Author of the Month

Author of the Month: Suzanne Palmieri

When we first decided that we were going to celebrate one particular author per month I immediately knew two things: I was going to start with Alice Hoffman, the author that made me fall in love with words, and that April was going to be Suzanne Palmieri’s month.

You see, there’s something very special about April. It somehow feels like the bridge between winter and spring. The last tears of the coldest season drown the ground in possibility and magic reaches out into the realm of our so called reality.

Spring blossoms.

That’s why I chose Suzanne Palmieri. She is magic. She’s a bridge between being alive and being painfully aware of it, in the most beautiful way.

I believe someone once said that writing was easy, that it was all about sitting down and bleeding onto a page. As poetic as that sounds, I think that what Suzanne Palmieri does goes beyond that. Not only does she allow her characters to borrow the emotions they then wear across the pages, she also breathes life into them, she breathes herself into them. I think that was why I fell in love with her novels in the first place. There’s a soul to them and it’s beautiful to watch it unfold in front of us. And the acceptance… the love, the hope, the fear… it’s all so palpable and humane…

I must confess that bonding with her characters isn’t always easy at first. You see, they are not the kind to try and make you love them for something they are not. Instead, they just exhale their true colours and leave you to deal with it. And it’s so easy to judge them, isn’t it? That is until you realise that what they are doing is quite a refreshing thing, something to be admired and not judged. They are not playing a part depending on context, or assuming roles in different plays. No, they are being themselves. How rare is that? And what a challenge it must be!

Her latest novel, The Witch of Bourbon Street, is a hurricane.

You might feel slightly lost at first. There were a lot of voices, faces, memories… and they all kept claiming my full attention at the same time. I honestly didn’t know what to do. It was like being in the middle of a roundabout with an endless number of exits. Where was I supposed to go? Then it hit me. We have to admit to be lost before trying to find our own path, ourselves. And that was exactly what I did.

Ah, the details. There’s definitely a key to every lock and Suzanne Palmieri just keeps opening these majestic doors…

If you have read The Witch of Little Italy and/or The Witch of Belladonna Bay, I can promise you one thing: The Witch of Bourbon Street is a revolution. I found it to be way darker, heavier. Even the space between the words felt thicker.

And you know what? I cannot wait for The Witch House of Persimmon Point, coming out this fall.

Advertisements
Author of the Month · Interviews

Interview: Vanessa Greene

In the spirit of the three novels, soon to be four, published by our Author of the Month, I decided to go through a couple of rituals before sitting down to write the questions for the interview with the kind Vanessa Greene.

I started by brewing some tea, loose leaf. Instead of going for the usual mug, I chose to go with a truly vintage cup given to me by my grandmother (it belonged to my great-great-great-[…]-grandmother). Then I found myself looking at plane tickets to Greece (already bought quite a few to England this year), you know, to get even more in the mood, but alas, my tea leaves advised me not to. It’s my newest hobby, reading tea leaves, and I take Aunty Flo’s interpretation dictionary very seriously (how appropriate is the name though?!). Anyway…

Without further ado, here is the interview with the wonderful Vanessa Greene. Enjoy!


 

INTERVIEW


 

Infusões d’Alma (I): After being a book editor for nearly eight years, what exactly inspired you to write your own?

Vanessa Greene (V): I was ready for a change. I’d read and enjoyed a lot of stories in those years working in publishing, and every manuscript taught me something about storytelling. I’d just turned thirty, and I suppose that was a nudge for me to revisit my childhood dreams and put pen to paper myself. I went out to Argentina, and Buenos Aires proved to be the perfect place to get creative – it’s a place full of writers, where suddenly anything’s possible.

I: What was one of the most surprising things you learned while writing your novels?

V: That you only have limited control over what happens in the story. If you spend long enough getting to know the characters, they pretty much do what they please.

I: You tweeted a while back that you were writing your first strand from a male point of view. How was that experience?

V: I loved it. My new novel, The Little Pieces of You and Me, is led by two female characters, but we also get an insight into one a man who becomes very important to one of them. Stepping into his point of view was the only way I could really explore the mysteries of his present and past. It was a good challenge and hopefully I’ve pulled it off!

I: There’s a certain feeling of safety in your first two novels. In the third one though, the walls are literally falling apart. Even though it was difficult to get them back up, in the end they didn’t just settle down inside. Do you feel more daring as a writer now?

