My latest stand-alone release is a short story, 'Apples and Regrets and Wasted Time', published by Storm Moon Press. In a grim urban setting, an outlaw sneaks in his ex-lover's house in the middle of the night, and the two are forced to confront each other and all the tension they've left unresolved. It was an experiment on many levels for me – it's written in first person, neither the characters or the location are named, and it doesn't have a traditional happy ending. I'm very glad that Storm Moon Press decided to give a chance to this very unusual story, and I'm very pleased that, judging from the reviews, the readers seem to enjoy it too J
Q: What is the genre, and does it cross over to other genres? If so, what are they?
I'm always very fond of mixed, non-clear-cut genres, both as a reader and as a writer. This story has an urban fantasy feel to it, but it doesn't really classify as such because it lacks the fantasy element. Technically it's a realistic story – no supernatural elements, no well-defined mystery, no adventure – but despite this, it's definitely not an everyday-life moment. So, as usual!, I'm struggling to find a label that will fit – I'd call it an urban romance.
Q: What did you enjoy most about writing your first book?
My first book, the novella 'The Mercenary', was born almost by chance. I originally intended it for an anthology, so I had no clue it would end up being my first stand-alone release! I think what I enjoyed the most about it was just how seamlessly the story flowed. I was working on it in May, and I had four end-of-term university exams at the end of the month. I had to cram writing the story between writing essays and writing a whole theatre script, and yet it flowed so effortlessly it was a relief to sit down and work on it. It was one of those stories who literally write themselves, and really, that's one of the best feelings in the world.
Q: Where do you start when writing? Research, plotting, outline, or...?
I usually start with research. It's one of the best sources of inspiration – every little detail discovered can set off a whole set of ideas, be it a moment, a scene or a whole subplot. After I've jotted down all the interesting details, chunks of dialogue, and scene ideas, then I work on the storyline. For me, that's the most important phase. First I pinpoint four big points – the inciting incident, the moment when things go wrong and everything's about to go to hell, the big climax, and the end. Then I fill in the events in between, and I end up with a storyline where every scene is marked. Of course this is flexible, and I usually end up modifying the outline as I work, but I like having a list of scenes when I start writing. I work on one scene at a time, breaking the story down in smaller bites, and it helps me take one step at a time and not freak out trying to work on the whole thing at once. Then, once all the little bits are in place, I read the whole thing a couple of times and make sure it's cohesive, that I didn't miss any loose threads and that the tone/narrative voice is consistent.
Q: What genres and authors would we find you reading when taking a break from your own writing?
I read a variety of genres – historical fiction, classics, urban fantasy, weird fiction, generally everything that promises to be odd and unusual, tomes on history of art... lately, one of my favourite approaches is strolling in the charity shop on my way home from university and grab whatever tickles my fancy. (Then add it to the ever-growing pile of to-read books, which I'm working through too slowly to keep up with all the new additions!). Lately I picked up a few interesting books on the history of geisha, and also a bunch of theatre scripts at the Royal Court Theatre shop. My latest favourite genre is Steampunk – I loved the Somnambulist by Jonathan Barnes! – and weird fiction, like China Miéville's. I also love fiction that can be funny and ironic, subverting the tropes, like Terry Pratchett's.
Q: If I was a first time reader of your books, which one would you recommend I start with and why?
I would suggest 'Apples and Regrets and Wasted Time', because it's very short (6100 words) so you could have a quick taste of my writing style and narrative voice and see if you like it before plunging into a longer read. However, I'm a little bit in love with the story I wrote for an upcoming anthology from Storm Moon Press – 'Bounty Hunter', set in the Old West, the tale of a hunter who finally meets again the man he's been chasing for years. It's a passionate, strained encounter, and I always love me some good ole scorching conflict. I'd recommend that story, because it's my latest baby, but it's not out yet – it will be released in December J.
Q: A biography has been written about you. What do you think the title would be in six words or less?
'A messy start.' Well, it would be a little too soon to have a biography – I'm not even out of university yet! But despite this, I've already managed to pack in my life quite a lot. Apart from the curve balls life delivers, if there's a choice to be made, apparently I just have to pick the most complicated option – always the hardest one, the one that takes me the furthest, that makes me struggle the most. And I'm spectacularly untidy J. So yes… 'A messy start'. And let's see how it continues!
Q: If money were not an object, where would you most like to live?
I've actually been asking myself this question for a while now, and I haven't quite picked an answer yet! At the moment I split my time between my tiny hometown, lost in the Italian hills, and London. I love London, but I don't think I'd want to live there forever – I'm always cold, and I miss Italy, especially the food J. I'd love to go somewhere warm, perhaps live in a hut on the beach and spend my free time laying under palm trees… but the truth is that I don't think I would enjoy settling down far away from my friends and family. If money really wasn't an issue, I think I'd travel around a lot, living for a few months here and there, but in the end I'd always come back home.
