On retreat with the beautiful Vanessa - Trentham November 2018
There are some people you meet in life whom you feel like you've known forever. Vanessa Carnevale is one of those people. She has such a warm and generous spirit, and is a truly beautiful soul. And like me, she works part-time in a school library...surrounded by thousands of breathtaking books.
I first discovered Vanessa when I picked up a copy of her exquisite novel, The Memories of Us. Originally drawn to the gorgeous cover, it was the prologue that is forever etched into my mind https://www.booktopia.com.au/the-memories-of-us-vanessa-carnevale/book/9780648897514.html?fbclid=IwAR2lZBQUemX6F89t359XOf7jx0csOL-GZ7RCxNhXRmaR2B8qWvYwQPy-l6k
I LOVE a good prologue. Jane Harper's The Dry has the best prologue I have ever read. Vanessa's prologue comes very close. The imagery. The textures. It was a visceral experience. And the novel had an ending I didn't see coming.
After reading Memories, and 'stalking' Vanessa online, I stumbled across a competition she was running. The prize? Lunch with Vanessa and a mentoring session. And I won!
But because Vanessa was in Melbourne, and I was in Sydney, she suggested we could do a Skype lunch. But the opportunity to meet her in person was just too tempting (and a great excuse for a mini-break to Melbourne!) Vanessa was so lovely and during our later online mentoring session, a friendship blossomed.
I frequently drooled over Vanessa's Italian writing retreats (after all, it had always been my dream to live in Italy) but for various reasons I couldn't travel quite that far. But when she announced a retreat in the most heavenly property in Trentham Victoria, I couldn't book my place quick enough. And joined by my partner in crime, Claudine Tinellis, our writing journey with Vanessa was taken to the next level.
Vanessa's retreat incorportated not only sage writing advice, but also had a meditation and stream of consciousness component that was a wonderful way to help the words flow. And she cooked the most delicious meals for us and we all chatted around the massive table, wine in hand.
Sadly Vanessa's retreats are temporarily on hold. But even Covid couldn't stop this amazing woman from helping emerging writers to chase their dreams. And so, The Little Writing School was born. Whether it be her Write With Presence Workshop, the Write Your Novel Fiction Masterclass or her Mentoring & Coaching program, there is something for every writer https://school.vanessacarnevale.com/
And now she has just released her new novel, My Life for Yours. Oh my...make sure you have a mega box of Kleenex on hand. Such a raw and poignant story, but one that needs to be told.
As I sit here typing, Vanessa and her family are at their home in Melbourne, amid Stage 4 lockdown. My heart goes out to everyone in Victoria. Stay strong. You got this.xx
So without further ado, I'll hand you over to the amazing Vanessa.xx
Q1: What piece of advice do you wish you'd been given when working on your very first manuscript?
A: To enjoy the time I spent working on it. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy working on The Florentine Bridge - the opposite is true. I loved it! What I didn’t think about at the time was what a blessing it was to write a book at my own pace without a deadline and without thinking about who would be reading it afterwards. If you write with a view to get published, it’s inevitable that others will be reading your work and with that, comes some adjustment in terms of becoming comfortable with critique and rejection. That’s not to say those things aren’t positive because they are—they’re essential to helping a writer develop and grow.
With the fabulous Claudine Tinellis and Vanessa.
Claudine and I had such a magical time at Vanessa's writing retreat.x
Q2: If you could have written ANY book besides your own, what would it be?
A: The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. I adored that book! (It is on my overflowing tbr pile after your recommendation! Shelley.xx)
Q3: What is the first book that made you cry?
A: I’m reading The Diary of Anne Frank with my daughter at the moment, and while I can’t quite remember the first book that made me cry, this one does spring to mind. I remember feeling deeply affected by it. I’ve visited the house in Amsterdam on two occasions and it has left an impression on me both times.
Q4: What is your favourite drink? Coffee, tea, wine or…
A: Coffee and tea! I love herbal tea and have a thing for Royal Albert teacups!
'Here's a snapshot of some of my teaware collection! I really enjoy the ritual of making tea and it's always better when you drink it from a special cup!'
Q5: What is the next book on your TBR (to be read) pile?
A: The Cake Maker’s Wish by Josephine Moon. I love Josephine’s books and her warm, evocative style of writing and I am very much looking forward to reading this one, especially since it’s set in the beautiful Cotswolds.
Q6: Choose one male & one female character from your novel. In a film adaptation, who would you love to see play them?
A: Let’s see. Tilly and Flynn from The Memories That Make Us… I actually wrote a screenplay adaptation for the novel which was a lot of fun and a great way to flex my screenwriting muscles (it’s very different to writing a novel). Can we say Dame Judy Dench as Tilly, and Liam Hemsworth for Flynn!
Q7: Name one thing you couldn't live without?
A: Only one? Can I cheat? If we’re talking about things I couldn’t live without in my day-to-day life as a writer: Coffee, tea, beautiful notebooks, my fountain pens, my pretty teacups, scented candles and my noise-cancelling headphones. Oh, and fresh flowers on my desk.
Where the magic happens...
Q8: What is your dream holiday destination?
A: Right now? If we cast restrictions aside, I’m going to say Bora Bora. I’d love a “flop and drop” holiday—just me, the family, a cocktail, blue skies, sunshine, white sand and of course as many books that a woman can fit in her suitcase.
Q9: If you had to choose a career besides writer, what would it be?
A: Interior decorator. I definitely spend too much time lusting over beautiful homes on Instagram. I want a new kitchen.
I think Vanessa would make a brilliant interior decorator, given the sublimely beautiful writing space she has created in her home<3
Q10: What's the hardest scene you have ever written and why was it so hard?
A: Many of the scenes in My Life for Yours were difficult to write, mostly because of the emotional nature of the novel. As an author, we live and breathe the story, and in order to write with authenticity on the page, we must put ourselves in the character’s shoes. I also had to do a lot of research into the medical side of things, so that was a challenge too.
'Your life or your unborn child’s – how do you choose?'
'Paige and Nick are happy. They have a beautiful home, a loving family and, most importantly, they would do anything for each other. Now, they are having a baby and it feels like all their dreams are coming true.
But joy turns to despair when they discover that Paige has a rare, life-threatening heart condition and they lose their longed-for child. Heartbroken, the couple must accept the reality that they may not become parents after all.
Just as they begin to come to terms with their loss, Paige unexpectedly falls pregnant again. Paige’s heart is still weak, and to carry the baby to term puts them both at risk. The couple now face an impossible decision: Paige’s life or the life of their unborn child?
If Paige keeps the baby, she could lose her life and destroy the man she loves. If Nick tries to stop her, he may lose them both forever. It’s the most important decision they have ever had to make – and time is running out.'
My Life for Yours is a heartbreaking, gripping and emotional story about love, loss and an impossible choice, perfect for fans of Jodi Picoult, Kelly Rimmer and Kate Hewitt.
Thank you Vanessa for being my August 15th Author Stalker victim. xx
My Life for Yours is available online via Amazon, Booktopia & Booktopia and on all major e-readers.
If you would like to find out more about Vanessa, you can find her here: