I’m thrilled to have Marc Pastor visiting the blog today. He is the author of the prize-winning Barcelona Shadows, which won the Crims de Tinta award in Spain in 2008, and has since been translated from the Catalan into several languages, including English, thanks to small publisher Pushkin Press. Barcelona Shadows was dark and edgy and I enjoyed it immensely. I’m so happy that Marc speaks excellent English and was able to answer my questions! He is witty and wise, intelligent and interesting, and please check out his Instagram link below—it’s amazing!
Welcome, Marc, to Books, Bones & Buffy! I’m thrilled that you are my first truly international guest author, and I’m very grateful that you speak English:-)
Internacional guest author! That sounds awesome!
Barcelona Shadows is based on a horrific true crime. Can you tell us a bit about how your work as a crime scene investigator led to the idea for writing this book?
It didn’t influence me. I first heard about Enriqueta’s story in 2004, the same year I joined the forensic department (been a cop since 1998).
I had studied criminology years ago and always wanted to write something about all the theories I had read. I wanted to write a story with a mad doctor who believes in phrenology. I wanted this story to be dark and creepy and Victorian.
And when I heard about Enriqueta Martí, I didn’t think about writing a book. I searched for more information just for curiosity, until I realized that it was a very literary story. And that I had to write it!
I finished it four years later, after a lot of documentation and work. My work as crime scene investigator was really breaking into the book in this time.
You have a most unusual character narrate Barcelona Shadows (Death), which I thought was very effective. What made you decide to use this approach to telling the story?
There are two reasons.
The logical one is that Death is the least common denominator of all characters. More or less, all of them share their lives with Death. Moisès is a police detective who works trying to arrest murderers. Enriqueta earns her living killing children. The body snatchers sell the corpses they unearth from cemeteries. The Doctor Von Baumgarten searches the “soul of madness” inside the dead bodies. Death is related to everyone, so who is better to explain us this story?
The other reason is that I had a “close to death” experience. The doctors had to electroshock me and stop my heart for a moment, and for three days they told me I had a disease that couldn’t be cured. For three days I felt the physical presence of Death beside me. When they told me they could cure me (and they operated on me), I knew that Death had been there asking me if he could be the narrator of that story.
The main character in your book is Moisès Corvo, a sometimes violent and tough-as-nails detective who will go to any lengths to get information. Did you base his character on anyone in particular, or did his character simply emerge as you were writing the story?
It began as a rude cop with a fast verb and easy fists, but Moisès grew up very quickly and became a sort of a Mediterranean cowboy, harder outside, ironical, bad boy with a small sense of social morality buried very deep inside of his soul.
I love Moisès (and a lot of people tell me they love him) because he could be the villain in any other book, but in Barcelona Shadows he’s the lone ranger. That ambiguity makes the reader feel he’s walking over the line. Moisès threats, hits, steals and behaves as if he’s got no human feelings. And we still are on his side.
I understand that besides being an award-winning author, you also currently work as a forensic detective. How do you balance your life with both writing and a day job, and manage to find some down-time as well?
I must confess it’s exhausting. I want to sleep! Sometimes I feel like I just wanna sit down on my sofa and read books and watch tv-series with my wife.
But I need to write. I feel fine explaining (my) stories, although it’s not easy. I envy these authors who can sit down for eight hours a day, seven days a week, and write write write. I fight every page. Every scene is a trench. And I walk with my feet sinking in the mud every time I sit down in front of my computer. And when I feel I begin to walk faster, that I see the sunlight among the clouds of laziness, then I gotta have a shower, have lunch, and go to work.
I’d like to have more time. I’d like to have a TARDIS and lock myself inside to write my books. And travel through time and space, too. And then go back to Earth and fight crime for a few hours, as if nothing happened.
I can tell from Barcelona Shadows that you have very solid writing skills. How long have you been writing, and what, if any, writing training have you had?
Thank you. I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I wanted to be a detective and a clown, when I was a child. Two of three, not bad at all.
Since I could read, I wanted to write. When I was a child, I wrote a script about an alien invasion of my school. And when I was a teenager (and I was obsessed with Arthurian mythology) I began writing a novel with sects, Camelot and time travelling. But, as I said, I was a teenager, and I was more interested in teen stuff than in becoming a novelist.
Anyway, I learn everyday with every book I read. I learn from the good ones (when it’s like: uh, I’d like to write this!) and from the bad ones (ok, Marc, don’t ever make this shit). I like watching the skeleton of the book, its structure, the dialogues, the way the author uses an adjective to solve a scene.
It’s like a football competition. Maybe I’ve won the last matches, but I still have to play the next one, and I have to play the best that I can not to be defeated. It’s all about work work and work, and never self-complacency. I wake up in the morning, I begin writing and I think: you’re never gonna be as good as you’ve been or as good as they tell you you are, so Marc: don’t give up.
Can you tell us a little about what you’re working on now? And more importantly, will any of your other books be translated into English?
I’m working on a love story. The pure love of an eighteen-year-old girl somewhere in the Pacific ocean.
Not as shiny as it seems.
About the other books: I hope so. It’s up to Pushkin Press, now.
With Bioko, you’ll meet Moisès again, in his twenties. And you’ll know why he behaves as he does in Barcelona Shadows, and what was his first case in Africa, 1887.
And you’ll discover there’s a larger universe that connects all my books. Some characters are repeated from one to another, some scenes are links between my novels. You may read each of them separately, but if you read more than one, you’ll see there’s another plot running under their skin. And it’s funner for me to write. A prize to the reader who follows my work!
So, let’s cross our fingers!
Tell us three things about yourself that readers might not know.
1) I like drawing. I draw all day, not only when speaking by phone. I used to draw the police sketches of suspects of murders, rapes and robberies. But I draw compulsively all the time, everywhere (well, just on paper, not walls or WC doors, of course).
2) I’m on every social network you might find, usually as @DoctorMoriarty. I upload pictures. I take pictures of Stormtrooper action figures on Instagram, for example.
3) I’m a ‘Whovian’. I have a dog, a Chinese Crested. And his name is The Doctor.
Thank you Marc! This has been an awesome interview. You can read my review of Barcelona Shadows here. You can also enter my Book Review giveaway and win a copy of the book here! Please make sure to check out Marc’s online presence here:
Find Barcelona Shadows here:
About the book:
Inspector Moisès Corvo—jaded, dissolute, yet with an uncanny sixth sense—is on the hunt to discover the identity of a monstrous murderer. His pursuit takes him into Barcelona’s underworld, where some very powerful figures will do anything to stop him. He cannot imagine the horror that awaits him.