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He became a cult bestseller with The Shadow Of The Wind. Now Spanish writer Carlos Ruiz Zafón is back with a prequel, The Angel’s Game. He talks about the influence of Dickens on his work and his debt to the ’70s school of American cinema.
Anne Sexton, 10 Jul 2009
For an author success comes with its own set of problems. If your previous novel is to adult readers what Harry Potter was to pre-teens, there’s an awful lot of expectations and hope riding on you as you sit down to pen your follow up. Such is the case with Carlos Ruiz Zafón. His first book for adults, The Shadow Of The Wind, wasn’t just a commercial success – his readers loved it and were more than a bit anxious for Zafón’s next instalment.
Writing the follow up, Zafón acknowledges that he felt the pressure, but he says, “Every time you finish a book, you feel pressure. You may be aware of the expectations but I think there’s a danger in trying to surrender to those, because then you’re condescending to the readers, trying to second-guess them. You have an idea of the story you want to tell, of the book you want to write, and you hope people enjoy it. Luckily working on a book is complicated enough so you forget about those things.”
Fortunately for his fans, The Angel’s Game doesn’t stray from the territory that made Shadow such a success. We’re back in the magic realist Barcelona of the Sampere & Sons bookshop and the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. Set in Spain in the 1920s The Angel’s Game is a sort of prequel to Shadow but, says Zafón, it’s not a companion piece.
“This is part of a cycle of four novels which are interconnected. They are not necessarily sequential stories, they are standalone stories, but they share some common threads and they all intersect at the Cemetery of Forgotten Books.”
Like Shadow, The Angel’s Game uses many different genres – gothic horror, magic realism, fable, romance and mystery to name a few.
“It is difficult to use many different registers and techniques trying to get them to work together, but that’s part of the challenge because these are books about storytelling, about books, about writing, about reading, about the very nature of the process of storytelling and it’s interesting to play with all these different elements. I think anything that deviates from the normal, from everyday things, trying to create a dream world that seems coherent and believable takes hard work and it’s complicated, but that’s part of what I find interesting about writing – trying to challenge yourself.”