Please welcome author Steve Emmett as he talks about his upcoming supernatural thriller/horror novel Diavolino, coming soon from Etopia Press.
Here’s the cover for Diavolino, done by artist Eithne Ni Anluaine.
By Steve Emmett
Paradise is just one step away from hell…
The chance to build a dream home on a private island in Italy’s most beautiful lake offers architect Tom Lupton the fresh start he’s been yearning for. But when he arrives with his family on Diavolino, he finds the terrified locals dead set against his arrival. The island, whose very existence has been shrouded in secrecy for half a millennium, has a dark history that no one cares to remember, and as their opposition to Tom grows, so grows a brooding evil that will lead them to the very doors of hell…
Annie: Hi, Steve, thanks for join us today. Let’s jump right in, shall we?
You have some photos of the lake where your new book Diavolino takes place. It is certainly a stunning view. What else helped inspire characters and events in the book?
Steve Emmett: I first visited the area in 1987 and lived there for almost a decade. In my career as an international estate agent I traveled most of Italy and was privileged to see places and things that most can only imagine, but the lands and castles of Trasimeno have a particular fascination. Their history is rich and mysterious, and you can feel this even today. When the mists gather in the valleys and the hilltop villages poke out into the sun it makes you feel part of something greater. Some might say it puts you in touch with your soul. Dank, eerie vaults and tunnels exist in great numbers, castles with blood on their hands are real.
These were the elements that began to form the setting for Diavolino long before I had any idea of plot. The story took shape around my own revulsion at what I, and many commentators, saw as a moving towards a new intolerance in Italy. We have the Northern League intent on dividing the country, set against its fellow men in the south, and in cahoots with the government of the day. The inhumane treatment of those poor souls arriving from Africa by boat. The attacks on the Romany population. The way things can be done if your face fits and you know the right people. And that’s without mentioning a prime minister who thinks it’s acceptable to comment on color, gender and sexuality in a manner that has been outlawed in most of Europe. I guess I wanted to send a message. As to the characters, once again I have met some people so extraordinary that it’s hard to believe they exist. In that sense, all the characters in the book have some elements of real people I have known, but none of them is all of one person. They are each an amalgam of characteristics that I’ve observed over the years.
Annie: You studied at the prestigious Architectural Association School of Architecture in London. This may seem a strange question, but do you find any similarity in designing a house and designing a story? Do you find your mind working in similar ways when being creative, or are the two completely different?
Steve Emmett: I believe that literature, architecture, music, dance, theater and art in the broader sense are all interconnected. I have no doubt that a learning in one will help you in the practice of another. It’s a long time since I was at the AA but what I learned there was more than about buildings. The emphasis was on creativity. The need to have a strong concept which you could then develop. Architecture is not just about putting up walls and roofs for people to occupy – any builder can do that – it is about – or should be about – making lives better by creating something of beauty which lifts the spirits of the occupants. Goethe said that architecture is frozen music. Imagine frozen music, carved out into spaces in which you live! Writing a story – building a novel – uses many of the skills I learned back then. I start with a concept, then find the materials and method, agonize over the assembly and finally polish it all off into a completed item which has a greater value than the mere sum of its parts. At least, I hope that’s the outcome!
Annie: You mention Hammer Horror films as an early influence. Are there areas in your writing where you can see their specific influence, or did they mostly fuel an early love for Horror/Thrillers?
Steve Emmett: They certainly were the catalyst. As I’ve said, they were such an important part of my childhood. I can’t say that I consciously draw on them when writing but anyone can see the influences – darkness, fear, monsters, flames and blood. Hmm, I wonder if they might make a film for me?
Annie: You recently launched an acting career. This seems like an exciting creative year for you. Have you always wanted to be an actor?
Steve Emmett: Yes. I have always felt drawn to it but never done anything about it. I come from a rather philistine background and there was no encouragement to do anything like acting or writing. I was railroaded into property and, being moderately successful at what I did, stuck with it while the money was coming in. In the last few years it all started to come to a head. I needed cultural stimulation. At times I felt like my brain was dying. I became so unhappy in my work – even ashamed of it – that my partner insisted I took a chance and pursued what I wanted to do before it was too late. Writing was one. Acting the other. After we came back to England from Italy I made some contacts and finally met Jo Adamson-Parker, a much respected casting director here in Yorkshire. I went to see her and told her my story, instructing her to show me the door immediately if she felt I had no talent. She didn’t!
Annie: Which writers do you feel had the greatest influence on your writing or your desire to write?
Steve Emmett: That’s a hard question because I am not at all methodical in my reading. If I kept a notebook and recorded passages or stories alongside the author’s name I could probably pick out quite a few. All I can do is shout them out as they come to mind. George Orwell, M R James, Edgar Allan Poe, Bram Stoker, Mary Shelley, H P Lovecraft, Robert Aickman, Dennis Wheatley, Stuart Macbride but, if I can only choose one, it has to be the great Clive Barker.
Annie: Are you working on a new book, and if so, would you give our readers a hint about it?
Steve Emmett: I’m working on more than one but the first to be finished will be a sequel to Diavolino. I daren’t say too much about it or some of the characters may make me regret it! We’ve left Italy and the focus is a Scottish castle overlooking the North Sea. I’d read about the Witch’s Hole, an area off the coast of Scotland where methane bubbles rise to the surface. Sometime at the start of the 20th century a boat sank there and all scientific evidence suggests it was the methane gas. But was it? To the north is Devil’s Hole – another real place. Well, my imagination went to work. Expect witches and demons as well as a few shocks and surprises. As for the devastation, that’s pretty international from the USA to Australia to Russia.
Annie: Thanks again, Steve. I’m looking forward to sharing Diavolino with our readers.