic, emotional, evocative epic!
Thank you Kate for taking time out to answer my questions. If you want to have a look at all of Kate’s books please click on the link below:
Check out my review for this book, click on the link: https://echoesinanemptyroom.com/2015/05/07/the-italian-wife-by-kate-furnivall/