Today we travel to Canterbury, Kent, in the UK to chat with Silvia Sbaraini about how answering questions, ideas in the middle of the night, an elephant, an attic bedroom, listening to the radio, transcendence, tarot-reading workshops, advice from Grandma, sand martins, and chocolate truffles come together as part of Silvia’s current and past life.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
Hello! My name’s Silvia and I live in Canterbury, Kent, in the UK. I’ve lived in the same house for over twenty years and feel I know it like an old friend (and occasional enemy, when bits of it go wrong). It’s 7 pm on a Wednesday evening during lockdown: Grown-up Daughter Number 2 is downstairs assembling dinner, complete with swearing and the radio turned up loud; my husband is in the front room watching reruns of old football matches because there’s no live sport; and I’m sitting at my desk looking at lists of all the life admin I need to do, but still haven’t got around to. And deciding to answer Camilla’s great questions instead …
Sounds wonderful. Everyone doing their own thing, with a bit of swearing and procrastination thrown in! HA!
In which genre do you write?
I write women’s fiction.
What is an interesting writing quirk you have, that we wouldn’t know by reading your biography?
Ideas or beginnings, particularly for short stories, wake me up during the night. Then I have to get up and start writing, otherwise I’m guaranteed to forget them. I don’t know how many stories I’ve lost because I didn’t want to get out of bed at 4 am!
What would you choose as your spirit animal and why?
An elephant. Aren’t they amazing? Their size, their build, how they live in their social groups. I wouldn’t fancy being pregnant for twenty-two months though.
What does your ideal writing space look like?
Light, bright and uncluttered, with a great view. Sometimes I write upstairs in the attic bedroom, which has a view of rooftops, the cathedral and an expansive sky. It’s a lovely place to work.
What are you currently reading?
I’m just about to begin The Gyspy Bride by my friend and fellow author Katie Hutton. It’s a romance-cum-family saga set in Oxfordshire between the wars. I’m really looking forward to this one as Katie writes the most beautiful, evocative descriptions. I’m not sure I’d have the confidence to write historical fiction – I’d be too afraid of getting the period details wrong!
Where did the idea for your most recent book come from?
Well, it’s about a woman in her forties who is just getting on with her life – like we all do – when she receives a serious health diagnosis out of the blue. I’d been listening to the radio and they were talking about living with serious illness. And I thought: how would you cope? What would be the impact? Would it make you live life differently? This was the spark for the story.
What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned about yourself through writing?
Being a bit of a perfectionist/obsessive is quite helpful. To do anything creative well, it’s actually positive to have these characteristics – the desire to makes something as good as it can be, even if that means rereading and re-writing the same sentence a hundred times.
What is the most enjoyable thing you’ve found through writing?
Escape or transcendence. When fully in the flow of writing I’m transported into that other world. It’s totally absorbing – nothing else exists and I lose track of time. My husband always says I’m happiest when writing. Also, I get a tremendous amount from reading, whether that be entertainment, being immersed in a completely different world or a sense of not feeling alone. Words have such power.
I absolutely agree with you … Words have incredible power!
What’s the strangest thing you’ve done or experienced to help create a scene?
Well, one of the central characters in the book I’m currently writing is an eighty-three-year-old psychic who reads tarot cards. So, in the interests of research, I’m taking part in regular tarot-reading workshops. I have to say, I’ve met a lovely, welcoming bunch of people, and I’m becoming much more familiar with the meanings of the cards. I haven’t discovered any latent psychic ability though (I think I was secretly hoping I would).
At this stage in your life, what advice would your young self give to your more mature self?
I love the way you’ve reversed this question! When I was a teenager, I’d ask my grandma what she’d learnt about life, what advice she’d give about how to live it. All she’d ever reply was, ‘Enjoy yourself while you’re young.’ Now, this might seem to be advice that my Old Self should give my Young Self, but, seeing as Grandma classed everyone under retirement age as ‘young’, it’s still advice my Young Self could give my Old Self. I’m fifty and not one of those people who ‘still feels twenty inside’. No. I feel every one of my fifty years but, sometimes, it would be good to remind myself that fifty is young to an eighty-year-old.
If you could turn into one of your characters for a day, which one would it be and why, what would you do?
I initially chose a female character I’m writing at the moment, but – do you know what? – I think I’d choose Olly, a male character in my most recently published book: Gina’s Therapy. He’s the hopeless ex-husband of the eponymous heroine; he’s handsome, an artist, popular with the ladies and, unfortunately, Gina is still in love with him. I’m choosing him because I think it would be amazing to experience being the opposite sex. Would I find it actually made little difference to my sense of self, my drives and outlook or would I feel fundamentally different?
What’s your favourite place to visit in your country and why?
I absolutely love where I live – Canterbury, in Kent. We’ve been going for lots of walks in local woods due to lockdown, and it’s been wonderful to see them gently unfurling into new life – with wild flowers dotting the undergrowth and a fresh canopy of vibrant green leaves. There’s a great coastline walk from the local town of Herne Bay to Reculver. Here, the grassy cliffs meet the pebbly beach and your eye is drawn to the twin towers of a ruined church. At this time of year (May) there are lots of sand martins nesting in the cliffs, darting over the tuffty grasses and scrubby, sea-loving plants catching insects. Canterbury itself is an historic city with the cathedral at its heart and the River Stour winding through it. There are ancient churches, beautiful public parks and secret gardens, not to mention fab shops and a brilliant theatre. I’ll stop now, as I’m beginning to sound like a tourist brochure!
It sounds amazing. Now you’ve got me adding this to my bucket list!
Describe the perfect solo date you’d take yourself on … where, time of day, weather, place, etc.
In bed with a book. Maybe with a storm lashing at the windows and howling down the chimney, removing any guilt about retreating into bed. And a box of chocolate truffles …
Tell us about your most recent book and where we can find it.
My most recent novel is called Gina’s Therapy and it was released in April 2020. As it came out during lockdown, it’s currently primarily available as an ebook on Amazon. But, when lockdown eases and book distributors and bookshops begin to operate again, the paperbacks will be available. I think the blurb on the back cover sums it up best:
Gina has enough to deal with for one week: a disapproving daughter, her ex-psychotherapist living next door and a hopeless ex-husband she’s still in love with. Without a diagnosis of cancer.
Catapulted into the unknown territory of surgery, chemo and support groups, Gina faces her predicament with strength, wit and a faithful pair of elasticated-waist trousers. As treatment progresses, Gina finds herself asking surprising questions. Will she ever be able to concentrate on what her oncologist is saying, without being distracted by his enormous moustache? Should her best friend’s thirty-year love of David Essex prevent her advice from being taken seriously? And how will she explain her bald bonce to her seven-year-old granddaughter?
Blessed with the ability to delight in life’s absurdities and contradictions, Gina’s Therapy is a warm-hearted exploration of the things that matter most in life and the power of stories to transform our experience.
Thanks so much for giving me the opportunity to take part in Meet the Authors – it’s been an absolute pleasure!
It was great having you on MTA, Silvia. I truly enjoyed your interview, laughing out loud! And, now I know what a bonce is … I had no idea and thought you had made a typo. Decided I better look it up before “fixing” it for you. Ha! – Camilla
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2 Replies to “Meet the Author: Gina’s Therapy by Silvia Sbaraini”
Thanks so much for interviewing me, Camilla – I really enjoyed answering your great questions xx
You’re welcome, Silvia. It was a pleasure having you on MTA. Wishing you all the best and much success with your books!