Episode 23

Is Fiction The Best Way To Tell Hard Truths?

Gloria Mattioni is an award-winning feature writer and the award-winning author of 'California Sister'. She writes fiction and narrative non-fiction. In fact, she previously published 'Reckless - The Outrageous Lives of Nine Kick-Ass Women' and 'Dakota Warrior - The Story of James R. Weddell.' Earlier on, she published in Italy a novel, 'Con Altri Occhi', and three non-fiction books, 'Guerriero Dakota', 'Wild Women,' and 'La Trib├╣ dei Mangiatori di Sogni'. As soon as her debut women's fiction, 'California Sister', was completed, she started writing her second novel, a mystery along the lines of the books written by Claire Waters, the main character and narrator of California Sister. Growing up, Mattioni dreamed of being a pirate, an astronaut, and an explorer but she was a storyteller since she learned to speak in complete sentences and became a professional writer at eighteen. She's been, among other things, an investigative reporter, human rights activist, animal rescuer, editor and magazine writer. She has a penchant for social justice and tries to infuse her writing with it, unafraid of taking controversial stands on hot topics like the injustice of the justice system or the right to die with dignity. Either as a journalist or author, she chooses to tell stories that can inspire her readers to trust their hearts, follow their passion, and be compassionate with all living beings.

She was born in Milan, Italy, but moved to Los Angeles in 1992. She still lives in California with her husband and rescue dog, conjures six impossible things every morning before breakfast, and travels much. She loves hiking in the mountains, swimming and surfing in the ocean, but also getting lost on city streets or jump in her car or motorhome for impromptu road trips.

You can learn more about her on her website www.gloriamattioni.com or follow her on Instagram at @gloriamattioni to keep up with her new releases.

Order your copy of California Sister either through your favorite independent bookstore or at any online vendor by clicking on the links listed on the homepage of her website

or

Support your local bookstore & this podcast by getting your copy of California Sister at https://bookshop.org/a/

Transcript

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Kathleen [:

Welcome to Author Express. Thanks for checking us out. This is the podcast where you give us 15 minutes of your time and we give you a chance to hear the voice behind the pages and get to know some of your favorite writers in a new light. I'm one of your hosts, Kathleen Basey. I'm an award-winning musical composer, a feature writer, essayist, and of course storyteller.

Kathleen [:

Let me tell you a little bit about today's guest.

Kathleen [:

Can anybody know what's best for others? That's the dilemma. At the core of Gloria Mattioni's multi award-winning women's fiction, California sister that follows the Italian born mystery writer, Claire Waters living in Los Angeles when she rushes back to her home country to help her sister after a devastating brain hemorrhage.

Kathleen [:

Claire is determined to restore her to health or help her die with dignity. But would her nonverbal sister want to go on struggling, damaged as she is, or end her suffering? It's a story of fierce love and heartbreaking grief set in Los Angeles and Bergamo Italy. It has been reviewed by readers as a love letter to Los Angeles and a book that is better than therapy.

Kathleen [:

It's a dual narration that alternates the sister's points of view, giving voice also to the sister who lost her verbal ability through letters, emails, journal excerpts, travel scrapbooks, and the imagined thoughts of a person affected by Locked In syndrome. Welcome Gloria to the Author Express Podcast.

Gloria [:

Thank you so much for having me.

Kathleen [:

Let's start today by just telling me what's the most interesting thing about where you're from.

Gloria [:

Okay. Actually I'm from Milan, Italy, but I consider myself a Los Angeles person. Because I chose Los Angeles when I moved from Italy to the United States. And the reason why I chose it was because it has a very special geography.

Gloria [:

Mm-hmm. So it's basically in the middle of Oceans, mountains Desert. Mm-hmm. Which everything in about an hour drive. And that for me, It's a great advantage since I'm an outdoor person and be outdoor. Mm-hmm. But the real reason why I got so fond of it, uh, living here, because I love the people. Oh, Angelina's?

Gloria [:

Yes. And why? Because the Angelina's are actually a huge mixing pot of people coming from different countries, different backgrounds. It's history. Um, so it's a city of Dreamers. Everybody who comes from Los Angeles, everybody who come from Los Angeles is coming because they want to achieve something including here.

Kathleen [:

Yeah. Nice. Very good. Yeah. So let's ask a little bit more about you as a person that you grew up in Milan, which is a lovely place. I've been there for like one day because that's what Americans do. We go places for one day. I think I went up the cathedral there, which was just glorious. But anyway. So tell me who was your best friend growing up in Milan?

Gloria [:

Um, my cat. Yes. Because I was a very solitary kid. My sister and cousins were all older than me, Uh huh. So they didn't actually let me play with them. I could watch but not play with them. Yeah. And my mom was, uh, um, working all day, so she had no time to take. With play days with, so the cat was actually my very good friend and she was part of all my imaginary games.

