Gloria Mattioni is the author of the multi-award-winning novel California Sister and an award-winning feature writer contributing to mainstream publications around the world. She also published the narrative non-fiction Reckless – The Outrageous Lives of Nine Kick-Ass Women, Dakota Warrior – The Story of James R. Weddell, and four previous books in Italy. She’s been, among other things, an investigative reporter, a human rights activist, an animal rescuer, and a magazine editor. She was born in Milan, Italy, but moved to Los Angeles in 1992. She still lives in California with her husband and part-time live-in granddaughter, conjures six impossible things every morning before breakfast, and travels much.
Tell us the story of your book’s title. Was it easy to find, or did it take forever?
My novel was inspired by my personal experience. It’s fiction but infused with lots of things I had to learn when my sister suffered a brain hemorrhage, just like Ondina, the Italian sister in the book. The story follows Claire, a mystery writer living in Los Angeles, who crosses the globe after a devastating injury strikes Ondina without warning, to be at her sister’s side and help her navigate the complexities of a profoundly changed life. It’s a heart-wrenching story of sisterly love, healing, and hope perfect for fans of Jodi Picoult, lovers of Italy, and anybody who experienced the struggles of caring for loved ones who lost their ability to make decisions for themselves.
How did it feel when you first saw your book cover? Or when you first held your book in your hands?
I worked closely with an artist I hired to illustrate and design my cover as soon as I finished my last draft of the book because I wanted to make sure the cover reflected all the emotions I expressed in my writing. After that, the cover went to the art department of Atmosphere Press. They loved it and agreed to use it so the final product was exactly as I’d have liked the book to look.
Who/what made you want to write? Was there a particular person, or particular writers/works/art forms that influenced you?
I’ve been a storyteller since I started to speak in complete sentences but my first “stories on papers” were drawn in vivid colors and had speech bubbles above the heads of the characters. I loved drawing more than anything else and wanted to be an artist. But my pragmatic single mom supporting her two daughters independently didn’t agree to send me to art school, thinking art would hardly pay the bills. And yet, I became a professional writer at eighteen, starting to publish articles on music magazines first and then being hired as an editor to launch the Italian edition of Glamour.
If your book had a soundtrack, what are some songs that would be on it?
I love this question because I write from the senses. I’m very visual so I try to “paint the scene.” But I also “hear” the music of certain scenes, as much as I smell their particular scents. In California Sister, Ondina was a singer/songwriter in her youth, so I wrote the lyrics of four of “her” original songs, and my granddaughter, who’s thirteen and a very talented singer, has performed the theme song Bougainvillea Sister at my readings and signings. But I also included references to popular songs by Pearl Jam, Guns N’ Roses, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Of Monsters and Men, operas like The Carmen by Bizet, or musicals like The Phantom of the Opera.
What is one thing you hope readers take away from reading your book? How do you envision your perfect reader?
“At the end of the day, love is all that counts.”
What new writing projects are you currently working on? Or, other projects that are not writing?
I decided to listen to the requests of many of my readers who loved Nails, the lady detective who’s the heroine in the mysteries Claire writes. So I’m writing a true hard boil Los Angeles noir, with Nails driving the story.
How was working with Atmosphere Press? What would you tell other writers who want to publish?
I published traditionally and I also self-published before. Then for this project, I chose Atmosphere Press, a consolidated hybrid press that offers several services to writers at an affordable price, because I didn’t want to wait three years for a traditional deal or spend lots of time setting distribution. Authors already have to wear many more hats than just the writer one, so it’s nice to have somebody in your corner taking care of some aspects of the publication journey and focusing more on the stories you want to tell.