From an interview with Elaine Petrocelli
Donna claims that she is absolutely without ambition. “I just wanted to have fun and a nice life. I think for a period of about fifteen years I never lived on the same continent. I taught English and sometimes in desperation English as a second language. In the eighties I was in Saudi Arabia for nine months and it was so awful an experience I decided I would stop roaming around and move to Venice. I managed to get a job at the University of Maryland, which has a contract at the American military bases (in the Veneto). It allowed me to live as an Italian and work in English.”
In the early ’80s Donna Leon and a friend were in the dressing room at La Fenice chatting with the conductor and his wife. They began to talk of wanting to murder a certain conductor. Something clicked. “And since we were in a conductor’s dressing room, I thought hmm where, how? . . . So I wrote a book. The book sat in a drawer for a year and a half until a friend of mine nudged me. When I say I’m without ambition, I really mean it. This friend nudged me into sending it to a Japanese mystery contest. And when the letter came back I didn’t know what it was. I was invited there and it won.”
This led to a two-book contract and soon Donna Leon’s career in crime fiction was flying.
We spoke of Guido Brunetti, the detective who was born that day in the dressing room of La Fenice. In each book we learn more about his background and about his family and friends. Donna Leon’s comment was, “Well he’s a grown-up and he has a life.”
Donna Leon’s books are translated into over twenty languages. They are wildly popular in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
Donna Leon is the author of the international best-selling Commissario Guido Brunetti series. The winner of the CWA Macallan Silver Dagger for Fiction, among other awards, Leon was born in New Jersey and has lived in Venice for thirty years.