Written by JJ Barnes
I interviewed Nicola Viceconti, author of Come With Me – which has just been published in English for the first time thanks to Aspal Prime. He tells me about his creative process, what inspired him, and his journey from idea to publication.
Tell me a bit about who you are.
I am Italian and I live in Rome. My novels focus on issues relating to memory and identity, and I am particularly passionate about Latin American culture. I have received a number of awards for my books in Italy and have also been granted the title of ‘Eminent Visitant’ by the Chamber of Deputies of the Province of Buenos Aires. In addition I am the creator, jointly with my wife Patrizia Gradito, of a literary project, “Novelas por la Identidad” whose theme is identity in all its facets.
When did you first WANT to write a book?
My desire to write arose during a significant journey, several years ago, when I visited that area of the world where the two countries, Argentina and Uruguay, are crossed by the great Rio della Plata.
As a graduate in Sociology and Communication Sciences, I was interested in studying the sociological origins of the tango and particularly keen to witness firsthand the authentic atmosphere of the milongas in Buenos Aires and Montevideo. Over 40 % of the inhabitants of Argentia and Uruguay are of Italian descent, and I became aware of the effect of such immigration on the culture of those countries, and in particular the development of the tango. I focused on that topic in my first novel Cumparsita which was commended by the Argentine Embassy in Italy for its historical and social value. Recently I have concentrated on issues concerning memory, identity, and human rights.
When did you take a step to start writing.
I started writing following an in-depth documentary study about Italian emigration to Argentina. It included life stories collected during a number of interviews with Italian immigrants. I remember a particular story I was told by a tax-driver about his long search for his Italian relatives in Italy. The migration flows from Italy between the end of the 19th century and 20th century presented a framework for a fictional story.
How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?
It took me approximately a year to carry out the necessary research, to collate the information acquired, and then to structure the plot and work on the characters.
How long did it take you to complete your latest book from the first idea to release.
This one also took about a year, although that was a coincidence since a lot of variables are involved, such as my inspiration, how long the research and writing takes and also co-operation with the publisher.
Focusing on your latest release. What made you want to write Come With Me?
Come With Me is a novel about freedom, hope and love. I wrote this work with the intention of providing the reader with something to reflect on.
What were your biggest challenges with writing Come With Me?
My greatest challenge was to maintain consistency and the historical accuracy of the text.
Who or what inspired you when creating your Protagonist?
The inspiration came from the urge to show the wide range of possible compromises with ideology and as way of understanding politics. The references to the Cold War years scattered throughout the text serve to follow the swirling changes in the conventional ideologies which started to lose their original forms after the fall of the Berlin Wall. The novel also depicts political and/or cultural activism: the existentialism of the intellectuals in Paris, the struggles of the members of the Italian Communist Party (PCI), the activity of the Mexican student movement etc.
Who or what inspired you when creating your Antagonist?
Rather than a character, the antagonist of Franco Solfi is the historical dimension, his disillusionment with his family, and the political indoctrination he received in his youth to which he has to reconcile himself during his journey in search of Irina
What was the inciting incident of Come With Me?
The fortuitous finding of a note in the pocket of an old coat
What is the main conflict of Come With Me?
I would say it is the internal conflict of the main character, Franco Solfi, through his journey to self-awareness. His rediscovery of the centrality of love will help him to find the answers he needs. I would like to mention another special moment in the book – when the protagonist meets the Curandera (a shamanic healer), who is an icon in the collective imagination of Mexico. I used this narrative device to underline the transition from ice-cold Vladivostok to scorching Mexico City, by means of the maravilloso approach, in contrast with the rigour of Western Medicine.
Did you plot Come With Me in advance, or fly by the seat of your pants and write freely?
The story was imagined and carefully structured in advance to portray accurately the characters’ individual personalities. But on top of the basic narrative texture I created, my writing was enriched along the way by unexpected changes, insights or choices satisfying my wish to surprise the reader, to create suspense and let my imagination run wild.
Did you get support with editing and how much editing did Come With Me need?
I did not get support with editing but the manuscript was proofread.
What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a story?
I would suggest that writers should allow themselves to be driven by curiosity about current socio-historical events, or even conversations with ordinary people, just bearing in mind that every person is a ‘carrier’ of stories.
Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning?
At the beginning of 2022, a novel will be published entitled Il sapore della zucca amara (The taste of the bitter pumpkin). Starting with a fictional news story on the drug trade in Lima, this work addresses the wounds caused by the armed internal conflict in Peru in the period of Sendero Luminoso. Co-authored with my wife, Patrizia Gradito, there is another novel under way, based on the events of an intertwined family drama whose background shows the civil and social achievements occurred in the 1970s in Italy, such as the position of women, psychiatric hospitals and the fate of war veterans.
And finally, are you proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?
It was definitely worthwhile. I am proud of the acknowledgement that the novel has received in some literary competitions, and at national and international level. I hope this novel will succeed in fascinating and thrilling the English readers. I am also particularly satisfied with Come With Me as another work within the literary project “Novelas por la identidad”. Like the previous works, this novel stems from the necessity to talk about socio-historical issues that otherwise could be unattractive to certain segments of the population (such as the young). In my opinion, fiction based on a specific historical background can successfully show the complex social impact and psychological effect on the individual as embodied in the characters of our novels. As the Spanish poet Álvaro Muñoz Robledano has said about the novel – Come With Me represents a supreme act of hope and freedom. (There will be a second edition of the Italian version, Vieni Via, published by Rapsodia Edizioni by the end of 2021.)
More From Nicola Viceconti:
Come with Me was published on 6th September 2021 by Aspal Prime (paperback, £10.99) and is available through the publisher, bookshops and internet booksellers. Aspal Prime is an imprint of Aspal Press: discover more wonderful European novels now available in English on the Aspal website: www.aspalpress.uk