I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Guglielmo as a result
of reading his interview on The Miramichi reader (See link below).
His debut novel – The Transaction - has
garnered several awards and great reviews. It’s on my TBR list.
He has graciously accepted our invitation to
participate in a 4Q Interview and is sharing an excerpt from his novel.
D’Izzia is an actor and writer who hails from Sicily. His artistic pursuits
have led him to some of the greatest cities in the world: Rome, New York City,
and eventually Toronto, where he now resides. He’s a proud graduate of the
creative writing program at the University of Toronto School of Continuing
Studies. The Transaction, his debut novel, won the 2016 Marina
Nemat Award (unpublished manuscript), was an award-winning finalist
of 2020 International Book Awards (Literary Fiction category), was
an official selection for the 2020 Cannes Film Festival | Shoot the
Book! Program, and was nominated “Most Promising Author” 2020
by The Miramichi Reader’s “The Very Best!” Book Awards. The Transaction
is also currently a 2020 Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Awards Finalist
4Q: Congratulations on the success of your novel.
Please tell our readers what to expect when they pick up their copy of The
GD: The Transaction tells the story of De
Angelis, an inscrutable northerner, who comes to a small town perched in
Sicily's hinterland to negotiate a real estate transaction, only to find
himself embroiled in a criminal conspiracy. What follows is a web of unsettling
events, involving child prostitution and brazen killings. And at the heart of
it: an alluring blue-eyed girl, Marinella. The chance encounter with the
eleven-year-old traps him in a psychological and moral cul-de-sac.
In essence, The Transaction is a darkly humorous literary mystery,
defiant of rigid genre constructs, prevalent aesthetics, and comfortable
thematic boundaries. Its sensorial narrative style, devoid of abstractions,
aims to engage the reader’s entire sensory stimuli, in particular to evoke
Though structurally linear, The Transaction employs a dual storyline
(one unspoken) designed to elude clarity of meaning and motivation; thus,
compelling the reader into an active role. The elliptical thread explores the
recondite crevices of our psyche where our most illicit urges reside. And just
like the hapless protagonist of The Transaction, the readers are forced to
confront the most unsettling and grotesque taboos, but, more importantly, to
question their complicity in perpetuating them.
The novel has often been described as nightmarish, haunting, disturbing—and
it is. This is perhaps, in my view, one of the book’s greatest achievements,
for there isn’t a single moment of graphic violence within its slim pages. The
narrative relies solely on the power of suggestion.
4Q: It is a tremendous feeling when recognized for the
quality of your writing. Please tell us about your feelings towards the Marina
Nemat Award, the International Book Awards, the recognition from The Miramichi
Reader, and the Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Awards.
GD: Well, I’m not going
to lie. It’s always a great feeling when your writing receives any kind of
wasn’t expecting much when I started writing The Transaction, for I wrote it
first and foremost for myself. Primarily I set out to write the book I would
want to read. And for that reason, I didn’t really think I was going to be able
to get it published, let alone to receive multiple recognitions for it.
extent—although this should never be the goal—being acknowledged makes your
efforts seem worthwhile. Surely, one might argue that being awarded for your
first book can add further pressure to the often-dreaded sophomore novel. But
it can also have the opposite result. In fact, it has given me a much-needed
boost and has made me a more confident writer.
4Q: Please share a childhood memory and/or anecdote.
GD: This story is
probably going to make me look like a ghoul, but, what the hell, I’ll tell it
When I was
eleven or twelve years old, a friend of mine and I decided to go on a quest for
the lost fortress of Odogrillo, which was completely obliterated (at least
that’s what we thought at the time) by the devastating earthquake of 1693 in
southeastern Sicily. But the expedition yielded different, and surely unforeseen
We had a fairly
good idea on where to start the search, for there already were some scanty
ruins connected to the feudal city, which was part of the fortress. For hours,
we scoured a large area skirting the river bed, but to no avail. Eventually, we
stumbled upon a ransacked archeological site, clearly unmapped, comprised of a
very small cluster of ancient Greek tombs. So, we decided to explore the site a
little further to see if there were any other burials or artifacts that were
missed. However, to our greatest surprise, we discovered an unrelated mass
getting back home that evening soiled from head to toe, my mom shaking her head
and saying: “What did you dig up this time!?” The next thing I remember is my
mother—still shaking her head—next to a large pot of boiling water, dunking in
the human skull I had just brought home.
4Q: Before donning
your writing hat, you were involved in theatre and acting. Can you share some
thoughts about that and do you still participate in these activities?
GD: Theatre is without a
doubt my first love. As much as I adore cinema, it doesn’t even come close to
the experience of live theatre. Acting was pretty much all I did for the first
part of my life; with a fair amount of success, I might add. When I was living
in Rome, I was an up-and-coming voice-over artist, and I was doing quite a bit
of theatre. I was particularly proud of being cast in a sumptuous theatrical
production of Amadeus by Peter Shaffer, starring one of Italy’s premiere
personalities and designed by four-time Oscar winner Milena Canonero.
