Please join me in welcoming award-winning novelist, essayist and freelance photojournalist Vincent Zandri as the special guest blogger here today at Thoughts in Progress.
Vincent latest release (his fourth novel) is a thriller entitled, “Moonlight Falls.”
“Moonlight Falls” is the Albany, New York-based paranoid tale (in the Hitchcock tradition) of former APD Detective turned Private Investigator/Massage Therapist, Richard “Dick” Moonlight, who believes he might be responsible for the brutal slaying by knife of his illicit lover, the beautiful Scarlet Montana. The situation is made worse since Scarlet is the wife of Moonlight’s boss, Chief of Detectives Jake Montana.
Vincent has skipped off to Italy to get in some writing time so he is sharing his thoughts on “Florence is a Moveable Feast.”
The guestroom I occupy on the Via Faenza overlooks an old convent and the mountains beyond the city of Florence, Italy. Located on the top floor of s six-story walk up, the room’s floor is covered in thick ceramic tiles. The walls are plaster and decorated plainly but tastefully in framed charcoal prints depicting Florence as it was a century or more ago.
The ceiling is high and vaulted and there is a Casablanca fan that I turn on in the afternoons when it gets warm. I also like to open the shutters and the windows even in the cold months to let the cold air in. I also like to hear the sound of footsteps slapping against the cobbles and the zoom of the motor scooters as they whiz by on the narrow street below.
Just before lunch you can smell the aroma of garlic and olive oil simmering in the kitchen of the trattoria just below me. You can hear the laughter of the architecture students and the shouts from the Italian masons and pipe fitters while they pull up a slab of marble in order to work on the clay pipes buried underneath the road. When it rains, you can hear the raindrops spattering against the cobbles.
I first came to Florence many years ago on my honeymoon with my first wife. I felt an immediate affinity to the Renaissance city by the Arno. It was not just a place where artisans and writers flourished, but more importantly, a place where breakthroughs were made. If it were not for Florence, decades more might have passed before visual artists began to understand the concept of perspective. If it were not for Florence, Dante Alighieri might not have gifted the world with his Divine Comedy. If not for Florence, we would not have inexpensive Chianti.
I came back to Florence nearly a decade later with the woman who would become my second wife and for the first time, I considered settling here for at least a part of the year. In my mind I saw us breakfasting over café and pasticceria in the mornings and sharing a bottle of Chianti at a café by the Duomo in the evenings. But my wife and I would not last long enough for that fantasy to happen.
It wasn’t until I was working on the book that would become Moonlight Falls that I made another return to Florence. This time alone. Some people thought me mad since behind every wall, inside every café, with every breathe of the damp Tuscan air, I would be reminded of the loves I’d won and tragically lost.
But maybe that is why I came to Florence in the first place. Because in order to write with a particular passion, depth, and emotion, you must dig deep into your heart. When that heart has been broken, and the wound healed, there is no better place for the wound to be reopened for the benefit of the page, but at the same time no better place for it to be re-healed.
Some writers and artists prefer to apply for grants to art colonies like Yaddo or MacDowell. But those places and programs remind me too much of graduate school where the writer is thrust into a communal situation with his or her peers. You’re not only expected to keep “quiet hours” but you’re expected to eat, drink and sleep at the appropriate hours. While I sought out a far away, quiet place to write, I did not want to give up the freedom of doing what I wanted, when I wanted. Which is why I keep coming back to Florence year after year. It’s a place that allows me to write in peace while enjoying the benefits of a classic European city.
You can walk from one end of this city to the other in 45 minutes. It’s that small. But it’s also large enough to allow you to hide out in anonymity for a while. But then, the more times I come here, the more friends I make. People are happy in this city. They are even more happy when they know you are here not as a tourist but as a working writer.
I think I will always come to Florence to write. But I am not as alone now as I used to be. And I am not nearly as sad as when I first came here alone. I walk the streets and gaze at the architecture and eat the fine foods and drink the wine. I laugh with my new good friends and at night I sleep like a baby knowing that in the morning there will be good coffee and a blank page that will be filled with words by the end of the working day. Life is long but the days are short and sweet in Florence. Like Hemingway’s Paris of the 1920s, it is very much a “moveable feast.”
Vincent thank you for sharing your thoughts on Florence with us. I can see why you continue to return, it sounds like a wonderful place to write.
Vicent’s novel, "As Catch Can" (Delacorte) was touted in two pre-publication articles by Publishers Weekly and was called "Brilliant" upon its publication by The New York Post. The Boston Herald attributed it as “The most arresting first crime novel to break into print this season.” Other novels include "Godchild" (Bantam/Dell) and "Permanence" (NPI). Translated into several languages including Japanese and the Dutch, Zandri’s novels have also been sought out by numerous major movie producers, including Heyday Productions and DreamWorks. Presently he is the author of the blogs, Dangerous Dispatches and Embedded in Africa for Russia Today TV (RT).
He also writes for other global publications, including Culture 11, Globalia and Globalspec. Zandri’s nonfiction has appeared in New York Newsday, Hudson Valley Magazine, Game and Fish Magazine and others, while his essays and short fiction have been featured in many journals including Fugue, Maryland Review and Orange Coast Magazine. He holds an M.F.A. in Writing from Vermont College and is a 2010 International Thriller Writer’s Awards panel judge. Zandri currently divides his time between New York and Europe. He is the drummer for the Albany-based punk band to Blisterz.
For more information on Vincent check out these links: www.vincentzandri.com, http://vincentzandri.blogspot.com/, http://twitter.com/VincentZandri, http://www.facebook.com/vincent.zandri?ref=profile, and http://www.myspace.com/vincentzandri