Cardiff character: Gabriella Lepore

Gabriella Lepore has realised a dream as a published author

Gabriella Lepore

Gabriella Lepore saw her first novel The Witches of the Glass Castle published this year

Gabriella Lepore was born to be a writer. Influenced by supernatural, magical worlds since childhood, the 27-year-old Cardiff author saw her first novel, The Witches of the Glass Castle, published earlier this year. Now she is ready to embark on another adventure.

The Witches of the Glass Castle was published in September, but the journey to success has been long and gruelling for Gabriella. She started writing seriously in her early 20s, and had to go through five unsuccessful manuscripts, endless streams of rejections and countless disappointments before a publisher finally accepted her story about teenage siblings Mia and Dino, who discover that they are witches and are sent to a magical castle to develop their abilities.

Writing young adult supernatural stories wasn’t a genre the author chose, as much as it was the genre that chose her. Gabriella confesses that she’s experimented with other genres without success, but shrugs and says, “I’ve tried to write older and I’ve tried to write younger, but I can’t, and I’m quite happy with that. I’m stuck in that genre but I love it.”

Sitting in a crowded café sipping her latte, there is little about the slight, nervously excitable woman that reveals the many fantastical worlds and stories in her head, yet they have always been a part of her. “I’ve always read a lot of young adult so I suppose you write with where your passion for reading lies,” she muses, listing the works of Diana Wynn Jones and W.J. Corbett among her favourite reads.

Witches and woodland walks

Gabriella has always had a particular fascination with witches, something which stems from her childhood. She explains, “For family holidays we used to go to a little town called Burley in the New Forest, it’s dedicated to witches. It’s like a magical place, and I love it. So I can’t help wondering if that’s what influenced my writing.”

And even now, when Gabriella writes, she continues to escape to the magical world of the woods. “Every time I start a new book I go away for a few days, to somewhere I’m completely isolated,” she says. “I like to go to woodland type places, and I’ll just walk around and just kind of daydream for a few days.”

It was on one of these walks that she got the idea for Glass Castle. “I was doing one of my woodland walks at the time,” Gabriella remembers, “and I saw a little stone with ‘Spangles’ written on it, and it was in a really sort of spooky setting, and the ideas just started to unfold.” And she is happy to note that the ‘Spangles’ tombstone ended up making it into the completed novel.

Magic, nature and overpowering emotions

Gabriella is very fond of her first novel, and explains how the magic in the story links to one of the over-arching themes: the power of emotion, and how human beings can sometimes find themselves slaves to their feelings. The author also confesses that this is something she has experienced in her own life.

“I genuinely believe that it’s a very human attribute to be driven by your emotions,” Gabriella says. In the novel, this is symbolised through the characters’ use of nature-bound magic. “I think using those powers to reflect nature and to combine human emotion with nature was very interesting for me to do, because I personally have an interest in those sorts of things,” she admits.

Everything she ever asked for

Aside from writing, Gabriella runs a small bookshop/café in Cathays called Paravel with her father, a retired schoolteacher. “He likes coffee, being Italian, and I love books,” Gabriella grins. “It’s very small, and it’s a really nice environment for us. I’m very happy with it and I know he is too.”

Gabriella has a second book lined up for publication in July of next year, How I Found You, a young adult novel about a girl named Rose Winchester who meets two mysterious brothers with supernatural secrets. Looking ahead, Gabriella plans to go back and rewrite some of her earlier manuscripts, and is also thinking about a sequel to Glass Castle. On top of that, she is about to embark on a series of creative writing workshops with children across the country, and she is excited to be able to pass on her knowledge and experience.

“Life is good,” Gabriella grins, revealing that she has already seen her life dream realised. Finishing up the interview she smiles, and says, “If just one of two people read my book and enjoy those characters and take those with them, even just for a day or a week, then that’s enough for me. Because then I’ve achieved everything I could ask for.”