Author: Jorge Sánchez López
Book Title: “Dry Ice”
Publisher : Club Lighthouse Publishing
How did you feel after completing the novel?
It was my first approach to crime and drama writing, so I felt satisfied that I’d been able to complete the story after having to erase a lot of pages and restructure it. It was only after several layers that the story started to emerge. Being in the middle of the pandemic at home and having spent one year writing this short novel despite its bare 170 pages, I had two ideas on my mind: write another one in first person with a different setting, and translating “Dry Ice”. This way I realised that I want to experiment with different voices, narrators, languages and settings, even though some might be more successful than others. What happened next was that my other novella, soon to be translated as “Deep Into the Heathen Forest”, was released before as “Nunca debiste atravesar esos parajes” in Spanish and started to sell, so the publications risked overlapping. In the end, I rejected offers to publish Dry Ice (“Hielo seco” in Spanish) and decided that this one would be an international project, but it was tough to find a traditional Publisher until I came across an American one called Clublighthouse Publishing, whose editors, Terrie and James, are based Ontario and New York respectively. Suddenly, I had a lot of paths to choose.
What was your motive to write this novel?
After trying poetry and short stories with relative success, I was sure I wanted to write novels. Crime, mystery and drama were areas where I could include all the topics and elements that had made me start to write: social analysis and criticism, justice, feelings and relationships, action, a poetic sensibility and double meaning in order to let the reader think deeply.
So everything started when I started making jokes about setting a book in a holiday resort I was visiting on the east coast of Spain, which eventually happened as soon as I came back.
How long does it take you to write a book?
I can spend around one year to get the final version, after a lot of style and technical corrections, plus the time spent editing it again with publishers. It is true that being at home during the lockdown, three months could be equivalent to six, and in that time I was able to complete the first draft of one book.
I have an unpublished book that has taken me around 10 months in the drawer, waiting its opportunity for next year. Who knows if it might suffer new modifications too?
Why do you think it is convenient to write in the English language instead of Spanish?
I read English studies, so what I do is to write the novel first in my mother tongue, Spanish, and then self-translate it. In the case of “Dry Ice” Terrie made some final changes to make it sound more natural to native speakers. We both followed American speech. It is true that it can be surprising when you write a poem in English and then do the opposite translation process. The results are fresh and different.
What are the struggles or phases a writer goes through when he or she writes a novel?
The initial idea might be great, but this notion that we have some spark of inspiration and this makes us produce a masterpiece from nowhere turns out to be false. There is a process of planning, documentation, reading other authors that end up being reflected, rewriting and reflecting. I can spend several days visually creating the story in my head before writing anything, until I have the time and disposition to make it happen. Other days I take notes or write, or all the three.
Then, once written there comes the most difficult part: to make publishers become interested in it, to produce it, to negotiate conditions, distribute it and promote it through events. I have made a tour around bookstores with “Nunca debiste atravesar esos parajes” that is comparable to that of musicians, spending a lot of my time on it. On top of that, international distribution and promotion is even crazier, as it involves contacting a lot of people to cooperate with them, including other artists, youtubers, journalists and radio broadcasters. I am even engaged in a podcast with criminal lawyers. You have to be creative and explore your own options at this stage.
Tell us about the plot
Well, this novel arises from I question I asked myself: What happens when the truth cannot be determined, when nobody can say if there’s been a murder or manslaughter, suicide, an accident, business negligence or a combination of various of these options? So I created a situation: a woman is found dead in a spa where she’d gone with her husband, and then everyone can become a suspect, from friends and relatives to the resort owner, tourists or strangers. In the background there are issues such as human trafficking, corruption, illness, immigration and fraud. But the deepest layer explores the real topic: freedom, the sense of life and death, spirituality and ethic, and how relative all these can be.
Any person whose name you wanna take. Who had poked you to be a writer.
The book comes with a long thank you note, which surprisingly was placed at the beginning. These include a teacher, Ray, who helped me with the method to organise it, as well as fellow writers and relatives. I would also mention my parents, it is essential to be encouraged by your closest people to believe you can do it. I remember a writer from my neighbourhood, called José Antonio, who reminded my Forest Gump’s quote: “A dumb person is the one who makes dumb things”. Then, you can write if you devote yourself to it.
I also had a greatgrandfather called Pablo who is said to have written some pieces, from whom I only have some information and facts.
Which one is your favourite character of your novel? And why?
Inspector José Almanzor, from Dry Ice, because he’s so different from me and at the same time it has some similarities. He’s bolder and more observant than me, but ironic and sarcastic. It is really based on a Crime Psychology professor I once had, called Manuel, who cooperated with the Civil Guard in Spain to try to catch a serial killer. But it is also true that other characters, like Colombians Daniela and Edith, are also very realistic, according to my tutor for this novel. I am good at depicting women and teenagers.
From “Nunca debiste atravesar esos parajes”, the protagonist, Heather Parsons, is the one I’m most satisfied with, as it is going to be a saga of which I’m already drafting the second part. She’s apparently tough but anxious, she loves animals and is an intelligent and curious woman. If I have the urge to make several books using her, it’s because she’s human and not a stereotypical type.
What do you think makes a good story?
When you have a sense or art, you combine police research with individual realities, so that it is not a cold story. You must keep a balance between tension and depth, narration and dialogue. It is necessary fori it to be thought-provoking, and the perspective must be original even if the topic is old. The characters are required to be complex and develop throughout the story. Moreover, the writer needs to choose the right tone: sad, serious, comic, philosophical or romantic, or dosify a mixture of these elements.
As an artist, he or she has to have influences, from classical to modern, these authors that pervade the text and that are upgraded through his or her voice. And finally, a decision must be made regarding the genre, if the book is going to play with blurry limits between them or be part of pure one. The same can be said about subgenres. Some of my works borrow small elements from horror, or even from legends (even though I am not a fan of the fantasy genre, I can take legends, dreams or hallucinations that make it more surprising, but only in small doses). For example, the romantic and erotic genres have a place in “Dry Ice”, as has social and dirty realism.
Any message you wanna give to your Indian readers.
For me, it is a great pleasure to reach new readers from India. It’s quite positive that muticulturalism can progress through literature and the internet. In the end, we share the English language, which makes it possible to communicate. I hope to speak with people from this country and discover great Indian artists too. I really feel as if I have been fostered as an author and rediscovered, and this makes me grow at a personal level. Asmita has been very kind!
I like Indian food, such as chicken makhani or curried rice. I am also keen on the book “A Passage to India”, from British author E.M. Forster, and on Indian poetry, specially Tagore.