Kathleen [:

Oh, very good.

Gloria [:

Yeah. She could be sometimes a threatening tiger, sometimes my Barbie doll that I would dress.

Kathleen [:

Very common cat,

Gloria [:

very accommodating cat. A good cat.

Kathleen [:

Yes, I'm a cat person. Are you still a cat person?

Gloria [:

I'm both. I'm a cat and also doctor. Okay. I rescue animals and stress, so all the time.

Kathleen [:

Oh, well that is a very worthy thing.

Kathleen [:

Good for you. Can you tell me something that people might find it hard to believe

Gloria [:

about you? Okay. Yeah. Usually what people wonder more about and that shock about is that I have a son who's actually a college professor. Oh. So when they meet me, usually when I, if I say I have a son, they usually ask me, uh oh, he's in college.

Gloria [:

Okay. What he's studying. I had him very young when I was 17.

Kathleen [:

That's really, you know, my parents are young and I think that's really great for the kids in some ways cuz, and, and also for you, cuz you get to have a lot of your life left when your kid have flown the coop and you still have lots of time to pursue your own things.

Kathleen [:

I do think it's, that's really cool. What is your sentence? I totally

Gloria [:

agree. I totally agree and uh, I loved it. My experience, you know, being a young mom, the energy that you have when you're young is, oh

Kathleen [:

my gosh. Yeah. That was great. Yeah. Yeah. I didn't have my first until I was almost 30 and I am feeling tired all the time.

Kathleen [:

Yes. I'm sorry. Go ahead.

Gloria [:

My son teach history. He's actually also podcaster. He has a very popular history podcast.

Kathleen [:

So, yeah. Interesting, interesting. That's very cool. Okay, well let's talk, uh, let's move into talking a little bit about your book, California Sister. Who do you think is going to connect with your book, or who were you thinking of when you wrote it?

Gloria [:

When I wrote it, my main motivation was trying to share what I learn during my personal experience, because the book is fiction, definitely. But it's inspired by my sister's story. And my sister suffered a really bad brain hemorrhage. Hemorrhage, and she was deprived of almost all her abilities. And she couldn't speak, she couldn't teach, she couldn't move, basically, you know?

Gloria [:

So I had to find a way to interact with her and to communicate through all of that. And I did learn a lot of things. I learned to use all my senses. I learned to use touch. I learned to use my voice music. So I wanted to transmit all of that. So not only, of course, it's not about only people who were in my sister's situation, but it's for everybody who's dealing with, um, Uh, trying to help a loved one mm-hmm.

Gloria [:

With disability or that they lost the ability to make a decision for themselves, like early parent or mm-hmm. And anybody actually going through grief, you must have lost your mother or. Somebody else and you're going to grief and try to find a solution and it's very hard. So I got the kind of feedback from my readers.

Gloria [:

Most of my reviews are people who say, oh, this book helped me so much to go to my own grief for the loss of my mother, or things like that. Oh, and. That is really rewarding. Yeah.

Kathleen [:

Oh yeah, for sure. I mean that's, I think what's so wonderful about fiction is the chance to make a difference in your own life, but then also in other people's lives.

Kathleen [:

We, we need that so much. We can process tough things through stories, somebody else's stories so much more easily sometimes than we can in our own lives. It's

Gloria [:

just beautiful. Totally, totally agree with that. It was one of the reason why I wrote it as a fiction. I couldn't write it as a memoir, but I Oh yeah.

Gloria [:

The distance for myself. Also the distance for the reader, because it's a story also reaching many other things now. So there is love. There is hope. There is. Um, the, one of the, the sister who lost their abilities was actually a singer songwriter. So there's songs in there, you know, there is a lot. There is journals, letters.

Kathleen [:

Yeah. That sounds wonderful. So you almost answered the next question I was gonna ask for me already. I was gonna ask if your book would be exactly the same if you'd written it 10 years ago, but clearly not because it's based so clearly on your own experiences.

Gloria [:

Yeah, I couldn't have written at all. You know, I came back from Italy where I stay a long time to help my sister in 2009, and it took me five years before I could start writing about it.

Gloria [:

Oh, I'm sure I'm deciding to write it through

Kathleen [:

fiction. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, that sounds beautiful. So you are an artistic family, apparently, if your sister is a singer's songwriter. So when did you first know that you wanted to be a writer? Okay.

Gloria [:

Uh, first just thing my sister was, was,

Kathleen [:

yes. I'm so sorry. Yes.

