I'm almost never not writing in my mind. When I sit down at the computer, it's to put down what's already 'written'. Hence, I've yet to experience white page terror. The 'plot', even much of the dialog is already there.

Marlena de Blasi

Marlena de Blasi

I don't sit to write at any particular time. No 'working hours' or even 'working days', no specific design. I often leave the computer for days or weeks only to follow the interval with twenty days of eight or ten-hour sessions.

I travel repeatedly to many of the countries where I'm published. Apart from the business of publicity, I do so because readers are a writer's finest teachers. No matter where I go -- and here I'm talking about destinations with disparate cultures and equally disparate demographics such as: Rio, Warsaw, Paris, Sofia, Madrid, etc. etc. -- the audiences want to talk about love. About the dearth of, the need for, the betrayal of, the search for, the fear of, the futility of, the glory of…. this from men and women, old, not so old, young, very young….often all of them in a single audience. What I'm trying to say is that the human condition, despite the culture that nurtured it, seems quite the same in all of us.

I've never owned or borrowed of even used (or know how to use) a cell phone or any other sort of electronic equipment. No i-pod, no tablet, nothing. (also no television…) No pride, no shame here, just the way it is and has aways been. One lives quite well electronically 'unarmed'. A land-line serves as does the international post. I've written eight books on the same word processor. (the first two books I scratched out with a vintage Mont Blank in dark brown ink on endless yellow pads) I use electronic mail via a lumbering, brittle-boned Windows program. And that's it.

Expatriate life in Italy is not for the faint-hearted. (Surely the same must be true no matter where one lands) One who yearns for Italy, convinced it would diffuse if not heave to-the-winds life's demons need only consider that demons are travelling things, loyal to the end. They manage to depart and arrive and set up to stay with us, close as skin. A change of geography is most often nothing more than that. After 24 years of living in Italy, I still reach for the wisdom of André Gide : if one wishes to discover new lands, one must consent to stay a very long time at sea. And of Rilke: if the angels deem to come, they'll come not because of your tears but for your constant resolve to always be beginning to be a beginner.

An ancient phrase is quoted often here in Umbria, Italy espcially among the rural Umbrians: Voglio che la morte mi trovi ballando. I want death to find me dancing. I find it a most inspiring desire.

I miss -- often to the point of startling spiritual pain -- mothering babies and young children, even adolescents.

A gorgeous old Tuscan called Barlozzo was and remains a central figure in my Italian life. He had a way of 'revealing' to me what he sensed I already knew. He was a master at refreshing, re-enforcing old truths. One of his lessons was in the art of making a symbolic X, the very delicate art of being able to 'cancel' a person from our lives when the pain they bring begins to weigh more than joy. He was all about kindness, tenderness and so he would say : It's not necessary to press but don't leave any doubt of the significance of the 'X'. In other words, when something is over, it's over. Decide. Then close the door. And then, lock it. He would take every opportunity to re-enforce his theory that: no one changes……one can grow IF the fundamental sap which growth demands is present. But one's character, one's way of being and moving through life is eternal as the cut of one's eyes.

I think I die a little each time I finish a book.

I wish you were coming to lunch today.

The Umbrian Thursday Night Supper Club by Marlena de Blasi is out now, published by Windmill, priced £8.99