V: This is a really interesting question. Yes – with The Beachside Guesthouse I took Iona and the other women into some challenging and quite dark places, and in The Little Pieces of You and Me I do the same. It felt like a natural progression to deal with more complex themes, and thankfully readers have responded positively to the change. I feel both books have been less ‘safe’ for me as a writer, too – I’ve got closer to my own personal experiences – good and bad – and trusted in the process more, really writing from the heart. I cried a lot writing both, which I think is generally a good thing!

However, I think safety is something that will always have a place in my novels. The heroines might end up in unexpected, sometimes unsettling places – but they will always have that feeling of safety and security that true friendship brings.

I want readers to feel that they are in safe hands when they read my books, and to give them an escape from real life, but with characters who are real, and who they can connect with. We all watch the news, and hear things about the world that can be very distressing – we pick up a novel looking for something different.

I hope that my books show that even in an unpredictable world there are still plenty of ways to create a good life – that happiness is often about the small things, cultivating your friendships, being part of a community, finding the right relationships and engaging with creativity.

I: I like how it feels like we are growing with your characters, even if they are not the same. At first we were strangers meeting over a tea set, then we were out exploring tea rooms and attending weddings in France, and in The Beachside Guest House we are old friends coming back together. Where are we headed next?

V: My new novel, The Little Pieces of You and Me, is about a young woman, Isla, whose life changes in the space of a day. She’s always had a list of goals, and presumed she’d achieve them all – but then that certainty is taken away from her in an instant. Her best friend, Sophie, steps in to help her see she’s still the strong, capable woman she always was – and together they work through Isla’s list and find ways to do all the things she’s dreamed of. Along the way, Sophie’s life also changes in ways she could never have expected.

I: Your books are on my best friends shelf. Which ones are on yours?

V: I really like the idea of a best friends’ shelf. I have some beautiful hardback editions of Virago Modern Classics on mine. My first job was at Virago, as an editorial assistant, and I have very happy memories of getting to know the wonderful female authors on that list, like Zora Neale Hurston and Angela Carter.

I: Were you to share a tea set with two of your favourite characters, which ones would you choose?

V: I think I’d choose Iona and Rosa from The Beachside Guesthouse, and Isla and Sophie from my new book. These are the women who have a lot more to say about their future and I’d love to hear about their plans.

I: I know it’s definitely way too early to talk about retiring (I still have a lot of space on my shelves), but would you consider opening a beachside guest house? I would be totally in.

V: I’d love to do this! Right now I’m very settled and happy in north London, where I grew up. But I’m something of a nomad at heart – I’ve lived in various places in Latin America and being part of a different culture, and bringing something to it, is a great buzz – even better in good company. Let’s pencil it in for forty years’ time.

I: Thank you so much. I really can’t wait to read your next book!

V: Thank you for having me 🙂

Author of the Month

Author of the Month: Vanessa Greene

I woke up and made a cup of tea. White and elderflower. It’s an absolute favourite. I bought it at a wonderful tea shop the first time I visited the lively city of Münster. Back upstairs, in my bedroom that my family now calls an office because my desk is almost as long as my bed and almost every surface is covered in books, I sat down and reached for a bag of Haribo’s Smurfs. It seemed fair, you know, to have my favourite candy after a cup of my favourite tea before sitting down to write about some of my favourite books.

If we were to come up with a basic recipe for writing a novel, perhaps its success would rest upon its confection and the source of the ingredients chosen by the writer.

Vanessa Greene has found the recipe. Her bouquet of flavours isn’t translated in gourmet dishes one is afraid to touch (not that there’s anything wrong with those). Instead, it feels as if she has found our mother’s secret ingredient that makes everything taste of home. No matter where you are, where you are going, there’s a certain safety that, instead of keeping you back in comfort, holds your hand while you take your next step.

The ingredients change, though – or perhaps just the seasoning. Each novel feels like a step forward. The horizon widens as you go from The Vintage Teacup Club, her debut novel, through The Seafront Tea Rooms to The Beachside Guest House. It feels as if you are growing with them, even if the characters change. And speaking of them…

Vanessa Greene’s characters leave you half expecting to find their names on your phone’s address book once you reach the last page of the book.

I love how real, how credible, these characters are. Sometimes you can feel when an author is trying to drown you in romance so that you miss a few details here and there, but these voices are so honest, so you and me and everyone else. It’s truly hard to watch them go, to see them fade into black…

Vanessa Greene always takes the reader to such beautiful places. And there’s always as much love, friendship and hope as there is tea. What else could one ask for?

Reading Vanessa Greene is like going on a perfect holiday from where you return revitalized. It’s an escape that will certainly feel too short but utterly fulfilling. And the souvenirs you bring back… they smell of hope, taste of second chances, and last forever.

