Italian author Marcella Nardi was born in the small medieval town Castelfranco Veneto, not far from Venice. Her first strong visual memory spans a drawbridge above a moat that leads to a castle, and a real castle it is. Castelfranco Veneto means French Castle; it is here in this area where the Franks invaded Italy under Charlemagne. The town originates from the majestic castle built by the commune of Treviso in the course of its conflict against Padua, which was at that time controlled by the Franks.
History notwithstanding, the summer air of Castelfranco Veneto is fragrant with jasmine and its walls are decorated with window boxes crammed full of coiling vines and a profusion of trailing flowers. Outside of the moat, there is a modern village, but crossing the moat marks the entry into another passage of time. The walkway along the sea, wending around the moat, is centuries old and dotted with grand statues and monuments. The elusive Renaissance painter Giorgione walked here. And it is also here where the imprint of the mystery and magic of medieval lore has become a hallmark of Marcella Nardi’s legacy as a writer.
It is no surprise that Ms. Nardi’s books often include medieval architecture, hidden passageways, and streets too narrow and winding to navigate a vehicle larger than a small car. She is known for her mysteries, detective stories, modern or medieval, with Italian stylized flair. Her first detective novel led her to write a series of six books. The main character and heroine is a police commissioner named Marcella Randi, who works in the homicide department of the central Milan police station. Nardi notes that the name Marcella Randi is a derivative of her own name, and further admits that the fictional Marcella captures the essence of her own true personality.
Every writer likes to try something new and different. It all lends itself to improving the precision of one’s craft as a writer. Nardi has broken out of her mystery genre on occasion by writing both a paranormal novel and a romance novel. In general, though, she prefers mysteries, thrillers, suspense. Her latest book, Joshua and The Brotherhood of the Ark (Italian: Joshua e la Confraternita dell’Arca), is a historical thriller that keeps the reader on pins in needles until its spellbinding end. Joshua and The Brotherhood of the Ark is Nardi’s first book to be translated into English to reach a broader-based audience in the United States.
A blend of history and mystery, Joshua and The Brotherhood of the Ark illuminates the darkest scenarios in the history of both Christianity and Judaism. The novel unravels the greatest mysteries in the history of the world. What is the Ark of the Covenant? What is hidden inside it? Many more questions are posed about the real identities of Moses, Joseph and his son Joshua, the twelve apostles, and even the true son of God. And finally, who is so intent on keeping the answers to these mysteries in the dark that they will stop at nothing, even if they have to commit murder?
Marcella Nardi speaks of the story behind the story. “For this novel, I was inspired by two of the most intriguing theories in the religious field. Scholars still squabble over these theories, whether they be atheists, agnostics or believers with strong faith.” Joshua and The Brotherhood of the Arkendeavors to bring a sobering truth and clarity to the deepest, darkest secrets of ancient history and beyond.
Nardi has always been attracted to mysteries, conspiracy theories and detective stories. Aside from stimulating her imagination and driving her to uncover the criminals, it is the intrigue that makes reading mysteries fun. She adores reading a story that keeps her guessing. As a writer, though, she speaks of our dark side. “I know each of us has a dark side,” she says with a twinkle in her eye.
“What makes people good or bad?” she asks. Then she answers her own question. “Every human being has a dark side; some have more of a dark side than others.” She confesses that when she writes a thriller, the two sides, good and bad, speak to her, but in the end good always triumphs over evil, and that gives her great satisfaction.
If Nardi’s latest novel seems like a monumental accomplishment, it is one in a long string of literary adventures. She began reading novels at a very early age and recalls being an early fan of Alfred Hitchcock. It is not unusual for writers to show an early propensity to fall in love with the written word. However, in Nardi’s case, she wrote her first novel at the tender age of eight, and as fate would have it, this very first novel was a thriller with a plot encompassing hair-raising twists and turns, delving into clonation and a missing third twin. Many years later, Nardi was pleasantly surprised to see a similar plot in a thriller written by the Welsh mystery writer Ken Follet. She knew then that she had possessed a certain flair for the page-turning genre. Inasmuch as writing came easily to her, she continued to write short stories for three years after her debut novel. Then one day she just stopped writing.
Nardi’s education was, in large part, guided by her love of learning. She describes herself as an early bloomer and a woman in possession of a steely will. At the age of three and a half, she “forced” her mother to teach her how to read and write. She describes her first letters as funny looking but still clearly understandable. In Europe, Nardi had access to many types of high schools. She chose a science track that eventually led to a master’s degree in Computer Science. She developed many skills for twenty-two years, especially in workflow management and working with digital images. She was project manager with banks and insurance companies. At one point, she worked in Italy’s IBM headquarters, close to Milan.
Nardi is a bit circumspect about the lapse in time from when she stopped writing in childhood only to pick it up again with fiery passion much later in life. She said, “I quit writing and did not start again until after my father’s death. Since then I never quit again.” Her father passed away in 2005. His death marked a turning point in her own life. The relationship she had with her father was very close, almost uncanny because she resembled him so strongly. She describes her own face as a photocopy of her father’s face. They had many things in common, but the love of travel, culture and history weaves all threads together into a single knot that defines what they passionately love about life, and especially what they love most about life in Italy.
