Today, the Dames are pleased to present multi-genre author/poet/songwriter Allen Rizzi. Welcome, Allen. Tell us about your latest book, Our First Year – Sketches from an Alpine Village.
Our First Year – Sketches from an Alpine Village is the true story of an American couple’s first year living abroad in northern Italy. Told through short, often humorous sketches, this book introduces the reader to life in Italy’s South Tirol region through the eyes of newly arrived American residents. Centered in the small alpine village of Tret, the people, language, and customs here come to life through a personal narrative of everyday living. This book is available exclusively through Amazon’s Kindle Store.
I’m not much of a traveler but if I ever do travel abroad, Italy would be #1 on my list of places to go. Since I’m terrified of flying, I’ll have to read your book and live vicariously through you and your wife. Can you share a little bit about what you’re working on now or what’s coming next?
I have just released a second book on Amazon’s Kindle platform entitled, The Blackest of Canyons. This is a personal memoir set against a background of 50 years of fly fishing in the American West.
Two other books will be released in March of 2013. The first is scholarly work devoted to the history and restoration of an antique cemetery in northern Italy. The second is an anthology of my 1970s song lyrics. I have also just started an historical fiction novel about the inner workings of the music industry entitled, Hey, Mr. Publisher. These are diverse subjects, to be sure!
Very diverse! It sounds as if you have a little bit of something for everyone. Who are your favorite authors, the ones you read when you should be doing something else? Why do they appeal to you?
I have always loved T.S. Eliot, Thomas Hardy, Mark Twain and Homer. They get to the point and waste very little ink while forcing the reader into their worlds. As a child I read a whole lot of poetry. I think Poe, Coleridge and Eliot taught me the rhythm and meter that I have used successfully in all of my writing, from music to nonfiction. As a child I was introduced to obscure and formidable classics such as Homer and Chaucer. What I took away from reading these was that I’d better learn to be a really terrific writer just to get by.
A few of my own favorites in there. How long have you been writing?
I have been a professional (paid) writer for over 50 years. I started writing poetry as a child and received my first check at thirteen. I have successful experience in poetry, drama, fiction, non-fiction, and music. Additionally, I have written biographies, human interest stories and articles for magazines and periodicals. I currently write in English, Italian and German.
Your first check at thirteen? That’s impressive, as is the fact that you write in so many different genres and forms. Who or what has been the biggest influence in your writing career and why?
My family has been the biggest influence because of their support and encouragement. Writers need a bit of applause now and then and I have been fortunate to receive that from my parents and my wife. As far as song writing is concerned, I would have to mention both Gordon Lightfoot and Johnny Rivers as both influenced my lyric and composition styles.
Oh, yes, every writer needs a bit of applause in their world and family is often the best source of encouragement—at least that I’ve found. Tell us a little bit about where you live.
Currently, my wife and I live both in Etowah, North Carolina and Tret, Italy. We have been residents of Italy for eleven years and honorary southerners for only three years. We find both locations fascinating with loads of great people. I have been retired for ten years and I do a lot of volunteer work both here and in Italy. Some examples include cemetery restoration and teaching genealogy, English, Italian and German. Prior to retiring, I worked as a teacher, music producer and petroleum consultant in California and Oregon.
Honorary southerners, I like that. You sure do stay busy and I’m sure Etowah is delighted to have you and your wife in their midst. Where do you find inspiration for your writing?
I often find inspiration in the past, perhaps from an old photograph, an old piece of music or simply wondering where someone else’s life has taken them. Also, certain musical chords (E minor, A minor 7, etc.) often propel me into a writing theme or mood. Travelling the world and learning foreign cultures has also inspired much of my recent work. Ideas for my writing have even come from obituaries.
I’m with you on the old photographs and obituaries, both of those have played an important part in my writing. Traveling also, but only within the confines of our state—there’s that fear of flying thing again! What are major themes or motifs in your work? Do your readers ever surprise you by seeing something else in your stories than you think you wrote?
My major themes almost always involve appreciation for the past, acceptance, and optimism for tomorrow. I also like the occasional epiphany. I am a realist who doesn’t see the point in complaining about yesterday. The reason behind raw emotions is a recurring motif as well. My readers don’t normally find anything in my work that was not specifically intended.
Again, I’m with you on the appreciation for the past and optimism for tomorrow. I used to hate anything to do with history but since my sister and I started writing about our great aunt’s life, I’m hooked. During our research, I’ve often been amazed at the hardships they faced and their faith that they can accomplish anything. How many hours a day do you write, where, and are there any specific circumstances that help or hurt your process?
I am very sporadic. Sometimes, I will write for ten hours or more without a break. Sometimes, I don’t write for months. I write, on average, two hours a day. However, I vary my writing time and balance my writing with the rest of my life. I write at home and while travelling. The surroundings often help rather than hinder my writing. Quiet reflective moments are best. However, I once wrote a song with a complete score while eating lunch. Basically, I write when I have something to say that I feel is important.
It’s nice to hear another writer say their writing is sporadic. I never have been an “every day” writer and often wonder if it’s a curse or a blessing that I can’t seem to force myself to sit down every day at the computer and pound out a certain amount of words. But I dearly love those times when I can’t force myself to quit! What are your thoughts on the standard writing advice, “write what you know?”
You’re talking to a believer! I write only what I know and not what I might like to know. Since my motivation for writing is to share, I can only share what I know. I call it the “Colonel Sanders” way of writing; don’t try to be all things to all people and do it right.
I’ve never heard it referred to as a “Colonel Sanders” way of writing, but it sure does fit! Any family influences? Memoirs in the making?
I come from a creative, competitive family. My brother is a well known poet, my sister is a writer and my father was a concert violinist. My mother supported her entire family’s creative endeavors and was the most widely read person I’ve known. Our home always encouraged reading and the value of creativity. I have completed two memoirs of sorts: The Blackest of Canyons and Three A.M., the latter being a song lyric anthology with complete histories of 81 song lyrics.
Wow, there’s that family influence again. How wonderful for you to have such a supportive and creative family. Have you bought an e-reader? What is your overall impression of electronic publishing?
My wife and I have e-readers. I am a recent convert to electronic publishing and proud that I was able to overcome close to a half century of “old school” thinking as a writer. The internet and e-readers have broadened my audience to include people who live all over the world. I certainly could not have had this opportunity years ago with just my typewriter and local publishing house.
Thank you for joining us today, Allen. I’ve enjoyed getting to know you a little better—even though we’re in a writers’ group together, the time for socializing isn’t always there. I hope you’ll come back and visit us often on the blog.