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The protagonist of THE ANGEL'S GAME is a novelist named David Martin. Does David share anything in common with you as an author?
I suppose he does. He shares quite a few things with me. In many ways, all the characters you create have a little or a lot of you. They're your creatures and come from your mind, like it or not. That said, there are notable differences. I would say David is perhaps a distant and extreme version of my younger self, or somebody I could have become under other circumstances. I believe each one of us holds many different possible “versions” of ourselves and we end up being one or another by our choices and our circumstances. In general terms I think it is tempting to believe that when a novel is told in the first person by a character that character is in fact an alter ego for the author. That notion can be extremely deceiving. I think that what really reveals things about the author is not the obvious elements in the story, but the way it is told, how the language is articulated, how the images and emotions are shaped, how the structure and the style is designed. Reading a novel is like spending a vacation on the author’s mind. If you know what to look for, you can see a lot.
On a similar note, Great Expectations is David’s favorite novel growing up. Is that a personal favorite and/or has Dickens inspired your fiction in any way?
Dickens is a big personal favorite and he's certainly been a huge inspiration and remains one. One of the things I like to do in this series of novels set around the cemetery of forgotten books is to play around with literary references and of course Dickens provides plenty of great opportunities and expectations in that sense. Any writer, regardless of genre, taste or inclination has a lot to learn from Charles Dickens.
Your love of books and the bookselling world that fans will remember from THE SHADOW OF THE WIND resurfaces in THE ANGEL'S GAME. Readers will again visit the Cemetery of Forgotten Books and the wonderful Sempere & Sons bookstore. Was there a particular place or person in your life who first inspired your passion for reading and literature?
Wouldn't it be wonderful to say, yes? Unfortunately, that is not the case. Whatever passion I have for reading and literature developed on its own. Since I can remember I've been fascinated by books and storytelling. I started reading and writing as a very young child. I was always fascinated by the process of how stories where constructed and told. The notion that you could create world, characters, adventures, places with just ink and paper seemed like magic to me. I think it is something that came with my factory settings rather than something inspired by my early environment.
When David signs on to write for Andreas Corelli's publishing company, it is implied that he's making a deal with the devil. Were you trying to say something profound about art and commerce with this character or just having some fun at your publisher's expense?
Faustian tales allow us to explore many themes, from greed, fear, hope to the very essence of our nature, our moral choices and the kind of people we become by our own doing. I'm not interested in preaching or making "profound" speeches in fiction (I don’t think they work or provide anything of value to the reader). I think literature is an art of results, not intentions or pretensions. I'd rather invite the reader to reconsider things, to open a dialogue with the characters about issues that affect us all because they’re at the center of what it is to be human. There're certainly many references to the subject of art, commerce and all that surrounds that fragile equation in the novel, but my main goal is to provide an entertaining, moving and interesting story for the reader that will also open doors to questions and possibilities.
THE ANGEL'S GAME takes place in the early part of the century in Barcelona and, as with SHADOW, the city of Barcelona becomes a character itself in the story. What is it about your native city that makes it such a perfect setting for your books?
I'm not sure if it is something about the city itself or it is something that comes from the treatment and the stylization that these novels try to pull. I believe any place can be interesting if you approach it with skill and craft and try to make it work on purely literary terms. When it comes to storytelling, my belief it that it is never about the subject matter, it is all about execution. I use Barcelona because I was born and raised there, and I wanted to contribute my own take to it.
Many of your fans are mystery readers. Are there particular crime writers you look to for inspiration in terms of creating suspense and mystery in your fiction?
I am convinced a lot of the best professional writing in the last two decades has happened outside the confines of so-called "literary fiction", and quite a lot of it can be found on the mystery/thriller shelves. I'm very interested in crime fiction, and I'm a fan of writers like Raymond Chandler, James L.Cain and the classic noir authors as well as many contemporary and excellent writers such as George Pelecanos, Dennis Lehane, Michael Connelly and many others. It is field blessed with brilliant and powerful voices.
You spend roughly half your time in Barcelona and half in Los Angeles. Do you write in both places or only in Barcelona? Would you ever consider setting one of your novels in America?
I've written most of my books in California over the years, and I've found I am much more productive there. I used to live in America for most of the year and now, mostly due to family reasons, I have to spend much more time in Europe than I do here, so I write where I can, be that Barcelona, Berlin, L.A or anywhere in between. I see this country as my home as well, and I'd love to set one my stories here, of course. As a matter of fact, of the six novels I've published to date, only three take place in Barcelona or Spain and only one has been written entirely in Barcelona (my very first one, published in 1993).
What's next for you?
Usually I take some time off writing after I finish a novel. Or my brain does and refuses to get back to work until he decides it is time to do so. Right now I'm considering several ideas about what's the next project. I believe I'll be back in the saddle by the fall provided the gray cells upstairs are game.