The Writer Costi Gurgu Interviewed by Jaime A.Geraldi (White Cat Publications, USA)

Costi Gurgu: „European Writer : Although he wished there wasn’t any difference between European and American genre writing, the reality is different. Costi has learned the differences and the specifics, and wishes to appeal to North American readers as he’s done with his Romanian ones. He hopes one day to combine the two different cultures and produce glorious hybrid stories that will appeal to both readership groups equally. Until then, he only insinuates some Romanian fantastic and mythological nuances into his North American stories.”

Jaime Geraldi : “RECIPEARIUM” is now published by White Cat Publications in English. This will bring many more book lovers involved into your diverse past, present and future works. You have graciously accepted numerous awards for your extraordinary writing. What are your hopes and aspirations regarding this new release ?

Costi Gurgu : First of all, this new release will bring Recipearium to the English speaking market, which is quite a big aspiration in itself. And through Recipearium I hope to open the hearts of North American readers to the rest of my fiction as well as to Romanian Speculative Fiction in general.

And second of all, I hope to win a few more awards. 🙂

Jaime Geraldi : Were you concerned that your voice or the storyline would change due to the translation ?

I didn’t do a straightforward translation; more like a re-write in English. And I do know that my voice changed with it; though hopefully not significantly. As for the storyline, it pretty much stayed the same, though I had to re-plot some scenes to make them more suitable to the North-American market. And there’s also an extra section at the end that will only be in the English version.

Jaime Geraldi : Some have said that „RECIPEARIUM” is the “new weird”. Most SF novels are the pure essence of strange. What makes this tale different from the rest ?

Several publishers told me that they hadn’t read anything like it, and therefore they couldn’t compare it to any other book. Yes, at first I wanted to thank them because they practically told me it really was an original novel, but only later I realized that they meant they wouldn’t know how to market it and sell it. They didn’t even know if it would sell, because nobody has sold something similar before.

When I signed the contract in Romania, my Romanian publisher also didn’t know how to market it. So, my editor decided to write and talk about it like any other book and completely ignored that one thing that made it different. He hoped that when the readers discovered it, they would already be hooked and therefore it would be too late for them to freeze in awe. J

It paid off. The story proved a success. Not only because of the awards and the numerous reviews but mostly because of the satisfied readers. One literary critic said in his Short History of Romanian Speculative Fiction that Recipearium is:  “the peak of weirdness in Romanian speculative fiction. Wrongfully judged and received by editors, some critics and some fans as a work of fantasy when for the following reasoning it is science fiction (…) Dare to contradict me, especially under new weird banner!”

So, as a conclusion, I won’t tell you what makes it different from the rest. I want my readers to discover it for themselves. And I promise you it’s not the kind of surprise that goes BANG! It creeps on you slowly.

From left : Nina Munteanu (canadian speculative fiction writer), Vali Gurgu, Costi Gurgu

Jaime Geraldi : Most readers already have established a wild imagination thanks to authors like you. How do you plan on conquering North America and win over this gigantic fan base as opposed to the Romanians who are already large supporters of your work ?

Costi Gurgu : Ideally, „Recipearium” is going to open a sea of possibilities for readers and authors alike. By knowingly breaking some hard rules in my novel with a compelling story that works, I will draw readers to crave for more.

My work introduces a European feel and mood to North American values and approaches. European Speculative Fiction is strange and different to North American readers. So, what I’ve done with some of my new stories is to bring Romanian subjects and themes to the American readership in a way that they can focus on the new ideas and mythologies in a style and structure they are familiar with.

Costi Gurgu, Guest of Honor at ProspectArt SF Club (Romanian Science Fiction&Fantasy Society), Bucharest, Romania

Jaime Geraldi : I understand you have lived in several countries including Romania, England, and most recently Canada. How does your experience dwelling in dissimilar continents striving to adapt to different cultures serve as an inspiration to your novels ?

The truth is that every new experience has been a cultural shock. Only by living and working in a country or in a city long enough, can you really immerse yourself in the local life. A very different experience than being a tourist.

I thought this applied only to me as I moved from a former Communist country to a Western society, England. But after three years in England, my movement to Canada hasn’t been as easy as I thought. English speaking country, yet so different from England in almost every aspect. I always blamed myself for having had a different background.

And then a Canadian friend of mine moved to England for a new job. His first message from there was an exasperated one; he shared that he finally understood how I felt coming to a different country and speaking a different language.

“What do you mean, different language?” I asked him. “You’re from Canada; you speak English.”

“Oh, no. I can barely understand them and they ask me to repeat myself continuously as my accent is too hard for them. My accent!!!” he replied.

With every new experience that I suffered and enjoyed, it has become more clear to me how it should be for those characters in SF&F stories who move to different planets, parallel worlds, foreign kingdoms or fantastic realms. Unless they’re there only for a week of sightseeing (which won’t make the book very interesting), the moving to a new place heroes should undergo the cultural shock born in the transition from their world to the new one.

