Saturday, July 23, 2016

Author Interview: Award winning author Rosanne Dingli

This week, please welcome esteemed international author Rosanne Dingli. 

Rosanne is sought by an international audience for prize-winning short stories and intricate novels, Rosanne Dingli has published fiction successfully for over 25 years. Most of her body of work is available in paperback and ebook.

The author's fiction centres around the classical Arts, such as painting, music, and literature. She also uses locations and their allure to anchor her stories and give them substance. Folklore embellishes some of her works.

In 2015, this author wrote, produced and published three full-length novels; A Funeral in Fiesole, which a family-oriented novel that takes place in Italy. Adult siblings gather for their mother's funeral, where new attitudes and opinions supplant old perceptions. How to Disappear is a novel in two parts that concerns the drudgery of some modern-day relationships and also the migrant experience. And The White Lady of Marsaxlokk is a paranormal historical novel. It once more features an Australian protagonist experiencing an adventure in Europe.

The Hidden Auditorium appeared in July 2013. It is a cultural adventure that takes an antiques dealer on a quest for a secret about a famous composer. He thinks a beautiful pendant contains an important clue. It received a BRAG medallion in 2015.

Camera Obscura is the third on this author's shelf of novels. A romantic adventure using photography, art theft, and fascinating locations, it takes the reader on one of this author's breathless chases, which are now well-known and loved by her readers. It has been short-listed in the 2013 Kindle Book Review Awards.

The novel According to Luke was released in 2010. This exciting and controversial novel has been described by some as a combination of religious thriller and romantic suspense. It received a Noveltunity award in 2015.

Her work in progress is a family-oriented novel that takes place in Italy. Adult siblings gather for their mother's funeral, where new attitudes and opinions supplant old perceptions.

Rosanne Dingli now writes full-time after retiring from teaching in 2009. Her out-of-print short fiction and poetry is once more available in handy easy-to-read volumes that do not cost the earth. She gives occasional workshops on writing and publishing.

Can you tell us a bit about you as an author?
I started in New South Wales in 1985, two years after moving to Australia from Malta, and immediately my short pieces were published in literary journals, anthologies, newspaper inserts, and more. My collected published and awarded poems came out as my first book in 1991, when Literary Mouse Press launched it at the Perth Old Observatory. Everyone came. My first novel saw more than two dozen publishers before Jacobyte Books in South Australia accepted and published it in 2001. They went on to take two of my story collections. When they closed in 2005, they passed me on to the British publishers BeWrite Books. Today, I have seven novels, six story collections, a few novellas, and that first lucky poetry book available under my own imprint, Yellow Teapot books.

What is the hardest part of being an author?
It’s all very hard, but discoverability is probably what approaches being impossible to achieve in these days of widespread independent publishing. The democratization of publishing means almost everyone is capable of putting out a book or six – and they do. As a result of this, getting noticed is rather difficult, and unless readers notice a book, however wonderful it might be, they cannot read it.

What do you enjoy most about being an author?
Autonomy is something I love. I can dabble, or I can be as professional as I like … always or in turn. And the consequences are all mine to own. Hard work, when I can do it, comes easily. Doing nothing, or reading the books of others, is also possible and gives great pleasure. Being my own boss appealed to me when I freelanced as a journalist, literary editor, and columnist back in the 1990s. Autonomous authors can measure their success as an outcome of their own efforts, so it’s very rewarding.

What authors/books have had an influence on your writing?
Rather than on my writing, the authors I read have an influence on the broadness of my outlook, the depth of my cultural understanding, and the eclectic array of subjects into which I like to delve. John Fowles, AS Byatt, and Ian McEwen are all intellectually stimulating authors whose topics are very relevant and interesting to me. The reading I did as a young adult also proved important as I discovered what I wanted to write about. Robert Goddard, John Dickson Carr, Georges Simenon, and Georgette Heyer were only four among dozens of authors whose books filled my bookcases. I am now reading everything by Peter Robinson, seeking the fascinating undercurrents in novels that to others might appear simple or boxed-in by genre.

