Q- Where do you live?
A- In Barcelona.
Q- How many books have you written?
A- Writing and publishing are, unfortunately, not synonymous. I’ve published seven technical texts in Spanish, ranging from fiber optics to lighting and light physics and, in collaboration with Lourdes Tantiñá, my ex-partner across the green baize and in life, three books on the card game, Bridge.
My first two fiction titles in English: Perfect Circle and Prisoner will be published by Bantam, a division of Random House, in 2008 and 2009 respectively.
In addition, I’ve written other thrillers: Letters from Judea; Moonshards, Bad Water, scores of other works and two short-story collections titled, The Folks Next Door I and II.
Q- What are you working on now?
A- Four thrillers: Cordova; Light Bondage; Rent-a-Friend and Symbiosis. Aftermath; a follow-up to Perfect Circle. The Spaniard’s Woman, an XVIII century historical saga with S J Thomas. Two non-fiction works: The Damn Book and The Path, and a short-story collection: The Christmas Tree.
I’m also translating, ‘Once upon a Madhouse’ and ‘Thus spoke Pepe García’ from Spanish into English.
Q- Do you have a recurring dream?
A- Yes. I’m traveling in a bus or underground train at dawn, surrounded by weary faces on their way to their grueling routines. One of my fellow travelers reaches a calloused hand to a holdall, rummages past his sandwich box, drags a dog-eared book, thumbs it to a folded page, opens it, and his face relaxes as it lights up like an alabaster statue with a lamp inside. Then I notice it’s one of my novels and I know the dear man’s day will be a tiny bit more bearable.
Q- How do you write?
A- First I dream up a plot, then I write scenes——a few lines each——up to 300 on average for a novel. Then I file the scenes under headings: exchanges, description, action, romance, etc. That’s my structure. Later I build character outlines, each in a separate file. I print the character names and roles in three lists: goodies, baddies and melee. After I’ve pinned my lists on a pegboard, I indulge on a cup of coffee with my wife or seek the cat’s company for a stroll in the backyard while I smoke a cigarette. It’s here where I analyze my mood. How do I feel? Lax? Adventurous? Raunchy? Angry? Sad?
Once the introspection is out of the way I carry the cat indoors, grab a scene that fits my mood and settle down to write.
For those of you with a masochistic bent I’ve expanded my writing habits in an article titled ‘How and why I write’ somewhere in this site.
By the way, you know what the sadist did to the masochist? Nothing.
Q- Why do you write?
A- To create images, music or prose with one’s fingers is often referred to as art, yet, although I’ve scrounged a living at one time or another from all three professions, I’m no artist. I’m a laborer. I write for the same reason others before me have packed a mule and gone prospecting instead of withering behind a desk. Yes, I know the lure of predictable morning-evening-night sequences stretching into the grave, and there’s nothing wrong with that, unless you suffer an itch.
I’m a simple man, with simpler tastes and a maddening drive to write——and fortunate to share my passion with an equally driven woman.
Q- Is it difficult to publish a fiction work?
A- Nothing could be simpler. First it’s advisable to write a novel with interesting plot and memorable characters. Then one must to rewrite, polish, edit and review the text a few times until it makes a little sense.
Since a single novel is difficult to market nowadays, the above procedure should be repeated a few times to get the hang of it, say five or six times. This is easily accomplished within a decade, give or take a few years.
Once the product is ready, the writer must convince a literary agent to abandon the cozy warmth of her home and hit the streets with the manuscripts tucked under her arm to embark on a pilgrimage of publishing houses.
Publishing houses are like investment bankers and will gladly purchase a product if they suspect there’s a chance of selling it for a little more than what they paid for it, the balance being the profit they need to keep doors open and presses churning.
When the agent has convinced an editor, and the editor cajoles the editorial team into coaxing the executive editor to raise the matter with the editor in chief and he or she is persuaded, the manuscript metamorphoses into a book on the shelves of bookshops and kiosks awaiting someone with the sense of humor to pay for it.
Piece of cake, really.
Q- What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
A- About writing none. There’s a vast industry catering to aspiring writers: books, seminars, conferences, workshops and thousands of counselors for hire out there.There is little I can add to that vast collection of knowledge.
The only piece of advice I could offer to anyone who has the itch to write is to determine before setting pen to paper if they want to create art or bricks.
I am fortunate to have a score of struggling writer friends, talented writers whose works would shame a considerable proportion of the books on any shelf. A few strive to produce art and the rest craft bricks. There’s nothing wrong in either endeavor, so long as the writer is aware of the implications.
Few things can be more subjective than art forms. Writing art is termed literature and, although I’ve read much, I know next to nothing about what separates it from indigestible prose. Carmen Balcells, the now retired dean of Spanish literary agents once told me that literary works could be very, very, boring, and I agree. Invest in the collected Nobel Prize winning works and have fun.
A few strive to create a gem of rare perfection and symmetry, to awe literati into raptures as they bask in its incomparable coruscations——even if nine out of ten of them will inwardly cringe. Corus... what? Others will ground meat and gristle, shape it into a patty and slap it between bun covers to feed the legions.
If we leave aside the dizzying heights of art, the market wants products; packaged and shaped to fulfill the particular needs of consumers. The writer thus becomes a scribe, a laborer within a system geared to consumer products and ruled by market forces. Publishing one’s work is then a simple exercise of having a viable product susceptible to be sold in sufficient quantities to offset its production costs, not unlike bricks, diapers or teabags.
A writer, any writer, may craft a masterpiece of pristine prose depicting breathtaking scenes and staged by larger-than-life characters. But if the market is indifferent or glutted or unprepared for the sweat and tears poured into the manuscript, no agent, editor, publisher or reader will touch it with a barge pole.
Q- Do you write everyday?
A- I could answer with another question: Do you scratch your itches everyday? But I don’t understand anything about political correctness or know if you have itches. I write in my study, in cars, buses, trains and aircraft. I write on sundry computers, on my PDA, on restaurant napkins, on the margins of books I’m reading and sometimes on scraps of paper I scrounge from a passerby.
I write like I breathe: to carry on living.
Q- Will you ever stop writing?
A- Undoubtedly yes, but I’ve crafted a cunning plan. I intend to get Charon, the ferryman, into maneuvering his punt without undue haste so I can take notes. If I can later convince the harpies to tell me their story I may be able to carry on writing in Hades.