THE CREATIVE WORLD OF AUTHOR NASTASIA RUGANI
Once in a while, you read such an interesting book that you immediately would like to meet the author. This happened to my 7-year-old son this summer. He was fascinated with “El pequeño cuidador de insectos” by Nastasia Rugani, and he suggested I should contact her.
Today we travel to France and meet Nastasia. I am truly grateful that she accepted to share with World Kids her multicultural background, her passion for literature and her creative work. I hope that you enjoy getting to know her and that you might feel inspired by her life surrounded by books, drawings, and nature.
World Kids: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Nastasia Rugani: Hello! I am a 31 years old author living in Le Mans (one hour by train from Paris). I wrote four novels for children and teenagers. I spend most of my time creating stories and drawing and thinking about writing and drawing. Apart from that, love watching animals, insects, movies, interviews, Korean dramas, and drinking cappuccinos in lovely coffee shops. And that’s about it. My characters are far more intelligent and interesting than I am.
When did you know that you wanted to be a writer?
I guess I started to scribble during my teenage years when I became really shy and discovered that I loved being alone. I wrote many bad lyrics, awful poems, and terrible short stories but it was done with a deep sense of freedom. And that feeling lingered at the university. But I never dared to imagine myself as an author. It was too presumptuous. I did not belong in this overwhelming world of Russian classics and old geniuses we studied for years. I was ready to live as a reader, and that was it.
Fortunately, I came across a shelter in the children’s section of a public library. I re-read Tove Jansson, Anne Fine, Maurice Sendak, Kitty Crowther, and so many other wonderful writers. In a way, I found my way back home, in my childhood where the power of imagination was limitless. That’s when I knew that writing for young people and respecting them along the way was my dream.
What are you working now on? Can you tell us a little bit of your next project?
My next novel (for young adults, or teenagers) entitled Milly Vodović has been published on the 20th of September (by the Editions MeMo). It tells the story of Milly, a twelve years old girl, daughter of Bosnian immigrants, who discovers herself and the strange world she lives in after a tragedy occurs in her family. For the moment, I am incapable of letting go of Milly. She is too vivid in my mind to start a new project. In the meanwhile, I would love to illustrate books and many other things for children. That is my next dream.
This photo shows the “architecture of the new novel”. I write ideas and sentences on notepads and notebooks. It can get quite messy in the beginning. So I cut what I want to keep and tape the little pieces of papers together in order to create paragraphs and chapters. I need this weird architecture otherwise my stories take over, and I feel trapped in them.
You were born in France and you are half-Croatian and half-Algerian. What did you like most about growing up in such a multicultural environment?
That is such an interesting question. No one ever asked me that. Thank you very much!
Where to says: The values, the traditions, the love, the humor, the stories! I heard so many different opinions about politics, love or injustice that it widened my view of the world at a very young age. Everyone was always shouting a story, a comment, and it was beautifully dramatic, joyful and liberating. That richness handed me the freedom to develop my own voice and my own ideas. It also gave me an undeniable taste for storytelling.
I received many free lessons and great advice just by listening to my grandmas and aunts talk about being a Muslim, a Catholic, an immigrant, a French citizen, and a woman. But honestly, the greatest thing about being a multicultural kid was, and still is the food! Nothing beats the memory of sharing a couscous made by my Nena with all my cousins, or a walnut cake lovingly cooked by my Mamie. I was incredibly lucky to have received three different kinds of love.
Are there any particular authors that influenced you growing up?
I was influenced by a lot of authors who were published by L’école des Loisirs, especially Robert Cormier. His novels never shied away from the hardness of life. His characters were so flawed and alive that you could almost hear them speak. I am usually leaning towards American authors, I do not know why. Maybe they possess a higher level of audacity to upset and disturb their readers. As a young adult, I became very fond of the American novelist, Toni Morrison, because she makes me feel empathy for the most inhuman characters. And she does it with words, only words.
Did you have a favorite book in your childhood?
Frankly, I have no idea. I read a lot with my mom but I was mostly outside, playing with my friends. I only remember enjoying three books multiple times: “Les malheurs de Sophie” by La Comptesse de Ségur, “De la petite taupe qui voulait savoir qui lui avait fait sur la tête” by Wolf Erlbruch, and “Rendez-moi mes poux!” by Pef.
I think I loved the first one because Sophie was a troublemaker like I was, and the others because they made me laugh again and again. I had two favorite movies though, which were « Cinderella » and « Hocus Pocus ».
What books are you currently reading?
I am reading Matilda by the great Roald Dahl because I never read it (shame on me). I only saw the movie. And I am reading for the fiftieth time, Sula by Toni Morrison, because this novel is endlessly moving. I learn something new every time. It is my favorite masterpiece of hers.
Your best trip ever.
It is so hard to choose. I think that the next ones are always the greatest. So, when I will go to Japan, one day, that will be my best trip ever. Or maybe when I will see kangaroos in Australia or gorillas in Congo. Also Alaska, or Montana in the U.S. Those will be grandiose.
For now, I am hesitating. The most moving one was in Kenya when I was fifteen. I remember vividly the kindness of people and the children smiling through extreme poverty. Plus, I saw lions and elephants running free in powerful landscapes: unforgettable!
But a few years ago, I went to Mexico and visited Frida Kahlo’s house, La Casa Azul. Frida’s spirit and genius were in every cactus and every wall; it still haunts me.
Could you please share with World Kids your desk and writing space?
I work in front of a wall because I get distracted a lot, especially with all the cats chasing birds outside my windows.
The framed illustration was made by Kitty Crowther. I only sent her a love letter, full of admiration, as a fan, and she sent me back this piece of art. Magical Kitty! There is a little note from my Mum taped to it which says: « From Moumour who loves you like a Mama Otter.