Giancarlo Gemin is the creator of the truly magnificent Nosy Crow book, Cowgirl. Recently shortlisted for the Branford Boase, The Waterstones Children's fiction Prize, and winner of the Tir na n-Og Award - the book keeps on picking up compliments and attracting new fans. Personally, I think it one of the best books I've read, with huge heart and humour. A cracking read for 8+.
Giancarlo has a rich Cardiff accent - so imagine it if you will -
Coffee and Walnut or Chocolate Brownie?
Coffee & Walnut every time.
For anyone who hasn't read it - can you sum up Cowgirl in a couple of sentences?
Gemma dislikes Cowgirl, but she hasn't asked herself why. She's unhappy her dad's in prison, she argues with her Mam and she lives on a troubled estate; then she meets Cowgirl's twelve cows. Can twelve cows solve her problems? You'll have to read it to find out.
The story's set on a housing estate in South Wales. You're from Cardiff, is this autobiographical?
No, but it's the first book I set in the land where I grew up and it felt right.
I first met you on the MA Writing for Young People course at Bath Spa University. We were neither of us especially young – what made you take that leap into children's books?
Speak for yourself! I used to direct films in a previous life and realised that the story is "the thing" (even Speilberg said it) so I decided it was the thing I wanted to do.
Have you ever abandoned a manuscript?
No, and any manuscripts that were rejected before I was published hang in the air waiting for me to review them. The problem is finding the time and being enticed with something new.
As a matter of interest, which writers do you most admire?
Betsy Byars - she deserves re-Printing big time. They are simple timeless stories and
John Steinbeck - a true all-rounder, who was dedicated to his craft.
What did the 10 year old Giancarlo want to be when he grew up? Were you a bookish child?
Never a bookish child - it's important to be honest about this, as I feel there is too much pressure on children to read these days. Encouragement is fine, pressure is not.
When I was 10 I wanted to be a conductor, until I realised I was not at all musical.
Conducting? I can just imagine it. I know you love opera, do you listen to it when you’re working?
No. Opera is far too demanding on the senses. When I do listen to it - it drains me, in a good way. It is a complex and beautiful musical expression, but I recognise it's not for everyone. At times it's positively ridiculous, but I still love it.
And if you could recommend one opera that the uninitiated might enjoy?
Difficult. Some people would be best introduced via Mozart, such as le Nozze di Figaro - it's beautiful but easy on the ears. Personally, I would try to challenge someone with Verdi - the best. He was a man of the theatre, so Macbeth, La Traviata, for the romantics, Aida or Otello. You can't go wrong with Verdi. (Keep away from Wagner - unless you're into Tolkien)
Are you working on anything just now? And can you tell us anything about it?
Thousands of Italians came to the Welsh valleys from the late 19th Century onwards. They set up Italian Cafes everywhere, some still exist today. Sweet Pizza is about those immigrants and community, and it's about Joe trying to revive his parents cafe - at the same he falls in love and discovers its powerful WW2 history.