We interviewed the fabulous Angela Petch in RAC’s July 2019 issue. Enjoy!
Interview with Angela Petch
I live in the beautiful Italian Apennines for several months each year. Such an inspiring location.
My love affair with Italy was born at the age of seven when I moved with my family to Rome where we lived for six years. My father worked for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and he made sure we learned Italian and visited many places during that time.
Later on I studied Italian at the University of Kent at Canterbury and afterwards worked in Sicily, where I met my husband. His Italian mother and British father met in Urbino in 1944 and married after a war-time romance.
I wanted to write “The Tuscan Secret” not only for my amazing mother-in-law, Giuseppina, but also to make people aware of the courage and hospitality shown by families of our Italian neighbours in our corner of war-torn Tuscany.
This is my first novel and is a story about ordinary people who lived through extraordinary times. (Please note it is a revised version of “Never Forget” and “Tuscan Roots”). I have been signed by BOOKOUTURE for a two-book deal and one of these is a slight re-write of “Tuscan Roots”. The new title is “The Tuscan Secret” and has more tension and intrigue to the story. I am so proud to be a part of this publishing “family”, as they describe themselves, who have patiently helped me to polish the original. It is available to pre-order at the moment, for 99 pence, and will be published mid-June 2019.
A sequel to this book was published at the end of April 2017. “Now and then in Tuscany” features the same family that appeared in “Tuscan Roots”. The background is the transhumance, a practice that started in Etruscan times and continued right up until the 1950’s.
My research for both these novels has been greatly helped by my kind Italian, country friends, who have vivid memories of both the Second World War and the harsh times they endured in their childhoods.
Italy is a passion but my stories are not always set there. I have also written a novella about two fun-loving ladies of “a certain age” who live by the seaside in Sussex and get up to all kinds of adventures. “Mavis and Dot” were launched on December 1st 2018 at St Paul’s Centre, Worthing, West Sussex and have received fab reviews. I have a sequel in mind. All profits from sales go to research into cancer.
At present I am working on a brand new, Second World War Tuscan novel, inspired by the many ruins I see on my walks in the Apennines. Each dilapidated house holds a story for me, whether true or invented. I still have to dream up a title for this book, which will be put in 2020, also with Bookouture.
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Thank you Angela, for taking time out of your busy schedule to tell us a little bit more about yourself, and your writing. I understand that you live in two places, the UK and Italy. How does that work for you?
Thank you for inviting me to talk! Our “bi-life” is interesting as the two locations are so different. In England we live in a busy area along the southern coast near our five grandchildren. We spend our summer months in a remote valley in Tuscany where peace and tranquility are key. I run a little holiday business here with my half-Italian husband to top up our pensions! Here, I have plenty of time to write, so for me it is almost perfect. I do miss my children and grandchildren, however. Life is not perfect.
I saw that you held a writing conference last year. Will you have one this year?
Our first writing week was a great success and we are repeating it from September 11th – 18th. Last year we had a tutor leading us, but we decided to gear the sessions this time to (optional) discussions and to include plenty of writing exercises to get participants to think outside their boxes. On Friday 13th Kathryn Bax, from One Stop Fiction, is coming along with her son, Kent, to guide us with tips for self-publishing success. I discovered she lived near us in Tuscany and we have become friends. Facebook is a fantastic medium: I love the way the writing community can pull together.
We have also reduced our price to £550, which includes airport transfer from Bologna, accommodation, delicious food and wine, coffee and tea on tap. In addition, there will be a couple of excursions to local towns, plus a Flash Fiction competition. Last year it was won by a novice writer who was thrilled. If anybody would like details, then please contact me as there are a couple of spaces still available.
Let’s get down to your books. I just read The Tuscan Secret, and wow, I was impressed with this gripping and emotional story. Congratulations! Tell us how this story came about.
Thank you so much, Joanie. xx
My 93 year-old mother-in-law is Italian and she met a handsome British army captain during WW2 in Urbino. They fell in love immediately and after their wedding in Venice, she moved to England as a young war bride. She had a tough time adjusting to the new culture, but she tells me she would do it all over again. She was so much in love. Over the years, she has told me many stories about her time in the war, when her home town was occupied. Her father helped the partisans and harboured escaped POWs.
When we found our ruined watermill here in Tuscany, I discovered that it was located right along the German defensive area known as the Gothic Line. I speak fluent Italian and picked up many anecdotes about this time from elderly locals. I was inspired to combine all these stories into a novel, principally for Giuseppina, my mother-in-law. The original version had the title “Never Forget” when I self-published it via a company that went bust (taking all my royalties). Subsequently I self–published with CreateSpace with a new title and some revisions and called it “Tuscan Roots”. Then, it was picked up by my present digital publishing company, Bookouture, who asked me to make further edits. I am very happy with the finished result of “The Tuscan Secret”. The book has travelled along a few paths, but it is now reaching a wider audience which I struggled to do by myself.
I wrote it from the heart – there is a lot of personal history invested in my writing and, now that my lovely mother-in-law is suffering from Alzheimer’s, I am satisfied some of her memories have been recorded. Her generation went through so much and didn’t talk about their experiences very much. So, my book is like a voice for her.
Marvis and Dot, a story about two older best friends, is another book of yours and I see that proceeds from this book go to cancer research. Is this story based on someone you knew?
This is a very different genre and yes, it is based on someone very close to my heart. I lost my best friend over thirteen years ago and I have dedicated it to Olga. We used to love traipsing round the charity shops (thrift stores) and auction houses looking for bargains whenever we could find the time. While we were out, we called each other Mavis and Dot, and generally hammed it up a little.
Sadly, she fell very ill with ovarian cancer and to cheer her up, I started to write gently humorous stories about “us”. They made her smile and she drew a sketch of our characters which I hang in my downstairs cloakroom in England.
After she died, I put the stories in a drawer until one day I read one out to my writing group. It raised laughter and so I decided to write a novella, adding a few more stories to my original three. I have been asked if I will write a sequel and I think I will. Mavis and Dot seem to appeal. Watch this space! (I am in the middle of editing a sequel to “The Tuscan Secret” at present, so I will need to move my head from Tuscany to the British seaside…)
Angela, what do you like to do for fun? What are your hobbies?
I love playing tennis, which I was told to give up after a big shoulder operation last year (but I have disobeyed the surgeon and listened to the physiotherapist who said I was strong enough!) I also love walking in the mountains here. As writing is a sedentary occupation, any exercise is welcome. Cooking is another interest and reading (it goes without saying – I don’t think you can write without reading lots).
Readers are dying to know:
Chocolate or chips? Definitely chocolate (especially dark, dark)
Mountains or Beach? Mountains or a beach far from crowds
Stay up late or Get up Early? Get up early – when my ideas are fresher
Dog or cat? Both
Thank you so much for inviting me to chat. I also appreciate this fabulous site which offers so much support and information.