Ask the Author: Frances Mayes

“Ask me a question.” Frances Mayes

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Frances Mayes Good question!! What do you love? The beaches in Puglia, the art and beauty in Tuscany and Umbria? Amazing hiking in Trentino Alto Adige? Wine tasting in Friuli? Maybe so enlightenment in See You in the Piazza, where I explore little known places. If this is a first trip, I'd say travel about. You can't beat Tuscany, which has it all! Buon viaggio!
Frances Mayes Thanks for writing. My agent handles foreign sales and the publishers arrange their translations. Any query could be answered by Foreign Rights, Curtis Brown Ltd. 10 Astor Place in New York, 10003.
Best, Frances
Frances Mayes Lots is new in Cortona, mostly good. Fine new shops and restaurants. It's quite changed from those many years ago. But then what isn't?
There's also some tackiness in some of the shops but mostly Cortona retains its dignity. Certainly it retains its friendliness and sense of community. I still adore being there. Glad you enjoy the lasagne! Love baked pastas!
Frances Mayes Just finished the book tour and am trying to clear my desk! I hope to focus on writing again later in the summer. But we are remodeling in Italy, so...
Frances Mayes Thank you! My first five books were poetry and were written intermittently. When I turned to prose, I found that Under the Tuscan Sun came to me very easily and was written in a year. I was teaching then so wrote mostly on weekends and breaks. Other books have taken 1-2 years, except for Under Magnolia which started a long time ago, was put away, then brought out and revised and added to. A long process!
Frances Mayes If I understand your question, I'll say that for me, imagination and experience--when I sit down to write--are intertwined. My memoirs, of course, are true to experience but I hope I bring my imagination to the language in trying to convey experience. Make sense???
Frances Mayes Yes. There are many, many more visitors coming to our town because of my books. The place, however, is ancient and remains itself, especially off-season.
Frances Mayes Under Magnolia came to me in a rush of memories. I said there that I felt that I was holding onto a horse that bolted the barn! Thrilling--the process of gathering the material into discrete chapters. Challenging--revisiting the painful parts.
Frances Mayes For my best advice about Tuscan food, check my The Tuscan Sun Cookbook, where I gathered all my best recipes, such at Tuscan Ribs, Baked Pasta with Four Cheeses, and lots of others. In Venice--black risotto, and whatever fish looks the boldest and freshest. I love the little lobsters.
Frances Mayes They were joys to write! My natural stance when traveling is "innocent abroad." I want to remain open to the place as it is, to experience without forming quick opinions. My writing is all about place and especially so in Under Magnolia, where I try to describe how I feel formed by the place where I grew up and to acknowledge the power of landscape and the history imbued in it.
Frances Mayes I look for the same qualities in travel writing that I enjoy in novels and other nonfiction--a strong personal voice and a felicitous writing style. Story, especially dangerous adventure, is not enough. Walking through a medieval town can be more riveting than escaping from six bears.
Frances Mayes This I partly answered earlier. But if you already have an MA, I'd go on only if you found that process helpful to your memoir. Finding an agent is not easy. I suggest looking in the acknowledgment pages of books you love and that you find compatible with your style. The authors will thank their agents there and you can look them up and send a good sample of your work.
Frances Mayes Since I don't know your circumstances, it's hard to say. Plan well, and have a back up plan. Getting a job, of course, requires all kinds of permits, so unless you have a big savings, there's that. If you have some indispensable skill it is a lot easier. Living in Italy, which is the place I know, is easy and stimulating and fun and healthy. You are outside more, walk more, eat well, laugh a lot. My books tell what I know about living there.
Frances Mayes No. I wonder who on earth would tackle my family on film!

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