Write what you know goes the adage. That’s just what Maria Grazia Swan does and in this interview, the Italian-born writer talks about what inspired her to write and how the death of her best friend influenced her writing.
“The female main character in both my series is always Italian-born as I am,” said Swan. “It is only natural that I made it my mission to share with my readers information they may not know about Italian customs and habits. Think of the possibilities! I may describe a drink, a way of cooking or something as simple as siesta time. Little details you don’t get from travel brochures.”
In “Gemini Moon,” the first book of the Lella York series, Swan writes about the annual return of the swallows to Mission San Juan Capistrano. Even though most of the swallows no longer return to the mission, Swan thought it would make a good subject. “I had mixed feelings while writing about the nonexistent swallows, especially since I did volunteer as a docent at the Mission. I spent some time doing research and came to the conclusion it was okay to openly talk about it.”
Swan describes “Gemini Moon” as traveling from exotic Florence to the sensuous beaches of Southern California. She said, “This book sizzles with scary surprises, plot twists, and a heady brew of gypsy magic. The book opens with a casual encounter on Ponte Vecchio (Florence) between Lella and an astrologer. That really happened to me and memories of the encounter lingered in my mind for so long I just had to write about it.”
However, it was a tragic event in which Swan’s best friend was shot that brought Swan to a point where she said, “The book wrote itself.” She’s still deeply affected by the shooting and would only say, “It is a very touchy topic.” On a happier note, Swan remembers time spent as a child with her grandfather. “I followed him around and that’s how I learned about birds, and about hunting dogs, or how to shine shoes and most important how to buy shoes that fit!”
Her “nonno,” as Swan calls him, taught her Calligraphy and gave her a passion for the written word. She said, “At first he would guide my hand, as I got better he made me thin sticks I could dip into ink and practice drawing large letters. But one rainy day I discovered a big box full of books up in the attic. I would sit on that same table and read while my nonno asked me about the stories and then encouraged me to tell my own stories. I’m still telling my own stories, and I have my own books. My grandfather died years ago, but I know he is smiling every time someone reads one of my—our—stories.”
Maria Grazia Swan was born in Italy, but has lived in Belgium, France, Germany, California, and has currently settled in Phoenix. Learn more about her on her website at www.mariagraziaswan.com.