Even if they moved to a colony of their homeland, the differences between the realms should be significant enough (as seen in the different cultures of England and its former colonies) to make the hero struggle to adapt.

Jaime Geraldi : Once you begin to develop a character or concentrate on world-building, do you find it to be a challenge to mold them into what is needed to direct the plot? Or, do you let the individuals take over and pave the way ?

Costi Gurgu : I always needed to plan a little. Lately though, I discovered I need even more planning. I’m now a firm believer that the main plot needs to be planned from the beginning.

But then, when I do my world-building, there are certain unforeseen aspects of the new world I create that dictate changes into my initial planning. They would add new dimensions to my plot, because a new world is always full of its own stories and facts that I need to weave into my main plot.

Same thing happens when I write my characters. Sometimes I’m well into my story and one of my characters proves to be more stubborn than me and takes my story into a new direction because she’s a bit different than I first conceived her, or because she’s evolved differently than I thought she would.

It’s good to plan from the beginning, but then the writer needs to follow the characters’ natural evolution, as well as melt the new world’s discovery into the main plot.

From left : Vali Gurgu, Neil Gaiman, Costi Gurgu

Jaime Geraldi : You have once been quoted to say that the reality is different between European and American genre writing. Could you explain or be more specific ?

Costi Gurgu : Sure. In my opinion there are two major differences.

The first one is of perception. In Europe we read fiction works by writers from over seventy countries from all around the world. That is over seventy different cultures in which their authors write stories without worrying that maybe a foreign reader would not understand a certain social, political or cultural event, or a certain attitude, habit or tradition.

Yes, maybe the South American characters act according to a different code of social conduct than Romanians, or maybe French characters’ attitude is strange for a Bulgarian reader, or Chinese motivations are weird to Greeks. But if the story or the characters are gripping enough, all those things don’t stop us from getting the underlying concept from the context and we just keep reading.

The stories we read can take place in real cities or villages from different and unfamiliar parts of the world. Usually the European writer doesn’t care that his readers may have never been in his city and he keeps telling the story as if all his readers are his co-nationals, or even his neighbours.

We embrace the exotic, the foreign, the strange, the unknown… the alien.

American editors have rejected translating huge names from European speculative fiction because they’re considered too strange and not easily understood by North American readers. Because the North American readership has read only North American genre writers for the past fifty years and they wouldn’t accept something different than an American way of perceiving reality and interpreting information. Something that may be too far from the North American system of values.

“But they’re readers of Science Fiction! I mean, they read Science Fiction or Fantasy because they want to be transported to different worlds. You mean that the American readers better understand a story happening on a strange planet or in the underworld, but they will find it difficult to follow a story happening in Bruges, or Warsaw?” I replied.

North American editors don’t appear to have that confidence in their readers. I, on the other hand, have that confidence. It has been proven to me over and over again, that the true SF&F reader, European or North American, is thirsty for new and exotic, and strange, and alien.

The second aspect is technical. It’s about the writing techniques, the story structure, the point of view approach, and so on. It’s an aspect I will not detail here. Suffice to say that while in North America a writer is supposed to write according to a certain and more strict system of technical rules if she’s to be accepted by professional markets, in Europe the editors don’t care if the writer abides by the rules or breaks them, as long as it’s good writing and the readers want more of that author.

Costi exploring the Mayan fortifications

Jaime Geraldi : Are there any more ideas or works in progress that we can look forward to ?

Costi Gurgu : Definitely. Many more.

I’m actually about to finish my first movie script. It’s a Sci-Fi Political Thriller loosely based on one of my novellas. It will certainly be a blockbuster. 🙂

And I just finished another novel. A Science Fiction novel with some traces of humor. It will have a lighter touch than Recipearium and it will be my first attempt at humor.

I also wrote a second story in the Recipearium universe. It’s called The Lost Tribe and it’s my second attempt at developing this world farther. The first attempt was the short story Secret Recipes published in 2013 in the anthology Tesseracts Seventeen. Secret Recipes happens exactly before the beginning of the events in the novel.

Right now I’m working on my first time travel story that I think will bring a new direction for this kind of stories. It is a subject that has fascinated me since I first read in 1978 „The Overlords of War” by Gerard Klein, an unusual time travel story that has certainly given a new direction to French Science Fiction in general, back in the seventies. With my story, time travel will become the new hot trend in the years to come. Just watch for it !

©Jaime A.Geraldi & Costi Gurgu

This interview was published originally on the White Cat Publications’ site : http://www.whitecatpublications.com/?s=Costi+gurgu

“Interview with Costi Gurgu by Jamie A.Geraldi” : http://www.whitecatpublications.com/interview-with-costi-gurgu/

Reposted with the kind permission of Jaime Geraldi and Costi Gurgu. We’re thanking them !

Pics : courtesy of Costi Gurgu and Jaime A.Geraldi

 

Costi and his friends from his speculative fiction group, “Stop-Watch Gang”, Toronto, Canada

Costi Gurgu is a canadian speculative fiction writer of romanian origin, born on 1st of April 1969 in in the ancient city of Tomis (now called Constanta), on the Black Sea. He later moved to Bucuresti (Romania), then London (UK) and finally Toronto (Canada).

