The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Daniel Peltz

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The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Daniel Peltz

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Summary: Sue wasn't expecting to enjoy a novel about a building, but was surprised by just how compelling she found The Indomitable Chiesa di Santa Maria. There was a lot to chat about when author Daniel Peltz popped into Bookbag Towers.
Date: 29 May 2018
Interviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee

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Sue wasn't expecting to enjoy a novel about a building, but was surprised by just how compelling she found The Indomitable Chiesa di Santa Maria. There was a lot to chat about when author Daniel Peltz popped into Bookbag Towers.

  • Bookbag: When you close your eyes and imagine your readers, who do you see?

Daniel Peltz: Sometimes I imagine my friends being the readers, but in general I don't have any preconceived ideas about who reads my books. From the reaction I have had so far, more women have read the novel.

  • BB: I don't think I've ever read a novel about a building before. What inspired you to take this approach?

DP: I always wanted to write about the Renaissance, but I wasn't sure how to construct a novel around it. At first I thought about centring the story around the people of the time, similar to George Eliot's Romola. However my love for art and architecture of that time drew me towards writing about a specific structure. Having decided on that approach, by chance I was sitting next to a friend at a dinner party who said that the current vogue was to write historical fiction through different periods. I immediately realised that a novel about a Renaissance church, viewed through different ages in history was very attractive.

  • BB: It's nearly forty years since I was last in Florence and I haven't gone back because I've heard that it's now rather too touristy. Is this true and is there anywhere in the world better than Florence?

It is true that Florence has an enormous number of tourists visiting the city, but the same is true for places such as Venice and Rome. When I was there, the number of tourists was no greater than I had remembered when going there in the late seventies. The problem is that Florence is the most extraordinary city where there are so many treasures on view, it is impossible for it not to be overwhelmed by visitors. It is a blessing and a curse! I certainly do not believe that there is a more beautiful, or more interesting city than Florence.

  • BB: Venice now seems to be more like a theme park than a living, working city. Is there a danger that this will happen to Florence?

DP: No I don't think so. However I visit Venice a lot, and it has not yet become a theme park, but I know what you mean! Remember that Florence has not got the obvious physical restrictions that Venice has. As a result there is less chance that it will face the same problems as Venice has.

  • BB: I loved the way that Molly Cavendish, a guide at the Chiesa di Santa Maria, discovered more about the building as the story progressed. Do you think that it's possible to really know Florence or will it always surprise you? Is there likely to be more to be discovered?

DP: Florence displays a vast amount of its masterpieces, and many have become extremely famous. However it also hides it secrets well. For example, the Brancacci Chapel, which houses the Masaccio fresco cycle is a jewel in Renaissance history. Although it is well known to the art historian, many tourists will not know of its existence. Indeed, this was one of the churches that inspired me in my novel. There is no question that more will be discovered in the future. With more powerful technological tools, including x-ray devices and infra-red lighting, I have no doubt that extraordinary discoveries will be made.

  • BB: Are there still families in Florence who have had their roots in the city for 600 years as have the Vannini family? I was impressed that they were not in the upper echelons of Florence life, but rather its working class. How easy would it be to trace the history of a family such as the Vanninis?

DP: As in any city, I am sure there are a number of families that have been in the city for many years. I thought it would be a more interesting angle to make the Vanninis a normal working class family. It would have been rather prosaic making them a rich high society family. I am sure that it would be relatively easy to trace the roots and genealogy of a family in Florence. I assume there are plenty of records, from a long time back, given how advanced the city was historically.

  • BB: You have the academic background to write the story, but few academics have your talent for telling a compelling story? How did you acquire this skill?

DP: Thank you for that, but I do not think it is a question of acquiring a skill. I have a vivid imagination coupled with a thirst for knowledge. I think I would have been a natural teacher since I love explaining to people what I have learnt. Writing novels comes quite easily for me. I don't need to think too much about a storyline since it does come naturally to me. As the novel develops, I become more submerged in the story, and this feeds my imagination even more! Sometimes I cannot write the words down fast enough before my thoughts lead elsewhere!

  • BB: How long did it take you to write The Indomitable Chiesa di Santa Maria? Did you enjoy the experience?

DP: From gun to tape, it took just over two years. The writing of the novel took just over fourteen months, but then rewriting, and proof reading always takes longer than expected. I was disappointed with the proof editing, and you were right in flagging it in your review! However I will make sure that I will employ a specialist proof reader to do a double check next time! Out of all my novels, The Indomitable Chiesa di Santa Maria was my favourite to write, since the subject matter was one I loved more than anything else. It was a huge amount fun.

  • BB: What are you reading at the moment? Which three books would you take to a desert island?

DP: I am just finishing Decline and Fall by Evelyn Waugh.

My three favourite books in no particular order are:

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
A Place of Greater Safety by Hilary Mantel
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

  • BB: What's next for Daniel Peltz?

DP: I am starting a novel on the history of time. I don't want to say too much since it is very early days. But it is an interesting concept involving a time traveller manipulating various events in history, with an interesting twist…of course!!

  • BB: Thank you fot taking the time to talk to us, Daniel, and whatever your next novel is about, we're looking forward to reading it!

You can read more about Daniel Peltz here.

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