The Writing Life is pleased to chat with author, Judith Works.
Judith Works, a graduate of Lewis & Clark Law School, is retired from the United Nations, Rome, Italy. She is the author of a memoir about Rome, Coins in the Fountain, available as an e-book, and City of Illusions, published by Booktrope. She is currently on the steering committee for the literary conference, Write on the Sound, and is also on the board for Edmonds Center for the Arts and EPIC Group Writers. She is a member of several other writer’s groups.
What is your book’s genre/category?
City of Illusions is best described as women’s contemporary fiction.
Please describe what the story/book is about.
Laura’s milestone 30th birthday is fast approaching and she sees her life as stalled. No children and a marriage settled into a routine far too early. Wanting more from her life, she finds a one-year job in Rome and talks husband Jake into taking a leave of absence. But while Laura is learning to live (and later to love) in Rome, Jake becomes a trailing spouse, adrift with nothing to do. Rome offers myriad opportunities to get into trouble for the unwary and Jake falls in with a gang of antiquity thieves. As his life spirals downward, Laura moves forward. After several missteps she finally achieves her own goal of fulfillment with a new life in Italy.
How did you come up with the title?
I had an earlier title which I didn’t like. I searched for quotations about Rome for an inspiration for a new title and came across this quote written by Giotto, a pre-Renaissance painter: “Rome the city of echoes, the city of illusions, and the city of yearning.” This was written around 1300 and is still a perfect description of what it is like to live in Rome for many of the expats who come for la dolce vita and find a different path.
What is the reason you wrote this book?
I wrote a memoir, Coins in the Fountain, about my happy and fraught experience of living in Rome for ten years but there was more to tell. I knew many expats who ran into difficulties, trailing spouses who could not work, who did things that they should not have, and those who never wanted to leave Italy. A novel was the opportunity to fictionalize some of the opportunities and challenges of living aboad.
What is your favorite part of writing?
Since much of my writing is centered on Rome, I love doing the research, especially if it involves “field research.” Sadly that doesn’t happen all that frequently, so I have to say the best part of writing is sitting down with a cup of coffee and putting down words to see how they come together.
What is the most challenging aspect of writing?
The generation of viable ideas – what works for a short story, for a post about my travels, for flash fiction, and for a novel.
Who are some of your favorite authors?
Hemingway, Faulkner, Sarah Dunant, Anthony Doerr, Marguerite Yourcenar.
What authors or person(s) have influenced you?
I read widely, both fiction and non-fiction. Several non-Italian authors have influenced me to think more deeply about Italy in all its variety: Frances Mayes, Elizabeth Bowen, Eleanor Clark, Iris Origo, and Tim Parks. The Italian author that I find captured the essence of southern Italy and also Rome was Carlo Levi.
Favorite place to write?
I have an office where I am surrounded by reminders from my travels: a sculpture of Dante, a watercolor of the Arch of Titus in the Roman Forum, posters from art exhibitions and items from much farther afield: a painting from Ethiopia, an icon from Bulgaria, a wood carving from Papua New Guinea. And of course loads of books.
Something personal about you people may be surprised to know?
I’m a Canadian citizen along with my US nationality; I’m a chocoholic; and I have been to over 100 countries, crawled inside a pyramid in Egypt, hiked in Petra, Jordan, and watched the sun set and a full moon rise in Ankor Wat.
Any surprises or learning experiences with the publishing process?
My memoir was self-published with assistance from a professional cover designer and others, but still mostly of my own doing. Working with an actual publisher instead of Amazon was a good experience. When you know there are professionals available to help it give you a sense of confidence. And my publisher, Booktrope, has a network of authors that communicate with each other to offer advice and solutions. I find that is very helpful.
Looking back, what did you do right that helped you with this book?
I had several early readers who were very generous with their time and advice. I think this is a very important step for any author. Learning to accept critique is essential.
Any advice for writers looking to get published?
Write, write, write and then edit, edit, edit!
Where can we find your book?
City of Illusions is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble in paperback and electronic format, and on iTunes electronically.
What’s next for you?
I am in the outlining stages of another novel. It will open in Rome but then move to Seattle and nearby Vashon Island. There will be murder!
Thanks for visiting us today, Judith! I wish you much success with your books!
About Eleanor Parker Sapia
Puerto Rican-born novelist, Eleanor Parker Sapia, was raised in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Europe. Eleanor’s careers as an artist, counselor, alternative health practitioner, Spanish language social worker and a refugee case worker inspire her stories. She is a member of PEN America and the Historical Novel Society. When Eleanor is not writing, she facilitates creativity groups, reads, and is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela a second time.
A Decent Woman is Eleanor’s debut novel, set in turn of the century Puerto Rico. The book was selected as 2015 July Book of the Month for Las Comadres & Friends Latino Book Club. Eleanor is the mother of two adult children and currently lives in West Virginia, where she is writing her second novel, The Island of Goats.