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Author Interview: Kimberly Menozzi

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:

e-book (UK)

e-book (US)

Paperback

Alternate Rialto:

e-book (UK)

e-book (US)

Paperback

You can also find more information at her own website, or follow Kimberly on both facebook and twitter

With Proud Humility: Print Book Cover + Giveaway Result

I’ve finally got my print version of With Proud Humility ready to print and have ordered my proof. Since people have been waiting so long I thought I would share my very shiny new cover for the book.

As people might remember from a few months ago I gathered every item seen in this cover and my very awesome designer came up with this for me. As I also promised in the post I made to gather the parts I will be giving a free copy of the printed version away to one of the helpers.

Kezia Warren is the lucky winner and I will be making sure she gets one of the first ever printed copies of the book signed and delivered to her.

Karate Kid: A Review

I held out from seeing the newer version of Karate Kid for quite some time. I loved the old version and often rewatched it when it was shown on tv.

The new one, like the old one, is about a young boy who has to move from his home to a new place because of his mother’s work. He instantly get’s picked on and get’s beaten up by some slightly older kids.

While this was similar and most of the major plot points were the same, they had managed to change so many minor things that it didn’t feel like exactly the same film modernised. Jacki chan made a pretty good teacher. Not quite as good as Mr Miyagi but close. I’d even dare to say little Mr Smith was even better at playing the Karate kid than our original Daniel San.

My one big gripe with the film, however, was the fact it wasn’t Karate they chose to use as the martial art of the film but Kung Fu. Unfortunately for me, having done Karate, I got jarred out of the film every time they fought. I couldn’t help thinking that it just seemed wrong to teach Kung Fu in a film titled Karate Kid. I can see that as it was a remake they had to keep the title but I would have insisted they keep the Karate part too had I been doing it, whether Kung Fu is more popular now or not.

I’d say for most of the people who liked the original they should enjoy this one, especially younger peeps who aren’t so attached to the old one. It was worth the time I spent on it though I probably won’t buy it as I’m only likely to watch it if someone else really wants to. If it had been the first attempt at Karate Kid and named Kung fu Kid instead then it would have been loved even more than the original I think but as it currently stands the older version still claims my heart.

Blogs and Blogging

I spend a lot of my time when on the computer reading other peoples blogs. I’m often distracted by a tweet or facebook message from a friend saying a certain blog post should be checked out. Sometimes they are the usual bullet list on how to improve something or other but occasionally there is a real gem of a blog post or an entire blog that keeps me coming back and stays in my memory. I am one of those quirky people that doesn’t like rss feeds. I figure if a blog can make me remember to check it out without me needing to be reminded than it deserves my time. Otherwise I’d spend all day everyday reading blogs.

The quirky ones with no huge point:

One I’ve blogged about before and I still check out now and then is the guy who turns entire movies into strips of barcode style pictures. He’s still going strong and there are even some other ways of squishing the film that he’s tried and some ones with much shorter pieces too. I check this one probably about once a month for updates but occasionally I’ll just go through the entire load of them for kicks.

Then there is xkcd. I think most people know this cute little geeky comic strip so i’ll just link to one of my favourites here. I never hear that song in the same way anymore.

The ones that make me think:

I often enjoy the musings of Steve’s brain. Although the content from blog to blog can vary dramatically there is very often something about each post that makes me stop and think for a bit, from my own thoughts of something to simply inspiring me to think off in some random direction for a few minutes.

One blog that never fails to make me stop and think is by Chrysalis, who has occasionally guest blogged here. I especially love his reviews. He often looks much deeper into films and media than most people and although I don’t always agree with him I do always appreciate his viewpoint.

Career blogs:

By far the best blog for a writer at the moment is one I’ve already linked to several times, Joe Konrath’s blog. Joe can be a little controversial with some of his blogs but that’s one of the reasons I like him. He’s not afraid to say what he thinks and he has success and all that to help prove his point. I also found his newbie’s guide to self-publishing very useful as well as his postings of his sales figures.

Another I check reasonably often, not all the time, but I follow the guy on twitter so will check out the interesting titles, is the Vandal, otherwise known as Derek Haines. He’s very quirky and I love his tongue in cheek way of explaining some things. Similar humour to Douglas Adams at times, with a good dose of sarcasm. Does have quite a few bits of writer advice as well but I mostly love the quirky stuff there.

Odd blogs I’ve fallen in love with:

I really love Dean Wesley Smith’s blog of his chapter 9 from his book, Killing the sacred cows of publishing. A lot of it’s just maths but then he gets to talking about the Magic Pie Bakery and that’s where I totally fall in love with this blog. The maths side is quite good too and does prove very useful.

This blog called paper cuts seems to only consist of this one post with lots and lots of pictures of outlines of famous characters. I had a lot of fun guessing these. I think I figured out about two thirds of them after the second viewing. I do go back occasionally to see if I can figure out more though.

