This week’s guest on Inheritance Books is romance author Stefania Hartley. Welcome to the Inheritance Books sofa, Stefania. Grab a seat while I put the kettle on. While we’re waiting for the water to boil, why don’t you tell us a bit about yourself?
I was born and grew up in Sicily, then I came over to the UK in my early twenties, for a university exchange programme. I took the ‘exchange’ bit so seriously that I ended up exchanging rings and vows with an Englishman, who’s now my husband of twenty years.
I never thought I would be a writer until, one day, while I was still teaching Science in schools, I submitted an article to a Science magazine and, lo and behold, it was published. At that point, I caught the writing bug and I have been writing ever since. Now I write happy or humorous short stories and romance novels mostly set in Sicily or in other places I’ve lived. My debut novel, a steamy romance entitled Sun Stars and Limoncello, is available for pre-order.
Which book have you inherited from a generation above? Why is it special?
A book that means a lot to me is La Biblioteca Fantastica, an illustrated collection of fables, tales and legends from all over the world. It’s in Italian, as this is my mother tongue and I was given it by my mum when I was a child. Incidentally, I find it very fascinating and sweet that we say ‘mother tongue’ rather than ‘father tongue’, and in Italian it’s the same(‘lingua madre’). Anyway, my mother used to read this book to me, especially when I was at home sick – Sicily is not just sunshine and summer, but also winter and flu. I spent hours leafing through it before I learnt to read, admiring the illustrations which were sometimes scary (like the Baba Yaga witch in the Russian story of Vassilissa The Beautiful), sometimes heart-rending (like in The Little Matchgirl) and always interesting.
Which book would you like to leave to future generations? Why?
One of the many books I would leave to the next generation is this lovely hardback edition of Little Women. I greatly enjoyed the story when I was a child and I have enjoyed it again recently, when I re-read it after watching the new film.
The things that struck a chord this time were different from those which made an impression on me as a child. Being an only child, back then I was struck by the love between the sisters. It was something that I didn’t have. I was also shocked to see Beth die. In my experience, mothers gave medicines and children got better. I had no idea that in the past young people could die so easily. Now, reading it as a grown up and a writer, the parts that attracted me most have been those connected with Jo’s internal conflicts between her artistic and moral integrity and the need to earn money. Very relevant.
It was also delightful to read the book in its original language. One of the loveliest things about becoming proficient in a new language is being able to access novels in the author’s own voice and to understand the culture where it was born.
Thank you very much for sharing your favourite books with us, Stefania. All the best with your new book.