The popularity of Jennifer Gargiulo’s Diary of an Expat in Singapore blog laid the foundation for her first book of the same name – putting her on coffee tables across Singapore. We caught up with the Veronese writer and mother of two, and asked her about the similarities and differences between Italy and her adoptive island home, travel, and her future book-writing plans…
How do Singaporean people compare to people in your home city of Verona, or Italy in general?
Singaporeans are very similar to Italians…if you don’t take into account their penchant for eating spicy food in the morning. Seriously though, they both are very family and food oriented cultures. Possibly, Italians like to argue more…although taxi drivers are pretty prone to that as well here.
Where do you go in Singapore when you feel the need for a green, open space?
Definitely the Botanic Gardens. I love the free open-air concerts. In fact, my brother Julian has come from NYC to play classical concerts here (it’s one of his favourite venues) and my kids get a big thrill from watching him!
Your children must find living in Singapore very exciting. Do you think they will consider themselves as Singaporean as they get older? Or will the Italian connection remain strong?
I think they find it normal, because it is what they know. Especially my little one who has been here since she was 5 months old! It’s nothing exotic for them. They tell people back in Italy that they are from Singapore. And they tell people in Singapore that they are from Italy. Typical expat kids I guess. Home is where the heart is. Or in their case, where the Lego collection is…
In your interview with ExpatFocus you mentioned you aren’t a big shopper by comparison to most Singaporeans. So if you don’t go shopping, what does an ideal day of leisure look like for you?
Bookstores, bookstores, food…more bookstores.
As a Singapore travel insurer, we’re always looking for fresh ideas for our travel blog. Do you have any favourite destinations you would like to share with us?
I am going to Bali for a long weekend. I really like the peace and quiet in Ubud. I went last year to celebrate my 15th anniversary to the Maldives (with the kids of course – no chance leaving them behind). Beautiful. I also like the white beach in Bintan which is only a ferry ride away.
Your book is of course based on your blog of the same name, but how much planning went into the book? Or was it a more straight-ahead process?
Once I got the idea down with my editor it was pretty much off like a train. I wrote at a pretty furious pace.
Do you have any ambitions to write another book? If so, what might it be about?
Actually, my editors have asked me to write another book. But it’s still in development so I can’t reveal too much about it.
Was it hard to find a publisher?
I would say it was impossible when I was doing the looking. Strangely easy when it was the other way around. Ultimately, I was very lucky that an editor stumbled upon my blog and liked what he saw. Frankly, it wasn’t the book I had in mind…when I had in mind ‘a book.’
It must be challenging to write with all your responsibilities. Did you have a ‘regime’ for writing, say, a certain amount each day? And do you write better at certain times of the day?
I need to write straightaway in the morning and far away from the Internet. I usually go to small cafe near my house after dropping my daughter off at school (my son takes the school bus much earlier…so early morning is all about getting kids ready, packing lunches, and snacks) and work until lunchtime. When I’m in the thick of it, I keep a notebook with me and am either writing, re-writing, or editing at all times. I can really focus…it doesn’t matter if Phineas and Ferb are in the background.
Did your husband provide any ideas/insights for the book? Did he have any ‘editorial influence’ over the final version?
Not at all, he read it once it was already published. As an expat dad, he did provide material for that chapter.
As you’ve mentioned before, finding a good book shop in Singapore is not so easy. Was that an influencing factor in not releasing an e-book version of Diary of an Expat – giving traditional books a shot in the arm, as it were?
I definitely would prefer it if everybody had a copy on their coffee table and made a trip to their favourite bookstore to get a copy…having said that, the publishers took to heart the requests for an e-copy and it is now available on Kindle (and Amazon).
The team here at DirectAsia.com wishes you every success with your current book – and we can’t wait to find out what your next one is about.
Jennifer Gargiulo’s Diary of an Expat is available in major bookstores as a hard copy, and online as an e-book.