Diana Rosie’s latest novel, Pippo & Clara was published by Pan on 6 January 2022.
Diana kindly answered a few of my questions.
1. Tell us a little about Pippo & Clara.
Sometimes, it’s the smallest decisions that have the biggest consequences.
Mussolini is in power and war is not far away. A ten-year-old girl stands at a doorway in an Italian city she does not know. Her mother has disappeared and Clara must find her. She turns right.
A little later, her younger brother, Pippo, stands at the same door, looking for his mother and his sister. He turns left.
And, just like that, their lives are changed forever.
The children are taken in by families on opposite sides of the political divide and as the country hurtles towards war, the story follows their fate. Pippo and Clara reminds us that an invisible bond connects us to those we love – whichever way we turn.
2. What inspired the book?
An A level history class. Discussing the interwar years, the teacher drew a line to show the basics of politics; communism on the far left, fascism on the far right, and everything else in between. I remember thinking that Hitler and Stalin were so extreme that they had almost seemed similar. In my mind, the line became a circle. Many years later, I was thinking of a story about siblings who lost each other. It occurred to me that if one kept turning left and the other kept turning right, maybe they’d eventually find each other. The two ideas merged and Italy, with its political extremes, seemed the perfect setting.
3. Are you a plan, plan, plan writer or do you sit down and see where the words take you?
Definitely the latter. My outline is a sentence or two for each chapter – usually what has to happen before the start of the following chapter. After that, it’s a bit like watching a film and I write what I see. Sometimes characters surprise me and I think, ‘I wasn’t expecting her to say that!’ I enjoy those moments – it makes the characters feel real to me, and I hope to readers too.
4. Is there anything about the process of publishing a book that still surprises you?
The fact that something I write can really touch a reader always surprises me. My publisher, agent and I were having lunch once to discuss the ending of Pippo & Clara. My publisher read the suggestion I’d written and burst into tears. That’s when we knew we’d got it right!
5. What do you do when you aren’t writing? What do you do to relax and get away from it all?
To be honest, with two small kids, writing is what I do to get away from it all! I also enjoy gardening – we have a veg patch and I love making up new dishes with freshly picked ingredients.
6. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life which book would it be?
Impossible question! If I had to choose, it would probably be The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene. There’s so much in this story of the last priest in Mexico’s anti-clerical purge. Politics, poverty, religion – but at its heart is a flawed hero you can’t help but care for. Just thinking about it makes me want to read it again.
7. I like to end my Q&As with the same question so here we go. During all the Q&As and interviews you’ve done what question have you not been asked that you wish had been asked – and what’s the answer?
I’ve never been asked what my favourite distraction from writing is. As the Queen of Procrastination, I’m happy tidying, cooking or playing with the dog. But hunting the house for biscuits or chocolate is probably my favourite…
About the Book
A country torn apart by war. Two siblings divided by fate.
Italy, 1938. Mussolini is in power and war is not far away . . .
Clara and Pippo are just children: quiet, thoughtful Clara is the older sister; Pippo, the younger brother, is forever chatting. The family has only recently arrived in the city carrying their few possessions.
When Mamma goes missing early one morning, both Clara and Pippo go in search of her. Clara turns right; Pippo left.
As a result of the choices they make that morning, their lives will be changed forever.