EID SPECIAL: Author Interview: Barbara Conelli

“A VERY HAPPY EID TO ALL MY MUSLIM READERS, FRIENDS AND FAMILY!” As we say it in Urdu when we greet each other, “Eid Mubarak!” J

Those who do not have much idea about this festival, let me tell that it comes after the month of Ramadan ends. It is celebrated with fervour all over the world by Muslims. In every house, “Sheer Khorma” (a very sweet dish made with vermicelli) is prepared along with typical non-veg dishes such as Biryani and yummy BBQs. 

On such occasions, I miss my family the most, who are back home in Lahore, Pakistan. Believe me, Skype is not good enough to taste all those delicious dishes made by my mom. So, I thought why not I celebrate it with my writer friend, Barbara as well as with my lovely readers. 

Meet my friend: chocolate lover, travel-junkie and techie, Barbara Conelli, who is also the author of an amazing travel book, “Chique Secrets of Dolce Vita”. Yes, I know you have read my review of her book but today we are in a chit-chat mood so join us in the fun! 

RG= Review Girl 
BC = Barbara Conelli

RG: “Chique Secrets of Dolce Vita” is a travel narrative, non-fiction book, a genre in which only a few people write (as far as my analysis goes, but correct me if I am wrong). Why did you choose to write in this genre?

BC: You're right, very few people, and very few women, write in this genre. But to me, it's the most natural form of self-expression. I love collecting stories when I travel, and I'm like a sponge that absorbs all kinds of information. Writing about what I know and sharing a piece of myself with readers is my passion and joy.

RG: Do you think that there is a huge market for these types of books apart from mass produced fiction?

BC: Probably not, but there's a very nice niche market of women who love travelling, or dream of travelling, and who enjoy discovering the world through another woman's eyes. It's wonderful to connect with my readers and see that they are like me in so many ways!

RG: After falling in love with your book, I have to ask if you are working on another book based on your travel experiences? Is it about Italy or another country?

BC: Komal, thank you so much! Yes, I'm working on another Chique book about Milan (this time, the secrets will be about "dolce amore"), and then Rome and other cities. Eventually, I will venture out of Italy as well. I will never stop writing, that's for sure.

RG: You divide your time flying between America and Italy. What are the things you love about America? Any experience you would like to share with my readers?

BC: I love New York, I love the big city buzz, the arts and the culture. As a writer, I appreciate the fact that to promote your book in the U.S. is extremely easy thanks to the widespread social media popularity and use, and also thanks to many online platforms where writers and readers can meet. Europe, and especially Italy, is much less "online" and more community based, more grounding, more intimate. I'm very lucky to get the best of both worlds.

RG: How much time did it take for you to complete this book? What was your routine for writing?

BC: A couple of months, especially because I'm an impulsive writer. I admire those writers who are able to write every day from six to nine and then go about their day. I'm very passionate about writing, but I do need breaks that allow my ideas and inspiration to "marinate". Also, I'm not one of those writers who complete and publish a book every six or seven weeks. My books are a big part of myself, and you can't really mass-produce your soul :) I prefer to enjoy the creative process and to be sure that my readers get something more than pages full of empty words.

RG: Very well-said! How do you balance your family life and your writing commitments?

BC: I'm very lucky because my family are my biggest fans. They understand I need time and space to write. When I say: "Look, I'm going to spend the day writing," they respect it. They know I get cranky when disturbed. My rule is: "Don't disturb me unless it's an emergency, and even in case of emergency please dial 911 first." :)

RG: *laughs* This can be a good “Don’t Disturb” sign, I should put this on my study-room door. *wink* Are you inspired by any particular author? Who is your favourite travel-writer?

BC: I love Simona Sparaco, an Italian author whose books unfortunately have not been translated into English yet. She has written two novels so far and her stories and writing style are extraordinary. I'd like to be able to write fiction like that. I also love Marian Keyes and her "Under the Duvet" and "Further Under the Duvet". Although these collections are not travel books per se, I love the way she describes her travel experiences in her essays. I also like Susan Van Allen who writes about Italy with lots of passion and heart.

RG: What would you say to aspiring non-fiction authors who are entering the market? What mistakes they should avoid, while approaching the publishers/agents?

BC: Be patient, be yourself and persevere. Trying to be everything to everybody and giving up too soon are two major mistakes authors make. And please, write. Writers write, aspiring writers aspire to write :)

RG: List 5 writing tips for those who want to venture into writing non-fiction.


1. Write from your heart, be authentic and write about what you know and love.

2. Write because you have something to share, not because you're after fame and money.

3. Remember your ideal reader is a version of you. Build connections and relationships.

4. Have a support system. Find people who will support you and encourage you to carry on writing when things get tough (and they will).

