7 July 2017

Guest Post by Angela Petch, Author of Tuscan Roots: A tangle of love and war in the Italian Apennines


Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

In 1943, in occupied Italy, Ines Santini's sheltered existence is turned upside down when she meets Norman, an escaped British POW. In 1999, Anna Swilland, their daughter, starts to unravel accounts from diaries left to her after her mother's death. She travels to the breathtakingly beautiful Tuscan Apennines, where the story unfolds. In researching her parents' past, she will discover secrets about the war, her parents and herself, which will change her life forever...

Some thoughts about writing.

The area in Tuscany where I live speaks to me about its history but my local friends are very modest about sharing their experiences. “Why are you interested in our past?” the elderly ask. “It’s over and done with.” 

I understand their reluctance to speak about past hardships; they suffered dreadfully during the Occupation. They were hungry, there were atrocities and it is a poor area, the land difficult to work. The winters are harsh and life has been a battle. “Young people don’t know the half of what we’ve been through,” I hear so often from their lips.  Precisely because of this, I feel it is important not to let their anecdotes, snippets of stories and wisdom disappear.

Apart from my interest in local folklore, recipes, life style, remembering the past helps us with our present and future. I came across a couple of sentences written by CICERO as far back as 46 BC:
“To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child. For what is the worth of human life, unless it is woven into the life of our ancestors by the records of history?”  

I write fiction, not history books, so the difficulty is how to make sure my plots are not pulled out of shape by too many facts? I don’t think there is an easy answer. But I have a few notices pinned on the board above my desk to help me focus:

My favourite:
 “Don’t tell me the moon is shining, show me the glint of light on broken glass.”
The following was written about short stories, but can equally apply to the novel:

“Short stories pull us into their world and shake us up. They don’t hang about. They don’t waste any time. They swoop down and get you like a sea gull diving down to take the bread from your hand. They stay with you, the ones you love, forever.” (Jackie Kay)

“You tell a story because a statement would be inadequate.” And, “The fiction writer states as little as possible.”

Here are a couple of other thoughts to bring to the table as we pour another glass of wine for each other. The first is simply “Just write”.  I’ve written that on a stone I found by the river that flows past our watermill. Just get on with it. There are days when you think it is simply not working, the words are heavy, boring, whatever. Keep on writing. Treat it as a work-out, a run on the treadmill to limber up and to keep your writing muscles warm. 

Put the words away until the next day. When you look at it again: A) You might find a couple of sentences or even words that are not half bad B) As in any project, you need to have bits to assemble. If you had no bits, then you would never have a finished project. So keep going and don’t be too critical until you’ve completed your first draft. Then the hard work of pruning and editing begins.

My other tip concerns Social Media. SM (Sad-masochism, I want to call it at times). It’s a necessary aspect of publishing nowadays. That has slowly but surely dawned on me. Get an old fashioned kitchen timer and put it on for the limited time you think you need to spend on Twitter, Facebook etc. and be strict with yourself. Switch off when the bell goes and get on with that masterpiece.

Above all, enjoy your writing! 

Angela Petch
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About the Author

Angela Petch lives half the year in a remote valley in the Tuscan Apennines and six months by the sea in West Sussex. She has travelled all her life: born in Germany, she spent six years as a child living in Rome, worked in Amsterdam after finishing her degree in Italian, moved to Italy for her job, then to Tanzania for three years. Her head is full of stories and she always carries a pen and note-book wherever she goes to capture more ideas. The action of both her novels takes place mostly in her corner of Tuscany. The first, “Tuscan Roots” is a Second World War story of romance, partisan activity, hardships of ordinary people caught up in the cruel tangle of battle and the difficulties of a mixed marriage in grey, post-war Britain - all pieced together from diaries. Angela’s own Italian mother-in-law was a war bride and the book is laced with research, memoirs and embroidered with fiction. From her house by the river, Angela can walk up the mule tracks to ruins of the Gothic Line, a defensive barrier constructed by the Germans during the last years of the war. The area resonates with history. In May, Angela won PRIMA’S monthly short story competition and recently had a story accepted by The People’s Friend but she is concentrating on her third novel. A fourth Tuscan idea is knocking at her door. Find out more at her blog and follow Angela on Facebook and Twitter @Angela_Petch.

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