Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Kimberly Menozzi on Ask Me If I'm Happy

Ladies and gentlemen, it's without further ado that I introduce the talented Kimberly Menozzi, author of...

Eccoci qua – Here we are


Okay, then; first things first. I'd like to thank Silvia for this opportunity to do a guest blog and to share with her readers a little more information about my novel, Ask Me if I'm Happy. And, again in the nature of first things being first, here's some blurbage (As we say in the trade. Occasionally. After a few drinks):


Ask Me if I'm Happy, by Kimberly Menozzi.


Determined to put ten years living in Italy and a loveless marriage behind her, Emily Miller wants nothing to do with anything – or anyone – Italian ever again. Still, she has no choice but to accept help from Davide Magnani, a kind and charming professor, who takes her on an impromptu day-long tour of Bologna and wins her heart in the process. One year later, circumstances dictate that she return to Italy. The only question this time is whether she’ll choose to remain.


Or an even shorter version, such as:


Woman meets man. Love, lies and trust tangle.


Being an American living in Italy, married to an Italian and pursuing a writing career, I must confess that I come at some of the "ex-pat in Italy" stories from a slightly different angle: a slightly more sardonic, cynical angle at times, skewed by my own perspective. Until I met the man who became my husband, I had no interest in Italy. When I say no interest, I mean none. At all. I didn't speak the language, knew nothing of the history and had no real desire to see the place. My dream was to live in England; a place I thought was more suited to my temperament. So my view of Italy is free of any haze of nostalgia or romanticism.



I live here full-time (roughly nine months of the year), so I get to enjoy Italy in all its chaotic glory, the good and the bad, the fabled and the factual. It can be quite overwhelming at times – I've been here eight years now and it's still no clearer to me why the shops are closed Monday mornings and Thursday afternoons, or why Italians are absolutely insane drivers – but there's something about the chaos which endears this country to me.


I was inspired to write Ask Me if I'm Happy while on a trip to the US in 2007. When the accents of Italians speaking English on a travel program featuring Bologna made me homesick for Italy, I had to come to terms with the fact that I had not only fallen in love with an Italian but I was, in fact, pining for Italy itself.


By the next morning, a story had begun to take shape. Drawing on my own experience of being surprised by an Italian transportation strike, I knew what the opening incident would be: a woman is stranded in Bologna by such a strike, unable to get to her destination in time. What followed that setup was purest fancy, on my part: a man comes to her assistance and subsequently seduces her. They spend the day together in his flat, a torrid romantic affair plays out over the course of mere hours, and they part with him caught in his own trap, having hopelessly fallen for her before she leaves to catch the first available train out of the city.


And then it changed. Completely.


What I'd intended to be a short story of a passionate one-day fling became much, much more. The plot changed as Emily and Davide started revealing more about themselves and their relationship. The short story expanded to become first one novella, then two, then three. The characters soon became so tangible to me I would have sworn I saw them on the street as I walked to and from work, or heard their voices in every crowd. I had finally allowed Emily and Davide to have their say in how the story went, and it flowed more easily than anything I'd ever written before. I was completely caught up in their world, and I enjoyed every moment.


I drew inspiration from my friends and coworkers, from the music I listened to, from the daily events in the part of Italy around me. Every aspect of my life had something to contribute to enrich the story. The story was set in an area I felt had been much neglected – if not outright ignored – by other writers. The enthusiastic reception of my work by beta readers and critique partners was enough to tell me I was on the right track.


So I kept writing, revising and editing, until two years had passed. At that point, after having shared some of the work on Authonomy.com, I was approached by Diiarts publishing and was told they were interested in publishing my novel.


One year after that, I held the final product in my hand: a heartfelt, romantic and occasionally humorous story taking place in one of the most frustrating and most beautiful places in the world.


And I happen to think you'll enjoy it.

3 comments:

Jeane said...

I have read one sentence for now and am becoming already hyperly interested!!!!

Jeane said...

Ok, I just read the complete post and..it made me laugh, be serious, agree, feel close to it and in the end again laugh, agree and think....mmmm isn't it special and beautiful, painful but unbearable to think not to love everything good and bad of this country? And now I just want to read all those novellas!

Crafty Green Poet said...

sounds like a wonderful book!