Since moving to North
America, my acting career has for the most part fizzled. Sadly, these days I
don’t get to do much acting, which feels quite strange. However, I’m still open
to opportunities, and that’s why I haven’t taken myself completely out of the
game just yet.
In any case, all
those years of acting and script analysis have taught me many a valuable
lesson—in particular, and perhaps the most important one, the art of dramatic
4Q: What’s next for Guglielmo D’Izzia, the author?
GD: I must confess that
for the past year or so it has been difficult being creative. I really had to
push myself to do any writing at all. That said, at the moment, I’m working on
several projects in different stages of development: two novels, a screenplay,
a TV pilot, and a translation.
4Q: When you’re
feeling the most creative, where will we find you writing? Your writing habits?
Your special place?
GD: I usually do the bulk
of my writing at home. I have a corner dedicated to it. It’s nothing fancy, but
comfortable enough. Unfortunately, I have difficulties writing in public spaces
(not that that’s even an option at the moment). I simply cannot concentrate
with too many distractions around me, but mostly because I have to constantly
read whatever I’m writing out loud, especially if it has dialogue in it (a
habit I developed as an actor). Rhythm and flow are essential to my writing
process, and that’s why I do it.
Morning is when
I feel most creative and productive. I’m not particularly disciplined, but I do
have a routine of sorts: I put on some background music (mostly Jazz and
Classical), brew a really strong cup of French-press coffee, and dive right in.
Whenever possible, I try to finish my writing session at an exciting moment or
in the middle of a chapter. This makes it a lot easier, or at least faster, for
me to get back to it the following day and pick up where I left off.
The days I’m really
stuck, I take long walks and/or re-read my go-to authors for inspiration.
4Q: Anything else you’d like to tell us about?
GD: I’m pleased to
announce that an audiobook of The Transaction is in the final stages of
I also would
like to thank Allan for giving me this opportunity to discuss my book and my
writing process with the South Branch Scribbler.
***It’s a real treat
having you as a guest this week, Guglielmo.
An Excerpt from The Transaction.
(Copyright is held by the author. Used with
it is,” the conductor says.
See the sign above that door?”
he referred to as a sign is merely a dark brown wooden plank with something
daubed on it, which I’m able to decipher solely once we get closer. It reads:
living room turned into a restaurant. That’s what it looks like. There are five
tables in total—three on the left side of the entrance, and two on the right
side—with pink tablecloths and modest cruets of olive oil and vinegar as
centrepieces. On the right side of the wall facing the entrance, there’s a
rudimentary bar; and next to it, on the left, a door frame with a beaded
curtain, which I assume leads to the kitchen and toilet. Except for a couple of
football banners and a tiny crucifix, the whitewashed walls are barren. As
we’re standing by the door, an obese lady with abnormally varicose ankles
manage for a moment to lift my eyes from her ankles, only to notice that her
bosom is hanging so low it touches her navel.
we reply in unison.
you like to sit down?” Her small hooded eyes seek the conductor’s.
please,” he says.
rotates her large frame almost in place and slowly shuffles to a table. After
gesturing for us to take a seat, she disappears behind the beaded curtain and
reappears a few moments later with bread sticks, bread, and butter. “I’ll be
right back,” she says and vanishes again.
surprised to see we aren’t alone in the restaurant. Two men, each hunched over
a glass of red wine, sit diagonally across from us, whispering to each other;
and another man stands at the bar, sipping a digestive liqueur, his curious
stare betrayed by the bar mirror.
forgot to give us menus,” I say.
don’t have menus here. Only dishes of the day.” And flashing a stupid grin, he
adds: “Trust me, it’s good.”
had already sensed he lied to me, but that confirms it. For someone who claimed
to had just learned about this place, he seemed a little too comfortable
finding it, not to mention strangely too familiar with its peculiarities. I
don’t know why he felt compelled to conjure up such a silly lie. What do I care
if he’s been here before? I really don’t see the point in all that, considering
we hardly know each other. Anyway, I decide not to mention it lest I spoil
have a very nice stew tonight,” the obese lady says, having somehow sneaked up
It’s at least forty degrees in here. Don’t you have anything lighter than
face contracts like a veal cutlet thrown on a hot grill.
looks to the conductor. “What’s his problem?” she squeezes through her teeth.
have the stew and some red wine. Thank you,” the conductor says in the
smoothest way possible. She looks asquint at me and walks away without a word.
“So, what brings you to Sicily?” he asks, as
I return from the toilet.
What kind of business if you don’t mind my asking?” He shoves a spoonful of
stew in his mouth.
don’t want to talk about my work, so I hesitate answering him.
