BackStory: Five Questions with Clio Velentza
Author of The Convert
What inspired you to write this piece?
The word ‘convert’. I had been turning it over in my mind for more than a year, looking for the story in it. Eventually I decided to write around it instead of through it, and let the word stand on its own.
If you had to assign a date to your piece, in when would it be set?
While writing it I had in mind the late middle ages in southwestern central Europe or northern Italy. But when it comes to this particular piece, the murkier the date, the better. Unlike my other historical writing that included piles of research, “The Convert” remains ambiguous. It’s the fiction equivalent of that small, dark undated painting that your aunt has set aside to throw out, and you keep it, clean it, set it on your bookshelf and stare at it with inexplicable fascination.
What, if anything, do you have in common with your main character?
My call-of-the-void urge to step into a bog and see what happens.
What do you like most about writing flash (or prose poetry, or hybrid work)?
There is a moment while writing flash when it suddenly stops being a string of words and it becomes a predestined path, and you see everything clearly for the first time and you wonder how you could possibly not have known that this is what it was all about, and it makes sense, and for a split second the world too makes sense.
How important is historical accuracy to you in your own writing?
Very important when it comes to the immediate environment of my characters: technology, fashion, food, architecture, art, flora and fauna, climate. But for me, historical accuracy stops after building the scenery. Generally in my work the story takes place far from major historical goings-on and personalities. I never felt the need to write fiction that takes place in the definition of history as events or discoveries that signal change. A large part of the past is those uncategorized gaps that form a continuation of everyday life. This is the side of the past that I feel drawn to as a writer. If I choose a time or a place other than my own as a setting, it is because I believe that those circumstances will help bring out themes in the story or the characters that are vital to me.
Clio Velentza lives in Athens, Greece, and is a winner of “Best Small Fictions 2016”, a Pushcart nominee, and has been longlisted for Wigleaf’s Top 50 2018. Her work has appeared in several literary journals, and she’s currently working on a novel. Find her on Twitter at @clio_v and on tumblr at legionofwildthoughts.tumblr.com/.