July 22, 2009 / 8:14 AM / 10 years ago

Book Talk: Spain's Carlos Ruiz Zafon just wants to write

SYDNEY (Reuters Life!) - Spanish novelist Carlos Ruiz Zafon said the success of his first adult novel was overwhelming, leading to several years of travel and little else, but now he’s back to what he does best — writing.

“The Shadow of the Wind” has sold more than 12 million copies in 50 countries since 2001, making Zafon one of the most successful contemporary Spanish writers and his book supposedly the second biggest-selling Spanish book after Don Quixote.

But it is only now that Zafon, 44, has released his second novel in English, “The Angel’s Game,” a prequel to “The Shadow of the Wind” which is set in Barcelona in the 1920s and follows a young writer approached by a mysterious figure to write a book.

Both of his books have been translated by Lucia Graves, the daughter of poet Robert Graves.

He spoke to Reuters about his two adult novels that followed four young adult novels written when he was a script writer in Los Angeles:

Q: There’s a long gap between books. Why is that?

A: “When I finish a book I take about a year off and I have been doing this for many years. At the end of that year “The Shadow of the Wind” started to be a success. At the time I had agreed to go to some places to help promote the book. My life became mortgaged for two or three years and I was traveling for the book, talking rather than writing. But at some point I had to put an end to it. It got out of control. I’m a writer not a talker.”

Q: Was it hard to go back to writing after such a break?

A: “Not really. I went back to work after four years of not doing what I am supposed to be doing. My books take some time as they are complicated. I had two years to write and two years for publication. But I think I learned my lesson. At the time I did not foresee that trips would overlap which each other. I do not want that to happen ever again.”

Q: Can you balance promotion and writing more?

A: “I am going to be much more selective. I am a novelist. I write fiction and that is what I do well. To go out there and present my work is not what I am best at doing.”

Q: Are the novels still part of a four-book series?

A: “Yes. At the time I thought it would be interesting to write four stories that are interconnected but not necessarily in a sequential way. They are standalone stories. My idea was that a reader could read one or all and it would be some kind of Chinese box of fiction. At first I thought I could do it all in one book but it would be a monster book and I realized the right way would be to do one book at a time.”

Q: Will the third book in the series be your next project?

A: “I am not sure yet. I am still considering three possibilities — one is the third book and there are other ideas that intrigue me as well. I will let the idea hit me rather than the other way around. I always let it work that way around.”

Q: Would you go back to young adult fiction?

A: “I always thought that genre was kind of an accident and not my natural register. My first novel in 1992 was published as a young adult novel and it opened a way, so I stayed in that genre for three more novels. Years later I realized I was not writing the fiction I really wanted to write. I needed to break the shell. I was pretending to be something I am not.”

Q: “Shadow” has been called the second biggest selling book since 17th century Don Quixote. Does that pressure you?

A: “That is one of the quotes that publishers love but it simply impossible to quantify. We don’t really know now many copies of Don Quixote were printed or distributed. “Shadow of the Wind” was my fifth novel and I had never had that success before but by that time I had developed a perspective and it didn’t really change me much. It changes the way people feel they have to react to you. Of course I am happy my work is appreciated.”

Q: Any advice for aspiring writers?

A: “Each writer is different but what is important is that people who want to be writers have to make tough decisions. Young writers have to be aware of the realities of what they are stepping into and need some persistence and faith in themselves because the world is not going to provide those things. You have to work very hard. People think it is about inspiration and it will flow, but you have to take the job seriously and learn your craft.”

Editing by Miral Fahmy

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