Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Q&A with Phaedra Patrick




Phaedra Patrick is the author of the new novel The Little Italian Hotel. Her other novels include The Messy Lives of Book People. She lives in Saddleworth, UK.


Q: What inspired you to write The Little Italian Hotel, and how did you create your character Ginny?


A: I thought it would be interesting to take someone who prides herself in having the ideal home life and career and to plunge her into crisis! Ginny loves offering advice to listeners of her Just Ask Ginny radio show and thinks she has all the answers to their problems. When her whole world falls apart, she struggles to practice what she preaches.


My supporting characters are a diverse bunch, ranging from 17 to 80 years of age. They’d probably never meet in their day-to-day lives, so it was interesting to throw them all together and to explore their various dynamics. Italy is so beautiful, I thought that readers would enjoy taking a holiday there with Ginny and her guests.


Q: The book, as the title suggests, takes place in and around a small Italian hotel. Was it based on an actual place?


A: Hotel Splendido isn’t a real place and exists only in my imagination, but I did spend some nice time looking at lots of little Italian hotels on the internet for inspiration. When I wrote about the Splendido, I pictured it in my head, as if it was a real place. I can still see all the room layouts and the gorgeous courtyard outside.

Q: Did you need to do any research to write this novel, and if so, did you learn anything especially surprising?


A: One of the smallest pieces of research I carried out surprised me the most. In England we usually add an ‘x’ at the end of a birthday card or message, to signify a kiss. In the US, I believe ‘xo’ is used to represent hugs and kisses. However, in Italy these symbols aren’t used at all because there is no ‘x’ in the Italian alphabet.


This was relevant when hotel owner Nico gives his daughter, Loretta, a present for her 18th birthday. I researched how Italians would sign off a message and could have easily got it wrong. It just shows the level of detail that goes into writing a book.


As research for the activities carried out by Ginny’s guests, I actually took part in gong therapy. It’s supposed to get rid of bad vibrations in the body and it has a very emotional effect on Ginny in the book. But I just found it strange and not very relaxing at all.


I wrote most of the book during the pandemic so unfortunately wasn’t able to travel overseas to Italy. I did lots of online research instead, about the locations, language, and nuances of the country. I also revisited my past holiday photographs, bringing back some nice memories. Two Italian readers kindly checked the book for me, to ensure my depictions of the country, its people and language were correct.


Q: The writer Amy Meyerson said of the book, “With keenly observed characters and Patrick’s signature wit, The Little Italian Hotel celebrates the healing power of community and insists that it’s never too late to bet on yourself.” What do you think of that description?


A: I think it’s lovely and very generous of Amy to read the book and to provide a quote, especially because I really admire her work. I did want The Little Italian Hotel to explore how people look after each other and take chances in life, so I’m pleased those elements shone through for her.

Q: What are you working on now?


A: I’m currently writing my seventh book, due to be published in 2024. I feel very fortunate to remain under contract with Park Row (an imprint of HarperCollins), who have published all my novels in the USA since my debut, The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper. They’re so brilliantly supportive of my work.


My book seven will feature a fortune teller, tarot cards, a family living under a relationship curse, some gorgeous overseas locations, and a search for a significant person. I hope that’s enough to pique the interest of readers.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: I’m delighted that The Little Italian Hotel has already been optioned as a TV series or film. It doesn’t mean that it will definitely be made, but I’m very hopeful, especially as my second novel, Rise and Shine, Benedict Stone, was made into a Hallmark movie in 2021.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Phaedra Patrick.

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