As you know, we have KWL authors and readers all over the world. Every month, one of our KWL authors in Italy agrees to take part in a Q&A and be featured on our Italian blog. This gives our Italian KWL community the opportunity to learn a little about each other’s writing habits and also about what inspires them as readers. It’s also an opportunity for our authors to share their advice and wisdom to others who want to embark on their own self-publishing adventure!
Today Sandra Lonchamp interviews Cecile Bertod (who writes as Celia Hayes in English), a fabulously inspiring author, who give us some insight into the various influences of her writing world.
Translated by Joni Di Placido—read the original here.
How did you know you wanted to write?
“I don’t think I could identify a single moment in which the urge to write became a need, because I don’t remember a single day of my life in which I didn’t have either a book or a pen within arm’s reach. In reality, writing is something that has always come to me naturally and the only thing that has changed over the years is how I write. The shape it takes, perhaps. Little by little, through a process of trial and error, a thought transforms into an image, which gives life to a story, which then becomes a novel—but it always starts from the same place. The means of telling the story may change, but everything comes from that inner place, and every so often, when the stars align, a little of that internal world is reflected outward.”
Which authors and/or books have inspired you?
“There are authors who have shaped me, and to whom I owe my way of seeing the world, who have influenced my ideas of right and wrong. They affect me deep down, subconsciously. For me those authors are, and always will be Giovannino Guareschi, Jane Austen, Robert Louis Stevenson and Oscar Wilde. But I could give you so many more examples. Emilio Salgari, for example. I know I’ll never be as great as any of them, but they’ve given me something that I will always carry with me, whatever I do and wherever I go.
However, if you want an example of an author who even today I refer to every time I write, I can’t not think of Sophie Kinsella. I would never have written a chick-lit novel if it wasn’t for her. So that’s her fault, you can take it up with her!”
How do you find inspiration?
“A song. A brief encounter. An argument. Because, look, I argue loads. With everyone. The thing about being a Taurus with Scorpio rising is that, whatever happens, regardless of how calm you are in a single moment, there’s always someone to get annoyed with. And arguments happen, and it’s well established that some of the best stories come from arguments.”
What made you decide to self-publish?
“When I first started writing, it was very different. We’re talking about seven years ago. Getting published—at least in Italy; I’m not sure about abroad—was unthinkable. Seriously. You had to mail your manuscript, already knowing that nobody would ever read it, and then just wait. At least if you dreamed of being published; but my dream was just to be a writer. Of any kind. To have a little corner where I could put all my thoughts. I didn’t even try to get published. By chance, I found a site about self-publishing; thought about it for a few minutes and decided almost immediately that it was the best choice. And it was meant to be. If it hadn’t worked out, I wouldn’t have lost or gained anything; but I would still have found that space where I could express what I couldn’t in my everyday life. Self-publishing changed my life in this way; perhaps more than in any other aspect; it created “Cecile Bertod” whereas before I was just “‘Annalisa’.”
What are the advantages of being an independent author?
“The freedom. To create, to experiment. To decide what to express and how. The degree of respect that is required and that we are willing to give in return. The chance to meet people like Sandra Lonchamp (European Coordinator of Kobo Writing Life) in person. I’ve always loved self-publishing and I’ve never been shy about it. When I publish, I can experiment with design, I can write silly things, I can write a comedy set in San Francisco and be my quirky, weird self for my readers. Of course, I am speaking about experiences I have had. And these are the things that I love about my reality: expressing myself without being filtered by anyone else. It’s just me. Sometimes I express myself with a story. Sometimes with a cartoon. That’s how it goes. Those who want to read my work can follow me; those who prefer something else don’t have to. Traditional publishing also has so many wonderful experiences to offer but, perhaps because it’s where my new life started, self-publishing will always have my heart.”
Are you working on any new projects right now?
“One. Ten. A thousand. Just like always. I start so many projects and finish very few of them. In the meantime, I start new ones. Because . . . there was that guy who . . . But if I wrote about that . . . No, no, this is beautiful. And I continue like this, between moments of deep depression—No, oh my God, what have I done? Throw it out! Toss it!—And moments of delirious omnipotence—Ok, this is a Nobel prizewinner, I feel it!
Stories of ordinary foolishness! Meanwhile, I munch on biscotti and wait for George Clooney to call!”
In terms of writing, what has been the best advice that you’ve received?
“In publishing, it’s difficult for anyone to give advice. It is a closed world, consisting of islands, and there are no bridges. But somebody once told me something that has served me well over the years. He was my university professor. He told me that nothing is impossible, but that it might take me more time. Now I consider every choice with this in mind. It’s just a question of time: how much time you are willing to spend, with the cost being wasting it.”
And you, what advice would you give to an author who wants to throw themselves into self-publishing?
“To be mindful of every little detail. But also . . . to allow little flaws in your work sometimes; to stop striving for perfection. Because every single story will correspond to a certain level of perfection, and will reflect who we are in at a certain time. A little less that what we could be tomorrow. At least that’s what I’ve always hoped for my novels. Above all, don’t feel bad if it doesn’t work. Don’t beat yourself up. Do not get depressed. My first book—a fantasy—sold three copies. I could have quit right then; trashed my computer and, I don’t know, tried chromotherapy, gone to beauty school, fulfilled that dream of opening a bar on the beach in Barcelona, lived on shellfish and read romance novels on a sun lounger. And yet . . .”
What are you reading right now?
“I’m reading three books. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, which I’ve almost finished. I’ve just started The Young Widows’ Club. And this evening I will read Il Bosco Addormentato by Rebecca Dautremer for the thousandth time. Because there are books whose phrases just call out to you. This is one of those books. I recommend it to everybody.”
Finally, what quote represents you?
“It’s true, my lord. He lent it to me once, and I paid him back with interest: a double heart for his single one. Really, he won it from me once before in a dishonest game of dice. So I suppose your grace can truly say that I have lost it.” —Much Ado About Nothing