I’m absolutely THRILLED to be welcoming Daniela Sacerdoti to Cosy Books today as part of her UK Paperback release for Keep Her Safe. I reviewed this gorgeous book back in April, so I was delighted to be able to ask Daniela a few questions!
Hello Daniela, and welcome to Cosy Books. Could you tell us a bit about yourself ?
Thank you for having me! Well, I’m nearly 44 years old…though I don’t feel it! I’m the mother of two lovely boys, Sorley, who’s 12 and Luca, who’s 10. I’m Italian but I lived in Scotland for 15 years, with my Scots husband. We came back to my home village of Caravino, a tiny place in North-West Italy, two years ago. I live in a beautiful, crumbly old house with my husband, our boys and a cocker-spaniel who goes by the name of Sasha. We have a tiny vineyard in the garden – ok, more of a vine! – and my dream is to get some chickens and live the Good Life!
Keep Me Safe is your latest novel, could you tell us what it’s about in your own words?
Keep Me Safe is about finding your own family, which is often not straightforward. It can take a lot of courage and a meandering journey. It’s the story of Anna, a devoted young mother whose daughter, Ava, starts having memories of another life on a remote Scottish island, Seal. Anna and Ava travel there to unravel the mystery, and their lives take an unexpected turn.
I absolutely adored the setting of Seal. Can you tell us what inspired you to base your story on a small island?
This is such a good question! I never really thought of the reasons. Seal came to me ready-made and I just went with it. I think probably I’m fascinated with the sense of isolation and remoteness connected with islands, also, although I was brought up and live at the foot of the Alps, I have a strong connection with the sea – don’t we all! The sea can be symbolic of characters’ emotions and soul, a kind of mirror. Also, in my Seal novels the sea is nearly a harbinger of destiny – administering life, death and life changes almost as it has a will of its own, or if expressing a higher will. An island community is more isolated than a village one, making the action more contained and the characters quite special – not everyone would live in such a remote place, separated from the world by waters that are never completely tranquil. In Keep Me Safe, Sorren and the Catriona describe what living on Seal is like and why of the many people who fall in love with the place only very few will stay. If I could live in my dream place, my first would be where I am – my second would be the Hebrides!
Keep Me Safe has themes of past lives and reincarnation. What appealed to you about this subject and what kind of research did you undertake before writing it?
I didn’t do any research, I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of reincarnation and I looked at it in Watch Over Me already (my first book). Reincarnation comes back in my next Seal novel too. Creatively it’s a huge part of my imagination because I feel very connected to my women ancestors – but in real life, as a Catholic, I believe in eternal life. Reincarnation to me is more the idea of genetic memory and how experiences, sorrows, joys and attachment seem to mysteriously go down through the blood. Maybe it’s our DNA, maybe it’s how things are remembered and discussed in families – who knows!
I also felt that there was a theme of overcoming loss of some kind and moving forward in several of the character’s stories. Was this your intention?
Yes. Loss has been an integral part of my life from an early age, and then as life goes on we all, with no exception, experience it. I always found hard to move on after a loss – I seem to obsess about the past more than most, so maybe writing is a kind of catharsis for me. I help my characters through loss, and by doing that, I help myself. Also, I’m fascinated with the idea of starting afresh – my lovely Eilidh, the protagonist of Watch Over Me, is someone who has to begin a new life at thirty-five, while Inary, Margherita and finally Anna all have to negotiate a move north. I love to write about a woman who builds a life out of smoking ruins – us women are incredibly resilient and resourceful.
The sense of community on Seal Island was wonderful and something I enjoyed very much and I’m intrigued by some of the minor character’s stories. Will we be hearing more of those in the next books in the series?
Absolutely! Just like in the Glen Avich series, we always see some old friends popping up. Although the spotlight is on new characters, I write about the community – therefore in each novel I visit the same places, with the same people in it. I love to know how they’re getting on, it’s like catching up with old friends. Also, some of them still have things to say – for example, Inary came back in Calling You Home, a Christmas short I wrote, because there was a development in her life I really had to tell my readers about.
Most writers are readers first….is this the case for yourself? Which authors and novels would you recommend as must reads?
I’m a voracious reader, and I’ve been since I was a wee girl. My favourite books of all time are Anne Of Green Gables by Lucy M. Montgomery and the Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien (what is it with my fave writers and initials? Maybe I need to slip a couple of extra initials in my name too!). I read all genres except horror – with James Herbert as my only horror exception. In my own genre, women’s fiction or romance, I adore Maeve Binchy, Sheila O’Flanagan and Lesley Pearse – they really are masters…or mistresses! Of our genre. I also love science fiction, with Andy Weir being my pinnacle – The Martian is fantastic. There are a lot of children’s and teenagers’ books in my house, both for my boys and me! Our favourites are Roy Gill’s Daemon Parallel series and anything Harry Potter. At the moment I landed by complete chance on a biography of the Bronte sisters and brother, and I’m loving it – but as I’m about to start my new novel, I’m about to go a reading famine for a while. I don’t read when I’m deep in a story of mine, otherwise I might get swayed – and anyway I can’t concentrate on anything when I’m writing. Therefore, I binge-read in between books. I always have my head in a book or in my kindle, and I’m happy to say that my eldest boy, Sorley, has asked me to establish a reading club with just two members – us! In the garden, in the kitchen, on his bed or on Mum and Dad’s big bed, Sorley and I read together and discuss our latest crazes. My youngest doesn’t see the fascination we have with books – he’s more of a music guy.
As a non-writer, I’m always fascinated by the writing process…can you tell us about where you write and any rituals or routines you have to aid the creative process?
My writing routine has changed hugely since my youngest went to school, three years ago. Before my routine consisted in simply ‘write whenever you can’ – nursery times, nap times, pre-dawn time. It was exhausting, to be honest, and I couldn’t give up on my precious time with him nor the writing. We both survived😊 And now I have whole days to write. I do the school run, then stick music or even the TV on – if it’s in Italian, low volume and repetitive sounds it helps my concentration – and keep going until it’s time to get the boys from school. In between I walk the dog and pretend to do some housework. I love a clean and tidy home and hate housework, which is a bit of a conflicting combination! I have a lovely desk with all my books and my stationery…and hardly ever use it. I end up in the garden or at the kitchen table, whatever takes my fancy. Before I start the writing phase though, there’s a lot of thinking to do – ideas for stories come to me easily, but shaping them takes time. In a way I never really get a break from writing, because I go about my daily life while thinking and gathering inspiration – my husband says that when I’m thinking of a book, he can see it in my eyes. I write ideas in notebooks, which is so much nicer than a computer screen – but I still haven’t made the leap to writing a whole book by hand.
Finally, when will readers expect to make their next visit to Seal Island?
Soon! In May 2018 Headline is publishing my new Seal island book, I Will Find You.
Thank you Cosy Books!:)
I was born and raised in Italy, but I’ve lived in Scotland for fourteen years. I have now come back to live in my tiny Alpine village, with my husband and sons. I have a degree in Classics and I work as a full time writer and mother, which makes me two people, somehow.
I write adult fiction (the Glen Avich stories), Young Adult (the Sarah Midnight Trilogy) and children’s fiction (Really Weird Removals.com, shortlisted for the Scottish Children’s Book Awards). My books are translated in twelve languages and have sold nearly a million e-copies. I have also written for the BBC and several newspapers.
When I don’t write, I spend time with my children, I cook, I walk in my beautiful village home, or I think about writing. If you fancy a chat, drop me a line. I’m always happy to hear from my readers!