Interview to Guia Risari and AnnaLaura Cantone, authors of the series Carmen and Orazio

An all-female crackling duo, Guia Risari and AnnaLaura Cantone, authors of the series dedicated to the child Orazio and his nice and sweet friend Carmen: a hen! In this interview, we discover how Guia and AnnaLaura met and how they worked on the books Una gallina nello zaino and fresh off the press – Una gallina in mongolfiera.

Guia, tell us about AnnaLaura

GUIA I haven’t known AnnaLaura for a very long time, but I can try to guess her from her cordial, decisive, open demeanor and from the dozens of her books that I have read and admired. When I began to approach the world of children’s literature, I spent a lot of time reading children’s books in the library and in specialized bookstores. It was around 2002-2003, and of the three books I was picking up at least one was illustrated by her. These were – and still are – very lively, humorous, imaginative images, images that do not accompany the text, but comment on it, interpret it, and open a new path.
This is how I realized that AnnaLaura is a funny and amused interpreter of the stories she reads, and that something in her has remained a child, open to discovery, experimentation and wonder.

AnnaLaura, tell us about Guia

ANNALAURA I will say that Guia is very nice! Like the stories I illustrated for her!

How did you meet? How and when did you start working together?

GUIA We met thanks to Una gallina nello zaino, the first episode of the series, which stars Orazio, an imaginative and slightly upset child, and Carmen, an adventurous hen, gifted with words and many other skills. We worked remotely, separately, and we met for the first time at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, at the book signing. And, I must admit that it was as if we had known each other forever, without any embarrassment or distance. We laughed, we complimented each other. One signed and the other drew with great complicity and esteem. I believe that if we lived closer we would do like the authors of Asterix, Uderzo and Goscinny: we would meet in some bar to joke and throw down the backbone of some new book, to toast and develop new episodes to tell.

ANNALAURA We met personally at the fair in Bologna for the book signing and I immediately thought I had known her for some time!

How were the characters Carmen and Orazio born, and how do you proceed in the work of creating the books together?

GUIA For me, the two characters were born from the fact that I spent a period of my life practicing the discipline of attacks (an equestrian activity also known as the “long reins” in which you do not mount a horse, but drive a carriage attached to a horse).
So once a week I went to a farm and was in contact with horses, mules, dogs, cats, a pig, a rabbit and several… chickens.
I always caressed one – the one that, they told me, was the most aggressive – and my tenderness and sympathy for that feathered creature grew in me.
So I imagined the story of a friendship between a slightly neglected child and a talking hen: he is a little irrational, emotional, impressionable; she is more rational, provident, attentive. And, like all true friendships, what occurs in these cases – in addition to a series of fun adventures – is a profitable, profound exchange.Orazio becomes calmer and more thoughtful and Carmen more serene.
Once the story has been written, read and approved by Terre di mezzo, it has been entrusted to AnnaLaura who, in turn, has read, interpreted, enriched it in her own way, with the figurative language that often says what words they didn’t mention and thus gives a story new nuances.

ANNALAURA Carmen and Orazio were born reading the text, there was no contact during the creation, Guia left me free in my crazy imagination 🙂

The second episode of the series dedicated to Carmen and Orazio has just been released, entitled Una gallina in mongolfiera. Could you give us some anticipation of this story?

GUIA Una gallina in mongolfiera is the second episode of the series dedicated to Orazio and Carmen, but actually it is an independent book, which can be read independently from Una gallina nello zaino. In this novel, the dominant theme is the search for love.
We are all more or less consciously eager to please, to provoke consent, to be loved.
And when that doesn’t happen, it’s a terrible setback, a tragedy. This is what happens to Carmen with Orazio’s best friend, Giacomo, who doesn’t deserve a glance, doesn’t believe she’s talking and doesn’t even think she’s intelligent.
To convince him, Carmen elaborates increasingly complex plans, until she decides to wish him good wishes from a real hot air balloon.
The plan will be a disaster. But it will allow Giacomo and Carmen to become friends.
Readers will find out how …

ANNALAURA It’s a fabulous new adventure!
And our little friends try to find a solution to everything!

Guia, in addition to writing books for children, you also deal with fiction and non-fiction for adults. How does your approach to writing change for these different ages?

GUIA I am convinced that no one – or very few – grow up leaving behind the phases they have gone through.
In most cases, the ages are not separate periods and states, but coexisting conditions and so, next to me as a child, the adolescent me, the young me, the adult and even the elderly live together more or less peacefully. Isn’t that the same for our perception of time?
Aren’t past, present and future constantly mixed?
When I write for adults, I still draw on all my voices and the same happens for me when I write for children: it is the listener who changes and he is the one I turn to when I decide to undertake a new project.
The child listener wants more color, more music, more movement in the stories.
The adult listener wants more space, more connections and more silence to think.
In non-fiction, the path of a thought is demonstrated.
In fiction, the same path is shown in actions.
For me, variety is essential to maintain the taste and love of writing.

Sculptures, fabrics and books: AnnaLaura, tell us about all your art forms!

I love to have fun while I work, experiment and always try out new forms of art!
But I never feel like I have finished and every day is a new adventure, who knows … maybe there will be a phone call from the other side of the world with a new project … and obviously if it inspires me, I throw myself into it!

Projects for the future that you would like to share with us?

GUIA I have three adult novel projects that I’d like to bring to life.
One set in Franco’s Spain, one in Australia and one in Tasmania.
Often my imagination puts itself at the service of exemplary stories that have been forgotten and which, for me, should become immortal because they contain so many lessons for the present.
It seems to me that one of the tasks of literature is, in addition to moving us, to make us remember and save from oblivion people and facts that have marked the world in their own way. After all, all of us living leave a trace: and then this trace is observed and assumes its own meaning.
Writing, for me, is finding this meaning.

ANNALAURA New exciting projects are coming! I cannot reveal more! But with Guia we want to leave a dedication for the summer to our little readers. Here it is, on video.

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  • Terre di mezzo

    We are an indipendent publisher based in Milan, born in 1994 as a monthly street paper dealing with social information. Now we publish 70 books per year. Our interests explore many and various worlds, from sustainable tourism to the discover of different cultures, encouraging their coexistence. We love telling stories, the hidden ones as well as the colorful ones for young and adults readers, and spread creativity through sustainable handmade creations with our craft books.
    We also promote and organize Fa’ la cosa giusta!the national fair of conscious consumption and sustainable lifestyles in Italy, held in Milan every March since 2004.

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