Saturday, November 28, 2009

Regreso al Madrid

This past week I spent two delightful days doing press interviews in Madrid. My hosts at Alfaguara (chiefly in the persons of Rosa Junquera and her colleague Alejandro Aliaga) were wonderful, and looked after me like an old friend. It was also delightful to meet María Fernandez Soto, who translated Zoia’s Gold for Alfaguara a few years ago, as well as The Einstein Girl more recently. It turns out she is writing a novel herself, which may account for the beauty of her prose, which I have heard widely praised. As a writer, if you are lucky enough to have a good translator in a foreign tongue, it is a very desirable thing to keep them, not least because you will enjoy continuity of style and voice (which are theirs, after all, and no longer really yours). She told me about some of the particular challenges involved in turning English literary fiction into Spanish literary fiction, which I found quite fascinating. All the decisions about style, voice and tense that a writer makes have subtly different ramifications in different languages, so I am beginning to learn.

The effect on press coverage has been excellent. The interviews given to the press agencies in particular have been syndicated all over Spain and Latin America, and there have been features in the national press - occasionally accompanied by photographs of me looking tired (I was) and jowly. There have also been radio features all over the place, including this one on the national RTVE network. Although the item itself is in Spanish, the entire interview (with the utterly charming Eva Cruz) is also downloadable and is in English. You can hear both broadcast and interview here:

Friday, November 20, 2009

Down among the book stacks

Literary festivals, library events and reading programmes are a novelty for me, but I've been invited to a number of them since The Einstein Girl was published. In October I did a quick spot at the Calderdale Readers' and Writers' Festival in Halifax; and earlier this month I spoke at a similar event in Fulham Library, which is just a mile or two from home. I was a little apprehensive about both events, having little or no idea what I should talk about, but I've hit upon quite a good strategy which so far has produced lively results.

It is standard practice to do a quick reading from the latest book; so I start with that. Then I describe very briefly my writing career, the who, the what, the when. This takes five minutes. Then I throw open the floor to questions.

This is, I will admit, a little risky. People at first can be quite shy. There can be some long pauses before someone pipes up; so I warn the organisers beforehand so that they can step in with a question if need be. So far, though, that hasn't be necessary. Once the questions start, they don't stop. On both occasions so far I have been impressed (and a little humbled) at just how interested people are in the whole publishing business. Many, of course, are writing themselves. It seems if you are prepared to be open and candid about your own experience - the lows as well as the highs - the curiosity only seems to deepen. A few jokes don't hurt either.

Next week I am off to Madrid, where Santillana have lined up 14 press interviews to coincide with the launch of the Spanish edition. Years ago, when I covered southern Europe for a magazine, Madrid was almost my second home. I loved it there. But I discovered the other day, to my amazement, that my last visit was in 1994. I think it is going to feel quite strange going back, either because things have changed, or because they haven't. I can hardly wait.