Interview with A. R. Deleanu, Romanian writer and friend

December 9, 2012 § Leave a comment

a.r.deleanu

A.R. Deleanu, or rather, Flavius Ardelean by his real name, is a Romanian author of short stories and more recently of a novel, Îmblânzitorul apelor, published earlier this year. In this book, the dark secrets of a family unfold as they float away in their  house taken by the flood (very few copies are still available here and the eBook can be found here). We can only hope it will be translated into English soon… He also has a non-fiction monthly column in Revista de Suspans. More information about his work can be found here and you can read two translated short stories here and here.

I am very proud to call myself his friend and because I have a lot of admiration for his dedication and his passion, I was very eager to ask him about his journey as a writer. He kindly agreed to satisfy my curiosity.

When you write… 

Laptop or notebook? Moleskine notebooks for the first drafts. Laptop for the later editing and rewriting.

Morning or evening? Evening. Morning is for reading.

Tea or Coffee? I love coffee, but avoid drinking it in the evenings, and, the evenings being my favourite time for writing, I don’t drink coffee while I’m writing. I usually don’t drink a lot of tea.

Alone or in public places? Alone, it has to be very quiet.

Schedule or no schedule? Not for short pieces, but yes for novels. One hour every day, but it’s been harder recently with the second novel. Getting the schedule right is one of the hardest things to do.

Character-driven or plot-driven? Character-driven for the novel. I didn’t intend it to be because it’s not autobiographical, but it’s good because novels should be character-driven. It’s tricky however, because it’s difficult to write in another voice than your own. Rather plot-driven for the short stories.

What are you most proud of about your novel?

The last five pages. The whole book builds towards these pages. And the fact that it sold out in three months.

If you had to translate the title of your novel into English, what would it be?

The Water Tamer.

Are there things you wish you could change about your novel now?

No. I’m not one hundred per cent happy with it, but it doesn’t mean I’d want it to be something else. It is what it is. It is the result of the time when I wrote it, and who I was at that time. Wanting it to be different would mean wanting to be different myself, so it would be a lie.

a-r-deleanu-imblanzitorul-apelor

How much of a say did you have in the book’s final aspect?

I chose the image on the cover. And they wanted to have my handwriting on it, so I wrote the title and the author. In terms of size, it’s the same as all the books of ‘Casa de Pariuri literare’ [the publisher] in their list of prose. I like this format.

Why this publishing house?

I chose this publishing house because I like it and I believe in it. It was founded in 2010. It’s very small, three to four people and they do it in their free time but they’ve still managed to publish forty-five titles so far. They’re the only publishing house I sent my manuscript to. I approached them in March of 2011, they replied in December. I had lost hope after four months but the editor eventually took my manuscript out of the pile by pure chance and liked it.

What do you look for when you write?

When it’s commissioned, the editor says what it should be about. For instance, the first anthology of zombies will be coming out soon in Romania so I wrote a piece about zombies. But mostly, I don’t look for anything, I am very much inspiration-driven. I never try to understand why I thought about something and I never question my ideas. There probably is a common denominator to all my writing, but I’m not truly aware of it. I would say my fiction is supernatural but not very straightforward. There is something more to our existence that we don’t see but can sometimes feel.

Do you have a source of inspiration or a model for the way you write?

Writing is a very lonely process, it screws you up. You start asking yourself a lot of questions that can affect your writing. I would say the most important thing for a young writer is to read a lot – you must read more than you write. I learned from every book I read; not necessarily consciously, but I was inspired by some of them. When I find a powerful voice, I can feel it creeping into my writing but I am very aware of it when that happens and I am very careful when it doesn’t sound like me. You can only find your voice if you read and write. If you’ve found it and you’re sure of it, you can do whatever you want. I like the fact that people recognise my prose even when they don’t know I’m the author. If I had to give a source of inspiration, I would say that Roberto Bolaño helped me with the way I write my prose.

I do have a list of ‘principles’ when I write, that I define before I start. But they’re technical, about the way it should be written. And I’m an outliner – I outline everything, the story, story arc, character development…

How long did it take you to write this book?

I don’t know… One year to write and a year, probably one year and a half to re-write. I wrote my first two drafts on paper. Hardly anyone does this anymore, it’s too much work. Ten people read it before I sent it to the publisher and he hardly edited it.

Did your reading throughout inform the writing process?

No. Some people don’t read while they write because they’re scared it might affect their voice; and it’s good that they don’t if they know they’re easily influenced. You shouldn’t copy something because you like it. You should only use it if you think it works for you and your work. But I don’t stop reading while I write.

What about the influence of other things you were writing at the same time?

I try not to write other pieces at the same time as my novels. That’s why I took a break from my new novel last month because I had to write other things. I get a bit obsessed with producing new pieces for my readers, but I need to stop.

For those who can’t read the novel because they’re not fortunate enough to understand Romanian, could you tell us about the message it is trying to convey?

I can tell you what it’s about, but I can’t tell you what the message is, because I don’t know what it is. I wrote the book in such a way that everyone can build their own meaning in it. I leave things open; it allows the reader to go much more into the story. But I’ve only had positive reviews for my novel so far and this concerns me.

Your book is quite dark. Why?

I think it is my role in this world to write like that. It would be irrational to try and stop it. It doesn’t mean I have a skull under my bed, but it does reflect my attitude towards life. I don’t know why. I have a predisposition for the darker side of things, but I’m a very nice guy, haha.

I enjoy making the reader feel uncomfortable but I’m not trying to be provocative. It makes me sad that people have preconceived ideas about some of the things in my work, they can’t separate the narrator from the author. But nothing and no one will ever stop me from writing what I write. And I am lucky because my family is very supportive of what I do. I’d be very happy being left alone but I have to publish what I write – it can’t stay in my head. Everything I’ve written has always been published, I’ve never had a publisher say ‘no’ to me. I’m a very fortunate writer. Even when I started, when I published some poems in 2003 – they were silly, but that’s how people start.

What got you writing in the first place?

Like most artists (the word is sometimes frowned at but it’s the definition of what I am), I feel that my soul doesn’t correspond to the world – and I need to find an explanation for that. Being an artist is a way of filling the gaps for some. For me, it’s turning excess feeling into a form; I feel more than the universe allows me to feel.

Why should people read your book?

They don’t have to read my book. There are a lot of great books out there. When they’re done with them, they can read my book.

~Images: courtesy of the author 

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