He first discovered SF through “The Overlords of War” by Gerard Klein, which is an unusual time travel novel. He then read extensively through a large selection of Romanian and European SF&F writers before reading his first North American author. He actually thought for many years that his first American was A.E. Van Vogt, before discovering that Van Vogt was Canadian and Isaac Asimov became his first American SF author.

Costi began writing while in primary school, but got serious in high school when his German Language teacher, Nadia Dorian, wife of acclaimed SF author Dorel Dorian, read some of his short stories and encouraged him to enter his first writing group, „Solaris”. When a few years later some authors from Solaris decided to form their own writers group, one which would reflect the new realities of the SF market in Romania, Costi became one of the founders of ProspectArt group, alongside names like Cristian Tudor Popescu, Danut Ungureanu, Stefan Ghidoveanu, Dan Mihai Pavelescu, Marian Truta, Cristian Tamas and many others.

In 1993, while in university, Costi made his debut in the Science Fiction Journal, with the short story “Wonderful Asaara”, twice awarded in 1994 and resold five times since. It was last published in 2014, in the Weird Worlds Anthology, edited by the late Stefan Ghidoveanu.

His story collection entitled “Ciuma de sticla” (“The Glass Plague”) was sold to ProLogos Press in 1999. “The Glass Plague” won the Vladimir Colin Award and the Alexandru Odobescu Award for debut book in 2000, the annual award given by the Writers Union for best literary fiction.

His debut book was soon followed by several anthologies and shared-world novels coordinated by him.

“Recipearium”, the romanian version

Costi wrote his first novel, “Retetarium” (“Recipearium”), in 1994 and was awarded the Nemira Award. It was published in 2006, by Tritonic Publishing Group. It gathered two more awards after publication, the Vladimir Colin Award and Kult Award.

“Recipearium” represents a new new weird that defies some grand SF unwritten rules, scaring most editors from approaching it. Michael Haulica, Costi’s editor at Tritonic took the chance, believing that any rule can be broken, if one does it knowingly and with skill. His faith in Costi’s novel has proven him right, as “Recipearium” has been twice awarded best novel of the year and has gathered a lot of literary and genre reviews, turning it into a critics and market success. “Recipearium” will be published in North America in 2015 through White Cat Publications.

Costi has three books and over forty short stories published in USA, Canada, England, Denmark, Romania, Poland, and Hungary.

“Chronicles from the End of the Earth” – short story collection, Millennium Books, 2011

Twenty-four times awarded for his fiction, including the prestigious “Alexandru Odobescu” Award for debut book, two times the “Vladimir Colin” Award for novel and short story collection, and the “Romanian National Convention Award” for the Best Story of the Year.

Costi lives in Toronto, Canada with his wife, Vali, in a flat turned design studio/art workshop. In his day job, Costi is an Art Director / Graphic Designer / Illustrator.

He has been the Art Director of publications like Playboy Magazine, Madame Figaro (French fashion magazine), and Tabu (life style women magazine) and has co-created the graphic concepts for several other brands, such as Canadian Investment Guide Magazine and ETF Guide Magazine.

He also designs and illustrates magazine and book covers, being twice finalist for the Aurora Awards.

“The Glass Plague” – short story collection, ProLogos Press, 2000

Books:

-“Chronicles from the End of the Earth” – short story collection, Millennium Books, 2011

-“Recipearium” – novel, Tritonic, 2006

-“The Glass Plague” – short story collection, ProLogos, 2000

© Locus (courtesy of)

Recent sales:

-“Reciperarium” – novel, White Cat Publications, USA, 2015

-“Secret Recipes” – short story, Tesseracts Seventeen Anthology, Edge SF & F Publishing, 2013

-“The Black Citadel” – short story, Steampunk the Second Revolution Anthology, Millennium Books, ’11

-“Angels and Moths” – short story, Third Science Fiction Megapack Anthology, Wildside Press, 2010

-“Angels and Moths” – short story, “Ages of Wonder” Anthology, Daw Books, 2009

-“The Glass Plague” – novella, “Creatures of Glass and Light Anthology” (New European Stories of the Fantastic), Science Fiction Cirklen, Denmark, 2007

– “Cosmobotica” – short story written with Tony Pi, to be published in July 2015 in “The Mammoth Book of Dieselpunk”, edited by Sean Wallace

Jaime A. Geraldi is an american freelance writer and a professional book reviewer at RT Book Reviews Magazine. She lives in Amityville, New York, USA.

White Cat Publications, LLC „is all about encouraging writers to keep writing, readers to keep reading and to inspire a sense of elegant possibilities in the creative community. White Cat publishes 13 different magazines for writers, poets and artists to submit their work to. White Cat Publications is devoted to both presenting and developing excellent fiction and non-fiction. The world of publishing is changing dramatically, offering new and exciting possibilities for writers. It is our goal to explore this new frontier to bring the best in writing to you, our readers.”

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