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Interview with Author Francisco Díaz Vallardes

Soraya Fernández

Interview with Author Francisco Díaz Vallardes: “Writing for young people is so gratifying. I get to live out the adventures I had in my head when I was their age”

He came into the world of literature late, but with great success; making history with his first co-written novel online. After writing several books, he then championed young adult literature.

An adopted ‘La Linean’, he has become a pillar of young adult literature with more than 20 books under his belt. He has won several awards, among them, the XXV Edebé Prize for Children and Young Adults’ Literature for Tras la sombra del brujo (Behind the Wizard’s Shadow).

FRANCISCO DÍAZ VALLADARES WRITER

You made history with Pasiones Virtuales, the first book co-written online with another author. How was this marvellous adventure conceived?

It was a challenge. I contacted Rosa María González online and proposed that we write a novel together. At the time we didn’t know each other at all, we hadn’t even spoken on the phone. “Impossible”, that was her response. So, I sent her the first chapter and a rough draft of the second chapter via email, which I had stayed up all night writing. To me, the word “impossible” recharges my batteries.

Had you ever imagined becoming a writer?

No, not at all, but when I held the galley proofs of the novel in my hands, something stirred inside me. I liked seeing the story I had imagined in printed form. The next day, the second story started developing in my imagination.

Following that first experience, more works came to life… Of course. La barca del pan (The bread boat), El tañido del laud (The lute’s chime), which was later converted into La venganza de los museilines (The museilines’ revenge)

And then, your great triumph, young adult literature…

Yes. That’s when I started feeling comfortable and was becoming known for my writing. Writing for youngsters is very gratifying. It allows me to live out the adventures I had in my head when I was their age.

How many books have you written for this age group?

Around twenty.

How do you achieve such a connection with this demanding demographic?

I put myself in their shoes. I tap into their mindsets and think of someone writing for me. It doesn’t take much effort either because I’m still a little boy inside who, when he sits down in front of his computer every morning, sees the reader reflected in what he’s reading and writing. I hate the word mature! It reminds me of the past, of something that is about to fall to the ground only to be stamped into the ground. I like the green, the living, what is yet to blossom.

What subjects do you go into to captivate them?

FRANCISCO DÍAZ VALLADARES quique y los caballeros de negro

What I believe everyone in the world likes at that age: love, adventure, intrigue…I aim to write in a way where every chapter ends in a way that makes you want to read the next.

Many surveys and studies have highlighted young people’s lack of interest in reading in the digital era. Do you believe this to be true?

No. But I do think that there is little incentive for young people to read. There is a lack of literary initiatives that show readers that books are an enjoyable path to explore, not a wall to jump over.

For example, the Provincial Council of Seville, has been running a program called “El placer de leer” (The pleasure of reading) for many years in order to bring the love of reading to towns with less than 50.000 inhabitants. Various Andalusian authors collaborate with this initiative and it works really well.

I understand that you participate in numerous activities to promote reading all over Spain.

FRANCISCO DÍAZ VALLADARES

Yes. This September I’m packing my suitcase and won’t unpack until May. Badajoz, Cáceres, Mérida, Don Benito, Miajadas, Bilbao, Vitoria, Alicante, Valencia, Murcia, Tomelloso, Cádiz, Jerez, Huelva, Algeciras… that’s just an example of the last course. You can’t imagine what it means to an author to stand in front of the eyes that have read your novel.

What sparks the most curiosity during these events?

Putting a face to the author of a book they have read, discovering that it is someone made of flesh and blood, not an alien. How novels form in the mind of an author, whether we follow a certain routine, whether we have certain eccenticities, what authors we look up to…

Have you ever been asked difficult questions, or ones you did not know how to answer?

There have been a lot of compromising questions, yes. But I always respond. Are you in love? How old are you? A frequent one: Do you believe in God? When I immediately answer yes, they are surprised, as if all writers are meant to be atheists.

You have amassed several major awards. What do they mean to you?

They are an important incentive. They confirm that I’m doing something right and shows me that that people value my work. The last one that I was awarded, the “Fray Martín Sarmiento”, in Galician, gave me great satisfaction because it was given to me by the students of Galicia, who decided that Tras la sombra del brujo deserved the prize – and there is no better jury than that.

What are you working on now?

I am about to finish a short young adult fantasy novel and I’m going over one for adults that I finished last year. It’s a dark subgenre: mystery, crime…

A traditional or digital book?

Always traditional; like me. I don’t have WhatsApp, nor a tablet, nor a Kindle. All I need is a chair, good-enough lighting, calm and fingers to turn the pages.

Is your heart divided between Huelva and La Línea de la Concepción? Do you come to La Línea a lot or would you like to spend more time here?

My heart is always with me. I was born in Villamanrique and when I was two, they brought me to Pilas. Later Sevilla, Barcelona, Murcia, Madrid, the United States, Jordan… La Línea has taken me in for thirty years, so it occupies a special place in my heart where I guard the things that are most important to me.

Interview with Author Francisco Díaz Vallardes: “Writing for young people is so gratifying. I get to live out the adventures I had in my head when I was their age”

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