Today I’ve had the good fortune to secure some time to talk to Patricia, author of ‘Constant Guests’ about her book, writing and the first Tarot.
Patricia, thank you for joining me today. I’d like to start today’s interview by discussing your book ‘Constant Guests’. Can you give myself and the audience a basic summary of what this book is about?
Constant Guests is basically a book about the first Tarot ever made. A Parisian party girl uncovers four lost and found stories related to a tarot deck from 1389.
Where did you get the idea to focus your story around the first Tarot?
The whole thing started from my long and troubled relation with Tarot. It was curiosity at first, but after discovering that the whole fortune-telling occult side of it was just a fake, a legend, I became more and more intrigued… Tarot is a fifteen century invention and it is directly related to pedagogy and art of memory. Not many people know this, right?
No, I’d never heard that.
I’ve studied the historical data related to tarot for about five years… in order to get basically nowhere…:) I mean, the questions about tarot origins are to be left unanswered by the historians, I mean we’ll never know who and why invented the first tarot deck ever. Well, I did not want to accept that. My novel Constant Guests offers a literary answer to those questions.
How much detail did you go into during your research journey?
The five years mentioned above: one year at the University of Bologna (I’ve been there with a Marie Curie fellowship) and four years at Central European University of Florence (where I did my PhD in History).
So, this is serious level research that you did. With the sheer volume of information that you must have gathered, did you consciously try to incorporate themes other than story of Tarot into the book?
I think writing this kind of book must be all about conscious choices. There were four stories from different times that had to connect in a deep and original way, the puzzle had to be perfect in the end… That was my goal. And every time I left myself “go with the flow”, every time something influenced my mind while writing – another book, a mood, a song – the result was poor.
What did you use to draw characters into these stories? Did you rely on any personal experiences from your own life as a connection?
In the first pages of the book Isa, my main character, loses her mother and, for the rest of the book, she is just trying to figure out what kind of person her mother was and what secrets did she hide. I’ve lost my mother a few years ago and I have no doubts that’s why this situation is at the core of my book.
I’m sure that loss would greatly impact the trajectory of anything you were writing around that time. How did the individual characters develop outside of this event?
Isa is a younger version of myself – a rebel, a cynical girl who wants to be free and live her life the way she chooses to. Charlie the academic/librarian is a combination between two or three of my former doctoral fellows. I also have an aunt just like Victoria, the step mother. But most of the characters (like for instance Claude the geek) are purely imagined.
Do you ever dream about your characters?
Always. This sounds a bit sick, doesn’t it?
Not at all. Who were your favourites to write?
I love to kill my characters (except for the major ones). It’s a thing I’ve learned from Game of Thrones, I guess.
Out of the characters that you didn’t sacrifice, is there any that you would like to go on a date with or perhaps take out for a beer?
I totally would go on a date with Ty… probably that’s why I’m working on a sequel right now. I want Ty back with Isa.
That’s a great reason to start working on a sequel. Have you found that going back and progressing the lives of the characters the most rewarding thing about writing this book? Or was it something else?
People appreciating the narrative construction. People asking for a sequel. People writing reviews.
People asking for a sequel is a fantastic validation for your work. Now that you have this book under your belt and you’re working on your second you must have gained many new ideas about how to tackle the sequel. So, how long did it actually take you to write the book?
It took me longer than it was supposed to, and there’s just one reason for that: I did not organize my book well enough before starting the writing process. At the beginning I used to write chaotically, without knowing where each chapter was supposed to take me to. I learned I have to tame my creativity, to make it work for my own benefit.
The ability to tame and direct creativity is fantastic. Did you find that the editing process helped you with this?
I can’t do editing myself because I’m not a native English speaker, I’m writing in a foreign language. That’s a great disadvantage for me in a way, because I can’t use the linguistic expressions that would come natural to a native speaker. On the other hand, that could also be a plus: it could be the reason why my writing flows so easily… But I’ll always need a professional editor for my books.
I have to agree that it’s probably an advantage because you also won’t fall into pattern of relying on common linguistic expressions. I think it’s more likely to give an original twist to your writing style. How do attack the actual process of writing?
I write when I’m home alone, in complete silence, in bed, with the computer on my belly. It’s an unhealthy position, but I’m unable to change it.
If it works, why change it? How did you go about getting a cover for your book?
I had a clear idea in mind about the cover. Then I found a model who looked very much the way I imagined the mysterious Mara. But she could be Isa, too.
Do you have any other self-publishing tips for authors?
I just published my first book, how could I dare to give advice?:)
Just going through the experience once is enough to give tips. How did you feel when you got your first book review?
Frightened. Relived. Then frightened again, wondering what’s gonna say the next one.
And what are your opinions on the future of writing and publishing?
There’s no writing without reading first. There should be no writing without publishing afterwards.
Now you’re only employed as a writer, so how does that affect your writing?
Sometimes this makes me feel disconnected from the real world.
Have your favourite authors influenced your writing style?
My writing style is influenced by my favorite TV shows, not by my favorite authors.
That’s interesting. Do you find yourself reading much? What are you currently reading?
Nothing. I don’t want to start copying someone’s style without even knowing. This did happen to me while writing Constant Guests…
What was your favourite book as a child?
Spartacus, that was also the first book I’ve ever read.
Who is your favourite literary character?
Scarlet O’Hara I guess. She was my first favorite character – I was six then.
Do you have any philosophies that you live by?
I’m avoiding philosophies as much as I can. Sometimes I have the feeling that I lived my life just thinking about it, and that’s funny and depressing at the same time. No philosophies, please.
And, now we’re onto my favourite section the quick fire round.
If you could breed two animals together to defy the laws of nature what new animal would you create?
Can you stand on your hands unassisted?
Sure if there’s a wall around.
If you could steal one thing without consequence what would it be?
The Monalisa painting – I’d steal it and burn it
Can you curl your tongue?
Which are cooler? Dinosaurs or Dragons?
They’re very much the same to me
What’s the most unusual name you’ve ever come across?
That’s the end of today’s chat. Patricia I’d like to thank you again, and I wish you the best of luck with the promotion of ‘Constant Guests’, and the development of it’s sequel.
Want to know more about Patricia? Check out her here: