Iván Baeza. Author.
Iván Baeza (Madrid, 1977) obtained the III Ákaba Beach Prize with his first novel And the land moved under them (2017). He has published the poetry book for two voices Saying “I love you” (2018) with the poet, writer and editor Noemí Trujillo. Besides, he has participated in more than twenty anthologies between poetry and story and in the magazine of literary creation Other Words. It is also part of the poetry book Introduction to White (2019).
Currently, he has just published Everything we will not have with Larrad Ediciones, a novel that delves into the deepest prisms of the characters to transport us to a narrative located in the bosom of a family in the Spain of the 30s.
CR: Iván, you have written Everything we will not have with Larrad Ediciones, your last narrative book, but previously you had already published other works. What does this latest publication represent in your literary work?
IB: For me, this novel has meant great growth as a writer. Everything we will not have presents a very elaborate plot with characters full of reality that grow as the story unfolds.
Time and experience make us more demanding with ourselves and with what we do, and I think that can be seen in this novel. I would say that so far it is my most mature literary work.
CR: As a writer, what challenges have you encountered, regarding the lyric, when facing the writing of Everything we will not have (Larrad Ediciones)?
IB: The creative process of poetry is completely different from that of the narrative. For me, poetry is the most direct and sincere way that an author has to express feelings, I think it is much more intimate, and it arrives and takes shape like a flash. The narrative, and in this case the novel, is something much more complex, it has a longer creative process in which you have to develop a plot and put yourself in the place of your characters, take them by the hand and walk with them the path of that story that boils in your head. Perhaps this is the greatest challenge regarding poetry.
Anyway, my way of writing always has a certain poetic touch. I think that anything can be beautifully told and that always enriches the work.
CR: If you had to define your last book with one word, what word would you do it with? Tell us, why?
IB: Secrets. In this story, all the characters keep secrets: hidden passions, family intrigues, past makeup, a supernatural gift, deaths that weigh on consciences, mysterious appearances, a hidden fortune, thirst for revenge …, some secrets that will become the axes of the different plots that intersect until reaching the dizzying outcome.
CR: In this novel, we have the Castrillo family as the central axis and everything revolves around them. What would you highlight about these characters that give life to the story?
IB: The real protagonists of All we will not have are the women: the Castrillo sisters and two of their maids. These will be brave women ahead of their time who will have to fight to get ahead in an adverse world. Throughout the novel they will have to give up many things, hence “Everything we will not have”, but they will not stop trying to achieve happiness.
CR: As you say, in the story more importance is given to female characters, with which character of all of them would you write another novel? Why?
IB: I think with Agnes Castrillo. She is one of the characters that evolves the most throughout the novel, she begins as a girl in the first part that happens in 1930 and becomes a woman in the second part that develops in 1936. I like the complex characters that they evolve and grow. Another thing that I love about Agnes is that she has a special gift, which they call grace, and that allows her to maintain a very beautiful relationship with animals. Agnes will be able to heal with her hands and see the future in the eyes of the dying but paying a high price for it. Throughout history, she will have to accept her gift to help herself and others.
Also, for me, it is special because I was inspired by my great-grandmother Julia to bring it to life. The scene with which the novel begins is based on the story my father told me about how his grandmother’s family discovered that her grandmother had grace in her hands.
CR: Explain to us which moments in the book do you think might catch the attention of the readers? What topic would you highlight from the whole story you are telling us?
IB: The novel has a powerful emotional charge but it is still an intriguing novel in which all the characters keep secrets that will be revealed little by little with important plot twists throughout the story. In this novel, nothing is what it seems, neither the good ones are so good, nor the bad ones so bad. I like the characters that walk on a tightrope, those that we can love in some moments and hate in others. It seems to me that they are the most real. And I think that where the reader will enjoy the most will be in the moments of great tension that surround the murders and in the most passionate scenes.
With this novel, she wanted to talk about what a human being is capable of doing to be happy or to achieve what she thinks will make her happy.CR: What type of reader would you recommend reading your novel? Why?
IB: Anyone looking for an intriguing novel with an agile rhythm and high doses of passion. Even more, if you are attracted to such an interesting time as the 30s of our history.
CR: We located the novel in 1936, in the 1930s, as you say, what made you choose this period in the history of Spain to narrate your novel? What gave you the most work when documenting the novel?
IB: When I started working on the novel before writing it, I realized that, for what was happening in the devastating final scene to be credible and could go unnoticed by the authorities, something much more terrible and powerful. After much thought, I decided that it would be a good option the day the Civil War broke out. So the novel ends on July 18, 1936.
Temporarily locating a novel in a time that is not yours involves significant documentation work. I had to read a lot about Madrid at the time and some of the historical figures that are spoken of. All the elements referred to are contrasted, from street names, tram lines and stops, premieres of operettas, couplets, art, porcelain, the location of Casa Austin and a long etcetera. The previous documentation work was long but it also gave me a lot of satisfaction.
CR: Regarding the previous question, do you think that the axis of the narrated story would change a lot if it were located in a current Spain?
IB: The novel talks about universal emotions and feelings, and that’s why I always thought that it could be located at any historical moment, even in present-day Spain. But when I started writing it, I realized that the chosen temporary location had been a success because it allowed me to talk more easily about some of the themes that were present in the work, such as the class struggle or the relations between maids and ladies. In any case, the axis of the story would have been similar if it had been developed today, luckily or unfortunately, the human being has not changed throughout the ages: love, desire, loyalty, greed, jealousy, envy and thirst for revenge keep moving him.
CR: Each chapter begins with a small poem, tell us how did the idea come about? Why a poem?
IB: The male protagonist of the novel is a Viennese doctor in love with poetry, psychoanalysis will turn the lives of the Castrillo sisters upside down. I liked the idea of heading each chapter with a poem written by him that spoke of his most direct feelings and that was related to the content of that chapter. At no time is it referred to that the poems are his but I am sure that more than one reader will have realized this. Also, it was a way to bring my passion for poetry to the novel in a coherent way and I hope it was original.
CR: Ivan, Everything we won’t have (Larrad Ediciones) represents 620 pages of reading. How much time of previous research and subsequent writing does it mean to write such a long book?
IB: I couldn’t say it exactly, but I think it took me over two years, counting the research, the writing, and the various reviews.
CR: About the edition of the book by Larrad Ediciones, highlighting the quality of the edition but also the layout, and above all, the wonderful cover college at the hands of the creative Teresa Cucala, I think you have something to tell us about this collaboration Because you already admired this artist before collaborating with the publication of Everything we will not have. Tell us Iván How did this collaboration come about? Was it a coincidence?
IB: I knew Teresa Cucala’s work many years ago on Instagram when I still hadn’t managed to publish anything, it shocked me so much and it seemed so good that I thought: «If someday an important publisher publishes me, hopefully, I will get Teresa Cucala to do the cover page”. I began to follow her and years later when with my first novel I won the prize for the editorial of the writers Noemí Trujillo and Lorenzo Silva, I contacted her and sent her a copy of the novel. Teresa, who in addition to being a great artist, is a person of extraordinary quality, gave me one of her prints and from then on we did not stop following each other’s work. Larrad Ediciones takes great care of the books, makes some beautiful editions with covers by leading national illustrators, something that seems very important to me in a publishing house. When they told me that they wanted to publish Everything We Won’t Have and asked me if I had a preference for an artist to do the cover, I suggested, full of hope, to Teresa Cucala. Larrad Ediciones contacted her, they offered her the job and my dream has come true. The result is spectacular.
CR: You have published several books, but which authors do you usually read as a reader? And of all of them, which do you think have influenced you the most in your literary career?
IB: As a reader, I am very eclectic, I jump from the intriguing novel to the intimate one or poetry, and I like discovering authors that I have not read so far. I could say that of the classical authors the one that has influenced me the most is Wilkie Collins, who is considered the precursor of the crime novel. Stephen King has also been very important to me because his novels were the first I read after children’s books and thanks to him the passion for reading that would lead me to want to write entered me. Other authors who have influenced me a lot have been Sándor Márai, David Foenkinos and Carmen Amoraga, all three of extreme sensitivity. In the field of poetry, I have had the good fortune to grow as an author together with my friend Noemí Trujillo who is one of the best poets that we currently have in Spain.
CR: A question perhaps indiscreet, but perhaps interesting for the most readers. What book are you reading now? Why did you choose it? Would you recommend it?
IB: Right now I’m with Two Sisters, the latest novel by David Foenkinos that has just been published. I chose it because Foenkinos is one of my bedside writers, he rarely disappoints. His writing has a moving intensity and he knows how to use stylistic resources like no one else. Form powerful images with simple phrases that impact, charged with sensitivity and beauty. It could be said that in his stories he makes important the small daily tragedies that people face daily. I have read thirty-six pages, and I am sorry to move forward because I think I will finish it soon. Of course, I would recommend it.
CR: Iván, you who have already published several books. What recommendation would you make to a person who is fond of writing and would consider, for the first time, writing their first book?
IB: I would tell him to get on with it and enjoy the process, to do it for the mere pleasure of writing, without waiting at first for anything else. Later, if you want to see your work published, I would tell you to arm yourself with patience, it will take you a lot of work, many years and surely write many books to get it. Tenacity is the best quality of a writer. A stroke of luck can always come and Amazon is there, available to everyone. In Spain, it is very easy to publish but very difficult for a serious publisher to publish who believes in your work and bets for you without being someone you know.
CR: Lastly, are you working on a new project? Can you tell us something about it?
IB: Right now I am writing a novel set in the 1980s. It is an emotionally charged intrigue novel, something that has already become part of my stamp.
Thank you very much for granting us this interview, Iván Baeza, and please, do not stop writing that poetic narrative and with this emotional charge that characterizes you so much, we hope to read you again very soon.
* Interview by Cristina Redondo published in #InLiterature on the culture, art and trends magazine The Citizen on 06/17/2020