A cup of hope with friendship on the side, please. The courage you will find in yourself.

Vanessa Greene’s books are best friends. They won’t look down at you from above. Instead, they will look you in the eye, offer you a hand and suggest, “Come take a walk with me.” And said walk becomes one of those that starts early in the morning and ends up involving lunch, ice-cream, tea, dinner, and a dance.

Starting a novel by Vanessa Greene feels like running into an old friend that was away for years and yet seems to never have left. Amongst tears, laughs, cake, tea, heartbreak, passion, secrets, lies, love… it’s a friendship for the ups and downs, for the heavy truths and the white lies.

Author of the Month

Author of the Month: Michael Cunningham

The Pulitzer Prize is one of the most significant awards an American writer can be honored with. Our author of the month, Michael Cunningham, was the recipient of the aforementioned grandiose praise in 1999 for his masterpiece The Hours.

“What lives undimmed in Clarissa’s mind more than three decades later is a kiss at dusk on a patch of dead grass, and a walk around a pond as mosquitoes droned in the darkening air. There is still that singular perfection, and it’s perfect in part because it seemed, at the time, so clearly to promise more. Now she knows: That was the moment, right then. There has been no other.”

If I had to choose just one word to describe Michael Cunningham’s novels I do believe I would go with honesty. There is no space for sugarcoating in his books. Don’t expect his characters to look out for your feelings, for your susceptibilities. They will be so blunt they will hurt you. They will make you think non-stop from sunset to sunrise and back again. They will whisper truths in your ear till you allow your eyes to open and see that change is nothing but acceptance, nothing but a step forward on the long path of discovering and accepting who you truly are.

The writing feels as though the words he uses were created and given such definition and meaning so that they could later on become the sentences that decorate the pages of his novels.

“How, after all, can such a turmoil of hope and fear and lust be inaudible? How do our skulls hold it in?”

You find yourself reading the same passages over and over again, for they are so effortlessly put together, and they convey so much emotion, so much feeling, so much life. They seem to reach out from the pages to caress your face, to wipe away your tears, while you just fall… in love.

“Love, it seems, arrives not only unannounced, but so accidentally, so randomly, as to make you wonder why you, why anyone, believes even fleetingly in laws of cause and effect.”

Reading Michael Cunningham is like being extremely afraid of heights and choosing to go on the world’s greatest and most frightening roller coaster, a roller coaster with such low downs that it makes you wonder whether there is any sense to the word bottom and floor. It’s like being extremely afraid of heights and choosing to go on the world’s greatest and most frightening roller coaster and finding out that the feeling of the wind caressing your face is worth the chills that go down your spine as you queue to go in. Everything loses reference but then suddenly everything makes so much sense…

Reading Michael Cunningham is discovering your zero, your middle, your ground. And then breaking it. And then finding it again.

Reading Michael Cunningham is getting in touch with your humanity. And it’s beautiful. Scary… but beautiful.

He always seems to find the path to the extraordinary, even when starting from the most ordinary spot. I believe that to be one of his many incredible talents: to find the extraordinary in the ordinary. And he invites us to do the same, to look at what surrounds us and what’s inside us, and find our extraordinariness.

Author of the Month

Author of the Month: Alice Hoffman

A feather. The weight of the world resting on its back. Still the wind lifts it gracefully, carries it nobly. No questions asked, no judgment. The feather remains as light as ever.

My most humble attempt at describing the feeling of holding one of Alice Hoffman’s novels in my hands. They may contain different voices, speak in different tongues, tell different tales, but there’s something they all share: magic.

They are never just another book. They are not the kind you read and soon forget. Instead, each word becomes you, gains sense in you. These books, they will follow you for years after you finish them. They won’t impose their presence, though. Instead, they will come to your aid when you most need them, as if summoned. They are enchanting, infinite, their simplicity absolutely astounding. But their most powerful trait? The hope they carry inside. It’s endless.

When you find yourself on the verge of disbelief, open one of Alice Hoffman’s books and just breathe.

There’s absolutely no doubt that Alice Hoffman is an extraordinarily gifted writer. She creates wonderful contexts, brilliant backgrounds, but what I love the most about the author, besides her magical writing style, are her characters. They are never secondary, even if they only show up for a chapter. Her words are delicate, even when drawing the portrait of a human being that has taken more than enough wrong turns. She is kind to every soul, no matter what they have done. She gives them a chance, she listens to them…

As a reader, you are introduced to these characters, these stories, layer by layer, so you can find your way of blending with them. When you reach the end, always too soon, you feel like you have been a witness to something huge, an event so immense you don’t have enough words or stars in the universe to describe what you have just been through. You have the feeling, though, and you always will.

