Bologna, 1929. A newborn baby boy is abandoned by his desperate unmarried mother, who believes he is dead and that she is to blame. Heartbroken, she leaves her child, accepting that her actions will haunt her for the rest of her days. But unbeknown to her, the kindness of a stranger means the starving baby survives. And so begins the extraordinary life of Rinaldo Scamorza…
Following several years in an orphanage, where Rinaldo still holds onto the hope that his mother will come to claim him, he is entrusted to a heartless foster-mother who treats her charges as nothing more than financial opportunities. Yet amidst the cruelty and violence of this loveless environment Rinaldo meets fellow orphan, Evelina, and the two children create a bond which they believe will never be broken.
Rinaldo holds tight to the few people who show him love, and he becomes a loyal, intelligent and kind boy. But his life is shattered when aged barely 13, Evelina is sold into prostitution by their foster-mother.
As he grows up and becomes more resourceful, he finds work as an errand boy in a brothel, where he encounters Evelina once again. But in his efforts to help her escape her life of exploitation, another dark misfortune pulls them apart and she disappears.
When at last Italy begins to emerge from the shadows of World War II and Bologna’s economy recovers, Rinaldo uses his intimate knowledge of the city to change his life for the better. But through everything, the successes and the moments of loneliness and misery, the women he yearns to see again – Evelina and his mother – are always on his mind…
Did or do you like to read comic books/grapic novels? Which ones?
It’s been a very long time since I read a comic or a graphic novel, but as a child I used to both read them and attempt to write my own versions. A few examples are still in existence, filed away by various grandparents. My inspirations were the Beano comic and the fabulous cartoons of the late George Adamson. For a long time I had ambitions to be a cartoonist.
Whom did you inherit your love for books/reading from?
I was fortunate to be brought up amongst people who loved to read, although not primarily novels and fiction. I grew up amongst factual and academic books on history, politics and art, as well as encyclopaedias, dictionaries in different languages and dozens and dozens of car manuals. I have recently inherited my Italian grandfather’s book collection and I now have a lifetime of reading material which will eventually have its own dedicated room in my house.
When you need a murder victim or someone you can diagnose with a serious disease or someone who is involved in a fatal accident do you sometimes picture someone nasty you have met in real life and think ‘got you’ LOL?
That’s a dark question, to which the answer is ‘no’, at least not as directly as that. I’m far more insidious. Although some of my less likeable characters do often have the characteristics of unpleasant people I have met in real life, I tend to mock them and give them their comeuppance in ways other than rather than killing them, or afflicting them with a terrible disease – emotional pain over physical pain every time.
How do you come up with the names for your characters?
I don’t have a set way of coming up with the name. Sometimes a character can start with a name, other times the name comes later. Quite often characters have been re-christened more than once during the writing process. What fits is a purely instinctive thing. It just has to feel right. Obviously, as I write historical fiction set in Italy, the name has to fit the country and the period. I couldn’t have two protagonists called Kevin and Stacey living in post-war Italy.
Do you write other things beside books (and shoppinglists 😉 )?
For the moment I write only books and only within the historical fiction genre. From time to time I do wonder about taking historical fiction in a more fantastical direction as two of my favourite novels are ‘Perfume’ by Patrick Suskind ant ‘The Gargoyle’ by Andrew Davidson. I also think it would be fun to write something which is purely fantasy. As for shopping lists, I tend not to write them, hence if I go out to buy milk I am quite likely to come home with a random selection of goods instead, then have to go back out for the milk later.
If a movie or series would be made from your books, would you be happy with the ‘based on’ version or would you rather like they showed it exactly the way you created it?
Before having my first novel published I was not really aware of the amount of behind-the-scenes work, or the number of people involved in not only the initial publication, but also everything which happens after that, such as the audio book recording, translation into other languages etc. What has struck me the most is how much all those involved care about the work, about doing their very best for it in its different forms, and how they all really know what they’re doing. I would like to think that if any of my novels were made into movies, or serialised for tv, the same would apply – therefore if changes had to be made to make something more screen-friendly, I think I would listen to those whose job it is to do that.
Who would you like/have liked to interview? Do you have certain people you contact while doing research to pick their brains? What are they specialized in?
Since moving back to Italy to pursue my writing career full time, I have been very fortunate to meet, or be re-acquainted with, many wonderful older people who have been so generous in recounting their lives and the experiences of their youth to me. These have been conversations more than interviews, and all incredibly instructive, particularly when it comes to small details of their day-to-day lives – the sorts of things which don’t make it into history books – but which can enrich a historical novel tremendously.
Is there someone you sometimes discuss a dilemma with?
My husband is my sounding-board, and is usually very helpful, but our book discussions are only verbal as he refuses to read anything I have written until it’s published. It’s his way of ensuring that I finish what I started. So far, it’s worked.
What is more important to you : a rating in stars with no comments or a reviewer who explains what the comments they give are based on (without spoilers of course)
I think that they are both important, although I also think it’s important not to obsess about either because it’s all down to each individual reader’s personal taste. We’ve all read a brilliant book at some point and been surprised that it’s not at the top of a best-seller list. Equally we can probably all name at least one book which comes with a great fanfare of rave reviews and promises to be fantastic but ends up at the charity shop, or in the recycling bin if it’s so bad we couldn’t bear to inflict it on anybody else.
Reviews with comments are good to receive, particularly when a reader has really enjoyed a book. As an author, hearing that someone has appreciated something you’ve poured so much of your time and energy into is a wonderful, affirming thing.
That said, a poor review can also be helpful as it can draw attention to what needs improving. Amongst these I don’t include the rude, or spiteful or just plain nonsensical comments; or the ones which just say something along the lines of ‘Not for me’ without explaining why. These aren’t helpful either to other readers, or to the author.
Any honest opinion – good, bad or indifferent – is valid, a long as it’s explained.
As for spoilers. I will not disclose the name of the novel or who wrote it, but the review read ‘…in the end, they all turned out to be ghosts, which was brilliant. I didn’t see it coming.’
Thank you, Francesca Scanacapra and Rachel’s Random Resources
About the author
Francesca Scanacapra was born in Italy to an English mother and Italian father, and her early childhood was spent in Bologna, the city whose rich history has been the inspiration for the Bologna Chronicles series of novels. Francesca’s adult life has been somewhat nomadic with periods spent living in Italy, England, France, Senegal and Spain. In 2021 she returned to her native country and back to her earliest roots to pursue her writing career full time. She now resides permanently in rural Lombardy in the house built by her great-grandfather which was the inspiration for her Paradiso Novels.
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