Linda Ganzini - A WWII Story of Love and Resilience
Linda Ganzini is a natural-born creative. At a young age, she discovered her talent for art and singing. Over the years, she immersed herself in painting, writing lyrics, recording music that garnered international recognition, and would go on to earn awards for her graphic design work. A native of Canada, who spent her summers in Italy, Linda caught the travel bug and embarked on the adventure of living and working abroad in the U.S., Canada, and Europe. In addition to her artistic work, traveling, and exploring the great outdoors, one of Linda’s deepest passions is bringing her family’s story to life, creating a legacy for them, and providing a voice for the voiceless. Her debut book Lilia is a homage to her family and their history. She makes her home on beautiful Okanagan Lake, Canada. As our Author of the Day, she tells us all about her book, Lilia.
Please give us a short introduction to what Lilia is about.
Against the backdrop of fascist Italy during World War II and the Holocaust, Lilia sets the stage for the harrowing story of a family whose depth of heart overcomes a war tearing them apart-years marred by unfathomable tragedies, immense loss, upheaval, and countless betrayals.
From a young age, Lilia resigns herself to a world crushed by misery, abject poverty, and a broken, bitter mother who suffered insurmountable grief. The burden of war, loneliness, and adult responsibilities rob Lilia of a carefree childhood. Witnessing her parent's challenge to stay alive during the Nazi occupation becomes Lilia's greatest sorrow, one she makes the most heroic efforts to conceal. Ultimately, tragic loss dims the flame of Lilia's belief in her future. Just as her prayers feel unanswered, a seed of love reignites her faith, changing her destiny forever, leading her towards an unforgettable and inspiring triumph over tragedy.
This poignant account will transport you to a lost moment in history that irreversibly changes a quaint Northern Italian village, transforming its people for generations to come. Through the eyes and courageous spirit of a brave young girl, Lilia's family story comes to life on the page and will remain on your mind for a long time coming.
Where there is love, hope remains.
What inspired you to write this story about your Mother, Lilia? Why do you feel this is an important book to share with the world?
My mother’s incredible depth of courage and strength growing up during World War Two and the Holocaust inspired me to write this important story. Despite the tragedies thrust upon her as a child, the horrors of war never dampened her belief the power of love would heal her family from layers of loss and despair. With Lilia, I wanted to create a legacy for my family and give a voice to the voiceless. By writing their lives forward, they will not be forgotten, and their spirit can be felt.
As for why I want to share this with the world? Like many stories of families enduring senseless suffering at the hands of war, my mother’s needs to be told. This book is not just a story of a young girl coming of age during the war and Nazi occupation when the world feared its future. This book provides a window into a period in history many are not familiar with—the genocide suffered by innocent northern Italian people.
My uncle, Arturo Meneguzzi, was killed in a German concentration camp, as were many other friends and relatives from my mother’s village in northern Italy. This part of our history I feel people will be interested in learning about, and I hope this story keeps the realness and tragedy of war alive in their minds. In sharing the history of the ones that came before us, we honor them, learn from them, and awaken to the fact that the Holocaust wasn’t that long ago and can very well happen again, especially in our present political climate, as terrifying as that may sound.
How much research did this book require from you? What was the most interesting aspect of this research? How did you feel being at the concentration camp where your mother’s brother died?
I spent months researching blogs, articles and other books on fascism in Italy and to better understand what transpired before and after the armistice between Italy and Germany, when the partisan/Nazi conflict was at its peak. I watched every World War Two film I could and attended talks given by Holocaust survivors—a heartbreaking and eye-opening experience.
In May 2018, I accepted an invitation to the 73rd anniversary of the Flossenbürg Concentration Camp liberation in Germany. There were 600 people from 20 countries in attendance.
My uncle, Arturo, was taken prisoner to Buchenwald and later died in Flossenbürg at age 24, just weeks before the Americans liberated the camp. His prisoner number was 38887. He never had a chance at life and knowing how much he suffered tore my heart open. Watching videos, seeing the gruesome photos, and walking on the very earth where my uncle and countless others suffered unimaginable torture and death, I left those grounds forever changed with a profound deepening of my words as I wrote them in my book.
