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Interview 21 Oct 15

UK-Romanian Writer Takes Fame in His Stride

EO Chirovici explains how his first attempt at writing a novel in English became a global publishing phenomenon and discusses what influenced him.

Marian Chiriac
BIRN
Bucharest
Eugen Chirovic | Photo: Facebook.

The UK-based Romanian writer E O Chirovici is set to become the literary sensation of the year after his murder mystery novel sparked a frantic bidding war between big-name publishers across the world. Rights to „The Book of Mirrors”, a tale about a murder of a famous American university professor, have been sold in 18 countries with auctions ongoing in several others.

Born into a mixed Romanian-Hungarian family in Fagaras, Transylvania, Chirovici graduated in Bucharest in 1988 and worked as an economist before becoming a journalist. Stints followed as an advisor to the Prime Minister and the Governor of the National Bank. Between 2003-2010 he was also the Grand Master of the Grand National Lodge of Romania, the governing body of Regular Freemasonry in Romania.

Q: You dreamed of becoming a writer since childhood. After publishing several books in Romania, your first novel in English seems to become a global publishing phenomenon. What’s your journey been like?
A: Well, I published ten novels and five non-fiction books, on History, Economics, and Foreign Affairs in Romania before leaving the country and settling in Britain in 2012. My son had graduated from the University of Cardiff and decided to settle in England, and my wife had received a very good job offer from a multinational company headquartered in the UK. So, I said to myself: Why not give it a try? I collaborated with a couple of small presses in the States, before finding a literary agent, Marilia Savvides of Peters, Fraser, Dunlop (London), who opened the golden gates of the Big Five for me.

Q: How difficult is it for a writer from the Balkans to publish in English and have success? And were there any particularly frustrating moments?

A: Seeking representation isn’t an easy job for a writer, because you have to deal with rejections. I was rejected a couple of times before finding my agent. But it’s a part of the game, isn’t it? When an agent rejects your manuscript, it doesn’t mean that your project is poorly written and uninteresting for the public. It just means that perhaps it wasn’t a good fit for his or her list, that’s all. For the agents, it doesn’t matter if you’re from Manchester, Los Angeles, Bucharest or Belgrade as long as your manuscript is in English and is a good one.

Q: „The Book of Mirrors”, as your literary agent says, is “a really well-plotted murder mystery.” What were your greatest challenges when writing it?
A: Before starting a new project you have to decide what story are you going to tell and how are you going to tell it. Sometimes the second aspect might be more important than the first one. Maybe the story’s good, but if you chose a dull way to tell it, the project would be stiff and unattractive. On the other hand, a banal plot can’t be saved by your style, even you’re an extraordinary storyteller. For ‚The Book of Mirrors’, I was probably lucky enough to tie together a good story and the right style.

Q: You seem to emphasise your Transylvanian background. Does it impact on your writing?

A: Not necessarily… It’s a fact that I was born out there and I used to mention it with no special intentions. But I still love my native places, anyway.

Q: You have an economics background, you worked as a journalist, as a TV manager, as economic adviser, and were also involved in Freemasonry. Many mirrors reflect your personality. Who is the ”real” EO Chirovici?

A: All of “them”, of course. I did a lot of different things before deciding, three years ago, to throw my hat across the creek and become a full-time writer. It was a tough decision, but I’m glad I took it.

Q: What’s a typical writing day for you? What inspires you to write?

A: I don’t think that a day in the life of a writer is more interesting than a day in the life of a doctor, a lawyer or an engineer. Writing is a solitary occupation, and you’re reclusive for long periods of time, trapped in the world you made up. There’s nothing spectacular in being a writer. I don’t think that if I ate the eggs boiled or scrambled in the morning, my book would be better.

Q: Which writers inspire you and are any of them from the Balkans?
A: They are Hemingway, Faulkner, Camus, Steinbeck, Salinger, Auster, Chandler, Boll, Grass, Durrenmatt, Llosa, Borges, and so many others. From the Balkans, I like Ismail Kadare (Albania), Ivo Andric (Serbia), Liviu Rebreanu (Romania), Kazantzakis, Papadiamantis (Greece), Orhan Pamuk (Turkey).

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