Juan Pablo Villalobos fascinates readers from around the world with his story Down the Rabbit Hole. Written in the most fresh and authentic style I’ve encountered in a long time, the book is considered one of the best debuts of the last few years. Invited by Curtea Veche publishing house, the creator of Tochtli recently visited Romania for the first time and officially launched his book with a series of events which took place in Bucharest and Timișoara. With one of these occasions, the Mexican writer exclusively answered a few questions for LaRevista.ro.
Do you like this kind of gatherings, do they make you feel good?
Yes, it feels good being among people. A writer has to write and that’s it. But, at the same time, it’s important to do readings and meetings with readers. There are so many books published and it’s important to try to promote your own work. It’s a matter of marketing and you can’t avoid it. Writing is such a lonely activity. These events represent an opportunity to have a direct contact with the readers and to feel that my work is also social, and not that it is staying at home, alone, where nobody can see it and observe it.
But all these promoting activities, don’t they break your writing rhythm?
That’s true, yes. For example, one month ago I started to write my third novel and I wrote like 20 pages, and then I had to stop, because I have these trips. Now it will be very difficult for me to get back to my work. Obviously, I don’t know if these 20 pages that I’ve written will still be good in my perception now, I don’t know if I will believe in them after this time.
Once you start writing, do you do it easily?
It depends on my mood. I need time; I like to write really early in the morning, 5 o’clock is a perfect time for me to start. I make myself some coffee with milk and some toasts… So, for the creative process I use these first four or five hours of the day. I write until noon, and in the afternoon I write other kind of texts – for magazines or newspapers – and I correct and edit what I did in the morning.
How do you explain the success of your book?
I think it’s the boy, the child that makes people curious. And I had really good luck with the translators, because all the interest in the book is this particular voice, the style. At least the translations that I read – because I can read Portugese, French and English – are really good. I think translators are a kind of writers too, they need a very good sense of the language to feel all the meanings of the text they’re working on. I was really lucky from this point of view.
When did you first have the feeling that what you write really matters?
I’m not sure until now. I think reading is like writing, it’s a lonely activity that sometimes becomes social. Thanks to this novel, I was able to travel a lot and meet so many people from different countries, have talks about Tochtli, about the violence in Mexico, about growing up in this kind of circumstances. But I don’t know if I can say that I’m contributing to the change of something or someone. As a writer I am happy to talk to the readers. They also have very pertinent questions to ask about society and it’s also a way of thinking about new decisions that have to be made.
How much do you think about the reader when you write?
I don’t think about the reader at all. If you start thinking about the reader, the only thing you will get will be a total block. It’s impossible to write while you think about a particular or general reader. The most important thing for a person who creates stories is the freedom to write them. So while you write them, you don’t think about the other part, who completes this process of communication. Not until the book is finished. When you have the first final version, maybe you can think about a strategy, about how the voice and the characters of the book may reach the readers. Then, it’s not just you, it’s also the publisher who will tell you the things you have to know about the readers, because he is the one who mainly thinks about them and has a different perspective.
Why do you write?
I write, first of all, because I love literature, I’m a great reader. And second, because I really think that art, in general, and especially literature, is a strategy of survival in the world. It isn’t just about creating in this world, it’s about being in this world, it’s about your position and your own perception in this world. I exist through writing.
How important is innocence in people’s lives?
I think life is about losing innocence. It’s sad, but it’s true. Growing up and being mature is a way of losing innocence. And maybe that’s why I like this kind of literature which talks about serious things without being serious, but by being humouristic. For me, writing in this style is like a childhood experience; it’s like going back and trying to see the world through the eyes of a child. It’s a fresh, new and authentic vision. Innocence is one of the most important subjects in my books.
On a personal level, do you feel more connected to your adult or to your child side?
It depends on many things. But in the creative process I feel strongly connected to my childish side. And I guess that people who read my books feel that too, and maybe they get the chance to remember how life looked like when they were children.
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Special thanks to Mrs.Miruna Meiroșu, PR Manager of Curtea Veche publishing house, for her support in the making of this interview.Semnat de Corina Stoica