On September 23rd Best-Selling English writer, Alex Connor will be attending the Sugarpulp Convention, in Padua to discuss “Women and Literature” with author Francesca Sgaggio and journalist Francesca Visentin. According to Alex «Being feminine is a joy and glamour is something that never goes out of fashion. A woman can always be beautiful, but if she is afraid of ageing, she is afraid of living» We caught up with Alex to find out more….
by Michaela K. Bellisario from Milan
«Glamour is charm, seductiveness, fun, intelligence and a warm hear. Glamour isn’t just sex appeal or make up, it’s a woman that knows she a female and embraces it», said Alex Connor to Glam40.
Alex, do you have any tips on staying Glamorous at 40?
Certainly I think it important to recognise your own style, your own body shape, and what flatters you. Don’t follow every fashion trend, unless it compliments you. There is nothing worse that seeing a woman whose clothes mismatch her and don’t fit. A woman who is always tugging at her skirt hem when she sits down, or struggling to walk in 5″ heels can never be glamorous. Wear what flatters you and you’ll feel confident, and attract attention – not because of your clothes, but because you’re at ease.
Grooming is vital. Look after your hair, your skin, see to it that your fingernails and toenails are painted, or at least manicured. It’s the details that make all the difference. Perfume is a deadly weapon! But don’t over do it. Personally I tend use one perfume which is my signature. But at forty, or past forty, past eighty, you can experiment! Allure comes with age, a type of heady confidence which a woman earns and should be proud of.
And if I was to offer one final tip it would be this – engage with the world. Listen to people and smile. Show an interest, have passions, grand plans – and stop worrying about how you look. People respond to a pretty face, but they remember your aura long after they forget what you were wearing.
How do you feel being published in italian (like Cospirazione Caravaggio)?
Absolutely delighted! I love Italy and the Italian culture, which is why it was such joy to write about Caravaggio and Titian. I think everyone knows how much I admire Caravaggio and it’s thrilling to me that Conspirazone Caravaggio has been such a success in the artist’s native land. As an Englishwoman it’s been an revelation to be so welcomed and supported, both by my publishers, Newton Compton, and by the Italian readers.
Also I’m very much looking forward to being a guest at the Sugarpulp Festival, with writers and like minded people. It gives me a wonderful excuse to talk about art and Caravaggio!
How did you go from being a model to becoming a writer?
Mine was a very strange apprenticeship.
I was living in London and was stalked and attacked by two men. My injuries lead to my being hospitalised. Overnight I lost everything and my life changed. I realised that the event would either destroy me or make me fight back. I chose to fight! After the operation, I began to study art and painting, taking incredible pains to learn everything I could, and then – after a relapse – I wrote my first book.
After that, I never looked back because I had found my vocation, my place in the world. Something which before had eluded me.
What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer?
It would be torture not to be able to write, but if I couldn’t I would be a full time artist, specialising in portraits.
Yes, I certainly think it’s possible for anyone, at any time, to have a career change. We aren’t fixed by what we learn in University at 21, or even at 31, 61, or 81. The brain only atrophies if we don’t use it; it’s a muscle that responds to being exercised. What generally holds us back is fear, and I understand that, because I’ve been afraid.
But I have a saying: ‘No one ever died of humiliation.’ So I believe you should try for everything. Risk yourself, risk your heart, test your courage. If you fail, try something else. Obviously there are limitations, a man of 65 couldn’t win a gold medal as a sprinter, but the brain is ageless and begs to be stimulated, used and amused!
Think of what you would like to see on your gravestone – He lived a quiet life – or – He lived fearlessly.
I know which I would prefer.
Your books are set in the art world: why is it so fascinating to you?
Well, as I explained it was a fluke; an interest which developed into an obsession! The more I studied, the more I needed to learn. My instinct was natural; my love for painting effortless. I travelled to see works of art, I studied art history and of course I’m a working painter (www.alexandraconnor-artist. com) so I had double insight – that of the historian and that of the artist.
