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Juan Gmez-Jurado: “At home we take my work very little seriously”

He is one of the best-selling Spanish writers and his novels are published today in more than forty countries.

Updated 11/26/2020 4:56 PM

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I confess that I have been at home for a week with my nose stuck in Rey Blanco, Juan Gmez-Jurado’s latest success. His novels are so addictive and fast paced that you have the feeling of watching a movie. And the numbers only endorse it: more than a million readers have followed the adventures of Antonia Scott, the most intelligent woman in the world, and the commissioner Jon Gutirrez. Now, with Rey Blanco (for now, the last book in the saga) he continues to sell out copies in bookstores as if it were logical and simple. Call from Zoom Through, we spoke to the new spoiled child of letters.

“Forgive me but I’m exhausted,” he confesses after greeting me through the computer screen. Your rhythm of life must lately resemble that of the protagonists of your novel. Between the promotion, his collaborations with different media, the realization of a scientific dissemination program for La 2 and his next book that has already drawn Gmez-Jurado quite a bit, the days are a bit short. Not to mention that, as he confesses to me, at home he does like the most: “Every day I take the dog out, I make food for the family and then I go to work.”

Gmez-Jurado seems like the typical father you meet when you leave school going to look for your children. Or the neighbor of the fifth. But, in reality, he is one of the best-selling Spanish authors of the moment and it is at that point in his career in which everything he touches (writes) turns to gold. Behind its success is, indisputably, the frenetic rhythm of crime novels that connect with the public. But there is also a certain legend that distinguishes him from the usual writers. With the launch of Rey Blanco, for example, he asked his readers through Twitter that if someone could not afford to buy it, they should ask them directly by email.

During the interview he never stops laughing and joking and every thing he says with a certain irony, he tells me: “Hey, don’t go to the headline there, okay?” I suppose that no journalist stops being one, despite having gone over to the side of the storytellers …

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Do you get used to being a “successful writer”?

I honestly believe that no one can get used to that. No one the least bit sane because you’re always going to be shivering at the next book. What is happening to me is a very crazy thing, very exaggerated. I am already in the fourth edition of Rey Blanco and the first was 150 thousand. It is the readers who make the books successful, it is not us. Sometimes things happen like this and the best thing you can do is rejoice and try to keep doing the things you believe in.

Well, there are those who still consider that both the crime novel and the bestsellers are second-rate works …

Those criteria have always existed. It has happened to Raymond Chandler, Alejandro Dumas, Charles Dickens and even Miguel de Cervantes … Dickens (and, please, I’m not comparing myself to him) was told that his books were about maids and coachmen. Dickens published his stories by episodes in various magazines, and people lined up to buy them. On the other hand, the critics could not bear his stories. Today all those critics are dead but we keep reading Dickens. Accessible and popular literature must exist and the more it exists the better because more people reading books is more people reaching the classics later and fewer people who are seeing cat memes on social networks.

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How much imagination and how much real in your works?

Documentation has always been very present in my books. There are people who write from the pure imagination and nothing happens. But, in general, I am very thorough and I enjoy documentation a lot. Although when I consider that reality bothers me to develop the plot, I dispense with it. I also keep forgetting that I am writing fiction and that it is created to entertain.

When you start writing, do you do it with everything closed or do you prefer the characters to be the ones to dictate the plot?

Let’s say there are two types of writers, map writers and compass writers. I am a map writer. I have to be very clear before I start writing. No method is better than another and I think it also depends on the genre, in the crime novel it is more difficult to leave everything to chance. Chandler liked to write compass very much and one day a journalist asked him why The eternal dream: “Mr. Chandler, who killed the driver then?” He stared at him and said, “Oh, the chauffeur! I forgot that one.” We are human and when we are telling a story we are susceptible to being wrong. On the other hand, I don’t find much difference between telling a story on some pages or lying in bed with my children and telling them a story. Human beings have the need to tell stories and it is nice that we do not overstate the role of the writer. I am just a storyteller.

Are you one of those who finishes a book and if you like it a lot, do you think you should have written it?

Every time I finish a book that I am passionate about, I think about it and think about the laps that I would have given it. But then later I say to myself: then the novel will not be the book that I liked so much. I’m going to turn the question around for you: actually what I would like is that the books that I have written had been written by someone else to be able to read them. I write the novels that I would like to read but it is impossible, because no sane person can read their own books.

How have you lived with a writer in your house?

At home we take my work very little seriously. It’s true that I get very unbearable in the writing phases and try to leave home. The hard core of the book I make it out so as not to disturb you. But the rest of the time, it’s all normal. My wife (child psychologist and writer Barbara Montes) when she is writing her novels is a completely different person from me. She goes to work from 9 to 3 and nobody finds out. It is very structured.

Is there much left in you of your facet as a journalist?

I really miss the radio, the newspapers … But where I can be most useful right now is writing novels and promoting reading. What I really like is that the day has 48 hours and, in fact, I hate sleeping. If it were up to me, I wouldn’t sleep.

What is the most curious thing that has happened to you lately with a fan reader?

A lady wrote to me and said that she was dying and that she wanted to know the end of the story before she died. I called her on the phone and told her all about it. Arnold Schawcheneger said that when you get to the top all you have to do is turn around and help the one behind you. The least you can do is use your fame to do good things. In the end I think that says a lot about my parents and how they raised me.

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