5. Have a vision. Even if your book does not become a bestseller, it will bring joy into the hearts of those who will read it. This is your legacy.

Time for some fun questions: 

RG: What is your favourite holiday destination? (besides Italy and America)

BC: Barcelona and London! I absolutely love their cosmopolitan vibe and the people. Although they have a different culture, they share a wonderful energy of freedom and expansion. They are friendly and make you feel welcome. I have many friends in both Barcelona and London, and I love going back.

RG: I have been to London and it made me feel like a whole country in itself. Fast, always on the move, it has its own lifestyle and culture. Maybe that is why Londoners can be spotted from a distance. *smiles* Tell me what is the craziest thing you have ever done while travelling?

BC: Getting off the bus in the middle of the Negev Desert in Israel (which means in the middle of nowhere), years ago when the local conflict was really very bad (tourists were strongly advised not to travel to Israel at all), and trekking for eight hours completely alone just because I wanted to enjoy, admire and photograph the unique, lush, spring desert nature. I met some guys with machine guns along the way who obviously thought I was either lost or completely nuts, and I had a tough time convincing them I really did not need to be transported to safety because I was pretty safe by myself, thank you very much. I do these things a lot, but please don't tell my mum *laughs* Travelling like that is not for the faint of heart, I agree, but I believe I'm safe, and I always am. I tend to trust my instincts. I have travelled a lot in the Middle East and Asia, all alone, and I've never had any problems at all.

RG: I must say you are a dare-devil. Not that I have not experienced adventure before, but I can definitely not roam around in the streets of Israel like this. Mainly because I am originally from Pakistan and they might as well shoot me before even considering my last plea. *laughs* Okay, what is the most unique dish you tasted while on travel? 

BC: Well, first of all, I don't eat bugs or larvae when I travel. I mean, I'm an adventurer, but I'm not that adventurous, if you know what I mean *winks* I had the best "Couscous Bidaui" (a bowl of couscous with a typical Bedouin vegetable sauce) in a Bedouin desert tent, and the best "Kao Pad Kaphrao Kung" (Thai fried rice with basil and prawns) at a Thai restaurant in the Australian outback. When you travel, you have to be ready for the unexpected. You never know what you encounter, and that's the beauty of travel.

RG: Now my mouth is watery with the mention of Thai food. I want some of those fried prawns *laughs* What 5 things you always carry with you while travelling?

BC: My camera with three different lenses. A digital voice recorder. A netbook. A bar of dark chocolate with almonds. And a signed copy of my book to give away to friendly strangers. As you can see, I'm a techie and chocoholic traveller :)
RG: Bar of dark chocolate, are you by any chance referring to Toblerone? Oh, that is one of my favourite bars! Any suggestions for travel-enthusiasts? 

BC: Be open-minded and don't judge. Be humble and willing to learn. Be respectful and think twice before you speak. Don't be afraid to talk to strangers. Never be scared of anything because fear is the worst travel companion, but use your common sense to stay safe. Instead of rushing around trying to see all the sights described in your guidebook, sit down, enjoy a cup of coffee, watch the buzz and breathe in the local atmosphere.

RG: Since it is Eid day, I have to ask: did you ever get a chance to celebrate Eid?

BC: I remember Eid celebrations when I lived in Morocco, it is a beautiful holiday and I was lucky to be invited to my friends' home so I got to experience it.

RG: Wow! That sounds awesome! Thank you for such a lovely interview. It was a pleasure having you on my blog. Wish you all the best for your book.

BC: Thank you so much for the opportunity to appear on your blog, Komal, and for your wonderful support and friendship!

RG: So folks, hope you enjoyed this “Eid Special” interview, stay tuned in for more exciting posts.

Coming soon: “Chique Secrets of Dolce Vita” Giveaway!!!


  1. I love travel books and chocolate. That illustration on top wit the Oreo cookies is really cool too! Happy Eid to you, and I wish all the best for Barbara and her book.

  2. Wow, great interview. I'm going to be on Barbara's radios show on Sunday, September 11th and can't wait to talk to her! I have her book and am enjoying it.

