How did you start publishing so young? Was this a problem -maybe critics did not take you seriously because of your age- or an advantage because it has approached you to your young readers?
When I started to write my first book, I didn't think to publish my story; I only enjoy writing. I decided to send my book to Mondadori (my italian publishing house) later on, because I realized that writing the book was a very important thing for me, and I've worked very hard on it.
When my first book was published, my age became a problem; people said that I was too young (but in Italy we have had writers younger than me) and I didn't rise from the ranks. Most of the people that sais this haven't neither read my book. It was hard for me, because I think that criticism based on the age of the writer are not constructive.
At your website, you talk about your influences - manga, fantasy, etc. - and how this universe helped you to imagine the Mondo Emerso. Do you still read fantasy? Which are your favourite authors? Do you read the work of any Spanish author?
Yes, I read fantasy, but it is not the only genre that I read. I like very very much Jonathan Stroud, he is my favourite fantasy author, but I like Rowling too, and Le Guin, for example. I don't know any Spanish fantasy author; in Italy fantasy has become a popular genre for a short time, so there are few not Anglophone authors that have been translated in Italian.
What do you think about the fantasy from United States? Do you think that European fantasy has the same quality?
Yes, sure. I think that European fantasy sometimes is better than American one (for example the books from Rowling or Stroud), because is more original, sometimes more "experimental". Italian fantasy too is very interesting; it is a very young genre, so we have a variety of different voices and ways to interpret it.
Have your studies of astrophysics influded or reflected on your work? Have you thought about writing science-fiction?
Yes, for example the names of my main characters are stars names (Nihal is a star from the Lepus constellation, Dubhe from Ursa Maior), taken from Arabian stars catalogs. I think also that my scientific formation influenced my way to work when I write; I need a certain discipline, I need schemes when I write, and I borrow that way to work from my astrophysics studies.
I never thought to write sci-fi books, I don't know why; probably I prefer to write about a hypothetical rather than a possible future. But I thought sometimes to write a popular scientific book; I worked in popularization for three years and I likes it very much.
How did you imagine the Mondo Emerso? What was first: a character, a story, a landscape...?
The first thing that I imagined was my main character, Nihal. Then, I slowly built around her a world and a story. That is true for all my books: my first idea is a character idea.
In your work, female characters are very important. Unlike classic fantasy, in Chronache del Mondo Emerso, for example, Nihal is a fierce warrior, while the boy, Sennar, is an intelligent and thoughtful magician. How did you thought about this "role inversion"? What do your readers think about it?
For me it was natural to tell about a female warrior. I surely think that men and women are different, especially concerning their way to see and interpret the world, but I don't think that these differences concern the role that they play in the world. I wanted a character that struggled for life and to find a sense in her existence, and the easier way to describe such character was to made her a warrior, and I choose a female main character because for me was easier to get inside a woman like me.
In your work there is a big contrast between your world's light and beauty, and the violence and destruction of war, between the characters' emotions -faith, love, friendship, bravery...- and the bloody battles they fight. Did you made this on purpose or was involuntary?
No, probably no. But I wanted to stress the violence of war, I wanted to show that war is something terribile, dirt, that makes men change and transform in beasts.
In Cronache del Mondo Emerso is very important not only the evolution of Nihal, but also her relationships with others, especially Sennar and Ido. Did you plan from the beginning the evolution of these relationships or they were growing with the story? The relationship of Sennar and Nihal changes a lot along all the trilogy. Did you plan from the beginning to make suffer your readers with it?
The Nihal and Sennar relationship was planned from the very beginning, I knew how to develop it and I knew how it ended. Concerning Ido, was more a work in progress. When I created him, I didn't think he would be so important in Nihal growth and for me as writer.
In most of your books the main characters are women. Are you planning any story with a boy in a leading role?