A short time after her father passed, she saw an announcement for a national contest calling for entries—short novels set in medieval Italy. She had to start all over again, getting into the discipline and mindset of a writer. She had to pull out everything from her heart and soul. Her story was based on one of the many episodes in Dante Alighieri’s The Divine Comedy (Italian: Divina Commedia). She turned a story originally conceived by Dante into a thriller set in a medieval village and won the contest.
The awards kept coming. She won third prize in the 2011 contest “Philobiblon–Premio letterario Italia Medievale” (Philobiblon–Medieval Italy, literary award). Her winning story became one of the six stories that were included in her first book, an anthology, Grata Aura and other medieval short stories. (Italian: Grata Aura & altri gialli medievali). Nardi explains the first edition of this collection was called Medioevo in Giallo. “In Italian Giallo means two things: the color yellow and thriller. In between the two World Wars, a large Italian publishing company started to sell thrillers in books having a yellow color as the background cover. Since then, Italians use the word Giallo for thriller.”
Regardless of a particular genre, there are so many excellent Italian writers, whom Marcella Nardi admires. She speaks highly of Andrea Camilleri, who recently passed away. Camilleri wrote the famous Inspector Montalbano (Italian: Commissario Montalbano) series. Nardi cites a few of the reasons why she admires Andrea Camilleri. He started his career as a journalist, working for some of Italy’s most respected newspapers. Many of his early novels are based in Sicily. After he created the character of Inspector Montalbano, a new language evolved in his writing that mashed-up formal Italian with humorous words borrowed from the Sicilian dialect. Camilleri’s writing is said to be colorful, very visual and full of memorable characters. Of American authors, she is a fan of James Patterson, Steve Martini, Patricia Cornwell, Glen Cooper, and many others.
In 2008 Marcella Nardi moved to the Pacific Northwest. Her husband had been given a good job offer and the economic climate in Italy at that time and most of Europe was in decline. So, making the move to America was a wise decision. Nardi confesses that it has been hard to leave Italy. Her mother is still alive, and she loves to visit her, as well as other places in her beautiful homeland.
She has come to admire certain stark realities of American culture: the ease in which Americans move from city to city to enhance their careers, and the way the American people deal with the labor market, which tends to result in lower unemployment than among the labor force in other countries. She also admires the number of women who have high-level careers. There are many more professional women in American than there are in Europe.
If she could change one thing about the American culture, what would that be? She wishes Americans would discover the passion and importance of history. Understanding what has happened in history is an important guide toward understanding what the future might hold. It’s really in the best interest of the American people to know and understand the history of their culture. Understanding the past is what will determine the future of America.
Nardi brings her passion for history to her writing. She believes books are a great way to explore the world, not only geographically but by taking a journey through time. The research underlying her stories has taken her from the official Vatican website to the Suzzallo Library at the University of Washington. Among its many collections, the Suzzallo Library currently has over 29,000 books in the Italian language. Nardi’s research has uncovered amazing information. For example, Nardi discovered that Pope Benedict XVI, born Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger, had been forced to be an officer in the German army during World War II, and was imprisoned when he tried to escape. He escaped a second time and was again caught; this time he faced execution. In prison he met a surgeon with whom he shared his profound insight about religion. The surgeon was so moved by the conversation that he saved Ratzinger’s life.
Nardi has published nineteen books, some of which are technically novellas. Two of her books have been translated into English. She recently began writing a legal thriller that is based in Seattle. This legal thriller series will be translated into English and soon after her Marcella Randi detective series will also be translated into English. All of her books can be found via her author page on Amazon.
She didn’t begin writing again with preconceived notions about achieving fame and fortune. While money is important, she believes she has something important to say. “I would like to have more and more readers,” she says. Money is important, but she sincerely thinks that she has something to say through her novels. Returning always to the strong connection and passion for life she shared with her father, and why his death spurred her to begin writing again, she considers writing to be a great gift of love. "What I write, I write with my heart.” (Italian: “Quello che scrivo, lo scrivo col cuore.")
Although Nardi was born in Castelfranco Veneto, before the age of thirteen, due to her father’s career, she lived in many places in northern Italy (Genoa, Milan, Florence). Eventually she moved with her family to Taranto, where her mother still lives today. Despite the many moves, Nardi is able to stay in touch with her friends of yesteryear on social media. She said, “I can chat with them every week.”
Marcella Nardi returns to Italy every fall. As a lover of history, travel and adventure, she approaches her trip home as if she is a tourist in her beloved country. She picks a region or area that she has never seen. Last fall she took a trip to Gubbio and explored the region’s once-in-a-lifetime exhibitions, museums and many amazing medieval villages. On each visit home to Italy, she takes five to six days to visit several medieval villages. Alone in her car with time to dream and imagine the beginnings of a new story, she is transported to paradise. After her journey to new and unknown parts, she returns to Taranto to visit with her mother.
As for the town of her birth, Castelfranco Veneto, the original village is still there. The Veneto region of Italy is famous for its wine. Nardi speaks wistfully about her birthplace, “If you go in the morning for breakfast, instead of coffee or cappuccino, the people drink a small glass of wine; especially in the winter, the wine makes the body much warmer.”
Marcella Nardi Author Page on Amazon
Marcella Nardi Author Website