A Portrait of Emily Price: Art, Italy, and an Intercultural Life

Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture

Do you love your fiction to be intercultural, full of travel and learning about new things and cultures? Me, too. One such read is a new book by Katherine Reay, entitled A Portrait of Emily Price. It's a book about finding yourself, in more ways than one. It's about family, and doing what you love (and finding out what you love, which is a whole different ball game), and intercultural adjustment, and love, and moving to another country, and finding a new family. Here's the truth: I couldn't put it down.

An interview with author Katherine Reay: A Portrait of Emily Price: Art, Italy, and an Intercultural Life

Readers learn much in this book, from restoring art of all kinds to bread and pasta, and remaking a restaurant, and intercultural marriages and family. But what entices me - and, I am sure, our Wandering Educators, is that Reay gets it. She gets living overseas, and the challenges of learning and growing and creating a full life in the world today. I love her writing, and her ability to capture the essence of a person and share it with her readers. I have a feeling you'll find much of yourself in Emily, no matter our life trajectories and experiences. It's one of those books that reaffirms a life filled with travel, global experiences, and intercultural joys and challenges. Highly recommended!

We were lucky enough to catch up with Katherine Reay, and ask her about the book, inspiration, life experiences, travel, and more. Here's what she had to say...

An interview with author Katherine Reay, in A Portrait of Emily Price: Art, Italy, and an Intercultural Life

Please tell us about your book, A Portrait of Emily Price...
The one-liner I created for A Portrait of Emily Price reads: After a whirlwind romance and marriage, Emily Price heads home to Italy with her new husband to find that life at its richest is found only when she accepts its chaotic beauty.

And that's what I wanted to create, a whirlwind that would knock this young woman off her feet and entice her to experience something new before reason or fear scared her away from the adventure. And, of course, I made it more alluring for her by offering up Italy. It's such a sensory country – and holds that promise of beauty, the unknown, and a rich artistic history that I knew would appeal to Emily, and to all of us. But once there, Emily has a lot to learn – especially about family, love, and learning to let go. 

What inspired you to write this book?
The idea came to me while reading C.S. Lewis's Till We Have Faces. There is a powerful scene near the end of the story when the main character, Orual, brings her case to the gods to justify all she has done. Yet, within the very act of articulating her case, she realizes she hasn't got one. It falls at her feet as she sees everything differently. 

I wondered, in our world and in our time, what might it look like for a young woman to be challenged by another way of thinking, believing, living? What could be so enticing, and joy-filled, as to make her yearn for something new and perhaps something better? What might compel her to drop her guard, surrender control, and let in love? ... And there began A Portrait of Emily Price

What life experiences informed your writing?
It would almost be easier to ask what life experiences don't inform my writing... I think at some level I pull in each and every one – not the events or incidences, but the emotions and the growth, or lack thereof. 

One event I turn to again and again. It has given depth to much of the driving emotion in my stories and it started this writing journey. In 2008 I was severely injured. It was during my months of recovery, I read and read and read – and then began to write. Dear Mr. Knightley, my debut novel, comes directly from that time. That turning point has formed how I look at story. If you read any of my books, you'll find I write about women who find themselves, as Lucy from The Bronte Plot states, in "that time when you don't know where you'll be, but you can't stay as you are." 

One of the things I loved most about this book was the deep dive into intercultural adjustment and cultural dynamics. How did you write that so well, and make it a main thread of the story?
I have moved seventeen times – all across the United States and to England and Ireland – and I have come to love and appreciate differences in worldview and culture deeply. I have not lived in Italy and I do believe that, despite many visits – some beautifully long – there is much I missed. I hope I captured a good deal of its flavor and texture, however, as it might be understood by Emily, a young American. I also wanted to portray the misunderstandings and miscommunications that come from differing worldviews and the importance of acceptance and forgiveness in bridging those gaps.  

What do you hope readers take away from this book?  
I want readers to have enjoyed a journey outside their own lives – to come away, as if from a lovely vacation, fully believing that one such as Emily exists, Italy is all they dreamed it could be, and that an adventure awaits them, even if it seems as small as a change in perspective. 

What's up next for you? 
The Austen Escape. I'm editing this story right now and loving how it is taking shape. I'm returning to England in this one. The Bronte Plot took place in London, where I lived for a couple years. The Austen Escape takes two best friends on a journey to Bath with an unexpected twist. It will release November 2017.  
Is there anything else you'd like to share? 
Simply... Thank you. I am so delighted you asked me here. I also want to say that if anyone has questions about my writing or books, please reach out. I read all my emails and letters – and I do reply.

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