Q: What song would best describe your life?
I think 'Whiskey rock-a-roller' by Lynyrd Skynyrd. I'm headed down a highway ... got my suitcase by my side. Blue skies hangin' over my head, I got five hundred miles to ride. That's a situation I'm in surprisingly often! (Except for the womanizing part). And at times, when moving constantly feels less like a choice and more like a survival strategy, I switch to Led Zeppelin, 'When the levee breaks'. Because when the levee breaks, mama, you got to move.
Q: If you came with a warning label, what would it say?
'Keep busy'. I always have to be occupied with something – I used to act in a theatre company, I painted, I sewed handbags and made necklaces… lately I spend all that time writing, but I do miss having a variety of hobbies. I find it a little hard to keep focusing on one thing for a long time – I'm a bit of a compulsive multi-tasker! Staying idle puts me in a bad mood – I start moping, I dwell on all sorts of gloomy things and end up depressed and going on a spicy Doritos eating spree. So… keep busy – and away from the Doritos!
Q: What is the one question you wish an interviewer would ask you?
I think I'd love more chances to talk about my characters – questions about their past, their personality and preferences. Usually I don't reveal a lot of what I know about them in the stories – my characters always tend to keep to themselves – so I'd love to talk a little about their hidden stories J.
Apples and Regrets and Wasted Time - http://www.stormmoonpress.com/books/Apples-and-Regrets-and-Wasted-Time.aspx
The Mercenary - http://store.samhainpublishing.com/the-mercenary-p-6272.html
LiveJournal http://corneliagrey.livejournal.com/Coming Soon
The Tea Demon - http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/ Nov 2011
Bounty Hunter, in 'Weight of a Gun' anthology - http://www.stormmoonpress.com/books/Weight-of-a-Gun.aspx Dec 2011
Blog: http://corneliagrey.livejournal.com & http://corneliagrey.blogspot.com
Excerpt from "Apples and Regret and Wasted Time"
"Three years and the only reason you came to see me was because you needed a shower, idiot?"
I shrug. I close my eyes, letting the water wash over my face.
"You left the window open," I say. He doesn't reply.
When I turn around to face him, his hands are tucked in his pockets, his face tilted down, half-hidden in the shadow. He looks at me with quiet, dark eyes. I can feel my body tingle under his intense gaze, a shiver running down my abdomen and to my cock.
His eyes flicker down for the briefest of moments.
"You left the window open," I repeat. It sounds almost like an accusation.
"That didn't mean you had to come in. I didn't put any sign saying Idiots welcome, let yourself in," he retorts. I can glimpse the flash of a smile on his lips, but it disappears too quickly.
I can feel the memories stir in the back of my mind. His smile always made my blood pump faster. I can feel my face heating, and I hope the shadow is enough to hide it. "Maybe I was feeling nostalgic."
"Right." He unclips the holster and pulls out his gun, checking the safety before reaching to lay it on the sink. My knife is just out of sight, on the rim of the tub. It's never out of my reach. I don't move my hand toward it, don't even look in its direction. I know I won't need to use it.
His voice is tight when he says, "What are you doing here, really?"
It's the city, that's what it is, messing with my head. My nerves are rubbed raw.
"I don't know," I snap, harsh. "I'm just having a damn shower. Leave me alone. What do you even want?"
His arm shoots out, and he grabs me by the nape, hand clenching in my hair a fraction too hard. The water is quickly soaking his sleeve, staining it dark, spraying on his chest, his face. He doesn't seem to notice.
"I want you to get out of here," he says, voice dangerously low. "I want you to leave. I want to never see your face again."
I wonder if he's aware of how tightly he's holding onto me. I wonder if he realizes that, while he's telling me to go, his body is screaming don't you dare move. I wonder if he even knows he wants me to stay.
His eyes are a sharp blue, mere inches from mine. Too close. They give away things I suspect he'd rather keep hidden.
Slowly, I reach to wrap my fingers around his tie. I pull him forward, pull him in. He has to brace his hand against the tiles in order not to fall, leaning awkwardly over the tub, the water now streaming down his face, soaking his shoulders.
I can see the anger fade from his eyes, washed away, leaving only a too-heavy weariness.
He doesn't pull back when I lean forward and press my mouth to his. I trace his lips with my tongue, let it slip inside. I feel damn near intoxicated when he gives in to the kiss, tilting his head to the side to gain better access to my mouth as his tongue tangles with mine, sliding hot and wet between my lips. He tastes like apples and regret and wasted time.