Interview with Stella Mazzucchelli, author of "Silk Flowers Never Die"


Stella Metaxa Mazzucchelli was born in Athens, Greece and married, aged eighteen, Riccardo Mazzucchelli, the famous Italian businessman. During their twenty two year marriage, they lived in Zambia and London, where she became a well-known figure on the social scene, and had a brief and successful modelling career at the unusual age of 28. Fedele is their only child. After their divorce, Riccardo married Ivana Trump in 1995, though the marriage was short lived. Stella now lives in Athens where she brings up her grand-daughter Katerina. As well as being involved in the property and renovation business, which ensures she maintains connections with London, she is also a tireless campaigner for the better understanding of schizophrenia and mental illness. Silk Flowers Never Die is her first book.

You can visit her publisher online at

Could you please tell us a little about your book?

My book is based on my son's mental condition which is schizophrenia and the devastation it entailed to come to terms with an illness I knew nothing about. I did not write the book as the strong person I am today, but having my own demons to deal with which were alcohol related, I was emotionally crippled when I had to cope with the heart-wrenching revelation. The first half of my book deals with schizophrenia and my alcohol dependency. The second half is dedicated to my son's marriage, the birth of his daughter and his wife's death from terminal cancer.

Did something specific happen to prompt you to write this book?

Overcoming my drinking problems in order to raise my granddaughter, I found that I had become a much stronger person. Yet, the memory of the lonely journey I had to endure to reach where I am today prompted me to wonder, how all those families who lived a similar fate managed to stay afloat. I felt the need to reach out to them and through my book hoped I could offer them encouragement as they battled their lonely task.

Who or what is the inspiration behind this book?

My son is definitely the inspiration behind my book. He nursed his wife for a whole year without giving thought to his own needs. I was amazed that during that year he manifested very few symptoms of schizophrenia. I concluded that while his focus was directed at giving and receiving love his illness somehow fell into obscurity. It made me wonder....

Who is your biggest supporter?

My biggest supporter is the charity SANE whose founder is a very capable and dedicated woman: Marjorie Wallace. I have followed her work over the years and believe her cause, so much so, I have donated all the royalties of 'Silk Flowers Never Die' to her charity. I am aware that my offer is but a small drop of hope dispersed into a chasm of pain.

Your biggest critic?

My biggest critics I would say are the people who do not want to be reminded that mental illnesses exists. They do not want to taint their perfect picture with sadness and guilt. Guilt for knowing that millions of people are suffering while the world shies away ignoring their pleas for mercy and understanding. There is a phrase I’ve heard that sticks in my mind: “To me stigma is the fear I see in other people’s eyes, their back's turning, the sound of a door closing.”

What cause are you most passionate about and why?

I am very passionate about alleviating the stigma attached to mental diseases. I get very angry that people have to live the anguish of coping with an ongoing torment and instead of being able to share some of their pain, they have to hide and endure this forbidden infliction in silence. It is time that society becomes educated on the subject, because it is through ignorance that they automatically associate schizophrenia sufferers as dagger throwing individuals. The media always highlights the trigger man as a psychopath in capitol letters, yet we find out later (as an afterthought) that the individual had manifested signs of violence in the past and nothing was done to protect themselves or society. Why? It would be refreshing to hear more about the talents, be it painters, writers, singers etc. that these sensitive people possess, instead of the one off highlighted tragedies which could have been avoided with better care and attention.
In the last year have you learned or improved on any skills?

During the last five years while bringing up my granddaughter and concentrating on my writing, I gave little thought to my inner self, I thought that I was stagnating. It was only when I jotted down the last word to 'Silk Flowers" and closed my manuscript that I realized how richer I had grown through the love received from my granddaughter and the experience of sharing my life through my book. I feel ready, with more of me to spare to fight towards campaigning to alleviate the stigma attached to mental diseases. In other words, I have grown stronger with more to offer.

Do you have any rituals you follow when finishing a piece of work?

When I finished writing 'Silk Flowers' I felt as though I had just given birth and had to hand over my baby. There was a void between 7am and 11am which were my writing hours. Although my fingers were itching to type and my mind was buzzing I was not ready to write anything serious. When I caught Ceaser my poodle looking at me inquisitively as I paced the floor instead of being seated at my usual place behind my desk, I decided to write a humorous, fluffy recount of his life. I find it refreshing after all the anguish that has down poured onto my computer's screen over the last five years. By the way, Ceaser who thinks of himself as a Doberman is definitely a most loving dumb blond.

Who has influenced you throughout your career as a writer?

Nobody. I think that I owe my ability to write through observing people and retaining detail. It is not intentional, I just do it automatically, therefore scenes are easy to describe; I just retrieve them from my memory bank. I try not to tire my reader with too much detail and move at a fast flowing pace.

What is the most important thing in your life right now?

To raise my granddaughter to the best of my ability, alleviate the stigma of mental diseases and hope that my son will continue to cope with the loneliness inflicted upon him as he battles his torment.

What are you currently working on?

Promoting my book.

Do you have any advice for writers or readers?

If you have a story to tell, do it. You never know what could come out of it.

Is there an author that inspired you to write?

No. I do not want to sound presumptuous, on the contrary as a first time writer I avoided reading any books for five years while writing 'Silk Flowers' in case I was tempted to 'steal' another author's style. I had to find my own and stick to it.

What are some of your long term goals?

I need to stay healthy as I still have a long way to go bringing up my granddaughter who is only thirteen. I had not realized how adolescence differed between girls and boys. Girls are far more complicated, mature quicker and have a difficult time during their transition into womanhood. I would like to live long enough see a change in society's attitude towards the mentally affected.

What do you feel has been your greatest achievement as an author?

Finishing my book.

What do you feel is your biggest strength?

Finding it. We all have it, we just have to trust that it is there. It might be a dim light in a haze, but if we open our eyes we can find it.

Biggest weakness?

Having to battle with negativity. It is always ready to pounce on me.

What do you feel sets this book apart from others in the same genre?

Whoever has read it tells me that it is written with 'heart'. I totally expose myself without remorse or shame.

You know the scenario – you’re stuck on an island. What book would you bring with you and why?

Unless I could take a library with me, none. I would prefer to write. Reading a book takes up no time at all, writing can take years. It depends how long I have to be stuck there.