Paola Barbato states she has been writing as long as she can remember. She is known for being one of the most original storytellers for Dylan Dog and her remarkable breathtaking thriller books. In this interesting and revealing interview she allows us to discover new details about her writing process and multifaceted works.
I would like to start from your latest work and the ‘white kidnaps’ that characterise it. What was it like to write about such a tough topic; which can also be read as a process to intentions and their result?
It is undoubtedly. ‘Good intentions’ belong to all characters in the book, there is no exception, including all antagonists. What I question is the assumption of the existence of an action-reaction process, as to say that if my intention is good the result will also be as such. Since my childhood, I have been the spectator of family damaging situations for children, and I have always asked myself what solution there might be. The protagonist of the novel tries to give an answer, with uncertain results, sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. I made an effort to try and put myself in the same position of an abandoned child, asking myself what they would really want. I think a child really wants to exist, one of their most commonly used sentences is: ‘look at me’, and there comes a time when it doesn’t matter who is looking at them. That is a very dangerous moment.
You have written the storyline of many comic books, as well as theatre plays and TV scripts. Which challenges do you experience in changing means so nonchalantly?
I am lucky to be a curious person, I really love challenging myself, trying different means. The fear of making a mistake has never stopped me, even if I always feel a bit of performance anxiety. It is a matter of learning a new language and, as with foreign languages, the concepts you express are the same but the way you shape them is different. I was fortunate enough to learn the comics technique first, which is the most difficult part as you have to deal with every aspect of the narration, both visual and spoken, the structure of a script asks for a very precise balance. Changing from a comic book script to any other kind of narration means working on minimalizing and this isn’t always easy. We make mistakes, we learn, this is the magic of our work.
It is a very typical characteristic of your works to put the reader inside a metaphorical grip, which is impossible to escape. What attracts you towards this type of narration?
I write what I would like to read and I NEVER WRITE what I WOULDN’T LIKE TO READ. There are no discounts, I am my first reader and I get bored easily. Among all human emotions, I think that fear, unease and tension can create a strong bond between author and reader. I don’t want them to feel at ease, calm and think ‘this is improbable’ ‘this would never happen to me’, they need to imagine themselves in the same situation and relate to it as much as possible. This leads me towards a very precise work on language, which is often spoken almost colloquial, in order to reduce distances.
Are there different dynamics in writing short tales?
Certainly. It is more difficult, as you need to be short and edgy. A single run downhill is more complicated than dealing with long skeins. A short tale always needs to start from an idea that works. I write them only if I like this idea, otherwise I do myself a favour and let go.
Can you already tell us something about the projects you are involved into at the moment, and that we all the pleasure to read in the near future?
I embarked on a crazy mission and I hope to reach its end alive. I have just finished a new novel that will be published by Piemme in June, and I am working on two other projects, as well. All I can say is that nothing I am writing is left to chance.