“I write what I would like to read” | Laura Gallego

“I write what I would like to read” | Laura Gallego

Laura Gallego is an acclaimed Spanish writer, part of our Aarhus 39 selection of the best emerging writers from across Europe. Laura will be appearing at the inaugural International Children’s Literature Hay Festival Aarhus 2017 later this month. Here she talks about her new story for Odyssey, our new anthology of  stories for young adults, inspired by journeys. 

Tell us about your story…
My story is about a Chinese family who immigrates from their village to a big city in the future in which cities are completely surrounded by huge highways. The only way to reach the city is by using the restricted crosswalks; they are so long that they can’t be crossed in one single day, so the pedestrians have to camp in the middle of the highway.

Why did you pick that theme?
A few months ago, my family and I were walking on a long crosswalk in an underground parking and my six-year-old son said: “This is the longest crosswalk in the world!”, so we started talking about how long it could really be. I decided to write a story about that. It would take place in China because they already have huge cities and fifty-lane highways.

When did you decide to become an author?
I started writing when I was ten years old. At that time, I was already devouring books, and I liked to imagine that I was experiencing the adventures in the worlds of the stories I was reading. I started writing stories, and when I was 11, I started my first novel together with a school friend. It took us three years to finish that first book. At 13, I was sure I wanted to be a writer.

When did you publish your first book?
I finished my first novel when I was fourteen, and I started sending it to publishing houses and competitions. I didn’t have any luck. Neither did I have any with the second novel I wrote (this time on my own), nor with the third, nor with the fourth… over the next few years I continued to write books and stories and took part in competitions. Yes, I did lose hope in being published one day, but that didn’t make me stop writing, because I love writing. As I was always writing, I was always sending things in to competitions… and so, at the age of 21, my novel Finis Mundi won the Barco de Vapor Children and Young Adult Literature award. I had taken part in that competition several times, but I had never had any luck until then. Finis Mundi was actually my fourteenth book (the thirteen previous ones were not published), but it became the first novel to be published. Since then I haven’t stopped.

What is special about writing for children?
The fact is, when I write my books I don’t think about the age of the people who are going to read them. I write above all what I would like to read, and, surprisingly, I end up connecting with teenagers. I say it’s surprising because I stopped being a teenager a long time ago. However, it’s a fact that, although I write what I like, my readers are mainly aged between 10 and 18. I am very proud of that, because I have always thought that someone aged 13 or 14 is no less a reader than an adult.

Do you have a favorite spot where you write?
I only need a place to focus: just a desk, a computer –or paper and pen, silence and no distractions. I have an office at home where I usually work. But I could do it anywhere with these conditions.

How do you get inspired?
Some authors are inspired by their own experiences, others by things they have been told, others by stories they read in newspapers, others by everything they read… It depends on the person.

I write mostly fantasy, so many of my ideas come from my imagination. To keep it in good shape, it is especially important to read a lot and think a lot too.

But an idea is not the same as a story. A story is like a puzzle formed by many different ideas. You may have an idea at the beginning, for a character, for a place… but that is just the first piece in the puzzle. So it’s not just a matter of inspiration. I don’t just wait for ideas to come to me. You can gather many pieces of the puzzle, but they won’t fit together by themselves. I need to think and find the best way to fit them together, and nobody can do that for me, not even inspiration.