October 13, 2013

Author Interview with Kimberly Menozzi

Hi Kimberly, first of all, could you tell us a bit about yourself.
Well, I'm an American who has lived in Italy since Christmas of 2003, I've been writing stories since I was about six or seven years old and I was first published in 2010 when a small UK press released Ask Me if I'm Happy.

What do you think makes your genre special?
I honestly don't consider myself a genre writer. I think Ask Me if I'm Happy falls into the category of Women's Fiction, though, but I'm not really partial to any particular genre.

What do you think makes a great story?
Honesty in the storytelling is key, for me. If the story isn't coming from a pure and honest place, the story isn't going to draw the reader in. If something is written from a cynical, cash-grabbing angle, I think most readers pick up on that and lose interest. 

What is your latest book called and could you explain to us in 20 words what it is about?
My last book is called Ask Me if I'm Happy. Two people meet by chance and fall in love, but have unexpected connections which prove problematic for their happiness together.

Which kind of reader do you think will enjoy your book?
Anyone who likes a love story between imperfect people, or stories which take place in Italy, will especially enjoy it. It has proven particularly popular amongst people who have visited or lived in Italy before, or who love Italian culture.

Is it a Standalone, or part of the series? If it the latter, how long do you think will it go on?
I wrote it as a standalone, but there is a prequel novella called Alternate Rialto which came out last year. I'm considering a sequel, as well. I don't see it as a full-blown, multi-episode series, because Ask Me if I'm Happy wasn't a short novel (it was around 400 pages long) by modern standards to start with. The next book will be pretty substantial, too, I think, if it goes according to the notes I'm sketching out. (laughs)

What influenced or inspired you writing it?
I was influenced and inspired by everyday things – conversations I overheard while walking to and from work, moments I witnessed during those same walks, the music I was listening to (mostly Italian at that time), stories friends shared. Then of course there were elements from my own life which were fictionalized and shaped to fit the narrative. The entire book was sparked by a television show I watched in the US, which featured Bolognese people speaking English to the host – their accents were so similar to my students I became desperately homesick, and the story started forming from that moment on.

Why did you choose especially this title? Was it your first choice?
The title underwent a number of changes as the story evolved. When it was a short story in its earliest form, it was called "Quasi Per Caso/Almost by Chance".  That was too cumbersome, though, so in its next incarnation, when it was expanded to novella length, it became "Connections" (which remained the title of the first section of the book). Ask Me if I'm Happy became the title after I noted the way it just fit perfectly with some parts of the story, and the song ("Chiedimi se sono Felice" by Samuele Bersani was also a good fit. It just worked best under that title and it finally stuck.

What was the hardest part for you working on your book?
Finding time to write it and avoiding distractions, and then trying to find time to spend with my husband when I was in the midst of a really good "flow" while writing. When I was single it wasn't a problem if I wrote for hours on end or into the small hours of the night. Now, that's different. I have to find time for my job as well as my husband, and sometimes that means sacrificing time which I feel should be spent writing. I never stop writing, though – at least in my head. (laughs)

Was there a scene that you didn’t add or remove in your finished work?
Actually, there was an entire section which was removed before publication. The novella I mentioned earlier, Alternate Rialto was cut because it didn't quite fit with the mood or the narrative of the rest of the book. I decided to release it separately so readers who wondered how Emily wound up with Jacopo (her ex in Ask Me if I'm Happy) in the first place would see how that happened. It also works as a standalone story, I think. It's not as strong as Ask Me if I'm Happy though.

Do you already know what to do next?
I'm doing revisions on a new novel at the moment, called 27 Stages, which is set against the backdrop of professional road cycling. I hope to have it completed soon and will be submitting it to agents then.
In the meantime, I'm also working on an "expanded" ebook version of Ask Me if I'm Happy, which will include Alternate Rialto and a new short story (possibly two) as well. I'm doing this expanded version to raise money for the earthquake relief efforts here in Emilia-Romagna after the quakes last May and June. I hope to have this out in early November.

Where can we find more about you and your books?
You can visit my website, or follow me on Twitter (@KMenozzi) or on Facebook.

Any last words?
I'd just like to thank you for giving me the opportunity to share a little bit about my work and to say I'll happily return the favor if you like. Grazie mille!
Emily Miller is forced to spend a day in Bologna when she'd rather be catching her flight to the US. Determined to put ten years in Italy and her marriage behind her, she wants to have nothing to do with anything – or anyone – Italian ever again.

For Davide Magnani, chivalry isn't yet dead. He accompanies Emily to Milan, if only to reassure himself of her safe arrival. The following morning, he's stunned to realize he's fallen in love with someone he's only known for twenty-four hours – and it seems that she feels the same way.

One year later, Emily and Davide reunite. As their relationship strengthens, unforeseen events reveal deeper, troubling connections all around, which drive Emily away from the first man she's ever really trusted. Can she forgive the lies she's been told, or the truths which have been hidden from her? And how can Davide prove to her, once and for all, that Italy is precisely where she needs to be?

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