Sunday, November 26, 2023

Interview With Author Giovanna Brunini


1. What inspired you to write this book?

Three different experiences: the purchase of a Tuscan farmhouse ruin in the hills that my Italian ancestors inhabited (the blissful fool’s dream, sleeps unrestored and so for the past ten years); my mother’s confession, my thirteenth year, that she wasn’t fully satisfied with her marriage to my father; and memories of first love. The impetus of “what if” joined forces over the years with my love of forgotten houses, until one day, I found my mother’s confession mirrored my married life. 


2. What exactly is it about and who is it written for?

In Never a Cloud, three women learn the story behind a secret that rearranges everything they thought they knew about the people closest to them. It tells the story of narrator, Violet, a child of the sixties, Margot, a New York City artist who has inherited her grandparents home, Otyrburn, in the Highlands of Scotland, and Ava, Violet’s daughter whose work on her doctorate in intersectional feminism sets the tone for the novel. The disparate lives of these three women (four including, Ruby, Margot’s daughter) collide irrevocably at a week long New Year’s party, 2018, at Otyrburn; the discoveries are layered against a backdrop into the machinations of the international art world. 


I wrote for anyone interested in the question of metaphysical solitude; like Tolstoy, a theme that has defined me lifelong. Or to quote Gibran: “That which seems most feeble and bewildered in you, is the strongest and most determined."

3. What do you hope readers will get out of reading your book?

An expansive sense of self; a renewed respect for personal growth; and that in an expressive world—they must trust their instinct. 

4. How did you decide on your book’s title and cover design?

The cover was a gift from the Welsh photographer, Pete Bushell, who generously refused compensation. I worked start to finish with Kirkus Editorial. The title was discovered one day with my “each for the other” person, Jonathan Tabakin, while we researched his ancestors; a journey which included the race horse, Never a Cloud, owned by his great uncle, Izzy Schwartz. New England is a closet filled with clouds. I am a landlocked thassophile in love with the sun. I found inspiration for the cover’s title font from Vietnam era protest posters, which ties into Violet's political activism.  

5.  Were you surprised -- elated -- when Kirkus Reviews said of your book: "The novel often feels like the film Gosford Park populated by readers of the London Review of Books... Brunini's prose is often evocative..."?

I did a little dance! I had hoped for two adjectives, “evocative,” and “heartfelt;” the latter a gift from a 5 starred review by Pacific Book Review. 


6. How would you describe your writing style? Which writers or books is your writing similar to?

Free verse: having done my research, I work frequently from a place of stream of consciousness. I’m a fast-paced writer; my poetry (so I’m told) means that my prose paints a picture. Family figures large in my writing, like Jane Austen, and Amor Towles. 

7. What challenges did you overcome in the writing of this book?

Oh my, I witnessed the dissolution of my ego—if ever so minutely. I learned the merit in asking oneself if on any given situation, one is responding from an earth-bound place, “the little me,” or from the sky, “the larger one.” 

8. Your personal life is interesting. You took what you call a "marriage sabbatical," adopted a child from China, and enjoy being an artist. Were there experiences in your personal life or career that came in handy when writing this book?

The novel is semi-autobiographical. What writer does not write from life, regardless the genre? We are our life experiences. Personal growth happens in increments. My life has evolved through self-generated expansive experiences; their origin often obscured at the moment; the trip to Rome, Italy, 2000, the “marriage sabbatical” with my three youngest children. 

9. You have lived in Italy, Mexico, and Vermont. How does your location influence or inspire your writings?

Greatly. Immersive travel broadens the palette. My second novel, a WIP, is set in Mexico City and the Yucatan. Many writers also paint; the visual aspect resists restraint.

10. If people can buy or read one book this week or month, why should it be yours?

We all inhabit mysteriously shared dreams, ponder relationships, wrestle with spiritual struggles, and balance the moralist—and we are happiest when humor is our companion. Narrator, Violet, for one, has an irreverent sense of humor. But foremost, if you think that even a piece of yourself has slipped away—read Never a Cloud. As Tolstoy said: “You have to go on an adventure to reinvent yourself.”


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