So a literary agent contacted me this week to discuss representing me and my book about running away to live in Italy. Can you believe it?!! After 20 minutes of squealing, cart-wheeling and jumping up and down like una matta, I took a breath and tried most earnestly to get a grip on reality. Dear reader, if you’ve read my A Life Romantic column before, you’ll know this is not my forte. I specialise in leaping ahead, jumping the gun, TOTALLY BELIEVING SOMETHING IS GOING TO HAPPEN NO MATTER HOW TENUOUS THE POSSIBILITY. On this occasion, however, I tried my utmost to be sensible. This is not a book deal. We’re yet to meet in person – they may not even like me. Plus I still have to actually finish my 100,000-word manuscript and write something that doesn’t make parts of my face twitch and wince when I re-read it.
You see, I don’t need it to be revered as some great literary work, for it to bring me fame or even to make a profit (sorry Potential Publisher if you’re reading)… all I want is for it to work. Because I was THAT girl; the over-worked dreamer thirsting for a cinematic tale, manically index-fingering spines in the travel memoir section of bookshops, hoping to find that one spell book that would magically whisk me away inspire me. There was nothing that would quicken my heart more than the potent space between the words ‘Chapter One’ and the first line of a story about someone running away. I would read tales by women post-divorce licking their wounds in a farmhouse, young girls looking for love, men seeking the open road with wry wit and political observations, older women realising just in time where they should have been their whole lives… I didn’t discriminate. The delicious drama of getting on a plane and flying to Italy is inherently romantic, no matter whose story it is.
These writers affirmed the belief I clung to with childish obstinance – that life could imitate cinema. Mediocrity could be circumvented with one spontaneous announcement of departure to a partner, boss, landlord. A love affair could find you in a cobblestoned serendipitous scene. Materialism and alarm clocks would be supplanted by an unhealthy dependence on olive oil and coffee.
One of the first in the whole genre of Dammit I Can’t Take It Anymore, I’m Running Away was Peter Mayle. I remember reading his book ‘A Year in Provence’ when I was a child, followed by ‘Almost French’ in later life and then everything from the lyrical genius of Marlena de Blasi in Venice and Tuscany to the candid musings of ex-prostitute turned poet Kate Holden in Rome and Naples.
To be honest, I’m really quite nervous about meeting this literary agent. I don’t have a working title that wows people. I don’t know if anyone will want to read it. But if this agent asks me what I hope to achieve, I can respond with unswerving clarity: I want to write the book of love, romance and adventure that I was always searching for, back when I didn’t have a TV show, I wasn’t fluent in Italian and this whole vita Italiana was just a dream in a bookstore.
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