Of course we all know about the crime, rivalry and deceit involved in the art world – that is intriguing for a thriller writer! But the other reason art fascinates me is because the whole concept is somewhat surreal. The painter takes a piece of cloth canvas, some colour, and works it into their view of the world, their hidden vision. If it is a portrait, it becomes the artist’s view of the sitter, often revealing character and nuances which lie deeper than those we see in daily life. That intrigues me; how cloth and pigment become the means to inspire, disturb or challenge the viewer. And artists like Caravaggio were such giants, as important to our history as Kings and Emperors because they educated with images, with the pure strength of their vision.
Wars are fought, empires rise and fall, countries are invaded and destroyed – and yet, through all of the world’s madness – the paintings survive to tell their story down the centuries.
How can that not be inspiring?
Do you have a daily routine for writing, are you more creative at certain times?
Ah, I like working at night mostly! It’s quiet, no one around. the phones have stopped ringing and the world shifts into sleep.
In the quiet I get my best ideas, and I always set the scene – almost like a film set. When I wrote about Caravaggio I copied two of his paintings and a portrait of the artist himself and had them beside me. I wrote some of the book by candlelight, thinking myself into his world, into the shady time before electric light and modern technology.
I recommended candlelight if you’re writing anything mysterious or frightening, it certainly sets the mood!
Who do you see in the mirror? Who is Alex Connor today?
Good question. She’s very ambitious, curious, and more driven than she ever was.
The more I work – and the more people enjoy and respond to my work – the more it fires me up. I keep a photograph of myself aged eight and look at the child I was and I promise to make her proud. I want my family to be proud of me too, of course, but that little kid looks out at me from the picture frame and I think ‘My God, you’ve no idea what you’re going to go through. How hard it’s going to be, how much you’re going to have to fight.’ But fight I did, and it’s proved more than worth it.
What is the secret to being happy?
That is a difficult question. What is happiness? Some people strive for more than others and are seldom truly happy. Some people are naturally more contented. For some, the next career, car, house, will bring happiness; for others, happiness is their family. At the moment people are preaching mindfulness, living in the moment, as though every day was your last. But that is impossible, otherwise we would all be frantically trying to apologise, declare our love, or guilt, for our past actions. It would be chaos!
So to answer your question honestly I would say that the secret to happiness is being loved and loving. We are all human, ambition feeds our brains; achievement our egos; but loving feeds our souls.
Do you learn something new each time you write a book?
Every time! I learn more about the painters and their worlds, the trade, religion, morals and social day to day living of the time, and the way they were regarded. Caravaggio, whom we idolise today, had a hard life filled with anger, violence, success – and tremendous lapses of grace, and yet he created the finest works of art.
That demonstrates his full genius; that he could paint an angel whilst he was on the run from his pursuers; that his magic was only intensified by trauma, not suffocated by it.
Do you have any good advice for writers looking to get published?
Tenacity. Try once, twice, fifty times if you have to. Sacrifice, work long hours, struggle with a lack of money and a lack of appreciation. Take the knocks backs, the rejections, the criticisms. Don’t let anyone stop you. Before I started writing a well known author told me I would never make it ‘you’ve no talent, give up now.’ A literary agent later insisted that I would never get my art thrillers published.
Did it hurt? Oh yes, but on both occasions I ignored them and pushed ahead.
No one can put out your light unless you let them. It’s your vision, you live it, nurture it, believe in it – and you hold on until everyone else believes it too.
Info: Alex Connor will attend the Sugarpulp Convention, in Padua, on sept 23 at 7 pm, c/o l’Osteria Corte dei Leoni, via Boccalerie 8. She will discuss about “Women & Literature” with the writer Federica Sgaggio, author of the collective book “Io Sono in Nordest”. Will be introduced by journalist Francesca Visentin.