I believe Alice Hoffman’s novels to be a lesson on how to be human, on how to remain human in a world that seems to keep testing our willingness to identify with the species. The only thing we have to do is want to listen. Once we are comfortably seated and feel ready, she will start whispering these bittersweet little nothings that suddenly become everything in us. It’s breathtaking.

Having published over thirty books, Alice Hoffman is a beacon of hope. Her stories are of loss, acceptance, grief, passion, redemption… Her stories are of life. There’s humanity left in this world. All you have to do is know where to look. And believe.

From the author of the bewitching Practical Magic, the electrifying The Ice Queen, the heart wrenching The Story Sisters and the historical masterpiece The Dovekeepers, now arrives her latest publication The Marriage of Opposites. First published in August 2015, the novel takes the reader to the brilliant and warm island of St. Thomas in the early 1800s, where the voyage begins. From a forbidden love to the birth of Camille Pissarro, father of Impressionism, The Marriage of Opposites is an extraordinary journey which we will invite you to take soon.


Português


Uma pena. O peso do mundo nas suas costas. Ainda assim, o vento levanta-a graciosamente, carrega-a nobremente. Sem questionar, sem julgamento. A pena permanece leve como sempre.

A minha mais humilde tentativa de descrever o sentimento de segurar um dos romances de Alice Hoffman nas minhas mãos. Podem conter vozes diferentes, falar em línguas diferentes, contar contos diferentes, mas há algo que todos eles partilham: magia.

Nunca são só mais um livro. Não são do género que se lê e se esquece rapidamente. Não. Em vez disso, cada palavra torna-se nossa, ganha sentido em nós. Estes livros vão seguir-nos durante anos após os terminarmos. Mas não vão impôr a sua presença. Virão em nosso auxílio quando mais precisarmos deles, como que convocados. São encantadores, infinitos, de uma simplicidade absolutamente extraordinária. Mas o seu traço mais poderoso? A esperança que trazem dentro. É interminável.

Quando se encontrar à beira da descrença abra um dos livros de Alice Hoffman e acredite.

Não há dúvida nenhuma de que Alice Hoffman é uma escritora extraordinariamente talentosa. Ela cria contextos maravilhosos, backgrounds brilhantes, mas o que mais aprecio nos livros da autora, para além do seu estilo de escrita mágico, são as suas personagens. Nunca são secundárias, mesmo que surjam apenas num capítulo. As palavras dela são delicadas, mesmo quando a pintar o retrato de um ser humano que fez mais do que suficientes escolhas erradas. Ela é gentil para cada alma, independentemente do que tenham feito. Ela dá-lhes uma hipótese, ela ouve-as…

Como leitor, somos introduzidos nas personagens, nas histórias, camada a camada, de forma a encontrarmos uma maneira de harmonizar com elas. Quando chegamos ao fim, sempre cedo demais, sentimo-nos como se tivéssemos testemunhado algo grandioso, um evento tão imenso que não temos palavras, ou estrelas suficientes no universo, para descrever o que vivemos. Mas temos o sentimento, e isso sempre teremos.

Acredito que os romances de Alice Hoffman são uma lição em como ser humano, como permanecer humano num mundo que parece estar constantemente a testar a nossa vontade de nos identificarmos com a espécie. A única coisa que temos que fazer é querer ouvir. Assim que estamos confortavelmente sentados e nos sentimos preparados, ela sussurra esses pequenos, agridoces, nadas, que de repente se tornam tudo em nós. É de cortar o fôlego.

Tendo publicado mais de 30 livros, Alice Hoffman é um farol de esperança. As suas histórias são de perda, aceitação, mágoa, paixão, redenção… As suas histórias são de vida. Ainda resta humanidade neste mundo. Só temos que saber onde procurar. E acreditar.

Da autora do enfeitiçante Practical Magic, do eléctrificante The Ice Queen, do de partir o coração The Story Sisters e da obra-prima histórica The Dovekeepers, chega agora a sua mais recente publicação The Marriage of Opposites. Publicado pela primeira vez em Agosto de 2015, o romance transporta o leitor para a quente e brilhante ilha de St. Thomas no início do século XIX, onde a viagem começa. De um amor proibido ao nascimento de Camille Pissarro, pai do Impressionismo, The Marriage of Opposites é uma viagem extraordinária, para a qual o convidaremos em breve.


