Marion Kenyon Jones recently had her debut novel published. Marion was interested in being interviewed for my blog.
Can you tell me a bit about your book please?
This sweeping Historical novel begins in the Italian countryside during the last months of World War II, and will span the globe. Pippo is the teenage son of an Italian father and British mother. His father is a diplomat who turns against Mussolini, and is imprisoned. His mother Rose is forced to take refuge with her two sons (Pippo, and his younger brother Benni, who is autistic) at a magnificent, but neglected villa offered them by Pippo’s wealthy godmother. Rose also rescues Hannah, a seventeen year old jewish girl.
Coming of age is hard enough for Pippo, but his father’s arrest causes him to question the old family allegiance to the Fascist cause. His mother, originally aligned with Italy against her native Britain, decides to hide escaped allied soldiers from the occupying Nazis, and finds that love and war often go hand in hand.
Pippo and Hannah begin a romance. He feels a special empathy for someone whose family history has been turned upside down. (Hannah’s father was a loyal Italian Jew, who was betrayed by people he thought of as his fellow countrymen.)
The family are drawn into the Resistance and there is an increasingly menacing undertone of war, which erupts with tragic consequences as the retreating German army arrive in the area. Pippo and Hannah are forced apart. As paths divide and fates collide, can one young man fly in the face of all opposition to be with the one he loves?
Pippo’s war is an historical novel full of period detail, a love story, and a classic coming-of-age tale.
(If you enjoyed: The English Patient, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, or the more recent: In love and war, this could be the book for you.)
Did you have to do any research for it?
Yes, I am fortunate enough to have lived in Italy for many years, and am grateful to neighbours and friends who shared their stories with me. I talked to veterans of the Italian campaign (Now very elderly!) and I read a great deal about the history of the period.
Where did you get your ideas from?
There is a memorial plaque in the Italian village where I live which is dedicated to the memory of a group of young partisans who lost their lives. It sparked my interest.
I met a man who shares much in common with Pippo. The book is a work of fiction, but it is informed by his experiences, and those of many others.
The descriptive passages in Pippo’s War are inspired by the incomparable beauty of Italy’s landscape, buildings and art.
Do you sometimes wake up in the middle of the night with new ideas which you have to write down quickly?
Did it take you a long time to write?
I spent five years writing Pippo’s War, but the ideas had been forming in my mind for many years before, and the historical research took time.
Do you have a favourite place where you do your writing?
Yes, I have a tiny study crammed with books. There is a window overlooking the garden which fills the space with light, and above my desk are a collection of small paintings from the days when I was a practising artist.
Can we look forward to more books?
I am researching the story of a woman artist and traveller from the 18c. The working title is: The life and times of Angelica Finch.
Describe a day in your life.
I start the day skimming the news on my phone (in bed with a cup of coffee!) I am learning about twitter and Facebook, and have a quick look at those before Holly the lurcher barks for her breakfast. We head for the kitchen together, and then she takes me for a brisk walk.
Each day is different, but I usually spend at least two hours in the morning and another two in the afternoon either writing or researching. If the writing is going well, I keep going!
My favourite evenings are spent at home with my historian husband. After supper we curl up with a box set or a book.
Who are your favourite authors?
There are so many! Classics: Trollop, George Eliot, Jane Austen, 20c: Anthony Burgess, Evelyn Waugh, Freya Stark, Pat Barker. Current reading: Marilynne Robinson, Tim Winton, Lydia Davis, Hilary Mantel. I could go on…
What do you do in your spare time?
I travel as much as I can, and I love to visit museums and galleries. I walk a great deal and of course I devour books.
About Marion Kenyon Jones
Marion was born in London in 1949 and trained as a sculptor in Paris. In 1974 she moved to the United States and took up painting. In 1982 she began to divide her time between her studio in Italy and New York where she regularly exhibited her work. During this period she wrote short stories about her summers on a small holding in the Tuscan Hills, and became interested in the local history.
After a hiatus during which she married, raised two children and took an MA at the Tavistock Centre in London, she began work on her debut novel Pippo’s War which was published in May 2015.
She continues to visit Italy regularly and is researching her second novel.