Thursday, October 1, 2015

#232 : Online Talk! In Conversation with Gabriel Valjan - WriterRoma,Underground


ME: What inspired you to write the Roma Series?

Roberto Saviano’s Gomorrah, reading about the Fiscal Crises of 2007 and 2008, and turning the concept of financial terrorism over and over in my imagination inspired Turning To Stone. I’ve always paid attention to the language used in the public forum. I never subscribed to the analyses  that American media outlets offered the public about the financial debacle. Watch the news and, on any topic, you will see that the news anchors use the same phrases verbatim. What are the odds that different people in different parts of the country will parrot the same words? 

While I was writing Turning To Stone, I was reading Graham Greene’s The Quiet American a second time; it’s a short novel that has a scene that prompted me to consult Greene’s memoir, Ways of Escape. Greene was in Saigon in 1952 for British intelligence. A bomb had gone off. In the novel, Greene makes it clear who planted the plastic explosive. In his memoir, he comments how convenient it was that a Life photographer happened to be at a strategic spot in order to photograph a gruesome image. The spin on the blame game that happened in 1952 isn’t what interested me; it was how the media had been used, in this case photojournalism, to facilitate propaganda and political disruption. The type of media may have changed, but the impetus to shape opinion has not.

ME: Your protagonist, Bianca Nerini (aka Alabaster Black), is mysterious and complicated. What intrigues you about her?

Bianca is a driven, intelligent, and guarded individual. Readers will learn in Corporate Citizen, the fifth installment of the Roma Series, why she is the way she is. I’m intrigued by the concept of intelligence, how it is often more than just ‘book smarts.’ Bianca sees disparate connections and patterns, which, in the wrong temperament, might suggest paranoia, but she is rigorous in her analyses. Seeing intelligence at work, unfold, is beautiful and difficult to write.

ME: What is your writing schedule?

I am disciplined. I write daily, and I constantly ask myself, Will this make the reader turn the page? In the first go, I try to get the story down. With the Roma Series, the characters are in my head and they have distinctive voices and quirks such that I can put them in situations and watch and record what happens. I do, however, make the characters evolve from one book to the next. My characters are flawed, but they are not dysfunctional; they care about each other because they live and work and are dependent on each other because it is a matter of life or death. I write in chunks and give them to my proofreader and make the corrections before I write further. I’ll print out those chunks and edit them on the weekends. I believe editing hard copy is crucial, like the final copy: the page is all that you have and it either works or it doesn’t. I’m quite ruthless in my editing. I have no problem killing my darlings. Then I revise, let it sit, rinse and repeat, with each novel going through several iterations before I hand it off to Winter Goose Publishing where the manuscript is read by two editors.

ME: Is there a specific ritualistic thing you do during your writing time?

I read passages, particularly dialogue, out loud to my two cats, Squeak and Squawk. They listen, make noises, and I pay them with treats. If you’re asking whether I do something eccentric, then there is one thing: I’m right-handed but I edit left-handed with hard copy; the switching to the non-dominant hand slows me down and makes me more attentive. Weird, I know, but it works.

ME: If you were stuck on a deserted island, which three books would you want with you?

I would take the following: Dante’s Divine Comedy; the complete plays and poetry of  Shakespeare, and Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey in one volume.

ME: Do you have any hobbies?

I enjoy physical fitness, particularly swimming, and playing guitar.

ME: If there is one thing you want readers to remember about you, what would it be?

I wrote to tell a story and I strove to improve myself with each new book. I value my readers, knowing that their time is precious and irreplaceable. I may not offer readers an escape, but I hope that, when they close my book, they think of questions that they had never thought to ask themselves or the world around them.


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