I've already written three stories with male main characters. The first one has not been published, and it is the Tyrant story; I wrote it immediately after the Cronache del Mondo Emerso. The second one is a brief novel that I wrote for a small italian publishing house; it has been published in a series that had the goal to sensitize the public about the crimes that mafia commits against nature (the phenomenon is named in Italy ecomafia). This book has a setting completely different from Mondo Emerso, a city called Malva. The title is I Dannati di Malva. The third one is a short story very difficult to define; is not an heroic fantasy, probably is more about philosophy. It is the story of a man that wake up one morning and discover that no one is left in is town.
In current fantasy for young readers, dragons are usually intelligent, wise and talking creatures; their riders are "chosen ones" who find them by chance or because that was their destiny. But in the Mondo Emerso dragons are not-talking beasts; to be a dragon rider you must succeed in a very hard training; for Nihal, it is still harder because she is a girl. Unlike those "chosen one" heroes, your character gains with a lot of effort her right to ride a very unfriendly beast. Is this a defense of personal struggle, opposite to facilities -or enchanted gifts- given to a hero only because he is "the chosen one"?
I always thought that life is a struggle, against all the troubles we run into along the way and very often against ourselves and our feeblenesses. All the Nihal story is a metaphor that explains this conviction. We obtain everything through fight and sorrow, that is why Nihal has to struggle to conquer her peace and everything that she wants.
In Spain, for the moment, only the first trilogy of the Mondo Emerso has been published. We know that there are more books about this world. In which way they are related to Cronache del Mondo Emerso?
My second trilogy, Guerre del Mondo Emerso, is set forty years after the end of Cronache; main characters are different from the first trilogy, but we see some old acquaintances (Sennar and Ido, for example). Concerning the tird one, in Italy has been published only the first book, is set about one hundred years after the end of Cronache. This new trilogy in such a way is very much linked to the first one. Finally, there is an art book that collects a set of Paolo Barbieri illustrations about Cronache del Mondo Emerso, along with original short stories written by me.
Can you talk us about your other works that are not set in the Mondo Emerso, like La Ragazza Drago?
Concerning La Ragazza Drago, the serie is not set in Mondo Emerso, but in our world. The first book, the only one that has already been published (the next one will be out in april), is set near Rome, the second one in a city in the south of Italy, Benevento. The story is about of a young girl that host the spirit of an ancient dragon.
Do you know if there are plans to publish the rest of your works in Spain?
I completely don't know. I hope so.
The covers and other illustrations of your books are very intense. How is your professional relationship with Paolo Barbieri? How did you start working together?
At the beginning, he was choosen by the publishing house, but I've immediately loved his work. His illustrations are fantastic, and we have very much in common, starting from the manga and anime that we love, or the way in which we consider our work. We have a common vision, and it was very good to work with him for the art book.
And how is your contact with your readers? Has it changed since your first book was published? Can you tell us any anecdote about your meetings with your fans?
I am always in touch with my readers; I meet them during my lectures, I talk with them by email. Recently, I started to comprehend that the link that a reader create with the author of the book he loves is very strong, in such a way dangerous; I feel like they have an idealized image of me, and sometimes they want from me things that I cannot give them. They think to know me because they've read my books, but I know that it is not true, that I am different from that can be seen in my books. I know that this means my books in such a way can touch very deeply some people, but sometimes this thing scary me a little. For example, once a girl, during a lecture of mine, was so excited that burst into tears when she saw me; I thought she was very sweet, and I tried to explain that I was a girl exactly like her.
In Spain, we usually find your books in the Fantasy section of the bookshops, not in Literature for Young Readers, despite they are enjoyed for a lot of young people. Would you place your work in Young Adult Literature?
I am not very good with genres. I always thought that genres are labels useful for editors and readers, to sell and buy books, but it is not something that concerns authors. I simply hope that my books can be read by a huge public. Anyway, my italian publishing house classify my books as a young adults product.
Have you planned to visit Spain soon?
I've visited it two times in the past; for work reasons, I've been in Madrid, but only for one day, and I felt ill, so I had no time to visit the city. Last year, I was for a week in Barcelona, and I find it absolutely amazing, I really loved it. In the future I have no plan in Spain, but I'd like very much to visit new places in Spain.