Deutsch


Eine Feder. Die Last der Welt auf ihrem Rücken ruhend. Dennoch hebt der Wind sie anmutig an, trägt sie großmütig vor sich her. Ohne Fragen zu stellen, ohne zu urteilen. Die Feder verbleibt so leicht wie eh und je.

Mein bescheidenster Versuch, das Gefühl zu beschreiben, wie es ist einen von Alice Hoffmans Romanen in den Händen zu halten. Sie mögen vielleicht verschiedene Stimmen beinhalten, verschiedene Sprachen sprechen, unterschiedliche Geschichten erzählen, aber eines haben sie alle gemeinsam: Magie.

Es ist niemals nur ein weiteres Buch. Es ist nicht die Art von Buch, das man liest und schon bald wieder vergisst. Stattdessen wird jedes Wort zu einem selbst, bekommt einen Sinn im eigenen Inneren. Diese Bücher, sie werden einem noch Jahre nachdem man sie beendet hat folgen. Sie werden ihre Präsenz jedoch nicht aufdrängen. Stattdessen eilen sie zur Hilfe, wenn man sie am Nötigsten braucht, als wären sie herbeigerufen worden. Sie sind bezaubernd, unendlich, ihre Schlichtheit absolut verblüffend. Aber ihre beeindruckendste Eigenschaft? Die Hoffnung, die sie in sich tragen. Sie ist unendlich.

Wenn man sich am Rande der Verzweiflung befindet, öffnet man eines von Alice Hoffmanns Büchern und atmet einfach tief durch.

Es gibt absolut keine Zweifel daran, dass Alice Hoffman eine außergewöhnlich talentierte Schriftstellerin ist. Sie erschafft wundervolle Umstände, brilliante Hintergründe, aber was ich an dieser Autorin am meisten liebe, neben ihrem magischen Schreibstil, sind ihre Charaktere. Sie sind niemals zweitrangig, auch wenn sie nur in einem einzigen Kapitel erwähnt werden. Ihre Worte sind delikat, auch beim Zeichnen des Portraits eines Menschen, der mehr als einmal falsch abgebogen ist. Sie ist gütig zu jeder Seele, egal was sie getan hat. Sie gibt ihnen eine Chance, sie hört ihnen zu…

Als Leser wird man diesen Charakteren und Geschichten Stück für Stück vorgestellt, so dass man einen Weg finden kann, mit ihnen zu verschmelzen. Wenn man am Ende angelangt ist, was immer viel zu schnell passiert, fühlt man sich, als ob man Zeuge von etwas Großartigem gewesen ist, einem Ereignis, das so immens ist, dass es weder genug Worte noch Sterne im Universum gibt, um zu beschreiben, was man soeben erlebt hat. Was jedoch bleibt ist das Gefühl, das einen für immer begleiten wird.

Ich glaube, dass Alice Hoffmans Romane eine Lektion über Menschlichkeit sind, über die Art und Weise menschlich zu bleiben, in einer Welt, die immer wieder unsere Bereitschaft testet uns mit dieser Spezies zu identifizieren. Alles, was wir tun müssen, ist zuhören zu wollen. Wenn wir erst einmal gemütlich sitzen und uns bereit fühlen, wird sie damit beginnen, uns diese bittersüßen kleinen Nichtigkeiten zuzuflüstern, die in uns plötzlich zu Allem werden. Es ist atemberaubend.

Mit über dreißig veröffentlichten Büchern ist Alice Hoffman ein Leuchtfeuer der Hoffnung. Ihre Geschichten erzählen von Verlust, Akzeptanz, Trauer, Leidenschaft, Erlösung…Ihre Geschichten handeln vom Leben. Es gibt noch Menschlichkeit auf dieser Welt. Alles, was man tun muss, ist zu wissen, wo man suchen muss. Und daran zu glauben.

Von der Autorin des bezaubernden Im Hexenhaus, des elektrifizierenden Die Eiskönigin, des herzzereissenden The Story Sisters und des historischen Meisterwerkes namens The Dovekeepers, erschien nun das neuste Werk The Marriage of Opposites. Zuerst veröffentlicht im August 2015 entführt der Roman den Leser auf die brilliante und warme Insel von St. Thomas in den frühen 1800er Jahren, wo die Reise beginnt. The Marriage of Opposites ist die außergewöhnliche Reise, von einer verbotenen Liebe bis hin zu der Geburt von Camille Pissarro, Vater des Imperessionismus. Zu dieser Reise möchten wir euch schon bald einladen.