Guest Post & Giveaway: Author Genni Gunn’s Writing Space

Today’s guest post is from author Genni Gunn, whose latest book Solitaria is a mystery set in Italy spanning from 1926 through 2002 as the Santoro family uncovers the truth about their ancestor Vito’s death.

From the publisher about Solitaria:

When Vito Santoro’s body is inadvertently unearthed by a demolition crew in Fregene, Italy, his siblings are thrown into turmoil, having been told by their sister Piera that Vito had fled to Argentina fifty years earlier after abandoning his wife and son. Piera, the self-proclaimed matriarch, locks herself in her room, refusing to speak to anyone but her Canadian nephew, David.

Now scattered over three continents, the family members regroup in Italy to try to discover the truth. They all arrive rife with their own resentments and conflicting desires: Aldo, the successful barrister everyone leans on; Teresa, the angry, abandoned wife; Renato, who lost Teresa to his brother Vito; Mimi, the bitter, ironic baby of the family; Clarissa, the famous opera diva whose peripatetic life had her frequently leaving her son David in the care of Piera; and David who reluctantly accompanies his mother to Italy to bury his long-lost uncle.

Set against the countryside of Italy’s Adriatic coast, Solitaria is a tale of longing and family honour, told from two points of view: Piera’s and David’s. With the unravelling of their stories, we glimpse a woman’s growing awareness of her own capacity for self-delusion, and of the consequences of her actions on others, and a young man’s awakening to the depth of his roots.

Gunn was kind enough to share with us her writing space and inspiration today.  Please give her a warm welcome.

First of all, let me confess to a peripatetic nature, which shows up in all aspects of my life, including how and where I write.

For example, the writing for my latest novel, Solitaria, has spanned two continents. Set in Canada and Italy, it required a lot of research – a real bonus – into both contemporary Italy, and the Italy of the 30s and 40s where some of the novel is set. I was born in Trieste, and have many relatives in Italy, so travelling there was more than a research trip, it was a journey into my family’s past, and turned a large portion of Italy into my personal writing space.

I spent many hours writing in Rutigliano, a small town in the Puglia region of Italy, which rises amid olive groves and vineyards, a small circular town with a walled historic centre, and concentric waves of nondescript houses erected in the late 1960s. If you follow the curving one-way street on patched pavement from the town’s outskirts, you will end up in front of a gigantic archway called Porta Nuova, the “New Door” built in the eighteenth century. To the right of the portal is a small piazza with outdoor tables and chairs, where, at night, men congregate to play cards, and directly above it is the room where I spent a month each year for four years, writing and researching, and immersing myself in the world of my protagonist, Piera.

Inside, I reclined on a pink, silk, frayed chaise lounge – like an 18C heroine – typing into my laptop in English, while people I interviewed spoke about their lives and times in Italian. This, in itself, I found rather extraordinary, because it didn’t seem to require any effort. At the end of the day, my family would convene for a late supper, then I’d go back to the laptop and read my day’s work, trying to determine what I could use, and rewording what I’d typed.

And when I left to return to the airport in Rome, the writing emerged from the rhythm of trains: I scribbled in journals and typed into my laptop, the southern Italian landscape hurtling by. I have a particular love of trains, which I suspect has to do with the lulling movement, and with open-ended destinations, a continuum of departures and arrivals, which eventually always leads home.

And home is where I do many of the drafts and final editing of books. Here, my writing space is an office on the second floor. A bookcase covers one wall, and because I work in several genres at once, it is packed not only with books, but with ongoing projects, which are neatly hidden behind closed bevelled-glass doors. Across from the bookcase is my desk – a vast area which, depending on how well the writing is going, is disordered (working well) or tidy (not working well). The wall between desk and bookcase is mostly window and faces the back garden so that in times of dreamy summer reflection, I can stare out at the cluster of magenta dianthus, the pink and white foxglove, the brilliant blue puffs of the California lilac, and the coral geraniums against the green cedar hedge. It’s a lovely distraction, and writing, I find, feeds on distractions and diversions, which may well explain my love and need for movement and travel, for altering landscapes to nurture the creative in me.

Thanks, Genni, for sharing your writing space with us.  Also, check out this book trailer.

