The call of the road:
Sinning across Spain
Ailsa with a friendly donkey Ailsa with a friendly donkey

I gave myself to the process and concentrated in writing this book

Sinning across Spain: That's exactly what Australian writer Ailsa Piper did when walking 1,200 kilometres that stretches from Granada to Galicia, the Camino de Santiago 'Mozárabe'. Then she wrote a personal catchy journey.

- You walked the traditional Camino de Santiago (aka Francés), then came back to Australia and 4 years later left again because you felt of 'the call of the road'. Sounds religious...
Somehow I felt I was stepping into religion when talking about vocation and call, but no, it wasn't a religious mission. It was about unknown forces. I believe in mystery, so I don't know everything and I don't need to know –my church is a broad one-. I just let myself go, everybody should try.

- What about the title of the book: Sinning across Spain?
I offered myself to walk off sins at the Camino in exchange of a donation. Except for mortal sins, I carried seven deadlies and similar sins for friends, relatives and unknown people who made a donation to contribute to the trip. In effect, they all became co-writers.

- What do you enjoyed from Spanish people?
I liked the fact that I always was a potential story for them; that's why I think people talked to me. Also, their level of kindness and generosity I experienced: a woman begging me to take food because her kids had gone to find a job somewhere else -you know how the financial situation is in Spain now... Everyone has a story, if you get the chance to ask the right question.

- At some stage you talk about 'their complicated relationship to history, faith and tribalism'
Yes, because I like their fierce when defending their identity. As an Australian, it's intense, seductive, thrilling and fascinating. I could somehow establish a parallelism between Galicia and Ireland.

- Tell us about your background
I used to be an actress but also a director, so I've always been involved in writing stories. When I came back from walking the Mozárabe Camino I tried hard to write a theatre play about it, but since I stopped being an actress, I just couldn't do it. I felt I was lying; I didn't want to write a play that I wasn't going to act or direct. So I gave myself to the process and concentrated in writing this book.

- However, the book is like a theatre play, with different acts and intervals...
(Laughs) I know, it's totally intentional! It correlates with how the Camino makes you evolve. Act I is about body and the physical difficulties you encounter; Act II is about the mind and the concentration required once your body has adapted; and Act III is about the spirit and the reward of the walk. It felt natural that the book structure came from the theatre.

- There are many books written about the Camino de Santiago. What do you want people to take with them when reading yours?
Kindness, mystery, power of confession and courage. Journey is about kindness; not to accept this is somehow rude and hash. Journey is about mystery because you must allow each other to believe in what they want. And journey is about the power of confession when facing things you've done wrong - you need courage!

- What's next?
Probably writing about Western Australia, where I was born. It's part of my culture and now I feel it's partly gone. When I was young I thought it was boring but you grow up and value certain things you didn't use to.

'Sinning Across Spain' is on sale now.
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