I expect I’ve left it too late to get Michelle Lovric to be my godmother… Sigh. Anyway, here she is, my profile #3, and as you can see Michelle has a great profile. And she looks relaxed, for someone embroiled in writing three novels, and working, and answering stupid witchy questions.
How many books did you write before the one that was your first published book?
None. I was amazingly lucky. I took six weeks off my work as a book packager to go to Venice and write Carnevale, my first novel. I got an agent in a month and a deal with Virago a month later.
Best place for inspiration?
You’re all going to yawn hugely, but, yes, Venice.
My part of London is also inspiring: I live in gritty Bankside, in the shadow of the Shard.
I also like to write anywhere there’s a chance of the sun on my face, or a cup of good coffee. In both cases, Italy is more likely. But recently I had both at Chartwell and Nymans.
Would you ever consider writing under a pseudonym? Perhaps you already do?
I have used the initials M.R. Lovric, when publishers thought it might be better if my gender was ambiguous. Given my shape, that was not something that was going to remain in question if a journalist or a reader ever met me.
So, with the increasing demand for authors to put ourselves about, I have re-acquired my first name.
Of course I’d rather be called Mimosina Dolcezza, or Amneris D’Ago, or Temistocle Molin, or Ermintrudina Fava, like some of my characters … but my parents had other ideas. In fact, I was named after a black poodle.
What would you never write about?
I honestly can’t think of anything I would baulk at. It is the way you write it that counts. I’ve done child sacrifice and cat cruelty in The Fate in the Box … and cat sacrifice and child cruelty in The Mourning Emporium, come to think of it. So long as there is redemption, there can be evil.
Through your writing: the most unexpected person you’ve met, or the most unexpected place you’ve ended up in?
The great eccentrics of this world always gravitate towards writers, even if you’re just sitting on a bus. I think they have a homing instinct. But you also meet people who are dedicated to their trades and who are only to happy to see a writer come to share their passion with a wider audience, especially when that involves children. So I’ve met an interesting casts of real characters while writing each piece of fiction.
With The Fate in the Box, I’ve really enjoyed meeting Margherita Fusco, a curator at The Natural History Museum in Venice. She’s one of the nicest and happiest people I’ve ever met. She grew up by the museum as a child, went to school nearby, loved visiting it, and now works there herself, and still lives in the vicinity, working at what she loves. It was she who told me that the fearsome gorilla killed in the Congo in 1929 has a hairless belly because of all the generations of children who have stroked it.
Which of your characters would you most like to be?
None, really, because I tend to put them through hell.
That’s what a story is about. One makes characters uniquely equipped to deal with uniquely awful things. And then the awful things happen.
However, I endowed Amneris, the girl in The Fate in the Box, with a skill in maths I’d love to have. And then I turn her into a human sacrifice.
See what I mean?
Do you think that having a film made of one of your books would be a good or a bad thing?
Most of my adult books have been optioned for films at one time or another, but one learns not to expect anything more than a mild ego massage and a small cheque to result. The kind of books I write would require casts of thousands, costly costumes, special effects because of all the magic, a lot of latex for the creaturing etc. Teaching cats to talk and fly would be quite expensive and time-consuming, I imagine. So I don’t see much hope for a film of my books, unless animated.
Of course I would like a film made because it would bring my characters to life. Whether they would still be my characters at the end of the process is another question. One would need to have the clout of J.K. (Rowling) to have one’s oeuvre treated with the cherishing respect one would like.
What is the strangest question you’ve been asked at an event?
I have been a reluctant eventer, as I prefer to be in a darkened room, writing. But I’ve done a few, and I’m going to do more. The funniest thing that happened to me at an event was when a boy bought a book and told me to keep the change.
Do you have any unexpected skills?
I can truly cook. I am a devoted aunt and godmother. I give great themed parties, the latest being a Victorian Gothic party for my god-daughter. Apart from everything you’d expect by way of skulls, crows and blood to drink, I took the girls, fully gothed up, out into the darkening streets bearing candles, and they stood silently and motionlessly in front of diners in the local restaurants, scaring the hell out of them.
But it is more that I am lacking in skills. I can’t sing, knit, ride a bicycle. So it’s just as well that Venice is my favourite place. Not much call for bicycles.
Speaking of film treatments, someone wanted to animate one of my books and their treatment introduced a new character, a mouse on a motorcycle. I had to explain to the disbelieving American producer that this would not work in Venice.
The Famous Five or Narnia?
Love men with goaty legs. Love cruel witches. Love big cats.
Who is your most favourite Swede?
I have my favourite Swede all ready: my role model through my life, the late Swedish publisher Solveig Nellinge, who was my friend and mentor for years. I used to spend a couple of weeks at her publishing company, Trevi, every February, working and devouring semlor, delightful light buns with cream and marzipan inside. Trevi had a lovely tradition of meeting in their beautiful dining room every morning by candlelight, with coffee and cake, to discuss the important things happening that day. Trevi translated many of the twentieth century’s great women authors, including Doris Lessing, into Swedish. I learned a great deal about being a human being as well as a publisher from Solveig, who tucked me under her wing like a cygnet. She was wildly intelligent, gracious, kind, loved cats, good manners, sharp wit. I even wear Solveig’s perfume still. It is called Antilope by Weil, and it is very surprising… and works very quickly.
How do you arrange your books at home? In a Billy? By colour, or alphabetically?
By genre. Which, to hear recent gossip from the London Book Fair, should now include ‘Hot Dragon Sex’. I don’t have any Hot Dragon Sex yet, though I’m sure it’s better than Fifty Shades of Grey. So I have a poetry cabinet, sections for letters, biographies, novels worth keeping and my particular interests, the history of medicine and drugs,
Which book would you put in the hands of an unwilling eight-year-old boy reader?
Ros Asquith’s Letters from an Alien Schoolboy.
If you have to choose between reading or writing, which would it be?
Writing. If I didn’t write, I would probably explode. There’s still a lot pent up inside. Have to go now and do a bit more …
Thank you for asking me, Bookwitch!
You’re welcome, Michelle. I’m so pleased to find you are not only slightly crazy, but that you have picked a good Swede. Thank you too for all those fantastic photos.