Creator Spotlight: Daniele Frau

Credit: Daniele Frau

Daniele Frau is a Dubai-based Italian writer and founder of

He’s quite the world traveler working as a member of Emirates’ cabin crew and is also a professional translator speaking English, Italian, French, and Arabic. The audio version of Daniele’s children’s book, Nodo the Chairs’ Mover, which was narrated by our previous featured artist, Ben Upson, won the Voice Arts Award for Outstanding Production.

Creativity Undefined spoke with Daniele about how common childhood fears inspired the unique quirky characters in his book, how being in the travel industry has added a wider perspective to his writing, and how being disciplined with spending his spare time has led to what he considers his greatest achievement so far.

Tell us about your creative journey. When did you first decide to become a children’s book writer?

I love to read and I try to read two books per week. When I’m not reading, I’m writing, but I write inside my mind for days before writing on paper, watching what surrounds me. In a way, writing is the best solution you can find out there to travel for free. Someone once asked me, “Why have you never tried to use your style for a children’s book? It would be something strange, for sure”. I never gave a thought about writing for children. What changed everything was the day I became an uncle. I looked my nephew in the eyes, and I realised I wanted him to be part of my stories. When I saw him laughing at a story I had just invented for him on the spot, I understood I could write more.

What were your favorite books when you were a child?

I have two older brothers, so I was lucky enough to start reading advanced books when I was young. My mum was a teacher in elementary school, so she knew how to teach us and bring the best out of us. She understood I liked to read and she always pushed me to write as well. When I was a child, I think my favourite book was Gulliver’s Travels. Until now, I think it resonates inside me, together with the story of Pinocchio.

Credit: Daniele Frau

How did you come up with the idea of a chairs’ mover and a twigs’ snapper?

The idea of the chairs’ mover comes from two different perspectives. On one side, I wanted the children to see the funny part of one of the most common fears, the fear of being alone surrounded by unknown sounds. On the other hand, I was annoyed by my neighbours living upstairs and moving their chairs all the time. See, what scares you as a child, makes you mad as an adult. When my nephew hears some strange sound, now he raises his shoulders and says, “oh, it’s just a chairs’ mover”. The twigs’ snapper came with the same idea, a mischievous cute character, but completely different (and therefore complementary) to the chairs’ mover. She’s not clumsy, she can remember all the words in the world and she’s eating words to survive. But she doesn’t have a good imagination so that Nodo will find a name for her. That demonstrates that everyone is valuable and you never have to judge a book from its cover.

Who/What are your greatest influences and how did you develop your style?

My writing style takes a lot from many authors, including Saramago, C.S. Lewis, Gogol, Chekhov, Lewis Carroll, J.C. Izzo, Italo Calvino and Walter Tevis. In general, I love to suspend a story in time and space, so the reader can easily be an alien coming from outer space and find it still interesting to read.

How did you go about creating the book and the audiobook once you finalized the story?

I usually give my book to read to different people I trust with diverse backgrounds and instructions. For example, a person who helped me a lot was Gabriele Manca, DMQ production, the book’s illustrator. I want to see if the story is working, and in case, what is not working. I want to know if it’s easy to read and how fluid is the reading. In the case of Nodo, I let children read it first, or their parents read it for them. After the Italian version was ready, I translated it into English and met by chance Ben Upson. He gave a boost to the whole story. We worked hard on single lines on every word to find the best solution. It was a hard job but one of the best experiences of my life.

Credit: Daniele Frau

How has life as an expat influenced your art and creative process?

My work as a cabin crew helped me find new stories and speaking with people from different cultures every day was absolutely a plus. I could see my stories from the alien’s point of view. If something is funny in a language and a particular context, it doesn’t mean it would be universally accepted as funny. When I first started to translate, I found out that a translator isn’t the one that can translate La Tour Eiffel into The Eiffel Tower, but the one that can place Big Ben in the centre of the Champs Elysees.

Looking back, what was your greatest achievement and your greatest challenge? Why?

My greatest achievement was opening Flyingstories, my website, a few years ago, while I was busy working full-time. The majority of my friends used their free time to rest or party, while it was vital for me to create a website with quality stories at its core. An outstanding achievement was to receive the prize as “Best Production” for the book Nodo, the Chairs’ Mover. It was unexpected and to be frank, I almost cried for joy.

The pandemic’s had a lasting impact on everyone. What was the biggest adjustment that you’ve had to make?

The pandemic changed our lives forever. There will always be a “before” and “after”. The idea of being confined inside our apartments, with only our ideas to entertain us, is revolutionary. Before, I read two books per week. I started doubling the number. Before, I wrote a page or two per day. I started writing ten or twenty pages per day. The biggest issue was that I couldn’t show my work in the real world. I didn’t have any physical presentation of my book until now, but only virtual. For all the arts, but especially for a writer, it’s essential to meet your public.

Do you think that you’ll maintain any changes once things return to normal? If yes, what and why? If no, why?

As I said, I don’t think anything will ever revert to normal. Normal will be something we will call that way, but it won’t be the same. I hope everything will change for the better and we start understanding how brief our life is and how easy it is to lose everything in a matter of seconds.

What are you currently working on? Can you share some details about some upcoming projects?

I’m currently working on the short stories that I publish biweekly on my website and other websites. Also, I’m writing the second book of Nodo, in a land of big noses and in July, I will participate in a writing contest in Italy with a new fiction book.

What advice would you share with anyone starting out in publishing that you wished someone had told you?

I don’t have much advice to give, but write if you have something to say. Don’t think about being famous or rich. If you’d write a book, you would read it first, so that’s a book worth spending time to publish.

What’s the WORST piece of advice you’ve ever been given and why?

The worst advice they gave me was to write travel stories since I was travelling and since people “love stories about travels”. I care about people, but I’m not writing for them. First, I’m writing for myself and I want to be proud and happy with what I’m composing. If writing makes you happy, you’ll never have writer’s block.

What’s a goal that you hope to achieve, personally and professionally, in the next five years?

I hope I will win a big writing contest and I want one of my stories to be adjusted into a script for theatre, a movie, or a series.

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