    You're an awesome interviewer. Love the questions...did you interview me??? I wanna answer your questions ; )

    Lorena Bathey

  3. Italy and New York sound so awesome--I'm jealous :0) I LOVE non-fiction.

  4. I wish I had her gumption. What a fabulous interview. Thank you

  5. @Catherine: So good to see your comment, dear!:) Yeah, I checked so many illustrations but the one with orios..I had to pick it!:) Thanks so much for wishing me! I had a fantabulous day with friends and my hubby, been busy cooking and serving all day...lot of fun!:)

  6. @Lorena: I love your comments, so sweet of you to call me "awesome"...yeah, we should get together for some chit-chat ;)
    Sure, will be listening to your show with Barbara :)

  7. @Elisa: lolzz...I so wanna go to America and Italy...well..I wanna travel like all over the world if I get the chance be so lucky...I just need a couple of bucks to backpack..if u know what I mean ;) lol

  8. @Wendy: Thanks for your lovely feedback. Hope you stay tuned in for such amazing posts:)

  9. Komal, thank you very much for hosting me on your blog on this special day - Eid and your birthday! I really enjoyed the interview, you're so much fun to talk to!

    Ladies, thank you very much for stopping by and leaving such wonderful, encouraging comments. I love the community that has gathered around Komal's beautiful blog. We're a bunch of Chique girls! :)

  10. @Barbara: I am so glad to host such an amazing person and a great friend. It is always fun talking to you, dear. Thanks again for wishing me especially on my birthday.
    Yes, my readers enjoyed our talk as much as we did..isn't that awesome? :) Definitely, Chique girls!:)

  11. Wow, I'm so shocked it only takes you a couple of months to write a book! It would definitely take me much longer than that. I'm normally not a big fan of non-fiction, but I think I'd like to read this book! I'll add it to my TBR list :) Awesome interview!!

  12. (BC said): "....you can't really mass-produce your soul :) "

    Barbara - what a beautiful comment! Thank you for bringing that thought forward!!

    Komal - Happy Eid! Happy Birthday! Happy Cooking!! Your interview questions were inspiring.

    Thank you, Ladies!

  13. Eid Mubarik to you too Komz. It's the third and last day of eid here in Islamabad. I have had countless bowls of sheer khurma and have probably gained 100 pounds but then,Eid only comes once a year right?:)Barbara Conelli sounds like a lovely person and I would love to read her book present and future. My fav non fiction travel writer is Bill Bryson but i would love to read from a woman's perspective. Thanks for sharing.

  14. @Jessica: Thanks for liking this interview.
    @Patricia: I am a Happy bird after reading your happy thoughts *smiles*...thanks dear for so sweet comment. I see you have posted comments but maybe forgot to enter in giveaway. Mention your GFC name and email on giveaway post if you want to be counted. Thanks.

  15. @Pandora: Thanks for Eid wishes!:) Lolz...you must be full of tasty treats...Oh I miss Islamabad..such a beautiful landscape...I used to go there every summer vacation with my family.
    Tell me the name of Bill Bryson books, I am always on the hunt for a good travel book.
    Thanks for your sugary sweet comment!:)

  16. Some of us nonfiction writers chronicle the grim stuff in this world and call it investigative reporting when it may just be investigative whining, bitching and moaning. Some fiction writers dream up gooey stuff that will never happen on this planet and call it romantic lit when it's really more erotic fantasy. Both these genres have their place.

    Yet, Barbara seems the classic romantic artist in pursuit of beauty. She gets her butt on the road and finds the lovely stuff that does exist in this world then gives us a taste of La Vie en Rose. I think that takes heart and guts, which is what makes a great person whether it makes a bestseller or not.

  17. I am very jealous that you get to travel so much. Will there be a book on Venice too?


  18. @ komz. Here are some of my favorites from bill bryson.
    Bill bryson travels solo and I love his sarcastic sense of humor.
    1.' The lost continent':bill takes his old beat up car and goes on a hilarious roadtrip in USA. Very funny do not read in public :D

    2.'Notes from a small island': Bill's travels around England. His love for this country and it's traditions is evident in this book. Laugh out loud funny.

    3.'Neither here nor there':Here he is accompanied by his sex crazed friend Katz and they set out to discover Europe and it's jewels.

    4.'Notes from a big country': Bill returns to America with his English wife and kids after 20 years in England and find a lot has changed. It is very well written in the form of short articles. Great book.

    5.' A walk in the woods': Here bill gets together with his ol buddy Katz and attempt to walk The Appalachian Trail in USA.

    6:'The life and times of the thunderbolt kid': This is not travel writing but,this book is I think one of his best works as yet. Do not buy the kindle version. The beauty of the pictures in this book is only justified in hard cover. It's a childhood memoir full of wit and wonder seen from a child's perspective. Very funny yet touching. I LOOOOVE this book and shall treasure it always.
    Hope this helps. Have a wonderful weekend.

  19. Happy Birthday & Happy Eid!

    A wonderful interview :) you have the best ever questions..

    Flying between America & Italy would be amazing! Italy is my all time fave country.