I’d love to know what blog posts have stuck in all your minds, what blogs keep you coming back for more and what made you come to this blog to read this post?

Sherdan’s Prophecy

As luck would have it our constant source of news on Anya and Sherdan has managed to find a small part of the prophecy they’ve been talking about over the last few months. An excerpt of the prophecy is posted below, unfortunately we could not obtain all of it, only some…

When the lion with an owls beak rises from the ashes of old industrialisation a leader will come to the faithful. He will see into all and be the final judge. Only with him will people reach their enlightened state and gain the gifts of devotion. He will lead his people to a better world in preparation for the last days.

The first sign of the end times will be the rising up of the enlightened people, they will flock to the leader as bees to nectar. He will teach them and lead them in the ways of the Ox.

When the three spoons of prosperity are gathered together with the plow a badger’s set will be made. It will grow and form until it can no longer be contained within it’s shell. It shall keep it’s desires secret but parade it’s existance to all, growing fat from the ignorance of the weak.

Then comes the great shedding. The badger will detach itself from the world around and shed it’s skin to reveal the gyroscope underneath. Only the worthy will be able to cross the void between the untouched and the enlightened.

She will come, walking with glass slippers…

 

Disclaimer: The above prophecy is a complete work of fiction. I do not expect a single word of it to come true as I just made it up on the spot to fit a rough plot idea I had in my head. Please do not start any cults, religious organisations or anything equally group like based on the above idea of how the world might end. I was not divinly inspired.

Sense and Sensibility: A Review

Having now read the book and watched the film from 1995 I am going to review both.

The Book

As always Jane Austen manages to make many witty insightful remarks about English society and it’s one of the romances I find most tense of hers. It really does seem about two thirds of the way in, that there is no way she could possibly pull a happy-ever-after out of the mess of the lives involved. She does, however, and reasonably satisfactorally. One of the sisters at least manages to get her first choice man and while the other sister’s happy-ever-after doesn’t go quite the way she wished I actually like this.

Jane Austen shows that sometimes what we think we want isn’t actually what we need. Sometimes the man that panders to our every indulgent whim isn’t as good as the man who presents us with steady feelings both of love and wisdom, self restraint and devotion. She presents the idea that feelings of love can fade when only flattery and merrymaking are involved but can be strengthened by a consistent companion who provides for and works with their partner in making a future. Essentially she makes a point that the feeling of love isn’t as good as the actions of love.

While this is a point I highly approve of I have to admit it’s not my favourite book. I actually think Miss Austen could have done with an editor who removed a little of the padding from the book to make it shorter but more to the point. That someone would have to understand the whole point of the book, however, to ensure they didn’t remove anything important.

The Film

This is where my love of the film comes in. The film has, for the most part, managed just that. It’s removed some of the slightly uneccessary complications and just included the major plot points. It’s also removed quite a few of the extra characters that didn’t really add anything.

I can also say the acting was completely amazing. Every actor did their part so well. Hugh Grant even managed to pull off Edward Ferrars. My favourite was by far Emma Thompson though who played the eldest Miss Dashwood. Coincidentally she was also the writer and that’s something I loved finding out. When an artist is allowed to do more than one art well I always admire them. So many people seem to think artists have to stay within one realm when often the experience in one type of art can lend understanding to another type. Before I rant about this I’ll go back to the acting part, however.

I also really liked Alan Rickman’s part as Colonel Brandon and Hugh Laurie’s part as Mr Palmer. While neither of them played huge roles they did their’s perfectly. It’s like there was some huge understanding among the entire cast that although the budget wasn’t that large and there were too many of them to have huge parts they all acted their socks off. They truly turned something less likely to do well into a delightful film full of gorgeous historic grace and charm.

This is confession time, however, as the first two times I watched this film I don’t think I really appreciated the acting talent and issues within the story. It was enjoyable enough but it wasn’t until my third watch that this film actually made me take notice of the acting, story and feeling in every scene. I highly recommend people watch it as long as they promise to do so with the seriousness of the film and an open heart to the feelings the actors so lovingly portay.

The Plan: September 11

Last month

I really didn’t get much done last month, unfortunately I got sick right before my holiday so I stopped work sooner but I made progress on a few things. I won’t bother with my usual bullet point list because I probably can’t remember what I did even if it was worth making a list for.

This month I plan on churning through as much of my to-do list as possible and refocusing on my blog a bit. Hopefully book 2’s edits will progress and book 1 will be in print very shortly. I’m also hoping to get started on the first draft of book 3 which will be blogged as I go here. My normal every 3 days blogs will be resumed tomorrow, starting with a review blog. I also want to ramp up marketing a bit for the pre Christmas ebook drive.