Do you ever get Writer’s Block? If so, how do you deal with it? Do you believe there is such a thing?
I am not one of those writers who have a daily schedule. I go for months without writing, since I do not compose if there’s nothing to write. My 30 years of writing professionally have taught me to understand the kind of writer I am. I work when there’s a strong premise that won’t leave me alone, and when I find the words with which to present it. I am not a strong believer in “story”, yet I do not write navel-gazing philosophical recitals and chronicles that are just display cases for acquired knowledge.

Do you have a particular place that you like to write?
My office is great. I’ve always had one, and will always have one, wherever I live.

Do you have a favourite time of day to write?
The best is always the time when I am most likely to be interrupted. The middle of the afternoon, when the family return home, when dinner needs cooking, when the phone rings non-stop; that used to be the most fruitful time for me. Now that the nest is empty, the place is quiet, and my partner, who is rather self-sufficient, doesn’t need stuff in the middle of the afternoon, I find it hard to write. I need interruptions, it seems.

How do you like to reach your readers?
I engage on Facebook, which I use for nothing else. It’s not for family or friends, but is the vehicle for making myself and my books known. All I do there is about books, writing, reading, and neutral but fascinating topics that connect to what interests me. So this necessarily excludes anything to do with politics and other controversial topics. I also like to respond to queries on LinkedIn. Since the LinkedIn format changed, so did the nature of the discussions. I must remember to find better conversations to join.

I do quite a number of public appearances every year. About four or five workshops at libraries and writing organizations, and many talks and signings. These are excellent occasions to sell and sign, and readers who meet me eyeball-to-eyeball never fail to follow me on social media, so the enjoyable public events are also very useful. I have been speaking and reading publicly since 1987, and when I lectured in Creative Writing at ECU in the years that followed, I discovered some good techniques to engage an audience of readers.

Your latest book:
Can you tell us about your latest book, A Funeral in Fiesole?
A Funeral in Fiesole was one of three stand-alone novels I wrote, produced, and published in 2015. It’s what I like to call ‘location fiction’, based on a particular place that has fascinated me in the past, when visited personally. I love Italy, and speak the language fluently, so I often include the country in my writing. Fiesole is a village built into the hills above Florence, where beautiful villas catch the eye among the trees. This particular novel was a challenge from the outset, because it is narrated by four separate protagonists, all in the first person. They are four adult siblings who meet for their mother’s funeral and the reading of her will. They bring along emotional and financial burdens, which are disclosed as they find out how unreliable memories of one’s youth and childhood can be.

This novel is aimed at people of a certain generation. I am fascinated by baby-boomers, their concerns and peculiarities as a group. I also love that aspect of the human condition – relationships – which will always fascinate us. How couples bond or separate, how adult siblings relate. These are topics my readers love. When incorporated into a piece of location fiction, they really resound and stay in the memory.

How long did it take you to write the book?
It took about 5 weeks to set down the first draft of A Funeral in Fiesole. I do not plan my novels, but this one was fairly easily kept in my head, and it all came tumbling out of my typing fingers in a very short span.

Do you have a favourite character in your work?
The best character I have ever created – in all my writing life – became a real person in my mind. He lives inside two of my novels, According to Luke and The Hidden Auditorium. His name is Prof Bryn Awbrey, a Welsh eccentric who is very good at solving mysteries, especially if they relate to art, history, music, and related subjects. He is a loveable old man – the kind of uncle everyone needs.

Do you have a favourite topic in your work?
My favourite topics are Bryn Awbrey’s topics! My tertiary education consisted in Fine Arts, and History of Art and Architecture. I also love music and the lives of the composers. I read a lot of biographies. So it’s only natural that I should take these beloved subjects into my fiction without very much effort. Researching within these subjects is also very pleasurable, and sometimes preferable to writing.

