Monday, 25 October 2010

Interview with an Author: Kim Menozzi

As many people know, I am a partner in the publishing company,
diiarts.com. As we head towards our first anniversary, I thought now
would be the moment to talk to one of my author's in the run up to
publishing her new book. Ask Me If I'm Happy is launched next month, and
here we are, talking to the author, Kimberly Menozzi, about her new
book, and what makes her 'tick' as a writer.

Q: Thank you for this interview, Kim. Can you tell us what your latest
book, Ask Me If I’m Happy, is all about?

A: Oh, I should thank you for this opportunity instead. Ask Me if I'm
Happy is a modern-day love story set in Bologna, Italy, wherein two
people meet by pure chance but have much deeper and more troubling
connections than they could ever imagine. When these discoveries come to
light for both of them, they have to deal with the emotional fallout of
having hidden the truth and of dealing with lies of omission.

At the heart of this story is their need to be open and honest with each
other in ways which prove quite difficult, due to the painful prior
experiences with previous partners. Ultimately, it's a story about how
people need to be honest and up front with one another and be able to
trust their loved ones on every level, as well as how we unknowingly
sabotage ourselves in love. Being honest and truthful isn't exactly
painless, but the struggle is worth it, in the end.

Q: Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?

A: Okay. The main characters are Emily Miller and Davide Magnani
(Dah'-vih-day is the pronunciation of his first name, by the way). Emily
is an American in her mid-thirties, who is coming out of a bad
relationship and determined to leave Italy behind her. Davide is a
professor of literature and ancient mythology at the University of
Bologna. Both of them have been substantially wounded by past partners,
and they're both struggling with a number of trust issues as a result.

The supporting characters include both of the exes: Jacopo Spadon and
Letizia Costa. Jacopo is the sort of man accustomed to getting what he
wants when he wants it, and comes from a rather privileged background,
besides. Letizia is the sort of woman we see countless versions of here
in Italy, nowadays; she truly defines herself by the brand names she can
buy, wear and drive, etc., etc. You get the idea, I'm sure.

Other supporting characters, all of whom influence the story, include
Emily's best friend since their teen years, Jenn; Davide's best friend
(and fellow professor) with a tendency to be politically incorrect,
Michele; and Emily's rather comically overbearing mother. Q: Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they
totally from your imagination?

A: I have to say there are elements of both in my characters. Often they
start off inspired by someone in particular, usually by how that someone
looks or speaks or behaves, but by the time the story is truly taking
shape in my mind, they've become very much themselves. Once I've written
the first draft, it's sometimes hard to pin down who it was I had in
mind in the first place – they grow that much, in my mind and hopefully
on the page as well. Their voices become distinct and clear, and from
that point onward, I just have to trust them to show me the way.

Q: Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel, or do
you discover it as you write?

A: I'm seldom aware at the start. I had a general idea with Ask Me if
I'm Happy, but up until I wrote the final pages, I wasn't completely
sure how it was going to end. There are several incidents within the
story which I didn't know would be there until I'd typed them out. When
that happens, all I can do is sit there and think "Well, huh. I didn't
see that coming." Generally speaking, I just listen to what the
characters tell me is supposed to happen and then I go from there. On
the rare occasions where I've tried to make them to do something I'd
dreamed up at the start, it just didn't work. I'd write pages – force
them out, more or less – and then, in the end, I'd end up scrapping them
because they didn't work at all. Now, I just listen to the pretty
voices. (laughs)

Q: Your book is set in Bologna, Italy. Can you tell us why you chose
this city in particular?

A: There are many, many reasons why I chose Bologna, but I'll try to
pick just a few. For one, it was the natural choice for the start of the
story, because it's the major train travel hub for northern Italy.
Another reason is that it's simply a place I love – there's fantastic
food; a youthful, creative atmosphere (thanks in part to the
university); it is, as my husband might say, characteristic of the
region where I live – what you see in Bologna, you'll see elsewhere in
Emilia Romagna; and finally, it's just a beautiful and historic city.
Most of all, I feel it's one of the unsung locations in this country.
Nearly everyone knows about Tuscany, Rome, Naples and Venice, but very
few folks, it seems, are even aware of Bologna. I wanted my area of
northern Italy to be represented, for better and for worse, and I think
I've done that in Ask Me if I'm Happy.

Q: Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?

A: Yes, it does. As I said before, Bologna is a major travel hub –
Bologna Centrale is the principal railway junction in all of Italy. So
it's entirely plausible that Emily and Davide would cross paths here, or
that she would be stuck there in the event of a transportation strike.
Plus, as the majority of the story takes place in winter, the foggy,
grey atmosphere of Bologna during that season really affects the mood of
the story – and perhaps, to a degree, even the actions of the characters
themselves. The fact that it's Davide's home – not hers – is also
significant, if only on a subconscious level.

Q: Open the book to page 69. What is happening?

A: Davide is alone, purchasing the train tickets to Milano. There are
some subtle, comic aspects to the transaction (I hope).

Q: Can you give us one of your best excerpts?

A: This small excerpt is a favorite of mine, because of the way Emily is
drawn repeatedly to watch this stranger on the train who has done
nothing more than smile in her direction.:
-------
The broken window fell open with a soft thump and the banging and
rattling of the train’s progress drowned out the soft hum of
conversation around her. A steady, chilling wind blew inside the
carriage. Several passengers grumbled their disapproval and tugged their
scarves and coats more tightly around themselves, but none made an
effort to close the window.

After a moment or two, the man stood and pushed his glasses up the
bridge of his nose with an air of determination. Emily observed even
more openly this time as he returned to the broken window, shoved it
upward and stuffed the wedge of paper between the Plexiglas and the
frame once more.

When he turned, he saw her watching and his smile lit up his face again.
His eyes met hers fully and she looked away, her cheeks tingling as she
turned to the window and the countryside emerging in the growing
daylight beyond it.
In spite of herself, her eyes shifted to follow him yet again when he
stepped away from the row with the broken window. His hair had been tousled by the wind, and upon settling back in his
seat he ran one hand cautiously over it, taming any wild, out-of-place
waves. His dark eyes behind the oval frames of his glasses flicked in
her direction before he turned toward his own window. She thought it was
clear that he was trying not to be obvious about watching her.

Q: Thank you so much for this interview, Kim. We wish you much success!
A: Thank you for your time and for your interest. I hope everyone will
enjoy the story when they get a chance to read it.

Posted via email from mock-ing-bird's posterous

4 comments:

CharmedLassie said...

Sounds like an intriguing book which I may just have to purchase.

Cris said...

Sounds like an excellent read! I'm looking forward to reading this author!

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Carly Carson said...

I like your excerpt for its subtlety. I had to laugh at your "brand name" character. I don't think such a person is exclusive to Italy. lol Good luck with the book!