Manuela Raffa was born in Milan in 1979, where she lives. She obtained a degree in Educational Sciences and she is now working for a company who publishes admission tests for universities. Here passions are reading, rock music, videogames, theatre and volleyball. In 2009 with a group of friends she founded a non-profit club. ‘Francesca’ is her first historical book. She talks to us about it in this fascinating interview.
You stated in your book that this version is just one the possible truths about Francesca da Rimini. What were the challenges of reconstructing such an important historical character.
It was certainly a challenge: there isn’t much information about Francesca da Rimini; many scholars have also doubted her true existence. Carrying on all researches, you get the impression that the Malatesta and Da Polenta families, after having killed the two lovers, hid all facts in order to preserve their political alliance. Therefore, reconstructing Francesca da Rimini’s story was possible only by following the events of the men around her, in order to understand how her life developed.
Francesca has always been a muse for writers and painters, above all Dante Alighieri that shaped her in the collective imagination. How did you feel having to face ‘his’ Francesca? Was it a good starting point or did it put you off the track?
Dante was certainly my starting point, the author that allowed me to know Francesca, but I didn’t compare my writing to his. I couldn’t dare. The Francesca I depicted in my book isn’t a muse, but a real person, with her upsides and downsides, emotions and feelings. The question I asked myself before starting was: “How would Francesca da Rimini be if she really lived”? I thank Dante which gave us her image and her memory, they would have probably got lost without him.
How did you cope with an historical novel after your fantasy works?
The books I write reflect my literary tastes. I like reading fantasy and historical books. I started with my fantasy novels, but I have always wanted to deal with history. The idea about Francesca da Rimini occurred a few years ago. I developed it when my will to write fantasy books started to fade. Certainly, it is a very different way to proceed: in fantasy books you create your own world, while with historical works you need to be very careful about facts. The best thing about Francesca is that not a lot has been written about her and I could invent details. It was emotional and interesting.
How do you think a reader should ‘see’ Francesca, after your book?
I hope she will no longer be seen only as Dante’s muse, but also as a real woman.
May I ask you what are the new projects you are working on?
I’m about to finish a new historical novel, but I can’t be more specific about the topic at the moment. The only hint I can give is that it will be a female character again. Whereas, for my future books I will change perspective and horizons.