During our last year living in Europe, I thought a lot about coming back to the States and wondered what I would miss when I did move back. One place I knew I would miss was Switzerland, where we'd lived for two years. My husband was the headmaster at an American/International school there; I taught English; our two children attended the school. The school is in Montagnola, near Lugano, in the Italian-speaking Ticino.
We loved Switzerland and the language and the people — all of it. I thought it might be nice to set a book there, so that I could "revisit" it as I wrote, and I think I also wanted to capture Switzerland before I returned to the States, so that I'd never forget it. Although the characters and the school are fictional, to me they represent a lot of international schools and students — students who are from all over the world and are away from their families, who gain an appreciation for their host country and for people of other nationalities
Some Other Tidbits
The cover bears an artist's rendering of "real" pictures I sent to my editor. On the front is a picture of our daughter Karin, reclining on a mountain in Andermatt (I love that she's taken off her hiking boots and seems so happy there on that mountain). Beneath that picture is one of my youngest brother Tom, and to the right of that is a view from our house there, looking up the hill toward Montagnola. The hardback cover has additional pictures on the back: one is of a teacher, Laura Studders, our son Rob and our daughter on the slopes of St. Moritz; beneath that is a photo of my husband Lyle.
In this book, Dinnie mentions her Italian grandma, Fiorelli, who came from Campobasso, Italy. This is a nod to my own Italian grandmother, Marianna Fiorelli Licursi, who also came from Campobasso. All the places that Dinnie goes — Val Verzasca, St. Moritz, Bellinzona, etc. — are places that we visited often while we lived in Switzerland. Although the character of Mrs. Stirling is fictional, she was inspired by the incomparable Mrs. Fleming, owner and founder of the TASIS schools in Switzerland, England, and France. And the headmaster, Uncle Max, is a fictional rendition of my husband as headmaster. I suppose that Aunt Sandy is, in some ways, a fictional rendition of me as the headmaster's wife who struggles to keep up with life in a boarding school!
Dinnie is a combination of many people. The idea of her being in a "bubble world" came from something one of my close friends once said — that she felt as if she'd spent all of her teenage years in a bubble. Dinnie's struggle with learning Italian and with skiing ("a champion falling person") came from my own bumbling attempts to learn the language and to ski.
Note: References to Bybanks (from Walk Two Moons and Chasing Redbird) and to Zinny Taylor (from Chasing Redbird) appear in this book.
Reprinted by permission