Thursday, February 12, 2015

Interview with Laura Morelli

Laura, tell us about your Authentic Arts series.
My Authentic Arts series leads you beyond the museums and souvenir shops for an immersive cultural experience that you won't find in any other guidebook. In Venice, you’ll go inside the workshops of the most accomplished makers of Venetian fabrics, Murano glass and millefiori, carnival masks and masquerade costumes, gondolas, Burano lace, mirrors, marbleized paper, hand-carved frames, and other treasures. Other destinations in the series include Florence, Naples & the Amalfi Coast, Tuscany & Umbria, Sicily, Sardinia, Paris, and Provence.

What’s the dumbest purchase you’ve ever made?
The first time I visited Venice as a wide-eyed teenager, I knew I was supposed to buy Murano glass, but I had no idea why. All I knew was that I was whisked to the famous “glass island” on an overcrowded, stinky boat. I waited behind two dozen American and Japanese tourists to pay an exorbitant price for a little glass fish — what a bewildering experience! Still, it was the artistic traditions of the world that lured me back and inspired me to study the great artists of the past. Living in Europe and Latin America, I realized that in many places, centuries-old craft traditions are still living traditions.

Venice is such a touristy place. How can travelers make sure they don’t get ripped off?
Venice is arguably the most touristy place on earth, and naturally it has its share of scams, mostly in the form of overpriced Venetian-looking souvenirs that were made elsewhere. If you want to make absolutely certain to avoid being scammed, before you buy, ask yourself: Is the item traditional of Venice? Do you know who made it? Did you buy it directly from the person who made it? If you answered yes to these three questions, then chances are you do not need to worry about becoming the victim of a scam, and you can rest assured that you’re likely paying a fair price for the item by Venetian economic standards.

Who are your favorite authors?
I enjoy reading other historical fiction authors, including Barbara Kingsolver, Abraham Verghese, Ken Follett, and Umberto Eco. I appreciate authors who are masters of sensory writing--the art of conveying sounds, sights, smells, tastes, and physical sensations through words. One of the best examples of sensory writing is Perfume by Patrick Suskind. It's one of my all-time favorite stories.

Why did you decide to self-publish?
When I first conceived my novel, The Gondola Maker, self-publishing wasn't where it is now. I started writing in 2007, finished the first draft that same year, and then I put it away for a while to work on other projects. It took seven years. During that time, the market for self-publishing changed so drastically that I was lured by the opportunity. Publishers’ Weekly recently chronicled my self-publishing journey, and you can read about it here.

What are you working on now?
Right now I’m enjoying working on my Authentic Arts series, leading travelers to overlooked treasures in particular cities and regions. I’m looking forward to returning to historical fiction later this year. So many stories behind the world’s works of art—whether true or imagined—remain to be told.

About the author:

Laura Morelli holds a Ph.D. in art history from Yale University, where she was a Bass Writing Fellow and Mellon Doctoral Fellow. She authored a column for National Geographic Traveler called “The Genuine Article” and contributes pieces about authentic travel to national magazines and newspapers. Laura has been featured on CNN Radio, Travel Today with Peter Greenberg, The Frommers Travel Show, and in USA TODAY, Departures, House & Garden Magazine, Traditional Home, the Denver Post, Miami Herald, The Chicago Tribune, and other media. She has also written and produced art history lessons for TED-Ed. Laura has taught college-level art history at Trinity College in Rome, as well as at several American universities. Laura is the author of the Authentic Arts guidebook series, and is well-known for her travel series that includes Made in Italy and Made in France. The Gondola Maker, a coming-of-age story about the heir to a gondola boatyard in 16th-century Venice, is her award-winning historical novel. Sign up for Laura’s newsletter at