It shouldn't come as any great surprise to discover that Elisabetta Dami often writes for 12 hours a day. How else to explain her extraordinary output? Since 2000, the Italian children's author has published more than – wait for it – 250 books.
“I have a very strict routine,” she says. “Discipline is very important in every activity, especially when you’re an artist. I start writing very early in the morning. I always tell children that when you do something with your heart and it’s a passion, it’s not a sacrifice. It is such a pleasure for me to write.”
The joy Dami clearly derives from her craft reflects back off the page. She is best known for the Geronimo Stilton series of books, which follow the wild, globe-trotting adventures of a bestselling author and journalist – who also happens to be a mouse.
Written for children aged six to 12, the Geronimo Stilton books, which have titles such as The Peculiar Pumpkin Thief and The Stinky Cheese Vacation fizz with energy and curiosity. Every page brims with one-liners and bold illustrations of characters such as Wolfgang Wild Paws, Samuel S Stingysnout and Creepella Von Cacklefur. Little wonder, then, that Dami has sold more than 180 million books worldwide.
"I think the reason for the success is that I mix adventure with good values and humour. The children react well to the friendship that is on every page," she says, ahead of her appearance at the Sharjah International Book Fair, where she will be joined by an enormous, real-life Geronimo Stilton. "It is important to remember the importance of a smile."
Those last words are particularly poignant for Dami, who discovered many years ago that she was unable to have children. It was during this difficult period of her life that she began to volunteer at a children's hospital in Italy. Seeing that the patients responded well to her silly stories, Dami started to put her ideas down on paper.
"The stories were invented for these children, who needed a happy ending to their own stories," she says. "The [tales] are full of hope, which is a very important value and helps children to see life in a different way."
And Dami believes that a mouse is the ideal animal to convey this message of hope to young children. “[Mice] are curious, they are funny, they love to play,” she says. “I thought it was the best choice for an animal that could be loved by children.”
Geronimo Stilton, who lives in New Mouse City, has already travelled the world, with Dami setting her books in far-flung places such as Niagara Falls, Easter Island and even outer space. She is now considering sending Geronimo Stilton to sniff around Sharjah, which Dami visited for the first time this year during Sharjah Children's Reading Festival.
“One of the reasons children love my books is because they are written with my heart and [inspired by] the memory of recent trips,” she says. “One of the best recent memories is Sharjah. I will probably write a book about it, so children all over the world can enjoy the beautiful emotions I experienced when I visited. It is a fantastic place on Earth.”
At Sharjah International Book Fair, she will be joined by an enormous, real-life Geronimo Stilton.
Wherever he ends up, he is sure to delight his legions of readers. For Dami, though, it is not the book sales that excite her, so much as the knowledge that her words and ideas have been translated into about 50 languages.
“My dream came true,” she says. “I became the mother to millions of children around the world, so this is a happy ending to my beautiful story.”
The Sharjah International Book Fair runs until Saturday, November 9. More information is available at sibf.com