Your book, Vivaldi’s Virgins, published in 2008, focuses on a fictionalized account of Anna Maria dal Violin and the great composer, Vivaldi. What was it that inspired you to write this story? Do you have a talent for music?
Vivaldi's Virgins started brewing inside me 18 years before I knew anything about Vivaldi being a priest who taught in an all-girls foundling home in Venice. I was passing through Venice on my way back from Switzerland to Hungary (long story!). A total stranger, kind of a street person, came up to me and told me to go to the Jewish Ghetto. Well, I went--and I had an extraordinary deja vu experience there.
My sensation of familiarity with Venice--and, later, with Italian, when I started learning it--came with an odd sense of relief. People have always thought I was Italian. And I've always told them, no, I'm Russian-Romanian-Jewish. But suddenly now, I saw that both things might be true. After all, it's just a hop, skip, and a jump across the Adriatic from Venice to Romania!
So my inspiration for writing the novel was intellectual, on the one hand. But, on the other, it was deeply and mysteriously personal.
My novel turned out to be the first of four that ended up coming out on the same subject, here and in Italy. I'm just glad mine was first!
As far as musical talent goes, I think I may have some natural ability--and I certainly have a great deal of feeling for music. But, like so many other kids, I didn't practice the piano when I had the chance to take lessons. I always memorized the music, because I was too lazy to read it.
I wish my parents had given me violin or cello lessons. (I'm studying the viola now--but it's kind of late!) I always loved to sing, and learned to play the guitar well enough to accompany myself. And my teenage son--who is a really good guitarist--sometimes asks me to play the bass for him.
I can barely read music. But my lack of training doesn't stop me from feeling like I could have been a musician, if I'd started young and stuck with it.
The only instrument I really play is the fountain pen!
Your newest book, A Golden Web, released April 6, 2010, is aimed at a teenage audience. Do you think that this book has a wider appeal to an adult audience as well?
I love A Golden Web--and I wrote it in exactly the same way that I wrote Vivaldi's Virgins. Both Anna Maria dal Violin and Alessandra Giliani grabbed me by the neck and didn't let go until I'd finished telling their stories.
Vivaldi's Virgins became a cross-over book, appealing to young readers as well as adults. And I hope A Golden Web will cross over in the other direction: that adult readers will find it to be satisfying and involving. Stories that are inspiring and empowering appeal to readers of all ages, I think.
I know that you just released your newest book, but do you have anything in the works for your next project?
I'm about a fifth of the way through a new novel. I've written the first two of what I hope will be a collection of linked short stories. And I've started writing an original screenplay as a vehicle for George Clooney and Alec Baldwin (although they don't know it yet!).
Both of these books are set in Italy. Is there a specific draw that Italy has for you and your writing?
I've always been attracted to Italy--the culture, the language, the food, the landscape, the literature, the music. Latin cultures, with their over-the-top expressiveness and passion, appeal to me much more than some of the world's cooler cultures. It's a matter of temperament, I think.
That said, I don't want to pigeon-hole myself as an historical novelist or as an American novelist who writes books set in Italy. I want to keep growing as a writer. I don't want to limit myself, either in terms of genre or geography.
I noticed that Vivaldi’s Virgins has been optioned for a film. Can you tell us anything about that process?
I wish that were true! There was interest when the novel first came out. But there have been two other Vivaldi films in the works for a few years now. And even though my book is about Anna Maria rather than Vivaldi, per se, Hollywood isn't usually so subtle in its distinctions. Until those two films either come out or fizzle out, there isn't much chance of Vivaldi's Virgins being optioned for a film--which is too bad, because I think it would make a terrific film, if done the right way.
Northern Edge, my first novel, has been optioned for a film. But the whole process moves like the rocks move, in geological time--so slowly that it seems like absolutely nothing is happening. Someone is working on a script. That's all I know about it, apart from the fact that they keep wanting to renew their option, year after year. (Yawn!)
A Golden Web would be a lovely film, I think. Dakota Fanning could play Alessandra Giliani. What do you think, Heather?
I think that Dakota Fanning would be wonderful! She is such a versatile actress and I think she would bring Alessandra to life!
When you are not busy writing, what are some things that you like to do?
I've just recently moved to the Wine Country of Northern California, to live with my fiance, Wayne Roden, who is a violist with the San Francisco Symphony. I'm immersed in the world of music, because of all Wayne's practicing, teaching, and performing. I spend a lot of time outdoors, when the weather is nice, planting flowers and vegetables and helping Wayne tend his vineyard. I love gardening and landscape design. We both like to go hiking. We both love cooking and traveling and reading and eating.
When I lived in Berkeley, I took dance classes--mostly Brazilian dance--several times a week. And I occasionally performed.
When you move to a new place, it takes a lot of time and energy to figure out how to be who you are without the routines that have always defined you. It's good, though: it shakes you up and makes you think about things in new ways.
I can absolutely agree with your last statement about moving. I am in the midst of moving out of my parent’s house and in with my boyfriend, in another state. It definitely takes a lot of energy to redefine yourself.
Thank you so much Barbara for this WONDERFUL interview! I can’t wait to read these books!
Born in Los Angeles, Barbara Quick is a graduate of the University of California at Santa Cruz, where she majored in English and French and won a poetry prize. After living for the better part of a year in a cottage in rural County Cork, Ireland, Barbara settled in Berkeley, where she continued to write poetry and free-lanced as a gardener, seamstress, typist, and caterer. A part-time job at the University of California became the entryway for full-time training there as an editor. During those four years at UC, Barbara worked on writing and rewriting what was to become her first novel, Northern Edge.
You can visit Barbara's website for more information about her books.
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