I’m being too nosy. You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to. We can talk
about something else, all right?”
no, that’s all right,” I say to avoid making a big deal out of it. “The company
I work for specializes in fertilizers. We deal quite a lot with the island,
actually. I’d say that most of our best customers are from Sicily. Anyway,
because of the volume of shipments to the island and the obvious costs, the
company is considering opening a branch down here.”
you’re supposed to make this happen?”
a big shot!”
over to the bar, I notice a slightly dishevelled man I hadn’t seen enter
standing there, checking himself out in the bar mirror. He isn’t the one who
was there earlier. He’s definitely taller; also, he has on a different suit.
me,” the conductor says, getting up.
nod and watch him being swallowed by the beaded curtain. As I stoop over my
glass of wine, which is making me drowsy, I hear the tinkling noise of the
beads. It’s the lady coming my way. She asks if I want a cup of coffee or a
digestif. I decline both and tell her I want to wait for the conductor.
sure?” She takes the empty plates off the table.
right, suit yourself. He’ll be a while though.”
do you mean?”
ignores my question and walks back to the kitchen.
wait is killing me. It’s been over half an hour, and still no sign of him. One
of the two men still sitting at the table diagonally across from me gets up and
makes towards the beaded curtain. Past it, he goes straight to the toilet, for
I hear him opening the door, which produces a distinct squeak. That’s it. I
can’t take it any longer. I stand up and go to see what’s going on. I knock. A
voice that is not the conductor’s answers.
“Sorry,” I say.
I look about for other
exits. Aside from the one through the beaded curtain leading to the dining area
and the one right before it accessing the kitchen, there aren’t any others.
With no further option, or at least no better one that I can come up with at
the moment, I stride back to the kitchen and barge in. The obese lady is
standing by the sink, trying to unclog it with a gigantic plunger. As I move a
little closer, I spot from the corner of my eye a wizened little man holding a
magazine—her husband I assume—sitting on a stool by a set of stairs, leading to
the upper floors.
“Where is he?” I blurt
She brandishes the
dripping plunger at me. “What’re you doing back here?”
“Where is he?”
“What’s he talking
about?” the little man asks, standing up.
“The man I was having
dinner with, where is he?” I reiterate, enunciating every word.
“It’s none of your
business,” she says. “Go back inside.”
I’m about to fire back at
her when I hear heavy steps coming down the stairs. It’s him.
“What’s going on?” he
asks, tucking his shirt into his pants.
“Out of here. Both of
you,” she bellows. In that very instant, I hear the creak of a door coming from
upstairs. I glance up. A girl who cannot be more than twelve hides behind the
rail, half naked, looking down at us.
leave the restaurant, not a word spoken between us. I don’t want to broach the
subject, even though all I can think about is the child leaning on the
banister, her exposed pubescent breasts showing through the pickets, her deep
dark round eyes staring at me. To avoid eye contact, I let him walk several
feet ahead of me. He obviously knows what I’m doing, but, aside from a few
glances back at me, he doesn’t seem too worried.
Despite the dense
silence, occasionally disrupted by the solitary hooting call of an owl, and the
sinister atmosphere, it’s a lot easier to walk through the olive grove this
time. The vapours rising from the soil, now damp and warm, combined with the
complicity of the fat moon’s rays shining through the tangle of branches have
formed a low uncanny-looking mist.
Back at the waiting room,
I think it best to go to sleep immediately. Most of the passengers are out for
the night already, except the two soldiers who are playing cards with great
animosity by the teller’s window, away from the benches. As I lower myself on
the bench, I notice the old lady’s absence, as well as that of her luggage and
the little dog. Someone must’ve come to pick them up while the conductor and I
were away. I glance over to him. He’s lying on the floor as far from me as
possible within the confines of the waiting room, his broad back to me.
Falling asleep turns out
to be impossible. The uncomfortable benches, the unpleasant chartreuse light
coming from the fluorescent fixtures above, the heat, and the countless
mosquito bites don’t help.
No matter how hard I try,
I can’t stop thinking about that child. The whole scene keeps replaying in my
head as if in a ceaseless loop, but each time it starts over a detail is lost,
another one is gained or merged. During the wee hours of the night the
recollection becomes so slippery and amorphous the sole thing remaining
strikingly vivid is the child’s stare. It’s only by early morning that,
physically and mentally exhausted, I’m able to fall asleep.
Thank you, Guglielmo, for being our special guest this
week. Wishing you continued success with your writing.
For all you devoted readers that wish to discover more
about Guglielmo and his writing, please follow these links.
The Miramichi Reader Interview. Read it HERE.
The Miramichi Reader review by James Fisher. Read it HERE.
Author’s website: https://www.guglielmodizzia.com/
Publisher’s website: https://www.guernicaeditions.com/title/9781771834544
Barnes & Noble: barnesandnoble.com