Today I'm excited to welcome novelist Eva Fejos to the book blog. Eva is a former journalist and prolific writer with 14 novels published in her native Hungary, but her book Bangkok Transit is the first to be translated into English and made available to the general US market and the rest of the English speaking world. These are exciting times for Eva, and for her English speaking fans, as she works towards getting all her books translated and available for us to enjoy.
KB: What inspired you to write your latest book?
EF: My most recent novel, Vacation in Naples, is being translated into English by Ildikó Naomi Nagy right now (she also translated Bangkok Transit into English). This novel was published in Hungary right before Christmas and, based on my readers’ feedback, this book seems to be one of their favorites so far. One of the main storylines leads to Naples, Italy. I really love Naples, Positano, and the Amalfi coast. I enjoy fast-paced Italian life with its siestas, the sight of clothes hung out to dry in the windows, the smell of ice cream and pizza. But now I’d like to talk about Bangkok Transit, which is already available in English.
KB: What was the hardest part of writing Bangkok Transit?
EF: Back then, I was still a full-time journalist, and I had less time to write novels. If I set the novel aside for a week or two, it was harder to get back into the story. I needed time until I was living inside it again, but then I had to leave it once more because I had to do reports and interviews. These days it’s easier, because I’m a full-time novelist, and I can stay inside the novel all the way through.
KB: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
EF: I learnt how to give freedom to my characters. I discovered that I can’t influence my heroes. I only accompany them. They live their own lives from the moment they come alive as I write.
KB: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
EF: When I write, I don’t intend to send messages to anyone. At that time, my only concern is getting the novel to entertain me. But Teri’s (one of the Bangkok Transit heroines) example (her eating disorder) could serve as a warning, and as a private individual, but also as a novelist and a reporter, I believe that the path that Teri started along while she was still in her teens is incredibly dangerous. Getting off this path is not only up to the teenagers (or young adults) in question; it is also important for their environment and for society to keep them off it for good.
I know it’s a cliché, but it’s true that the body image displayed by the media can actually push a young woman towards pathological dieting. The reason I changed the appearance of my book covers was because I used to have illustrated girls on them who looked nearly like stick figures. I like it better if my book covers show real, flesh-and-blood women. So I switched to the photographic image, which I think is much more natural.
KB: How much of the book is realistic?
EF: All of the story is fiction, but all of the places are real.
KB: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
EF: I am a journalist, and I never stop asking questions. I even wrote a series of articles from Thailand, talked to people about their lives. I used to have a column in Nők Lapja (one of the oldest, most well-respected weekly women’s magazines, published since 1949). I sat down with a psychologist to discuss all sorts of issues concerning women and tried to sort through possible solutions.
Back then, we spent a lot of time on eating disorders – anorexia and bulimia – and many people wrote to me who had girlfriends or family members struggling with similar problems. This was the basic starting point for building Teri’s character, and the rest came on its own.
The first time I really saw the terrifying illness that is anorexia, was when a reader’s father asked me to visit his anorexic daughter in the psychiatric ward of a hospital in the hopes that I might give her the strength to get better. The girl I met was nearly twenty years-old and thirty kilos (66 lbs.), and she knew perfectly well that she might die. She had been on the threshold of death several times before. She had been resuscitated twice already, but her body had become so weak that she was having a hard time getting better even though she wanted to. She’s been released now and she’s stronger, but she is still very far from a complete recovery.
It’s no coincidence that Teri still counts calories even years later in the Bangkok hotel at breakfast… The way I see it is that she has not quite recovered completely, though meeting Paul and falling in love, as well as finally ending her modeling career, have set her free. But when we come across her again in my book titled Hello, London (where she is one of the main characters), we see that her eating disorder has defined her way of thinking forever, even though she has completely recovered from it.
KB: What’s your writing process like? Are you a plotter or a pantser?
EF: I only invent basic situations and make a few textual sketches of characters when I start a new book. Then I begin writing the story. I only devise the basic scenario. In Bangkok Transit, I ‘sent’ a few people, the seekers, to Bangkok. I wasn’t sure what each of them was searching for. But I knew that they had some task there. I never know what’s going to happen in the next chapter. I live in the story, and my heroes are living in my head, in my imagination, and they are leading me. I like parallel storylines, I like to jump from one path into another one.
KB: How long did it take you to write this book?
EF: It took about a year. But then I was a full-time journalist, and I didn’t have enough time for writing novel. Now, when I’m a full-time author, writing a novel takes approximately 5-6 months.
KB: What are you working on now?
EF: I’m writing my new novel’s last chapters. It will be published in summer in Hungary, the title is Because We Must Love Each Other. It’s about a teenage couple, about how they discover a whole different ‘world’, and how they take two adults with them into this situation. Each of them has to face their inner fears, this is the way they can get back to their ‘normal’ world. It’s a humorous novel, with a piece of love.
KB: What book are you reading now?
EF: The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert.
KB: What books have most influenced your life?
EF: All of my readings influenced my life, I learnt something from all of them. At the age of 7 or 8 I discovered that with the help of a novel I could escape from the winter to summer, I could get from some boring school lesson into a magical world. I’m still a bookworm, so I read at least 5 novels a week.
KB: What books/authors have influenced your writing?
EF: The books of Anna Gavalda, Murakami, Jonathan Tropper, and Nick Hornby’s novels.
KB: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
EF: Yes, slowing down when I’m writing the last chapters of the novel.
KB: Do you have any advice for other writers?
EF: 1. Read as much, as you can. 2. Write as much as you can. 3. Never give up, just sit down with your computer, and you will be able to solve all the troubles you had in your novel. 4. Write everyday. 5. Believe in yourself. 6. Believe in your characters. 7. Believe in your novel.
KB: Do you ever experience writer's block?
EF: No, not really. But when I’m in the middle of a book, I used to ask myself: am I able to write a book? Am I able to finish this one? And how will I finish this? This bad period takes usually two weeks, but after a two week rest I am able to continue writing.
KB: For your own reading, do you prefer ebooks or traditional paper/hard back books?
EF: I like both. Some books I buy in both forms: in print so I can take them down off the shelf any time and run my hand along the covers, and ebooks, so I can have them with me wherever I go, in case I feel like reading them. I’ve discovered many writers through their ebooks, partly because ebooks are often less expensive than their printed versions and I’m more tempted to splurge on something speculative… But when it comes to books that are important to me, I definitely buy the printed versions.
KB: What are your ambitions for your writing career?
EF: I am lucky and glad to be the author of 14 very successful books in Hungary. However, my works and my name are not yet know in the US. Now that my books are being translated and started slowly but surely crossing the borders of Hungary, I am getting very excited. I hope and wish that thanks to the English language they will reach as many international readers as possible, who will like them at least as much as the Hungarian readers like these books.
KB: Do you write full-time or part-time?
EF: I am a full-time writer, and I manage my small publishing house in Hungary.
KB: Do you have a special time to write?
EF: Evening and night. That’s when it’s quiet and still. The phone doesn’t ring, and I’m not constantly thrown off track by some interruption. But the truth is, once I’m inside the story, I could have the TV going full blast right next to me, I wouldn’t care, because the only thing that occupies my mind then is the story.
KB: Where can we find you online?
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