About the Author:

GENNI GUNN is a writer, musician and translator. Born in Trieste, she came to Canada when she was eleven. She has published nine books: three novels—Solitaria, Tracing Iris and Thrice Upon a Time; two short story collections—Hungers and On The Road; two poetry collections— Faceless and Mating in Captivity. As well, she has translated from Italian two collections of poems—Devour Me Too and Traveling in the Gait of a Fox by renowned Italian author, Dacia Maraini. Two of Genni’s books have been translated into Italian.

To enter the giveaway; either a hard copy of Solitaria for US/Canada or Kindle download open worldwide:

1.  Leave a comment about whether you prefer hard copy or Kindle of Solitaria and any transcontinental or mystery novels you enjoyed recently.

2.  Follow the blog for a second entry and leave a comment.

3.  Spread the word by blogging, tweeting, or Facebooking the giveaway and leaving a comment to your post for another entry.

Deadline Aug. 26, 2011, at 11:59PM EST.


  1. I’m a follower of this blog.

  2. I always like to read a hard copy of a book.
    I enjoyed Nine Dragons by Michael Connelly. This was both a good mystery and a transcontinental book (US and Hong Kong).

  3. Loved the book. Loved the writing. Loved the descriptions. Loved the characters. Yes, I would love a hard copy. Thanks, Dorothy

  4. Sounds like a wonderful mystery, set in such an interesting time period. The Kindle version would be most welcome!

  5. What a fantastic post ladies! How terrific to delve into your own history like that. I think writing in Italy would win out over writing at home for me though.

    I’d love to read this book! Let’s see I’ve been several places in my reading lately – Irelans in Ellis Island, France in Tout Sweet. All these trips and I haven’t even left the house

    Please enter me for a hard copy and of course I follow as you know. Lol.

    darreads (at) gmail (dot) com

    • Genni Gunn says

      I aways recall that I used to phone an old aunt of mine in Italy, one who never went out and was a bit of a shut-in, and when I told her about some exotic location I was in, she’d say, “Oh, I’m there with you. I saw a documentary about it on TV,” or “I read a book about it.” Isn’t it marvellous that we can access the world through books and through documentaries. We are very fortunate indeed.

  6. Genni Gunn says

    Thanks for the comments, everyone. Good luck in the book giveaway.

  7. Anita Yancey says

    I prefer hard copy. I recently read Speak No Evil by Allison Brennan. I would love to read this book. Please enter me. Thanks!

    Follow on GFC!
    US Resident


  8. Harvee Lau says

    I live in the U.S. and would love to win a hard copy of Solitaria.

    I am now following you.

    harvee44 (at) yahoo.com

  9. Sounds like the perfect writing space! The Things We Cherished by Pam Jenoff is a transcontinental mystery of sorts that I enjoyed recently. I’m a follower, added the giveaway to my sidebar, and would like to be entered for a hard copy of the book. Thanks!

  10. Allison Gardner says

    I would love to read this–I love Italy

  11. Sounds like a wonderful novel in a beautiful country.

    Thanks for the chance to have, in print form.

  12. I follow you by e-mail (my.newsletters AT nncweb (dot) ca)

  13. Sounds intriguing – would love to read it. (And am GREEN looking at Genni’s glassed-in bookcases.)

    I would like to read this on my new Kindle. Thanks for the chance!

    • Genni Gunn says

      That bookcase came to me. Well, perhaps my husband had a little to do with it. He was walking by a garden store that was going out of business, and he phoned me and sent me to have a look. When I entered the store, this bookcase was the first thing I saw. I was in love. I called my husband, and said, “The garden stuff is nice, but the bookcase…” and he said, “That’s why I sent you there.” Why a garden store had this fabulous bookcase, we’ll never know.

  14. i’m a follower 🙂

  15. thank you for the opportunity to read this fabulous novel…i just finished reading ‘the swan thieves.’ this book visited several countries.

  16. Mystery Books Reader says

    I must admit that your description of writing in Italy sounds like the kind of work many of us would love to have! Thanks for sharing with all of us, and if I win I would love the hardcover of the book!
    As for any mystery novels, I am re-reading Sherlock Holmes A Study in Scarlett after that ridiculous scandel where it was banned recently. We sometimes forget how great Doyle was.

    • Genni Gunn says

      I am an avid traveller, and in most of my books, characters manage to be in fabulous locations. What better way to go there myself? I’m now setting a novel in 5 locations. Happily visiting them all.