Tell us a little about yourself.
I live in two towns in Italy: Verona (with my two wild small dogs, named "Watson" and "Muttley") and in the wonderful small town of Acqui Terme, where I was born. I love to visit my parents to help with their vineyard and wine production. I enjoy writing almost anywhere; however, my absolute favorite place to write is in the garden near my childhood home on the hills. In that house, we've managed to collect, thus far, over 10,000 volumes of some of the greatest books ever written. My parents have converted our home into a bed and breakfast, and these days I often visit, joining the guests to share insight and thoughts about writing.
What jobs have you held? Do you presently do work other than writing and illustrating?
It's funny. I have a degree in law, so I am supposed to be a lawyer, but I don't really like legal work, or courts for that matter. However I have been working for a while as legal adviser for royalties and museums, specifically with Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa (Advanced Normal School of Pisa) in Italy. Also, as a freelance journalist, I have been commissioned to write about technology, the Internet, and traveling.
How would you describe yourself (e.g., qualities, attributes, views)?
I would describe myself as a dreamer who has had the fortune of having his dreams come true. I have always thought that writing would be an important part of my life, but I never imagined that it actually would become my whole life. I know I am creative, this is for sure, and I love to make stories up. I dream about them. They even come to me when I am taking a shower. I always have new ideas — new stories to tell. More stories than I even have the time to write! This is why I am blessed and love working with my friends (new friends and old school friends) who, at first jointly and then independently, started publishing these ideas into books. The teamwork permits me to understand instantly what works or does not work for that particular story.
I have a very optimistic outlook on life. I am not interested in trends, objects that are considered a "status symbol," or celebrities. I love old attics, memories, broken objects, dust, and discovering the past with eyes of wonder. I love discovering the world, traditions that are distant from mine, legends, said and unsaid things, and mysteries.
What are your interests, hobbies, and favorite pastimes?
I love traveling, and try to get as far away from touristy routes as possible. I participated with an Italian team in the Roof of the World Rally 2008 (an international rally for charity) driving a car from Verona, Italy, to Dushambee, Tajikistan. Traveling is very useful for my writing; my novel Il Principe della Città di Sabbia comes from a long stay in Burkina-Faso and Mali.
Also, I used to be a rather good sportsman (football, climbing), but not anymore! I love walking, especially in the mountains. I also love reading; the cinema (for which I would like to work); and spending hours improvising on the piano.
What people or events have influenced you?
The people I have known in my life, or even just briefly met, often in some way become characters in my books. So I would say that all of them, at one time or another, have influenced me. My sense of freedom comes from my parents. My passion for books comes from my father, and my creativity comes from my mother. (And let's not forget, they were the ones who forced me to learn how to play the piano!) I owe my grandparents immensely for the sense of respect I have for the world and my optimistic outlook.
When/how did you first start writing/illustrating?
I started writing very short stories in high school during math classes. I gave my stories to my classmates and then they started sharing with others in the class. Then, I discovered I had readers also in other classes, and I kept on writing short stories, learning to write very quickly and to always choose surprising endings so that the other kids would come back and ask for the sequel.
Then I wrote my first novel, La Strada del Guerriero (The Road Warrior), in 15 days, and I sent it to the Battello a Vapore Prize (Steamboat Prize), which I won, writing it under my neighbor's name because I was shy; I was 23 years old at the time. The judges were convinced that the author of that book was an old and wise philosopher!
Where do you get ideas or inspiration for your work?
From real life. There's nothing to invent. Only things to discover.