Interview with Expat author - Francesca Maggi
My nom de plume is Francesca Maggi and I use it when I perform too, so it’s my nome in arte as well! [It’s an inside joke that Readers will just have to figure out for themselves].
1. Why did you move abroad?
As I state in my book, I had wanted to live in Italy as long as I could remember (despite getting sick from the water or being cramped with 3 siblings in a Fiat 500 in the scorching heat when I was 6 yrs old). So, I started working with Italy just 3 days after graduation (moving there on an internship). After 1 year, I landed jobs in New York that brought me back repeatedly (and with expense accounts!). I finally got a job that sent me to Milan in 1992, and I’ve never looked back (well, okay…every time the utilities bills roll in, but…)
2. How do you make a living? Are you a fulltime writer?
When I’m not writing or editing work for others, writing is an enjoyable pastime and creative outlet for me; those who follow my blog these past 7 yrs would call it ‘cathartic’.
My day job brings me to work with Italy’s museums & digital cultural field since 1997, when I ran an American subsidiary that produced audioguides for museums [still on offer all these years later, at the Doria Pamphilj & Borghese Galleries in Rome and the Peggy Guggenheim in Venice!]
Now, I’m on my own - a Transmedia Content Editor & Producer as well as a Rep for touring exhibitions coming from the USA • UK • Australia [www.artemediacomm.com].
3. How did you start the process of writing a book and get it published? Did you go to a publisher? Self-publish?
After walking into a TJ Maxx in the USA and seeing Under the Tuscan Sun sheet collections, I knew that someone had to tell the truth about the darker side of the fabled Life in Italy. Italians (& the world at large) love to talk about Quality of Life - but for me, quality is also having schools whose roofs don’t cave in, sidewalks unpaved in dog crap, and a modicum of customer service.
So, I attended a writer’s webinar, and they said, “If you want to write a book, start a blog.” Best advice I ever had. After three or four years of blogging, I felt I finally had enough material to tie together into one fun User’s Manual for Life in Italy. At another workshop I heard, “Your publisher is as apt to market your book as your obstetrician will raise your children.” Again, sage advice. So, from the get-go, I knew I’d indie publish.
4. What was the hardest part of taking your writing to a book format? Did you blog before writing your book?
I knew I didn’t want an Eat, Pray, Love novel. I wanted a book more like Nora Ephron’s I Feel Bad About My Neck - short snippets which, taken together, told the whole story of Life in Italy. So, I divvied up my stories and found they settled into about ten neat categories, and my Ten Commandments of Life in Italy was born.
5. What is your perception of the expat book market?
I absolutely love expat books, hearing true stories of people from all walks of life. I’m in the facebook group, We Love Memoirs - and it’s just fun hearing about people’s experiences, romantic, hilarious or just plain disastrous! I think those of us who take the time to write it down, actually are memoirists for thousands of others; I mean, the things that we experience in a particular country as expats are often quite similar.
6. Or is there a niche you consider your book to be part of? What is your favorite part of the book?
My book, Burnt by the Tuscan Sun, is definitely for expats, although Italians with a sense of humour or the gene for self-deprecation enjoy it, too! My favorite part of the book is the hysterical cartoons that capture the zeitgeist so superbly by my Italian illustrator, Gianni Falcone.
7. What was the most difficult part to write?
Actually, the book was a breeze, pouring onto the page in the form of blog entries. It then came together neatly as a sort of User’s Manual outlining the Ten Commandments of Life in Italy. That said, it took a lot to throw many entries out and focus on a user-friendly length book. Those that didn’t make the grade, I hope to resuscitate into a Volume II.
8. Besides your book, what book should everyone read?
Keeping in the genre of telling it like it is -- If you know Italian, Mamma Mia! by my fellow & fave satirist Fabrizio Blini is an absolute. He analyzes the 8 or so ‘types’ of mammas in a way that is absolutely hysterical. Each time I pick it up, I laugh right out loud. He is the Italian version of Andy Borowitz (at The New Yorker).
And for Francophiles, I get a big kick out of A Year in the Merde and its offshoots. Although set in a novel form, I’m sure that every single outrageous episode portrayed, the author has experienced first-hand.
And to fill it out, I’d say The Dark Heart of Italy, Extra Virgin, anything by Beppe Severgnini and the original masterpiece, The Italians would complete your cross-cultural dysfunctional journey.
9. What advice would you give to other expats who want to write a book?
Get a good editor. It may be cathartic to write it up, but are you saying anything original, or telling your story in a new light? That and, don’t expect to sell a zillion copies and have Julia Roberts play you in the film of your life. Nowadays everyone has a tale to tell, but not all of them are worth reading.
10. What are you working on now? Do you have plans to publish another book?
I have dozens of books I’d like to get out of my head, but…the work involved in marketing them is far far greater than writing them! Right now, I’m working on an e-book posting the muck that our two-time Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, has had the audacity to produce from his mouth. After, I’d like to complete my Burnt by the Tuscan Sun: Doing Business in Italy compilation.
Francesca Maggi first came to Italy when she was 4 months old and has spent 20 years based in Italy. Follow her blogs Burnt by the Tuscan Sun and Irreverentitaly where she blogs to poke fun and prod Italy into the 21st century, hopefully leaving the worst of modern life like lap dancing and pub crawls out of it (she is afraid she may be too late). Catch her latest on Twitter @IrreverentItaly and buy signed copies of Burnt by the Tuscan Sun.