I felt called to journey to this camp in this remote village in the Bavarian forest. Attending the commemoration was in part for my research, but more to pay respect to my uncle for my mother and our family members who passed without having closure or peace in their hearts. I was meant to be in Flossenbürg that weekend, and you will learn why when you read my book, Lilia. For more details on the camp visit my website: lindaganziniauthor.com
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
I am a graphic designer by trade. My other passions and not-so-secret skills are painting, writing lyrics, and singing. I have written a recorded a few songs, which you can find on Soundcloud and Youtube.
Tell us more about the cover and how it came about.
I labored hours upon hours designing various cover concepts for Lilia. Writing a book about your mother’s and her family’s life is one thing; trying to make it pop off the shelf for readers to pick up and read the synopsis and buy the book is another. And it’s always more difficult working on something so close to your heart.
The story of Lilia centers around the heroin, my mother, from age four to seventeen. To support the storyline, I used a photo of her as a child with her younger siblings in the background and featured my mother’s portrait as the blossoming young lady she grew into in the later years. The quaint street in the heart of Mussons, Italy, where my mother grew up, is also one of the main characters playing a prominent role in the book. I used it as the backdrop and added the bombers and a menacing sky to reflect the agonizing years during the war.
I love this cover. It speaks of innocence, and a life lived with love, courage, and the strength to survive.
Does your book contain a hidden message? What do you hope readers will take away from this?
I believe this book was birthed at the right time, not only for cultural reasons but also in light of our present political climate. On a global scale, people are motivated by fear. We are afraid of our countrymen, fearful of immigration and our neighbors. My mother was a young girl, coming of age during a time when the world feared its future.
May my family’s story remind people of the real threat of history repeating itself. Through our shared stories, we can author a more peaceful future by taking responsibility for each chapter and creating a world free of hate—a safe world for our children.
My hope is that Lilia will be a source of inspiration moving the younger generation to share it with their parents and grandparents. In the process, may it spark meaningful conversation about our many life experiences, and bring people together across generational and other differences to create understanding and empathy.
Which of your characters in Lilia was the most challenging to write about and why?
The most challenging character to write about was my grandmother, Maria. I found myself struggling to connect with the soul of a woman who suffered loss beyond comprehension. Many of her scenes are incredibly dark and gut-wrenching. The only way through them, and the only way I could take the reader into the core of her heart to feel her pain, was for me to feel it myself.
If you could meet up with anybody, living or dead, who would it be and what would you discuss?
I want to meet up with my uncle Arturo to tell me what transpired behind the scenes when the Germans took him to the camp. I want to hear his story, know what he heard and saw. I want to know what his dreams were before the Nazis took his last breath from him. I want Arturo to know how much he was and is loved and that this book is in homage to his life and memory. I want him to know we will never forget.
What is your personal favorite scene from the book?
The ending scene is my favorite because I wrote it verbatim to how it happened, and I have and will carry that moment in my heart forever. You'll have to read the book to find out. ;)
I understand this book will be part of a series. What are the other books about, and why did you decide to write your mother’s story in three separate books?
The second book takes the reader through Lilia’s budding romance—a love story for the ages, but not free of personal struggles and significant family and life challenges.
In the final book, Lilia braves a new life with new hardships immigrating to America. She conquers insurmountable challenges but rises into her strength as an inspiring woman, wife, and mother.
While this first book stands well on its own, a series completes the circle of life, each book depicting one part of a three-generational story of love, courage, and survival.
Do you have any interesting writing habits? What is an average working day like for you?
In this first book in the series, I wrote the ending first, showing me a bright light at the end of the tunnel. It will be interesting to see if I do that again in book two. I typically write with a pen on paper until I have flushed out the book’s outline, at which point I move onto my laptop. Whenever I feel I can’t find my words, I go back to pen and paper and watch films that inspire me back to my story.
As a freelance designer by day, I block early mornings and weekends to write when I have the most energy.
What are you working on right now?
I recently launched Lilia, which was a four-year-long research and writing journey. I’m taking some time out for myself before beginning the next book in the series. I don’t write these books. They write me.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
Readers can discover more about me and my book Lilia on my website at lindaganziniauthor.com. They can interact with me on Instagram @lindaganzini and Facebook @lindaganziniauthor. My music can be found on Youtube and Soundcloud @lindaganzini