Gloria [:

Yeah. Oh, no, no. She wasn't meaning in the fiction. I,

Kathleen [:

I Oh, okay. Oh, okay. Oh, okay. I see. Okay. So it's not entirely, not entirely based off your own life. Okay. Beautiful. It's fiction,

Gloria [:

so it's just the premise is, you know, my personal experience, but then the story. I gotcha. Okay. But yeah, coming back to your question, I knew I was gonna be a writer since I started to speak in complete sentences.

Gloria [:

Mm-hmm. Because I started obviously as a moral storyteller because I was probably three. So,

Kathleen [:

telling stories to your cat. Exactly. To

Gloria [:

my dad, to my preschool. Uh, Made classmates and everybody would listen. I was always telling stories to the point that in my family they thought that most of what I said was actually imagination.

Gloria [:

No even uhhuh through stories and yeah, and then I upgraded to illustrate my stories when I started to draw. Wow. And I think that stuck with me because even now I barely out lie in my novels. I stole them. Oh. So, uh, yes. Yeah. You know, I just, usually what I have is a, I have a corkboard and I put scenes there.

Gloria [:

I write scenes as they come, and then I put them on my storyboard and then at some point, Just staring at my corkboard that my storyboard, it starts to make sense. And so, oh yeah. Magically, almost magically doubtly take shape.

Kathleen [:

Oh, I think that that makes so much sense to me because for me, a lot of things are very special.

Kathleen [:

I. And I really need to see things laid out. I have never tried a corkboard, but that actually makes so much sense to me. I've often thought as I'm looking at all these different documents and trying to do a timeline, how much easier it would be if I could just have it all laid out in front of me and I could point this there and you know, isn't there something about an interior castle where you can remember things if you put them in a specific room, in a specific place in your mind, or something like that?

Kathleen [:

Yeah.

Gloria [:

To me, totally work. I mean, I resume this kind of practice from my childhood when I started to write fiction and I loved all a sudden I was not stuck, uh, just staring at the blank page on the computer. Mm-hmm. And I could just go without worrying about the. Structure and everything. I'm totally answer.

Gloria [:

Obviously not a block.

Kathleen [:

That is not me. Okay. Well, um, this is also very interesting. So tell us, where's the best place for folks to find you online?

Gloria [:

Could we go to Instagram or

Kathleen [:

Facebook? On Instagram or on Facebook. Great. And then, or on my website. Okay, great. So, um, tell me then, in closing today, what book or story inspires you the most?

Kathleen [:

Everyone always struggles with this, but, uh, at least for right now, in this moment in time, what stands out to you?

Gloria [:

Oh, you mean as an order list or

Kathleen [:

as a reader or as a human being? You can interpret that any way you like.

Gloria [:

Okay. So as a kid reader, since I was a huge reader, even when I was very young, it was definitely, um, cold of the Wild by Jack London.

Gloria [:

Um, I think because I love animals, I love wildlife, and I love that story of, uh, heroes where, where the mm-hmm. Antagonist was a dog. Mm-hmm. And, um, instead later on as a novelist, um, the writer who inspire me most is John Ion. Okay. Because she has this incredible, beautiful style, very dry, at the same time, highly visual.

Gloria [:

And the way she construct the sentence is incredible. And she's a former journalist mm-hmm. Who want punch of prize for her non-fiction. And so for journalist, but uh, when she wrote plays it as a place. Which is an incredible novel set in the sixties in Los Angeles, in Hollywood. Mm-hmm. And deals with a lot of very tough, um, themes like mental illness.

Gloria [:

Mm-hmm. But at the same time, they depicts Hollywood as a mix of glamor and grimness. Mm-hmm. And I love how she connected with Los Angeles and, uh, everything that was said before. Mm-hmm. Yes, city of Dreamers, but also city of a lot of frustration for Dreamers don't make it. Mm-hmm. I just loved it. Yeah, she

Kathleen [:

really inspired me.

Kathleen [:

Well, thank you for that recommendation. We'll all be sure to check it out. So thank you very much, Gloria, for being on the Author Express Podcast.

Gloria [:

Thank you for having me. It was fantastic. Thanks.

Kathleen [:

Thanks for joining us today. We hope you'll take a second to give us some stars or review on your favorite podcasting platform. We'll be back next Wednesday, and in the meantime, follow us on Instagram at Author Express Podcast to see who's coming up next. Don't forget, keep it express. But keep it interesting.

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Shawna Rodrigues

Shawna Rodrigues, Founder and Director of Impact at Authentic Connections Podcast Network, Host of The Grit Show (https://podcast.thegritshow.com) and Author Express (https://bit.ly/AuthorExpressPod) and coming in 2024- Authenticity Amplified. Shawna is a Podcast Mentor, Internationally Best-Selling Author (www.shawnarodrigues.com) and consultant.
Find her on Instagram @ShawnaPodcasts.