A few years ago I moved from Brazil, where my husband was working with a development NGO, to his home town in Sicily to take over and re-launch his family’s restaurant. We renamed it Pachamama after the Andean Earth Mother goddess, and included tapas and paella on the menu. Being idealists, we could never have anticipated the difficulties that lay ahead, from pronunciation to menu and staff issues. Locals called it “Bacia-mama” after the old mafia greeting baciamo le mani and perused the new menu with suspicion, much of which was directed at me – what could a foreigner possibly know about good Sicilian food?
Writing was an escape from those hot, sultry days and nights of our first summer in Sicily. I’d been thinking about the storyline for Water Will Find its Way for some time. Years ago, while backpacking around South America, I met a girl who told me about her Armenian grandmother who was left behind in an orphanage during the genocide when her mother fled to Argentina. I felt very strongly that there was a story there that had to be told.
Once I read a poem about tango at a poetry workshop in Bath. One woman commented on its erotic content and I said, “Well, it was born in the brothels.” Silence greeted my reply and at the end of the session the same woman asked, “Were you really born in a brothel?” A world of creative opportunity opened with that misunderstanding of pronouns. On my walk home that evening I decided I wanted to incorporate the line, I was born in a brothel, into the story. It is Catarina, the real victim of her circumstances, who says it. I wanted a second story to run parallel to her sister Sevan’s in the Armenian ghetto in Beirut, and in the bourgeois town in France. In this way, I could explore how two sisters, with such different backgrounds, coped with the challenges life brought them. The coincidence of the time period allowed me to use tango and the brothel setting – to show the extent of their mother Nairi’s fall, and also to bring to life Catarina, perhaps the most fascinating of my characters.
This, then, was my starting point: A bewitching tango dancer in an Argentinian brothel. A seamstress from the Armenian ghetto who falls for a charming French soldier. And a woman who stands to lose everything if she reveals her secrets…
Self-publishing is hard but rewarding because you do it all yourself. Writing Water Will Find its Way took around four years because of the extent of the research involved and time for the story to develop. Now promotion takes up a lot of time. I also find it difficult because I am based in Sicily and therefore can’t attend literature events in person. Online social media has its limits. But Italy has always been a good place for me to write. I don’t know if I would have written the same book had I been based in Ireland.
I am now writing my second novel which is set in Sicily. It is much easier to research this time. Research so far has taken me to a medieval castle, a cemetery, and an old tuna fishing museum, not to mention all the interesting conversations I’ve had with local ‘characters’. I’m lucky too that I speak Italian. This was an important factor in researching my first novel – I had access to a lot more texts because I speak Spanish and French. Reading Latin American and Mediterranean literature too has surely influenced my writing.
About Water Will Find its Way
A little girl glimpses tango dancing in a brothel and decides tango will be her ticket out of there. A woman who stands to lose everything tells of the dark night when the Turks took her husband.
Spain, 1950: Nairi has been reunited with her daughter, Sevan, for almost a decade but refuses to talk about the past. She is struggling to overcome a legacy of shame that began the night she left two-year old Sevan in an orphanage when she fled from the Armenian genocide in 1915.
When Nairi and Sevan finally reveal their long withheld secrets, granddaughter Anaïs hears how her father, the French soldier she barely remembers, lured her mother away from the Armenian ghetto. And she also discovers her aunt Catarina, the bewitching tango dancer, whose attempts to escape from slavery in Buenos Aires’ dangerous underworld still reverberate in Nairi’s life now…
The quest of three generations of women to discover their origins, Water Will Find its Way takes us on a journey across continents. It explores family bonds and identity within a family displaced by war and tells of the importance of passing down heritage, especially when personal and national annihilation are at stake. A soaring tale of love, loss and survival against the odds.