Back in 2014 I published a collection of short stories with the Zerounoundici edizioni publishing house, entitled Racconti intorno al Fuoco. The book was translated, edited and published by Wallace Publishing in October 2021. These are stories born during my period of monastic life, imbued with spirituality, inner research, esotericism, symbolism and hints of various spiritual traditions. How was the work born? How did it evolve?
There is no one-size-fits-all way in which inspiration manifests itself. It not only changes according to the people, but changes every time it is presented to the same author. It can happen that you are inspired by listening to a particular music, or while pooping in the morning, or by reading a book, after a dream or by doing meditation.
Life as a monk was particularly interesting. We did meditation four times a day, we studied spiritual texts and various traditions, myths, fairy tales and initiatory tales. Furthermore, our spiritual centers were often in the middle of nature and manual work was an everyday duty. But the community I was in was not devoted to isolation, far from it: contact with others was one of the most important elements.
Listening to the stories of every person who seeks comparison, comfort, advice or even just to be listened to, is by far the greatest source of inspiration for writing captivating stories. Talking to each other, whoever they are, is the best way to learn. Oral transmission continues to be one of the most effective methods of passing on knowledge. You learn not only from the words spoken, but above all from the unspoken ones, from the gestures, from the silences, from the looks.
For as long as I can remember I have always loved stories. Were they told, written or animated. But the work that struck me to the point of wanting to emulate it was Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. I was 12-13 when I first read it and it was unconditional love. From that moment on I delighted in writing short stories, poems, tales. With a group of friends we had created a game: one of us chose a title and everyone had a month to write a story. The first to send it to the others had the right to choose the title for the following month.
Despite this passion, I never took seriously the idea of writing to publish, it never even crossed my mind. It was my spiritual guide when I became a monk that prompted me to believe in writing. And thanks to his support, in 2008, the first “successful” story was born: La Fonte dell’Amore (The Source of Love). I sent it to the Appunti di Viaggio magazine which appreciated it and included it in issue 100.
That event was instrumental in making me take writing seriously, although I was still immature and ignorant of narratology and publishing. But without that push I would never have gotten to where I am now. In the following years I wrote other stories, which I had my brother monks and sister nuns read, up to the desire to write a novel. Thus was born the first draft of Cronache delle Multisfere (Chronicles of the Multispheres), but I’m talking about this here.
When I gave up my life as a monk, I didn’t lose my passion for writing. I picked up the stories, arranged them and made various friends read them. Many of them were enthusiastic and pushed me to look for a publisher to publish a collection. Thus began that crazy odyssey that is the editorial journey. I searched for various publishing houses on the internet and sent my manuscript. Many of them turned out to be paid publishing houses (for God Sake, no!). After having rejected all their crazy proposals, and being rejected by various serious publishing houses, Zerounoundici edizioni finally agreed to publish me.
In July 2016 I moved to Dublin, Ireland, working as a massage therapist and yoga teacher. During that time, I made my Italian short stories book translated into English and I sent it to a British publisher a friend of mine suggested me: Wallace Publishing. The accepted my manuscript and edited it. Unfortunately, do to the pandemic, the publishing of the book was delayed until October 2021. It was issued with the title Stories Around the Fire, with the cover of the talented illustrator Illary Casasanta.
Promotion is the hardest part
Most people believe that once your book is published, you will become a rich and famous character. Nothing more false. Finding a publisher isn’t easy, but promoting your book after it’s published is far more complicated. Especially if your publishing house is small and penniless, and you are just any Mr. Nobody.
Despite the innumerable difficulties, given above all by my ignorance of the publishing world, I managed to make several book launches and to sell many copies of my book in Italy. Many for being a totally unknown author who published a collection of short stories with a tiny publishing house. Yes, because short stories books, unless they are by already famous authors, don’t get much attention. Selling more than 600 copies in Italy is a success story.
The majority of the sales I have done, was in the first two years after the book came out. I noticed a big
drop when I moved to Ireland in 2016, not being able to make presentations in Italy anymore. My contract with Zerounoundici edizioni ended just over two years after signing it. So I decided to republish it, in a new revised edition and with a new cover, with the service offered by Amazon.
But it is with the attendance of the creative writing course (basic and advanced) of Diego di Dio that I give the final cut to the book. Aware of the rules of contemporary narratology, I revisited the various stories to give them a more modern and captivating edge. I add a new short story, which I had written for one of the exercises in the writing course. Finally, thanks to the skillful hand of Illary Casasanta, I give a new look more in line with the new quality of the contents.
The English translation is based on the first Italian edition, except for the cover, which is the same of the 3rd and last Italian edition. The actual Italian edition presents eight stories, reviewed and and revised, while the English has seven stories, translated from their original draft.
History behind the stories
The Source of Love
Each tale has its own unique story that is worth mentioning. As I said earlier, meditation is one of the ways that inspiration comes to me. And it is during a meditation session that the first story of the collection was born: The Source of Love. A story that I am very fond of, because it is the one that started my “career” as a writer.
