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Interview: Nicky Pellegrino talks about A Year at Hotel Gondola

Nicky Pellegrino is one of New Zealand's most successful novelists, and her tenth novel, A Year at Hotel Gondola has just published. She talks to NZ Booklovers about her latest book.

Tell us a little about A Year at Hotel Gondola.

It’s set in Venice and like all my novels it’s about love, food and friendship. This time I tell the story of a woman called Kat Black who has always been an adventurer. When she turns 50 her mother tells her she only has a limited amount of time left before she’ll start yearning for a quieter, calmer life. Kat is determined that will never happen. She plans to get more interesting not less. And so she sets out to experience the one thing she feels she’s missed out on so far – true love – and she rushes into a romance with a gorgeous Venetian man.

What inspired you to write this book?

A lot of stuff that was going on in my head about getting older. I read a couple of novels that covered the whole sweep of a character’s life. Their youth was all about adventure and challenge, and their later years full of regret and nostalgia. I thought, really does it have to be that way? Are we all destined to be envious of the lives we used to have? And that’s how Kat Black came into being.

What research was involved?

I’ve spent some time in Venice but never properly lived there so I read loads of blogs written by people who do, particularly foodies. My favourite was a beautiful one, From My Dining Table by Skye McAlpine. It felt quite torturous at times, particularly on grey Auckland days when all there was in my cupboard for lunch was tinned tuna and an apple.

What was your routine or process when writing this book?

I juggle writing fiction with my work as a journalist so don't really have a routine. It’s more a matter of grabbing any time I can to work on my novels. But with this one I did quite a bit of writing in a local café sitting with a friend who is a children’s book author. It felt less solitary and it was great to have someone to talk to about the plot and characters. The café’s owner is very nice about us hogging a table and serves great coffee and carrot cake.

If a soundtrack was made to accompany this book, name a song or two you would include.

No need to make a new one I’ll just have the soundtrack from Once Upon A Time In America by Ennio Morricone.

If your book was made into a movie, who would you like to see playing the lead characters?

I think Julia Roberts would be perfect as Kat Black. And for her love interest, Massimo, I’d pick an Italian actor called Raoul Bova purely on the basis of his extreme hotness.

What did you enjoy the most about writing this novel?

I most enjoyed writing the character of Coco. She’s appeared in a previous book (One Summer In Venice) although you don’t have to have read that one to enjoy this. She’s an older woman with lashings of style and spirit.

What did you do to celebrate finishing this book?

I imagine I ate and drank too much….that’s how I celebrate everything!

What is the favourite book you have read so far this year and why?

It's a tie between All The Beautiful Girls by Elizabeth J Church because I love her writing. And The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle because I’m crazy about time travel novels.

What’s next on the agenda for you?

Right now I’m working on a book that’s set in southern Italy and will be published in 2019. Then after that I’m going to break out and write a very different novel – I’m feeling both excited and terrified at the prospect!


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