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.
Guglielmo 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 The Transaction, his debut novel, won the 2016 Marina Nemat Award (unpublished manuscript), was an award-winning finalist of 2020 International Book Awards (Literary Fiction category), was an official selection for the 2020 Cannes Film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 (Mystery Category).
4Q: Congratulations on the success of your novel. Please tell our readers what to expect when they pick up their copy of The Transaction.
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 physical reactions.
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 recognition.
Frankly, I 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.
To an 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 anyway.
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 results.
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 grave.
I remember 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 writing.
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 production.
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 permission)
“There. See the sign above that door?”
“Well, that’s it.”
What 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: Trattoria.
A 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 approaches us.
“Evening,” she says.
I 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.
“Evening,” we reply in unison.
“Would you like to sit down?” Her small hooded eyes seek the conductor’s.
“Yes, please,” he says.
She 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.
I’m 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.
“She forgot to give us menus,” I say.
“They don’t have menus here. Only dishes of the day.” And flashing a stupid grin, he adds: “Trust me, it’s good.”
I 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 dinner.
“We have a very nice stew tonight,” the obese lady says, having somehow sneaked up on us.
“Stew? It’s at least forty degrees in here. Don’t you have anything lighter than that?”
Her face contracts like a veal cutlet thrown on a hot grill.
She looks to the conductor. “What’s his problem?” she squeezes through her teeth.
“We’ll 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.
“Business? What kind of business if you don’t mind my asking?” He shoves a spoonful of stew in his mouth.
I don’t want to talk about my work, so I hesitate answering him.
“Maybe 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, 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.”
“And you’re supposed to make this happen?”
“You’re a big shot!”
Glancing 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.
“Excuse me,” the conductor says, getting up.
I 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.
“You sure?” She takes the empty plates off the table.
“Yes, I’m sure.”
“All right, suit yourself. He’ll be a while though.”
“What do you mean?”
She ignores my question and walks back to the kitchen.
The 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 out.
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.
We 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
Twitter: https://twitter.com/odogrilloInstagram: https://www.instagram.com/guglielmo_dizzia/