  20. @Lyn: I totally agree with you. I am sure your words of encouragement will be heart-warming for Barbara. Very aptly put in words by you!:)

    @Carol: I will forward your question to Barbara..hope she will write on Venice too!:)

    @Pandora: Omigosh! You know you are awesome...many thanks for sharing your collection with me...I have made a note of these books...I am intrigued..they sound so hilarious...just the kind of thing I look for in books...Memoirs are my second favourite...so I am going to put all his books in my wishlist...hope I will find them on Amazon. Thanks again! Hugs!:)

    @Sharon: Awee..so sweet of you to wish me, dear!:) Oh, I am loving the praise for my questions!;) Have you been to Italy or it is in your wish list?:)

  21. Thanks so much for the great interview! I would love to travel in this way - there is so much world to see! (I'm so glad you don't eat bugs!)

    jcsites2002 at hotmail dot com

  22. What a delicious interview! I love the cover of “Chique Secrets of Dolce Vita" and I am impressed by Barbara's adventurous spirit. I know the book will be a good read!

  23. Thank you so much for your fantastic and kind comments! Getting such fabulous, honest and authentic feedback makes writing endeavors worthwhile. After all, we authors write to be read!

    @Komal: Your blog is an absolutely Chique platform for both authors and readers. Thank you for being you!

    @Sharon: Yes, Komal has wonderful questions. I really enjoyed the interview!

    @Carol: Yes, one of my future books is going to be about the Chique secrets of Venice!

    @Lyn: Thank you for stopping by, you rock! I love your fellow author's perspective and your kind, encouraging words!

    @Pandora's Box: Thank you for your comment! If you like narrative non-fiction, I'm sure you'd enjoy reading Chique Secrets of Dolce Vita!

    @Patricia: Thank you very much for your comment and for your insight!

    @Jessica: Thank you for stopping by! Actually, even fiction readers enjoy my book because it's full of romantic, entertaining and charming stories, even love stories, lots of food stories, the secrets of the present and the past... Give it a try and let me know what you think! ;)

  24. Khair Mubarak (although I am a bit late at this ). Had a really great Eid at Lahore :).

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this interview !! :)

  25. i too luv to travel & especially to london!
    then i come to your toblerone picture & ohhh craving chocolate now! thanks for sharing the inside scoop on Barbara's book. i luv travel stories - having a few of my own too! look fwd to reading this one '')

  26. I love travelling, but I'm only a poor student :D what a pity! But when i grow up :) I want to travel the world and not only well-known countries, but also nearly forgotten places in the middle of nowhere. Hope my dreams come true...:)
    Anyway, great interview!


  27. Thank you so much for telling me about Eid! I wasn't aware of it, but it sounds like a lovely celebration! I always like learning new things about other cultures :)
    I envy you your travels! I still hope someday that I will be able to visit Ireland and England!
    jwitt33 at live dot com

  28. I love London too but I have never been to Barcelona even though it is quite close to me as I am in the UK! Ceri cerievans1[at]gmail[dot]com

  29. @Irfah: Eid Mubarak to all Lahorites from me...I am a Lahori Girl ...my fav city!:)

    @Faith: Toblerone...yummmmmmmy...Oh I am getting craving for it right now! lol

    @Zoey: Same here, dear...hope ur wish come true!:)

    @Julie: Eid is a very beautiful celebration indeed...Its like Christmas for Muslims...if u know what I mean...the biggest festival for us, u know. Hey, it's so kewl about your curiosity for various cultures..stay tuned..you will learn loads in my "travel review" section!:)

    @Ceri: I live in Stoke and so wanna go to Spain...heard so many good things about that place...lemme know when u plan to go...and feel free to share your travel experiences here, on my blog. Happy reading!:)

  30. Great interview! I really admire writer. How can they organize all their ideas and put together all together? When I try to write something, I get an idea, write it down, but the get another really good one then forget it instantly, lol. The result of my imagination running wild...And yeah, it really is annoying when people disturb you when you just want some quiet time!^^

  31. Komal, That was one of the best interviews I've ever read...both on your part and on Barbara's. It certainly piqued my interest in her book...as a matter of fact I'm dying to read it. Not only because she sounds interesting and intelligent but because I can really connect with her risk-taking and traveling spirit. I was a teacher 30 years and traveled alone extensively. I loved hearing about her "impulsive desert trek". Her warmth and friendly spirit comes through her speaking and I'm sure it's there in her writing. Thanks so much for a wonderful read.

  32. Thanks Loony and Nancy for your detailed feedback. I love it when the readers (of my blog) are so expressive and share their stories with me. Awesome!:)


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