Who doesn’t enjoy a ghost story over the Christmas period? If you’re looking for an Italian-themed spooky read then The Eleventh Gate by Rossella Cirigliano would make a great choice over the festivities. The action takes place in modern day Rome at a fictive museum in Porta Gaia, one of the many gate houses that run along the old Roman Walls of the Eternal City. Events are seen through the eyes of the museum’s spiritus loci Lucius, a legionary from the days of Aurelian, and Sabrina Carletti, a frustrated single mother approaching middle age, who works there as a ticket seller and factotum.
After translating The Eleventh Gate into English from Italian I was keen to meet up with Rossella and ask her some questions about how she came to write the book.
Deborah: What inspired you to write The Eleventh Gate?
Rossella: Well, certainly the place inspired me, because it’s so incredibly evocative. I thought it just had the perfect atmosphere to be the stage for a contemporary mystery story. Not to mention the fact that it’s a monument open to the public, which keeps the place alive and more credible as a setting.
D: How much of you, Rossella, is there in the character of Sabrina?
R: Well, to tell the truth, Sabrina does have something of me, maybe more than I’d like to admit!! To be able to compose the story and portray the characters I felt more at ease taking cues from my daily life and changing them, sometimes in a surreal way.
D: Why the ghost Lucius? Who does Lucius represent for you?
R: I’ve thought about this many times, and there are a few possible answers. To a certain extent, he is a narrative device deployed to find the murderer, and the setting provides a classic location to be haunted by a ghost (albeit a good-natured one, on this occasion). The real reasons have faded away. In actual fact, I’m afraid that Lucius is the ghost that troubles me sometimes and if I summon him and make friends with him he might just vanish and leave me alone for good.