Tuesday, August 13, 2013

A Conversation with Authors Guido Mina di Sospiro and Joscelyn Godwin

Omnimystery News: Author Interview with Guido Mina di Sospiro
with Guido Mina di Sospiro and Joscelyn Godwin

We are delighted to welcome authors Guido Mina di Sospiro and Joscelyn Godwin to Omnimystery News today.

Guido and Joscelyn's new suspense thriller is The Forbidden Book (Disinformation Books; April 2013 hardcover and ebook formats) and we recently had the opportunity to talk to the authors about the book.

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Omnimystery News: The Forbidden Book seems like one that would cross several genres. How would you categorize it?

Joscelyn Godwin: A suspense novel with a touch of the paranormal, a feeling for the spirits of place. And a warning about politics. We have to reach people whose horizons aren't limited by the usual genres and buzz-words; they must be out there somewhere, wishing there were more books like this one (as we ourselves do!).

OMN: Tell us something about the book that isn't mentioned in the publisher's synopsis.

JG: It is quite different from the Spanish, Bulgarian, Danish, Russian, and other foreign-language editions. After those were published, we cut out a subplot involving an imaginary Pope, and tightened the whole thing up. We sacrificed a few sardonic laughs, but it runs much better now.

Guido Mina di Sospiro: Our intimate representation of an aristocratic family. These days aristocrats are universally presented as guillotine fodder at best. While we don't really break a lance for nobility, we do provide three portrayals of as many aristocrats, and consequently a way of thinking and of living that readers are probably unfamiliar with.

OMN: How much of your own personal or professional experiences are included in the storyline?

JG: We both know and love Italy, Guido as a native, I as a visitor, and one of the pleasures of writing the book was calling it up in the imagination. The hero Leo Cavanaugh is a professor, as I am, who gets into scrapes that I would do anything to avoid.

OMN: As you wrote The Forbidden Book together, can you share with us the co-writing process? For example, how did you decide who would write what?

JG: The ingredients we were certain about were the (real) Forbidden Book, sexual magic, and the consequences of immigration in Europe. The plot somehow had to combine them. We'd talk it over during long phone calls, then decide "You do this scene; I'll do that one." Then we'd send them to each other for improvement, elaboration, cuts, etc. Much of the book is such a joint effort that I can't remember who wrote what.

OMN: What kinds of research did you engage in while developing the plot?

JG: We got some help from experts on Italian police and legal procedure and on medical matters. I usually write non-fiction in which fact-checking is important, but what I didn't know about I made up. The most challenging part was keeping track of the day-to-day chronology for each character, and the layout of the Venetian palace.

OMN: Suppose you are casting the parts of a screen adaptation of The Forbidden Book. Who do you see playing the key roles?

GMS: With my wife's help, possibly: Mark Strong as the Baron; Christopher Bale as Leo; Amy Adams as Orsina; Riley Keough as Angela; Hugh Grant as Nigel.

JG: No idea.

OMN: The Forbidden Book is set in Italy. How true are you to the setting?

JG: The setting is as essential to the novel as the stage design is to a play. The interplay of real and unreal is part of the fun, especially for those who know the places. For instance, we based the Palazzo Riviera on a real museum in Venice called the Ca' Rezzonico, but added a layer of secret rooms. The Baron's painting studio was inspired by the garden rooms of the Villa Medici in Rome.

GMS: The villa in the Veronese, in which so much of the narrative takes place, is an actual Rococo villa in which I spent some time in my youth and that is still owned by some friends from Verona.

OMN: What kinds of books did you read when you were young?

JG: Up to age 12 I read adventure stories (e.g. Hornblower, Biggles, Jules Verne, Conan Doyle, wartime escapes) and anything spooky. After that it was mainly self-education through non-fiction. I was 60 before I even thought of writing a novel, or should I say half a novel.

