Kimberly Menozzi kindly agreed to do my interview for today.
Tell us about your latest project.
Well, the US edition of my debut novel, Ask Me if I’m Happy was released in June this year, along with the novella prequel, Alternate Rialto.
Ask Me if I’m Happy is a love story, set in Bologna, Italy, which has been very well received by readers. It’s the story of Emily Miller and Davide Magnani, who meet by sheer chance due to a train strike in Italy, when Emily is leaving the country after the dissolution of her marriage. Their immediate friendship quickly grows into something much more substantial, much to their mutual surprise. Unfortunately for them, they share a connection they never anticipated, and the secrets and half-truths which grow from this connection wreak havoc on their relationship.
Alternate Rialto is the story before the story, focusing on Emily’s experiences ten years earlier in Venice after meeting Jacopo Spadon (her ex-husband in Ask Me…) for the first time. It shows how some of the points in Ask Me… come about, but it stands alone quite well. It’s a much shorter read than Ask Me…, and it’s darker in tone, too.
Both stories show a side of Italy which many ex-pats tend to overlook — it’s a beautiful place, but it’s not perfect. I like to explore that side of the country since I live here and see it in all its flaws and its glory — frequently at the same time.
What made you decide to publish your two current books in June?
Well, Ask Me if I’m Happy was originally published in November of 2010, but the publisher and I parted ways shortly thereafter (long story). When it was decided to put out a US edition, I had already been working on a novella form of Alternate Rialto for the previous publisher. It just happened that both books were ready at about the same time — one had already been edited and was ready to go, after all — and I thought it would be okay to put both out almost simultaneously.
In retrospect, it perhaps wasn’t the best call on my part, but I’m happy to say both titles have sold reasonably well. Ask Me… outsells Alternate Rialto easily, though, which surprised me. I would have thought the lower-priced option would sell more copies. Not that I mind! I think a fair number of readers pick up Alternate Rialto after they’ve read Ask Me… anyway. In spite of Emily being in both stories, they are rather different reads, and I believe they’re equally enjoyable each in their own right.
You’ve mentioned writing both longer books and shorter ones, is there a length you find easier to write?
I find writing long much easier than writing short. I’m quite verbose on the page — just as I am in real life, I suppose — and that doesn’t always translate into a short, concise read. It’s very, very hard for me to write short. Add to this the fact I’m a huge fan of epic novels and heavy reads, and, well… I reckon it’s only natural I’d prefer to savour the subject at hand when I’m writing about it.
When and why did you start writing?
I started writing my first stories when I was eight years old. It was how I entertained myself at school when I’d finished my lessons and was waiting for the next subject to begin. Plus, I just had so many stories in my head, I needed to get them out on paper!
My first real attempts at writing full-length stories came in high school, when I started my first novel. I was seventeen, and I worked on that novel for nearly five years. I still have it, and I do honestly believe that if I were to rework and revise it, it might be worth exposing to the light of day. Who knows?
Do you have any quirks to how you write?
More than I can say, and probably more than I’m even aware of. I like to be completely alone, with music blasting, so I can just disappear into the part of my consciousness where the stories are. I admit that I talk to myself a lot, when I’m alone — or act things out to be sure of the choreography, even if I won’t describe it — because I hear the characters in my head a lot of the time. They’re always with me.
What inspires you?
Everything. Literally, everything. Inspiration turns up in the strangest places: people, places, songs, films, events I witness while walking to work or around town — it comes to me in odd ways.
What are you planning on doing next/What else are you up to?
Right now, I’m working on a project called 27 Stages, which is a novel set in the world of professional road cycling. I’m a cycling enthusiast, and I was inspired to write this while watching the 2009 Tour de France because I was captivated by the team politics on display between Lance Armstrong and Alberto Contador when they both rode for Astana. (If you don’t follow cycling, you probably have no idea what I’m talking about, here.) Everything about the sport intrigues me, and there’s so much that the casual viewer doesn’t realize is going on during a race. The training, the tactics and, as I mentioned before, the politics are incredibly fascinating.
So I’m constantly researching, notating and scribbling tidbits of information while I watch races and behind-the-scenes videos. I’m nearing the finish, I think (there are at least ten chapters left), and so far, based on the “buzz” I’ve gotten back from folks who have read the excerpts I’ve shared of the rough draft, there’s reason to be excited about the book. I’m told I write men well, that the team scenes are believable and best of all — I’m able to make cycling accessible to people who don’t know anything about it. With luck, I’ll have it out in the spring of 2012.
You say people have told you that they think you write men well? Do you think characterisation is your strength as a writer or something else?
I think characterization is one of my strong points, if only based on what others have said about my work. As far as writing men well, that was pointed out by several male readers, including one who appreciated that I hadn’t portrayed Davide (in Ask Me…) as a stereotypical sex-obsessed male. He’s intelligent, thoughtful and sensitive, but he definitely has a healthy desire for the fairer sex. However, he’s able to control himself and behave respectfully toward women — even if they’re practically throwing themselves at him. I give them full emotional lives — they aren’t all spouting sports terminology or relying on brute strength to get them through situations. They’re complex creatures — every bit as much as women are — and I work to portray them as such.
The other strong point I have is in creating atmosphere. One of the things most readers have commented positively — very positively — on is the sense of place they feel when they read my work. I try very hard to set the scene and then put the reader *there*, whenever I can.
If you want to check out any of Kimberly’s work you can do so at the following links:
Ask Me if I’m Happy: