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Q and A with Villa Girls author Nicky Pellegrino

Author Nicky Pellegrino

Kiwi author Nicky Pellegrino has just released her fifth novel, The Villa Girls.

We caught up with the publishing powerhouse on the eve of her book launch.

Your latest novel revisits the Martinelli family who feature heavily in The Italian Wedding.

It also features characters and settings (Villa Rosa) from Recipe for Life.

Is your next novel based around the same characters/settings? If so, what is it about the characters/setting that resonates with you?

NP: Actually the Martinelli family gatecrashed The Villa Girls. I was only planning to include Addolorata to begin with but the rest of them elbowed their way in.

Still I like the fact that I've linked this story to three of my other books with both character and location.

The idea is that you can read them in any order and may recognise people and places as you go along, but it doesn't really matter if you don't.

The novel I'm working on now is very different. It's set in 1950s Rome and is all about music and fame. So far for I've spent a lot of time watching Roman Holiday!

TVNZ: The foodie theme resonates in your novels. Do you cook - and what do you love to cook yourself?

NP:  I really, really love to eat and inevitably that means I have to cook. I like exploring new flavours.

This past summer I've been cooking lots of Asian-style food based on chilli, lime, fish sauce and rice vinegar.

Last year I went through a real southern Indian phase.

Italian is the cuisine I always come back to in the end. I make a pretty good risotto although anyone bothered about their cheese and butter intake is wise to avoid it.

TVNZ: Which of your character/s do you most identify with?

NP: I think every main female character I've written so far has an element of me in her.

With Recipe For Life some of Alice's story was autobiographical.

In this new book the main character Rosie has an emotional relationship with food that I'd have to say I can relate to.

I don't seem to be able to help slipping some of myself in.

TVNZ: Which, if any authors influence your own writing style?

NP:  I love authors like Jane Smiley, Rose Tremain, Andrea Levy and Audrey Niffenegger but I'm not sure any of them actually influence my own style.

I wish it were as easy as reading a completely brilliant piece of writing and then writing brilliantly myself.

TVNZ: You review heaps of books yourself - what's your favourite genre?

NP: I don't like really gory, graphic crime novels and I'm not a huge fan of fantasy but aside from that I love all sorts of genres.

So long as I'm taken away from my own world entirely and pulled in to the story I don't mind if it's historic, literary, a thriller, a ghost story or the sort of contemporary woman's fiction that I write myself.

TVNZ: What advice could you give to budding writers/ wanna-be writers?

NP: Just do it! The easiest thing in the world is to procrastinate and there is always a reason not to write.

I usually advise people to set themselves a goal - even if it's only 1,000 words a week - and stick to it.

Eventually they'll have a book. I wrote three books whilst working fulltime so it can be done, but it does mean sacrificing lots of weekends and holidays.

TVNZ: What's your five-year goal?

NP:  I'm not a big planner. My goals right now are to finish the book I'm working on, expand my vegetable garden and lose ten kilos (as usual).

At some point I'd love to go and live in Italy for a year but I have dogs, a horse and a husband and can't see myself ever leaving them for that long.

TVNZ: Is there any question you wished an interviewer would have asked you that you'd like to submit/answer here?

This is my fifth novel with an Italian flavour and no one has ever asked me why I don't set a story in some other country.

The answer is that to write about a place I need to know it well, but be removed from it.

I spent childhood holidays in Italy, have an Italian father and go back there every couple of years if I can.

As well as the food I'm fascinated by the Italian personality, after all which other country would still have Silvio Berlusconi as prime minister!

Nicky's novel is in stores now. Read our review .