I remember that moment as if it were yesterday. During the meditation I had the vision of a gigantic dam, the modern ones made of reinforced concrete. Suddenly the wall showed a crack in the center. This rift got bigger and bigger until the weight of the outgoing water destroyed the dam, freeing the precious liquid from its “imprisonment”, making it active again, the bearer of life. This huge basin of water held in captivity and finally released, was none other than the immeasurable love that each of us carries within, and that we tend to force into a golden prison. The story evolved from this vision and the emotions it gave me.
The Last Kiss
This story is particularly close to my heart for the meaning it carries. I wrote it after having a very special dream. I was still a monk in the final year of the Faculty of Theology at the Gregoriana University in Rome. Among others, a French girl, a laywoman named Rosalie, studied with me. From the first year we became friends and throughout the period of study we were very close.
That fateful night I dreamed of her. It was just her and me, there was nothing else. She walked over to me, her cheeky smile lighting up her blue eyes. She very naturally placed her swollen lips against mine and our tongues slowly caressed each other, savoring each other with curiosity and passion. The bodies touched and our contact infused me with a deep sweetness, rising from the spine.
The eyes narrowed, the light became intense, the sweetness invaded my body, took possession of it. It became so intense that I could no longer bear it and in an explosion of light, joy and pleasure I woke up. In the morning I remember heaving a sigh of relief, because it was still an “anti-chastity” dream, and the good news was that I hadn’t had a pollution, as it sometimes did.
That same day, we received the terrible news of the death of the founder of our community. Unexpected death, sudden, which threw everyone into despair. While my brothers and sisters told of mystical dreams of that night, I felt a profound shame: dreaming of kissing a girl on the night of the death of my spiritual guide was unbecoming. I carried that sense of guilt for months, when one day I woke up and understood everything: I hadn’t dreamed of my schoolmate Rosalie, not at all.
That was none other than the experience of passing away that my guide had experienced and that he had decided to share with me through that dream. I had felt the kiss of Death, in all the deepest sweetness of Her. Because this is the last moment: a sweet, infinite kiss. That dream became a tale, the story of a Viking who has the exact same dream as mine and goes mad because he doesn’t understand its meaning. Then he starts looking, abandoning everything, to look for his mysterious Her.
The Joy of the Dragon
This story is a tribute to a Sicilian friend named Letizia (Joy, in English). This friend, a zelant feminist, complained about gender stereotypes that prevent humans from fulfilling and living in harmony. Especially to women. Joy is, in fact, the protagonist. She is a heroine in a medieval age steeped in magic and populated by dragons. She is an aspiring knight opposed by the family who want to see her wear a skirt and find a husband.
Thanks to the support of Grace (her sister), Joy manages to embark on a mission that will make her famous all over the world: to save Prince Khabir from the clutches of a Dragon. Letizia throws herself blindly in her first adventure only to discover that everything she thought she knew about Dragons was wrong. She finds herself facing one crisis after another that will only be overcome when she can truly listen to herself.
Who has never been fascinated by the Pyramids, especially those of Giza? This story is based on the mystery of the Pyramid of Cheops and the Sphinx. Taking a cue from lectures and articles written by my spiritual guide on the subject, I imagined a recently widowed 19th century French archaeologist who, to overcome the trauma of his wife’s death, devotes himself to the study of the Pyramid.
This research will take him far beyond what he had imagined, questioning the theories that state that the Pyramid of Cheops is a tomb, against all logic. Logic that will guide Pierre, our archaeologist, to the discovery of secrets that he will not be able to tell anyone, but that will change his life, and the vision of death, forever.
Beyond the Clouds
Native Americans are still a fascinating folk. People who lend themselves well to becoming a story that can teach us something about life. Walking-Cloud is a boy who has a seemingly impossible dream: to touch the clouds. Resigned to the impossibility of reaching the sky, his life is turned upside down when he sees a mountain so high that it is surrounded by his beloved clouds.
He leaves his village to reach the top of the mountain and fulfill his dream. But Walking-Cloud does not know that that journey will transform him forever, through a path that takes him to the extreme, to experience something worse than suffering: indifference. Inertia to life, eternal oblivion, because everything in the world is changeable and nothing is worth getting attached to. But is this really the gist of life? Only a great effort of will will push Walking-Cloud beyond the abyss of no return.
The Seventh Day
Short story that expresses all the frustration of the human being in the face of that sponge that erases everything: death. Does death really disintegrate our experiences, our emotions, our successes? Does it frustrate our acts, our thoughts but above all our love for others? This is what Ethan asks himself, trapped in the cellar during an earthquake. Is death the end? Will we be remembered once we cross the threshold?
The Canticle of the Old Sailor
This long story is inspired by the story of King David from the Bible. My personal interpretation of the character, mixed with the atmosphere of Coleridge’s Rime of The Ancient Mariner. Here too David is a young and handsome tawny man. Loved by everyone, thanks to his great gifts and affable manner of him he will soon reach fame and glory. Elements that will not quench his thirst for power and knowledge.
Even the noblest of souls can be corrupted by the thirst for power and David is no exception. He will have to pay for all the terrible crimes he has committed with the highest price: his soul. But all is not lost, everyone is granted a way to redeem himself and David will not back down, strong in his power. Only when he opens up to love will he understand that it is the only real power that exists.
You can buy the English edition at this link.