Linda Cardillo is an award-winning author who began writing fiction when she received the gift of her immigrant grandparents’ love letters and turned them into a story that has resonated with readers around the world. Since then, she has drawn upon her fascination with the far-flung places in which she has lived as she explores the complexity, pain and joy of women’s lives. She is currently writing her fifth book, a novel set in the political turmoil and artistic splendor of 16th-century Italy. She was recently interviewed by Cheryl Malandrinos.
Why did you become a writer?
I have been making up stories ever since I could string words together. As the first child born into an extended family of busy adults, I relied upon an imaginary friend for a playmate and wove elaborate tales about her. When I wasn’t creating stories, I was reading them, devouring books that became my refuge and my inspiration. When I was forty my aunt gave me the letters of my grandfather, about whom I had known almost nothing. Reading them, written in a mellifluous Italian that revealed a passionate love of language, I understood that writing was in my blood.
What is the most rewarding part of being a writer? The most frustrating?
I love listening to my characters as they reveal themselves to me. I love the moments of discovery when a story takes me in a totally unexpected direction or a nugget of information that I stumble upon in my research becomes a spark that ignites my writing. I love immersing myself in a world apart. I love knowing that my stories have touched my readers.
I love less the demands placed on writers in the 21st century to “build a platform” and maintain a presence and a persona in social media.
Can you tell us a bit about your latest release?
Across the Table is a story about family, forgiveness, perseverance, and food from the points of view of three women—a first-generation Italian-American who opens a restaurant in Boston’s North End, her artist daughter, and her Harvard-educated granddaughter.
Two threads in my life came together with the writing of Across the Table. First, although I had once run my own catering company, owning a restaurant was a dream deferred until I created the fictional restaurant Paradiso in my old North End neighborhood and got to experience vicariously the challenges and joys of cooking for a living. Second, I had grown up around the tables of my grandmothers and aunts, hearing their stories as they evolved from eager young women to the matriarchs who anchored their families with food and love, and I wanted to celebrate what they had taught me.
You’re sitting on the Raising the Dead: Transforming History into Fiction panel at this year’s WriteAngles conference. Can you tell us a little bit about what you’re planning?
I’ll be talking about the challenges I faced in imagining the emotional life of a woman who actually lived and the process of distilling volumes of material into the dramatic arc of a story. My research took me from the stacks of the Mt. Holyoke College library to the MFA in Boston and a stone fortress on an island in the Tyrrhenian Sea.
What are you working on now?
My latest project is a work of historical fiction set in 16th-century Italy and based on the life of a woman who was a celebrated poet, the confidant of popes and the Holy Roman Emperor, a suspected heretic, and the only woman Michelangelo ever loved.
Where can we find you online?
You can find me at lindacardillo.com
Is there anything you would like to add?
I’m looking forward to participating once again in WriteAngles!