Interview with Spanish London based writer – Hugo Andres Gadea

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“Y entonces perdimos la inocencia. La madre y el hijo 1912-1920” By Hugo Andres Gadea

AWN: What inspired you to write the novel?

Since I was a child, I loved reading. I often remember myself with a book in my hands.  And I love history too, as I find it fascinating, especially European history.  I mostly read novels or books about history. Then, I studied Journalism at University and worked for two years as a journalist, where I also discovered my passion for writing. Although during my work in a newspaper and a press office, I had to write stories, reports and interviews about actual people and facts, in 2009 and 2011 I tried to combine my three passions –reading, history and writing, and I started my fictional novel, set in a real historical period: Europe from 1912 to 1920. While writing on my laptop, I used to save my work in a file called “Experimentos literarios” (Writing experiments) when I had not decided the title yet.

AWN: Summarise the novel in a few words for our readers.

My book tells the story of an English boy who dreams about travelling to America to start a new and prosperous life-loving mother and her two children.  They all see how fate will eventually link their lives in the turbulent years of World War I.

AWN: What inspired you to tell the story through the eyes of a son and mother?

I wrote a note to myself trying to evoke one of the closest kinds of relationship between two people: one that links a mother and a son. However, once you explore the story, the reader may discover that the title is not quite what it seems.

AWN: Why did you choose the title ?”Y entonces perdimos la inocencia.  La madre y el hijo?

World War I is the moment that changes the destiny of the world at the beginning of the 20th Century, and many of the conflicts and struggles that will come after are narrowly associated with what happened between 1914 and 1918. Those are the years when millions of young Europeans lost their innocence by being sent to fight. I wanted to show that turning point in European history through the experiences of the ordinary people.

AWN: Do young people know enough about their history?

I think on each generation there will always be children and teenagers who know a lot about their history and love studying it, and at the same time, there will be many other people, including adults, who are not so interested. As I mentioned before, I find history fascinating, but I also understand those who do not. Knowing history helps us most of the times. However, I genuinely believe that it is always much better not to know our history than knowing only a bit of it and trying to use the part that suits you for an immoral, purpose like some political groups have been attempting to do too often. Many conflicts are based on a misinterpretation of history. Remembering the past is always good if it helps us to improve our present and channel our future. Horrible, if it contributes to revive hatred and division.

AWN: Who was your favourite character in the novel?

All of them have their essential role in the, and for that reason, I have a particular fondness for all of them. Klaus, the German boy, reminds me myself, primarily when I was a kid and used to play football with my friends in a park and naively celebrate the goals as if we were winning the World Cup. Ingrid, the German mother, has her moments of reflection and shares a lot of ideas and ways of thinking with me. Wayne, the leading English character, represents the European generation of boys born in 1900 and who were deprived of their opportunity of choice.

AWN: Were any of the characters based on real people or events?
The main characters are not based on specific people, but they do represent people of that time. At the same time, as it is based on real events, like the shipwreck of the Titanic, the news of the assassination of Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, which detonated WWI, the war itself and the disputes in Germany after the war, we also can find some real historical characters there.

AWN: Is the story historical or a political novel?
I think it is just a novel set in a moment of critical historical changes but that, at the same time, tries to give the reader a fundamental idea of the futility of the war.

AWN: What feedback have you had about your novel?
I am always very excited when people tell me that they could not stop reading it, or that they missed their train station because they were utterly captivated by the story. As this is the first time I have written my own fictional story, it is special and very moving to hear that. Then, I also like when people mention to me a specific part they enjoyed very much or that they found curious. Overall, the impressions they gave me were very positive, and they all have encouraged me to keep writing a new story.

AWN: What did you do to publicise the novel?
I did it through a self-publishing website called Bubok, which started in Spain but I think it has now branches in the UK too. They gave me the opportunity of publishing my book and printing it on demand, without any extra cost, apart from the legal requirements, such as the ISBN and the bar-code. I did the editing part myself with the help of my parents, and a couple of friends lent me a hand with the design of the book cover.

AWN: If you had to imagine a newspaper to review your novel who would it be and have you had any high profile interviews?
To be honest, I have never thought about that. I feel very fortunate to have been interviewed by the newspapers in my town and also by the UNED (the Spanish Open University) through the student´s magazine in La Coruña. One of the most special interviews was made by the students of the Spanish Secondary School in London, the IES Cañada Blanch in Portobello.

AWN: Who inspires you as a writer?
When I read novels from marvellous writers, such as Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, probably my favourite one, or Tale of two cities by Dickens, I imagine myself one day writing something so emotional. Some of their quotes, characters, ideas, expressions are wonderful. Those kinds of authors make you love reading and, in my case, writing too.

AWN: Are there enough young Spanish writers?
I cannot answer that with certainty, but I can imagine that nowadays, as it is much more accessible than ever to publish a book, especially on the electronic formats which do not cost anything, more and more people decide to make their dreams come true of writing a story.

AWN: What’s next for Hugo Andres Gadea?
I have not decided on it yet. I had first thought about writing a story set in the years after WWII and the division of Berlin by the wall for 28 years (1961-1989). However, as some friends from Spain and I are currently doing historical research about an important event that took place in my hometown in 1810 – a shipwreck. There was an Anglo-Spanish fleet that had been sent to fight against the Napoleonic armies in the Northern coast of Spain and suffered the loss of several hundred lives, and I am becoming more and more interested in that period. In the last months, I have consulted original letters and ship´s logs from that time, 200 years ago, kept in the British National Archives, in Kew Gardens, and some other articles. It is fascinating, and a team project that is growing up day by day. For these reasons, I am thinking about writing a new fictional novel based on that story when we finish our research.

AWN: How disciplined are you when you write?
I wrote most of my novel while having a part-time job during my first year in London. It used to take me few hours revising and correcting what I had written the day before, so I started the new lines quite late each day. I remember finishing pages at around 2 or 3 in the morning, as I did not have to get up early the following day. There were days when I spent several hours in front of the computer writing and other days when I only did one or two paragraphs. In total, I could say that the writing part took me approximately a year and a half. However, behind all that there is always a long process of reading (both novels which inspired me and history books which helped me to build the story and the characters), consulting, researching, correcting, etc.

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