Nov 21, 2013

Interview with Lapo M.

When did you realize that you wanted to become a writer? 
The conscious decision to become a fiction author was made about three years ago. I had been writing scripts for about fifteen years by then and was really tired of the limitations imposed by the medium. In particular, I was tired of being obliged to write only what I could produce and I was yearning to delve into the internal emotional and psychological life of my characters. I also had a hunch that I would write better novels than scripts. I wasn't sure I could write narrative though. In fact, I have always had the greatest admiration for books (much more than for movies), but I never thought I could write one. So I did a leap of faith and discovered, thankfully, that I could write.

Is being an Author all you dreamed of, or did it just happen? The best and worst thing about it?
It is definitely my dream and it also just happened. I started writing poetry when I was in high school. That was my first ever creative endeavor and one that made me aware of my abilities. It wasn’t until my twenties though that I tried my hand at stories. I was attending Film School in Milan then and nobody wanted to write what I wanted to direct. I never thought I could write stories (I had too much respect for books) but I really wanted to tell more imaginative stories than those that were given to me by the screenwriting students at my school. So, I did my best and wrote my first scripts. It was difficult, but scripts are very bare bones and technical, so I didn’t feel daunted as I would if I had tried to write a book. Then I just kept on writing and during the years I discovered that was my real instinct: to sit down and write stories. 
The best thing about writing is that I can do it on my own, I don’t need anybody else to realize my vision, I need very little money to get the final product to the audience and it is still the most complete and powerful storytelling medium that humanity has ever invented. 
The worst thing about it is that I have to still still for hours in order to write and for me it is physically very painful. My body was not made to stay still, so I have to set up the timer and take little breaks every twenty five minutes in order to stand up and move about.

What was the very first thing you ever wrote?
My poems. You can check them out here: In terms of stories, it was probably some screenwriting exercise—something long forgotten.

What made you create (your book)? How did it come to you?
Oh man, this is painful. Stories come into my mind in two main way. The first one is when I know nothing about it, but I fall in love with a title or the name of the main character. That starts a chain reaction that creates the story almost painlessly and magically. This is happens not too often though. The other more common way in which a story comes to me is when I fall in love with an idea, an interaction, a scene and so no. It pretty quickly turns into a nightmare, a maze that I need to explore deep down to figure out what I am really looking for. When I finally find it, the story writes itself pretty easily. Horse Sense belongs to the second type. At the beginning it was a superficial short script about a boy and a horse playing basketball. I knew there was more to it than what I wrote and it bothered me not being able to pinpoint it. So, I think I rewrote it at least thirty times. Then, I realized I had a feature script in my hands, but I still did not know what to do with it. It was only when I decided to write a book that everything fell into place. With the freedom to tell anything I wanted, the story finally came to the surface and it was finally a pleasure to write.

Who is your literary hero?
I think it is Tolkien. For two reasons. The first is that I was fourteen when I read the Lord of the Rings—it was the first book that I chose and bought by myself—and it changed my life. I think I should have known that one day I would try to become an author, because to this day, I still have burnt in my memory the image of when I put down the Lord of the Rings in the left shelf of my old wood and glass bookshelf and I thought, “This is what I would like to write.” The thing is, though, that I had never written anything before, nor I was planning to and I didn’t even ever show any aptitude to writing stories at that point. It was just a purely instinctual thought that rose to the surface. Now I know why it surfaced. The second reason is that no other author that I know put so much work, research and invention in a story as he did. I profoundly admire his patience, dedication, strength of mind and imagination.

How much of your characters are based on your traits or someone you know personally?
Well Jamie IS me—better than me, but fundamentally me, since I am recounting what happened to me when I was even younger than his age. Acorn is a mix of horses that I had or knew and part me. The rest are most based on real people and some invented.

Describe your main character in six words. 
Willful, imaginative, sensitive, steadfast, truthful

Describe the world you’ve created in six words.
Real, emotional, troublesome, challenging, inspirational

What scene was your favorite to write?
The first chapter and the last were my favorite to write. The first, because I am showing Acorn and Jamie’s friendship and the fun they have together. Plus, I get to introduce such a funny and awesome character as Pillow the sheep. I am particularly fond of this chapter, because it reminds me of all the awesome animal friends I’ve had throughout my life and of myself when I was little—of the life I lead in my farmhouse. The last chapter, I am very fond of because it is full of conflict, action and emotion. I can’t tell you more, otherwise I would spoil it for you.

What scene was the hardest for you to write?
Anything bad that happened to Jamie, because it happened. Remembering all the awful stuff that happened to me when I was nine and later on when I was thirteen was really painful, but cathartic. It’s not simple to write something so personal and use it for dramatic purposes. I wanted to convey the emotions I felt and the insight I gained during the years, because I knew it would resonate with the audience, but it was a pretty painful process. It’s still hard to think that a good eighty percent of what you read in the book actually happened. There are entire pages of dialogue that I put down as I or my mother remembered them. The teacher and main villain of the book actually was my teacher and she DID do and say the things I describe in the book. And my classmates actually did behave as I tell in the book. Seems unreal, but most of it is true. 

What are you working on now?
I have to decide whether I want to start working on Quigley, the story of a pet flying squirrel in New York that escapes from his apartment and with the help of an ex-experiment rat strives to free the squirrels of Central Park from the tyranny of a band of hawks. Or on Romeo Vs. Juliet, the story of what would happen if the two fated lovers actually survived. I mean they were married teenagers and crazy passionate Italians—a lit match over a tank of gasoline would be less dangerous. With the added fun of setting the story in an Italy where Renaissance and Present intermingle (basically what Italy is anyway, right? ;)
If your readers want to cast their vote and help me choose, I will gladly listen to them.

Goals? Accomplishments? Improvements?
Sitting down and writing this book has been the best decision I have ever taken in my life. The one I don't have any regrets about. So, I am very happy and proud of this accomplishment. Now, I am looking forward to people reading it and enjoying it. And in the meantime, I’ll start my next.

Are there any authors or books you recommend?
The Lord of the Rings, Dune, Seabiscuit and American Legend, Cyrano de Bergerac and Calvin and Hobbes are all my favorites and I highly recommend them.

What's your favorite thing to do when you're not writing?
I hike or dance tango. I’ve had the luck to grow up near the beautiful Alps, so I have always gone on hikes in the mountains and I love it. Being in touch with such splendor and life (and a tad of danger) makes me feel alive. Tango I was finally able to start a couple of years ago and I love it because it is a most complex dance that takes at least five/six years to master, plus it’s called the “art of the embrace” which pretty much sums up everything about it.