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Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Interview: Sebastiano Lanza

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I am pleased to be welcoming literary fiction author Sebastiano Lanza to The Writing Greyhound today! Keep on reading to find out more about his writing process, inspiration, and novel That Which Must Happen.


Firstly, please could you introduce yourself?
I’m an author/land surveyor based in Sicily, Italy. I take great pleasure in observing, studying everything that draws my attention. And when something does, I have this almost obsessive need to understand how that something works, down to the most minute detail. 
I’m a lover of fine arts, meaning anything whose whole value is greater than the sum of its single parts. Hence, fine art can be found nearly everywhere, be it a good dinner, a painting, a movie, music, even football. 
I also adore impossible challenges, if nothing else for their paradoxical nature. Nothing is impossible.
How did you first become interested in writing?
I first became interested in storytelling. In fact, my first endeavour of this kind was to be a comic book. It never really went on to be something more than just an idea, but I will work on it in the not too distant future. It’s a promise I made to myself, partly because it is a story worthy of being told. 
As for the writing part, well, it all started as a game. I wasn’t even sure I could write a full-length novel when I put hands on That Which Must Happen. Yet, here we are.
Tell me about That Which Must Happen.
It’s a novel about fate. Not the same fate we’re all acquainted with, rather, a series of interconnected events all influenced by each other and by our choices. In other words, an active fate. 
It’s also Benjamin’s story. Benjamin is a child able to foresee, forestall, and alter these events happening all around him. In other words he’s able to control fate. But does he do that of his own accord? Surely there must be a set of rules for this. What that set of rules is, I’m not going to say. 
However, at some point during the novel, his personal attachments are going to get in the way, as the one person he truly cares about is faced with a less than ideal fate. Considering that every event is connected to another and so on, he cannot simply save her. That would make the entire novel rather dull, wouldn’t it? 
He was a very interesting character to develop, as I had to think outside the box.
Why were you drawn to writing about fate?
I wasn’t drawn to write about fate per se. That would’ve been easy. I don’t like easy. I was drawn to write about its inner mechanisms, what makes it tick. By which criteria do some events occur whilst others just don’t? 
What came closer to explain it all was the idea of an active fate, or as I later found out, Wyrd.
This is not the “inexorable fate” we all know. It’s an event, an occurrence which leads to yet more events and so on. It’s not a destination, rather a crossroads. And via our choices we can interact with fate. As I was saying, an active fate.  
Wyrd is also an old English noun from which “weird” originated. It was originally used to describe someone as being able to control fate. Think about the weird sisters in Shakespeare’s Macbeth. They do predict Macbeth’s ascent and downfall.
What’s your writing process?
First and foremost, I work from an outline; structure is crucial. This is the plot, the rhythm of the whole story. It often looks like a diagram more than anything else. These stories I write tend to get quite labyrinthine at some point or another. The outline does keep them at bay and, most of all, keeps me sane. It's also important because it allows me to check if my story actually makes sense, it ensures there's no plot holes. 
Then comes the writing in itself. This is the melody I build on top of the structure. The mind is free to roam at a whim and catch every detail it wishes. The more the better; the devil, after all, is in the detail. 
When I’m done writing I leave the book alone for a month or two, after which the first round of editing begins. I do the same one more time or two. Finally, the manuscript is in the hands of an editor.
Tell me about your journey to getting published.
I decided very early on to go the self-publishing way. Being traditionally published would probably be best, but I have had a few prior experiences that led me to this decision. It’s a ton of work, yes, but this way I can control nearly every facet of this journey. It’s been interesting so far, I reckon it’ll keep being so for the foreseeable future.
What’s the hardest thing about writing?
What comes after writing. Editing. It’s terribly slow and headache-inducing. It’s also terribly useful, without it I probably wouldn’t be publishing That Which Must Happen by now. I’m not saying my first draft was a total mess, but close to it. 
But really, the hardest thing to bear are the few days before your novel is out in the world. All sort of doubts creep in. It’s not the most pleasant of experiences.
What do you love most about writing?
The writing itself. To quote someone I admire a great deal, “How happy is the human soul, not enslaved by dull control, left to dream and roam and play.” It really is so satisfying to imagine all those tiny details that make your story come alive. 
Whilst writing I did get this feeling of opening a window on the lives of people who really were alive and going about their business. I was simply documenting their every choice and action.
Which authors inspire you?
I was always fascinated by Luigi Pirandello's works. He has this way of turning psychological analysis into simple writing and concepts. The crisis of the relative self, his thoughts about humor, the contrast between life and form. These are all subjects worth studying in depth, as they're all enlightening. The fact that we're all wearing a mask, a concept upon which he wrote Uno, Nessuno e Centomila, is an actual psychological concept developed by Jung, (the concept is interpreted slightly differently by the two). 
Although he’s not an author, Christopher Nolan's works are a great inspiration as well. Yes, he's a brilliant storyteller. His manipulation of time and subjectivity/objectivity is so thought-provoking and enjoyable. His films are study-worthy material.
Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
Always, always edit your work yourself before sending it out to an editor. Let your novel alone for a few months after you finish writing it, then take it up and get editing all those surplus words you’ve written. Don’t be afraid to cut it away. If you’re not sure whether you need it or not, you probably don’t. 
Also, always look for natural ways to evolve your story, never force it in ways that are less than so.
What are you currently working on?
A novel involving Romania, a priest on pilgrimage to Turkey, and nothing of the supernatural. (As Romania is home to Dracula, I feel it is my duty to be really clear about this). All set around the end of the XIX century. 
It’s going to be slightly smaller than That Which Must Happen, probably better than it. It’ll almost be an exercise for my third novel. I’ve got some very exciting ideas for it.
What are you reading at the moment?
At the moment I’ve barely enough time to breathe! But I can tell you about the last book I read, The Penguin Book of Norse Myths: Gods of the Vikings by Kevin Crossley-Holland. A very interesting read, it goes into some detail into Norse mythology. In fact, I’m planning to take it one step further and read the Elder Edda. 
Oh, recently I also sank my teeth in Sun Tzu’s The Art of War.
What’s your all-time favourite book?
Difficult to say, there are various. 
Eco’s The Name of the Rose would be one of them. Simply for the staggering amount of details and historical accuracy, it’s astonishing. “Book always speak of other books, and every story tells a story that has already been told.” 
Pirandello’s The Late Mattia Pascal, of course. Satire concerned with the nature of the self, how could I not love it? 
But most of all? The Odyssey.
What are your ambitions for your writing career?
Like everything else in life, I tend to take it on a “one step at a time” basis. Six years ago I thought I couldn’t possibly write a full-length novel. A few years ago I thought I wouldn’t get past page 1 of That Which Must Happen. Now it’s published. Next week (hopefully, if I manage to take a breather for 5 minutes) I will start working on my next novel. After that who knows? Any number of things can happen. Hopefully most of them good.
What are your interests outside of writing and reading?
Many. I listen to a lot, a whole lot of music. On occasion I play guitar and bass, in fact, once upon a time I even attempted to put together a band! I’m trying my hand as a chess player, though I’ve taken it seriously just a few months ago. I’m relatively new to it. 
I also watch quite the number of movies and TV series. As long as I can sense there’s been some hard work behind it and a relatively good amount of thought, I watch it. Other than that I try to study physics in my free time. If I let one day pass without learning something new, it’s a wasted day. And then there’s football of course!
That Which Must Happen is available to buy now. You can keep up with Sebastiano over on Twitter.

Will you be reading the book? Let me know in the comments below!

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