I am delighted that CLARE PEDRICK is joining me on my blog today. Clare's book - Chickens Eat Pasta - was published by Troubador Publishing on 28 July 2015.
So Clare, what inspired you to write your book Chickens Eat Pasta?
Well the story behind the book is quite an unusual one. It’s the tale of how I got on a plane to Italy when I was still in my mid-twenties, and for some unfathomable reason – and I still can’t really explain why - bought an old ruin outside a tiny hill village in what was then, and in many respects still is, one of the most remote parts of rural Umbria. People have often asked me how I ended up living here, and what brought me here in the first place. And whenever I recount the story, it has always met with a very positive response, not least because there’s a strong love interest in the tale. So writing this book has always been in the back of my mind.
How much did you plan your book before you started writing?
I actually started writing this book a number of years ago. But finishing it and knocking it into the kind of shape that would satisfy me and my reading public was quite another matter. I did plan it, at the beginning, but then it got put on hold while I had children and got on with my career as a journalist, and by the time I fished it out again, other events had taken over, and the way I saw the book developing had also changed in many ways. In the end, I wrote five versions, so although the core remained what I had planned at the outset, the way I actually presented the story was quite different – and I think much better.
Chickens Eat Pasta is a memoir of your decision to buy an old house in a remote village in Umbria, Italy. Do you have any plans to write another book? If so, which genre would you choose?
To be honest, writing this book while carrying on with all my other work and family commitments has been so demanding that I can’t really get to grips with the idea of writing another one just yet. But working with words is something that I have always done, and producing a book has been immensely satisfying. So I may well write another book at some stage. I love the travelogue style of Bruce Chatwin, H.V. Morton and Eric Newby, to name but a few, so that’s a genre that will always draw me in. But I would also like to try my hand at writing fiction, and I have a few ideas milling around in my head.
Do you have any strange writing habits?
As a journalist, I’m quiet disciplined about my writing, and having been brought up having to get stories out quickly in a noisy newsroom, I don’t have any real need for perfect conditions, such as complete silence, or soothing music. I write better in the mornings, but I can also write in the evenings, preferably with a glass of good Umbrian white wine at my side!
Describe your writing style in 10 words or less?
Yikes! Well I would like to think that it is fluid and evocative, with plenty of description and dialogue.
Looking back, what advice would you give your younger self?
I suppose I could wish that I had been less impetuous. But of course, if I’d followed that advice, then none of what became my adventure buying up the old ruin in Italy and all that it led to would ever have happened! I would probably have had an easier life if that had been the case. But I firmly believe that the smoothest path isn’t always the happiest one.
How has your life changed since becoming a published author?
It’s certainly become a busier one. I naively thought that writing the book would be the difficult part, and that the hard graft would finish there. How wrong I was! Because as any author knows, especially an indie one, there is a great deal of work to be done in actually getting the book out to the readers. Having said that, I’m not complaining, as this journey has connected me with a whole new community of other authors and book bloggers, who are incredibly supportive, and many of them are doing some extremely interesting things. I’ve also derived a great deal of pleasure from hearing feedback about my book, most of which, I’m glad to say, has been extremely encouraging, and its release has put me back in touch with people with whom I’d lost contact, including many who have been to my house in Umbria, and are familiar with some of the places and characters in the story.
I often ask authors – ‘If you were writing a book about your life, what would the title be’ – but you’ve already done that! So my question is: Why did you choose this title?
That’s an easy one. The title – Chickens Eat Pasta – refers to a video that I saw of chickens eating spaghetti in a tiny mediaeval hill village in rural Umbria. It was a rainy November morning in England, and the video just intrigued me. That’s really what sparked this whole adventure off in the first place. When I arrived in that village just a few days afterwards, I saw that it was true. Chickens really did eat pasta in that part of Italy. And to my utter amazement, so did dogs. The village shop had huge sacks of special pasta for dogs. I don’t know why, but it caught my imagination.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
I think a great many people would love to write a book, but they are put off because they don’t think they’re good enough, or they’re worried that they won’t find a publisher. I suspect that there are many fascinating untold stories out there, and of course self-publishing has drastically shifted the goalposts. So I would say, if you think you have a book inside you, be it a children’s story or a novel or a memoir, go ahead and write it. Because if you don’t, you’ll always wish that you had.
And lastly, why should people read Chickens Eat Pasta?
People tell me that Chickens Eat Pasta is quite an inspiring story, of how following your intuition can lead to happiness, and in this case love. Although it’s a fairly easy read, I think it’s one that carries you along and stirs a wide range of emotions. I’ve heard some readers tell me that they were alternately crying and laughing as they turned the pages. And of course it’s also a form of vicarious travelling, as the story is set in an extraordinarily beautiful part of Italy, which is still very much untouched and untamed, and it conjures up a way of life that is so different from that experienced by most people. So if nothing else, I think the book is a pretty good holiday read, though I hope it’s a bit more than that. It’s also quite a compelling love story, with the house and with the man I met there. But it’s not a sugar-coated tale. That’s not the way it was at all, so the book is quite an honest portrait of all the challenges along the way, and I think that has struck a chord with quite a few readers.
About Clare PedrickFollow Clare on Twitter - @ClarePedrick
Clare Pedrick is a British journalist who studied Italian at Cambridge University before becoming a reporter. She went on to work as the Rome correspondent for the Washington Post and as European Editor of an international features agency. She still lives in Italy with her husband, whom she met in the village where she bought her house
Chickens Eat Pasta
Published by Troubador Publishing (28 July 2015)
Clare Pedrick was just 26 years old when she decided to buy a beautiful old ruin in Umbria on a whim after spotting a newspaper advert one rainy Sunday morning. She was entirely alone when she embarked on her adventure, which eventually led to a love affair with a man who is now her husband.
Unlike some other recent bestsellers, this is not simply an account of a foreigner’s move to Italy, but a love story written from the unusual perspective of both within and outside of the story. As events unfold, the strong storyline carries with it a rich portrayal of Italian life from the inside, with a supporting cast of memorable characters. Along the way, the book explores and captures the warmth and colour of Italy, as well as some of the cultural differences – between England and Italy, but also between regional Italian lifestyles and behaviour. It is a story with a happy ending. The author and her husband are still married, with three children, who love the old house on the hill (now much restored) almost as much as she does.