“There is always the sense of an offering, of giving something back.”
Coffin Bell: Introduce yourself.
Clio Velentza: I love reading and writing stories of all shapes and kinds. I get way too attached to paper things sometimes. You can find me and links to my work on twitter at @clio_v.
CB: What got you started writing?
CV: My mother got me a journal when I was seven. I immediately started keeping a diary and began shaping the days into narrative forms like in the books I read. It was my first writing experience that wasn’t for school, and my diaries quickly became my most valued possessions. After some practice, I began to secretively jot down bits of stories or plays. I wrote – and illustrated – my first full story when I was fifteen. It took a year to finish, included every possible fantasy cliché, and it was immensely enjoyable to write. I kept going.
CB: What is the most rewarding aspect of writing?
CV: Exploring the unmentionable. Surprising yourself. Making something that nobody can take away from you. There is always the sense of an offering, of giving something back.
CB: Do you have a designated space for writing? Tell us about it.
CV: Coffee shops can become important for me, and it’s rare and valuable when there’s a place that offers enough privacy, quiet and coziness for me to feel at ease. I always got attached to those places, and measure writing eras according to them.
I’m currently writing at home, which I didn’t feel able to do for a long time. I’m more at ease with my surroundings, and have a bit more discipline than I used to. When I’m still taking notes, I might start from the armchair. Then I move to my desk where I do most of the work. It gets very good light, but can feel uncomfortably exposed sometimes.
I dream of the perfect writing space, which may be the small, dim first floor of a tiny coffee shop where I was a regular as a student (it was all dark wood, doilies and striped wallpaper), except nobody walks up the creaking staircase but me.
CB: Are you a planner or a pantser? Tell us a bit about your writing practices.
CV: Pantser. I always start with a theme, or an idea. That’s my point of reference. I might plan a bit if I’m writing a novel, but then it’s only a short way ahead – how the scene will go, or which point of view and mood will be the defining one. And then I move forward feeling about in the darkness. Most times I don’t know what the next line will bring, and get regularly surprised by it. It can be scary and slow, but I avoid detailed outlines in writing. (I’ve tried it.) The story needs room to breathe and grow, and to get where it needs to get. For me it’s like this: I write so I can learn something; and if I know everything beforehand, then what is the point?
CB: What advice to new and emerging writers could you give?
CV: Trust your instinct, and take your time.
CB: Physical books or e-readers?
CV: Physical books. I have terrible attention span when reading on screens. And the physical presence of a book is highly comforting to me. Let me stick my nose in it! (But I’d love to have a good quality e-reader someday. One that’s not too shiny or small, and sits well in the hand.)
CB: If you could give a PSA to journal editors, what would it be?
CV: A big thank you, and a box of biscuits. The real fancy kind.
CB: Taphophobia is the fear of being buried alive. Tell us about your fears.
CV: I’m terrified of exposed heights and high edges. I like flying – even tried parasailing once – but cannot be tempted to even approach a balcony with a low railing. My knees turn into jelly. I visited the Vikos gorge once. Breathtaking! But I couldn’t make my feet move up the steep path. The void kept sweetly calling me. Also I’m a bit claustrophobic on a case to case basis – it’s a thin line between snug and stifling. I’m sure being buried alive is included, though.
CB: What draws you to dark fiction?
CV: Perhaps the same void that wants me to move closer to the cliff. (What if you leaned precariously over this terrifying, unfathomable thing? And what if you slipped?)
CB: How does the darkness in your piece enhance the work?
CV: In “Mazes”, the darkness is largely physical. It works as a change in pressure, that pulls and pushes a hero’s body into adapting, and then when the hero is confronted with a different atmosphere, the interaction will inevitably be a form of force. As for the metaphorical darkness, I’m not sure I can define it.
CB: Tell us about your book.
CV: I just finished the first draft of my novel-in-progress, and I’m currently editing it. It was like holding my breath for four years. You might like it. It’s dark, or bleak. There’s inevitability and change. And, perhaps, a glimmer of hope.
Read Clio Velentza’s “In Wandering Mazes Lost” in issue 1.1 of Coffin Bell!