While clearing out our computer files, we found this interview.
We have no idea who sent us the questions, no idea whether we sent the answers to the interviewer, no idea whether the interview was ever published. In other words, we have absolutely no idea where this particular interview came from. At the same time, it is short and crisp and it says a lot of things that we feel like saying.
THE LOST INTERVIEW
MICHAEL GREGORIO is the name used by Daniela De Gregorio (Spoleto, Italy, 1950) and Michael G. Jacob (Liverpool, UK, 1948)
---What first got you interested in writing?
Daniela: a passion for reading. I love stories about other people’s lives, other places, experiences which are different from my own. One life just wasn’t enough for me. At a certain point it seemed a natural development to invent my own characters and tell my own stories.
Michael: I recall learning to form letters as a child at school. The wonders of the school library. Various teachers, obviously. University, where I read English, and Dani read Philosophy. We both had ambitions to write. I started writing because I was living in Italy; I was afraid of forgetting my native language. Daniela was a horror fan, and thought she could do as well as many of the writers she was reading. But neither of us found a publisher until we started writing together as Michael Gregorio.
---Who or what particularly influences your work?
Both: Working closely with a partner is an inescapable influence, obviously. Having to justify your ideas to a critical “other” is the greatest test of their validity. When we are both happy with what we have written, we submit the finished piece. At the same time, working within the genre of historical crime investigation, we are challenged by what it is scientifically possible, and what isn’t. We both read widely, not only fiction, but biography, history and, in Daniela’s case particularly, philosophy. We are also newspaper and tv true-crime addicts, and a lot of this bubbles up in our work.
---Describe your writing process.
Before we start to write, we spend a lot of time talking. We discuss ideas concerning the plot, the characters, general themes which may eventually find a place in the story. We then write a detailed outline, as many as thirty pages, working out the main developments and tracing the denouement of the book. At that point, we begin to write, each writing to his/her strengths. I am better at physical description, whether it be the sky at night or the inside of a pig-sty; Daniela is stronger at dialogue, personal interaction, behaviour. We have to convince each other, and be consistent with each other, so there is more discussion, a lot of editing, and then rewriting until we are both satisfied with each chapter.
---What is the most surprising thing you have learned as a writer?
Both: The most surprising thing is how difficult it is to get a first break. Equally, how important it is to continue trying. You must never give up. Publishing is a very competitive industry, so you have to learn to be competitive and industrious. In a word, professional.
Finally, having taught oneself to write – that is, to express ideas and sensations with some degree of clarity – the most satisfying thing of all is actually being able to sit down every day and write something. That is a very great personal satisfaction, and the most pleasant surprise of all.
---Which of your books is your favourite and why?
Michael: I like “Days of Atonement” (2007). The story is enthralling in the sense that it keeps unfolding: one revelation leads to another, and then to the next. Guessing why the crime has been committed, and naming the culprit, are not what the novel is about; it is a plea for human compassion. A terrible act is committed in terrible times because it cannot be otherwise. We want the reader to feel concern for the actors in the drama which magistrate Hanno Stiffeniis uncovers.
Daniela: I love “A Visible Darkness,” which was published in 2009. I think that Mike and I created a world – the world of amber gathering on the remote Baltic coast – which is fascinating and most unusual. After reading the book, it is hard to imagine anyone looking at a beautiful piece of amber and failing to be fascinated by the mysterious origins of that strange natural jewel. The characters and the story seems to slot perfectly together, and we are immensely proud of the novel.
---What kind of effect do you hope your books will have?
Daniela: Entertain, entertain, entertain!
Michael: I’m a big book fan. I love nineteenth century fiction. I would like to think that we can write tales of similar inventive scope and dramatic scale, but from a modern point of view, having learnt from all that went before. At the same time, I am over the moon when someone says that they have enjoyed our novels. It is so rewarding to think that you have given other people pleasure.
The End, but not the end of the mystery.
If anyone can tell us where this interview was placed, they may have a surprise in store.