What was your process? Did you plot out the entire book, or just let the storyline flow?  Do you write in chronological order?
Although it’s vital in fiction, storyline is not what comes first. I first seek a strong premise, give it a good base in the human condition, lace it with a lot of history, music, art, literature and so on … find the correct words with which to frame the narrative, seek some wonderful characters to bring it all to life, and it takes form, very swiftly, in my head. Then I hold my hands over the keyboard, and they do the rest.

Do you have plans for further instalments?
No. Occasionally I write a book and my readers ask for a sequel, so it does occur to me, but that’s not enough. I must have all the ingredients I mentioned above. When that happens, and another novel can be constructed on the tail of another, it’s a fine thing. It’s only happened once so far. But watch this space.

Do you have a plan for your next book?
I’m the kind of author who doesn’t plan. My life is too full of complications for that. If I applied the same structures and schedules to my writing as I must to what I call my real life, writing would cease to be enjoyable.

Ebooks vs Physical books? Do you have a preference when reading?
I read paper books for one simple reason – most of my day is spent in front of a computer screen for one purpose or another. Relaxing with a book means lying down with a paperback for me.

There will always be a place for both electronic and physical books in the reading world. Many readers love both, and some have a distinct preference for one or the other. Low cost makes ebooks wonderful, and without that stream, my books would not sell so widely or so well. I find, however, that people often buy the whole set of my paperbacks after they have bought an ebook or two … when they have come to love my characters and the way I write. Collectors love books they can place on a shelf.

Self-publishing vs traditional publishing? What are your thoughts? Do you feel that the industry is changing?
The industry – if we can still call it that – started to change sometime in 2008-09. That was the period my publishers started to telegraph a sense of excitement to me. Amazon started to tap into the groundswell of independent writers and small publishers, and suddenly there was a big inundation of new works that travelled well without the need of agents or established publishers. Wow. I took my backlist and published two or three volumes myself, gaining a lot of useful experience as I did it. When my last publishers folded, I was poised to fly. Rights were returned to me and within a fortnight ALL of my books were self-published and selling under my own imprint, Yellow Teapot Books. I have never looked back.

The last seven or eight years have been incredible – not only have mainstream publishing had to take a long hard look at what is happening, but traditional publishers found that participating pays. It’s not easy for them, and it’s not easy for small publishers and those who do it on their own. But the book world is not an easy place to inhabit. It’s always been a hostile place, almost impossible to navigate. Those who survive are the quick learners who are also patient and perseverant. There will always be a place for both trad and SP, but they will both evolve as we go, and the most likely way is in different directions, for different markets. I found it was wonderful to transition between one and the other. I was a hybrid author for a few years. It was what perhaps got me started so well on my own path.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Seriously? I suggest they never touch writing and publishing unless they are immune to frustration, doubt, and extreme difficulty. They must have minimal hope in making it pay financially, and be prepared for endless unpaid hours of not only drafting, editing, correcting and rewriting, but also innumerable hours of promoting, promoting, promoting, and finding new ways to make one’s books discoverable. It’s not for everyone. First, one must be a capable writer, and that takes decades to perfect. Then, one must be open to constant change. One must also be able to understand the book world, understand that ‘marketing’ is not a simple subject one can learn in one weekend; and that just a handful of books will never be enough to cut it in such a ferociously competitive marketplace.

My advice is – if you want regular money, stick to your real job. If you want quick results, reliability and predictability, avoid working in the arts. If you think it’s all about storytelling, delve further into the book world. If you think the life of a writer is uncomplicated and fairly simple, ask someone who does it full time. If you think success as a writer doesn’t involve luck, ask someone whose books are doing well. If you think a good book will automatically find readers, think again.

And finally, how can readers find you?
Twitter: @rosannedingli  (rarely used)

Thank you for this opportunity, Amanda. I like reaching new readers, and your generous offer was very timely.

Rosanne Dingli

Thank you for visiting Rosanne. This was an incredibly stimulating interview.

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