GMS: Also adventure stories in my youth, Jules Verne, Conan Doyle, Salgari, Cervantes, actually, and novels set in the Far West; once in my late teens, I began to read just about anything. I have a large collection of mystery novels, travelogues, scholarly esoterica, Latin classics, psychology, religion, philosophy, and so on.

OMN: What authors do you read now for pleasure?

GMS: I like to browse in second-hand bookshops anywhere I go and see what might catch my fancy. I very much enjoy travelogues from the 1920s and 1930s: so close and yet so incredibly distant. Lately I adore Lope de Vega, whom I consider the greatest playwright of all times. I'm awestruck by the fact that although his plays are four centuries old, in Castilian, in rhyme and with meter, I, who have never formally studied Spanish, manage not only to understand them but to enjoy them immensely.

JG: I have to read a lot in foreign languages, so reading English fiction feels like eating candy. I enjoy J.K. Rowling because Hogwarts is so like my prep-school, and I wish the trilogies by Tolkien (Lord of the Rings), Mervyn Peake (Gormenghast), and Philip Pullman (His Dark Materials) also had seven volumes each.

OMN: Do your outside interests mirror your reading preferences?

JG: I'm interested in "anything spooky" or, in a more grown-up sense, esoteric and occult traditions. Also the history of art and architecture. I wouldn't write fiction without these at the core of it.

GMS: I too enjoy "anything spooky", scholarly esoterica, art, gardens, botany, architecture, legendary voyages.

OMN: What kind of feedback do you enjoy receiving from your readers?

JG: No author wants to be asked "Where do you get your ideas?" One either has an imagination that supplies them, or one doesn't. Since I'm an educator by trade, I like questions from people who are curious about facts and details, or who get the references hidden between the lines.

OMN: Create a Top 5 list for us on any subject.

GMS: Top 5 films: The Big Lebowski; Deep Red; Duck Soup; Blow Up; Stolen Kisses.

JG: I have several lists for you.

Top 5 books to turn your head around: Charles Fort, The Book of the Damned; Pauwels & Bergier, The Morning of the Magicians; Patrick Harpur, Daimonic Reality; Jacques Vallee, Passport to Magonia; and Colin Wilson, Mysteries.

Five little museums you should see: Sir John Soane's Museum (London), Musée Gustav Moreau (Paris), Museo Mario Praz (Rome), Nicolas Roerich Museum (New York), Museum of Jurassic Technology (Los Angeles). I haven't seen the last one, but my son has.

Five inexplicable American foods: hot dogs, American cheese, white sponge bread, light beer, artificial sweeteners.

OMN: What is next for each of you?

GMS: Promoting The Metaphysics of Ping-Pong, my latest book; doing quite a bit of traveling with my wife, my favorite activity when mixed with reading and writing as we go.

JG: Playing baroque music with friends. Seeing more of my granddaughter. Finishing my book on the eccentric spiritual movements of Upstate New York.


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Guido Mina di Sospiro is an award-winning, internationally published novelist born in Argentina, raised in Italy, and educated in the United States. A graduate of the University of Southern California, he lives in the Washington, DC, area with his wife and their three sons.

Joscelyn Godwin was born in England and lives in Hamilton, New York, where he is professor of music at Colgate University. He is a composer, musicologist, and translator, known for his work on ancient music, paganism, and music in the occult.

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The Forbidden Book by Guido Mina di Sospiro

The Forbidden Book
Guido Mina di Sospiro and Joscelyn Godwin
A Suspense Thriller

Professor Leo Kavenaugh's and Orsina Riviera della Motta's lives are changed forever after Orsina invites Leo to Italy to help her study a private family edition of Il Mondo magico de gli heroi ("The Magical World of the Heroes") — a mysterious treatise of alchemy that supposedly teaches one how to attain the "Tree of Life" and make a man into a god.

At first oblivious to the mystical world behind their studies, Leo and Orsina do not realize Orsina's uncle is using the text in ways that will endanger thousands of innocents across Europe.

Amazon.com Print/Kindle Format(s)

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