Jara Santamaría (Aragón, 1990) studied Journalism and Audiovisual Communication in Carlos III of Madrid and published his first novel with seventeen years.'You will eat the world', a story about eating disorders, won the II Jordi Sierra i Fabra Prize andwas published under the SM stamp in 2007. Almost ten years later, in 2016, he published 'Londres después de ti', with which he won the La Caixa Literary Award.Pamplonica, although born in Zaragoza, began to be interested in the mythological culture of his land from Madrid, where he works in the field of communication of the Japanese company Nintendo.
To write 'The gods of the north', which was published last April, JaraHe returned to visit with his mother the valley of Baztán. There, myths tell, there are creatures like Galtxagorris, Gentiles and Lamias protected by the light of Mari, but also under the shadow of Gaueko. 'The legend of the forest' is the first part of a story starringEmma, Teo and Ada, three cousins who do not like themselves too much, and that nevertheless they are forced to spend a summer together in the valley, in the house of their grandmother Casilda. There they will discover that they have talents they did not even imagine.
You were born in Zaragoza, you grew up in Pamplona and you live in Madrid. How are you interested in Basque-Navarrese mythology?
Mythology, in general, has always attracted my attention. I think it's a way to approach people's fears. The myths emerged trying to respond to things we did not understand. Why is it done at night? Why do we die? It seems to me a way to get to know people in privacy and, at the same time, it gives me a lot of respect. Curiously, despite having the Basque-Navarrese mythology next to my house, I did not know it. It has been from Madrid, based on reading Dolores Redondo and also because it has become popular a little bit, when I have realized that there is such a rich universe. The rest is already attack of morriña, that is to say: if this is happening in Navarra, I want to return to my house, to be interested in it, to visit the valley, to see it again.
How has all this documentation process been?
I have spoken with my mother's companions who lived in the Baztán or who had family there. I also read Barandiarán to document well of all the characters that there are, of the zones, to have that base. But to me it has always seemed essential, as far as possible, and in my case, it was, to go to the place where the novel is located. At least to listen to it, to smell it. I already knew the valley, but as soon as I knew that I was going to write this novel, I went back there with my mother. It was very nice.
The creatures that appear in the novel, however, do not correspond exactly with those of the myths.
Because I've kept some of the things that interested me. I have not pretended to make publicity, but rather to make a tribute with much affection. I have taken the ingredients that I liked and tried to make the novel breathe the biggest concerns or themes of Basque mythology, its essence. Lights 'versus' shadows, day against night. They are recurrent in myths. In addition, from town to town to Mari, for example, it is represented in a different way, or with another name. It would have been complicated to do something completely reliable, because I should have limited myself to the mythology of a specific town.
You have already published two novels that are directed to a very different audience to the one that would read 'The gods of the north'. Why is the decision to direct this novel to a child and youth audience?
I did not decide as such. He had always written very realistic, sentimental novels that dealt with the psychology of characters. The topics were complicated or introspective: lack of love, absence of future plans, eating disorders … Although in these two previous novels I used literature as connection and reconnection with myself, this time I used it to have a good time and go on a trip . This summer, which is when I wrote the novel, I was having a hard time because my father died, so I decided to write a book that would allow me to have a good time. Hence the jump to fantasy: for the desire to put my head in "vacation mode".
The novel presents three cousins with a very defined personality. Especially Emma, that nothing else to present already makes clear that does not fit in the model of feminine girl.
I found it interesting that all three had that fear of being different. It is something that happens especially in childhood and adolescence; Being different is usually synonymous with something bad because it prevents you from fitting in class. In the end, at least in Gaua, it is his greatest virtue, his greatest source of power. Emma does not feel feminine enough and even at the beginning of the novel she wants to be more feminine to fit. Still missing saga, but she will claim that as his own. Nor have I raised this as any moral: the concept of what is meant by femininity and gender roles have always interested me. In the end, you capture your vision of the world in what you write.
You said that the saga is missing.
(Laughs) I know I'm writing the second one, but I do not know if it's three or more …
The Jara of ten, eleven, twelve years, would have been interested in this novel?
Yes. Because, in fact, my obsession with writing it was to make the book that I would have liked to read to me, one with all the ingredients of the novels that I read then. That it was not a totally imaginary magical universe, but could coexist with the real world, as it happens in 'Harry Potter', for example, which makes you think that the Hogwarts letter can come to you. That gave rise to that you could imagine the things that are happening when you do not look. Telling the story in the first person was something that I had also liked when reading it in another novel. I have taken the ingredients that eleven year old Jara liked, I have mixed them all and see what happens. I do not know if you will like it, I hope so.
You published your first book when you were 17 years old. To do something like that, you've been an avid reader. What did you read then?
'Harry Potter', I never tire of mentioning it. It was a before and after for many people. I also really liked the trilogy of 'The Guardians of Time' by Marianne Curley.
"My obsession with writing this novel was to make the book that I would have liked to read to me when I was eleven years old, one with all the ingredients of the novels I read at the time"
Two prizes, at the moment, for three published novels. Evidently, behind there is effort. Also luck?
A lot. I have it very clear. Without going any further, the first book I wrote also submitted it to a contest and did not win. It's in my drawer. Was it worse than the one I won? I do not know. Many factors influence this; a jury is made up of people with their subjective tastes. It is indisputable that not everything is luck, but I think you have to have your feet on the ground and know that something does. The same when you send a manuscript to a publisher, it does not mean that if they publish it, it is because you are good and, if not, that you are bad. That enters catalog, that makes sense, that fits right to the editor.
This is said a lot and sounds a bit cliché, but it's true: this is a long distance race. In the end, writer is the one who writes; You have to work hard, but there are also lucky strokes. And you have to take advantage of them.
Will that drawer novel see the light? What are you talking about?
No … I could modify it, but I feel very sorry. It's about some dancers.
What are your literary references?
I love Almudena Grandes and Rosa Montero. As for children and youth. I like Rick Riordan a lot. His books are devoured in one pass.
And of the emergent young Spanish panorama?
Javier Ruescas seems to me a phenomenon. He has been able to understand young people and connect with adolescence from different prisms, not only writing very good and varied things, but also being 'booktuber'. It has opened a lot of closure to what is supposed to be the new way of telling stories.
As a novelist, but also as a journalist: what are your concerns?
Gender and feminism interest me a lot, but more to read them than to write about them, because I think I still do not know enough to do it. They seem so complex to me that what I try is to be very clear about the messages I send. Yes, it seems important to me that, as a minimum, we communicators try to self-explore and consider if the messages we are sending are adequate. There is this kind of test (Bechdel's), which consists of asking questions to know if your book contains micromachismos. Many books would not happen, and I doubt very much that whoever writes does it in a thoroughly macho way, but they are small grounds that we still have. On the other hand, I am very interested in the development of characters. It is my biggest obsession.
What role do you think journalists have played in the results of the general elections?
My perception is that the role of journalists is and has always been very relevant in public opinion. I am a training journalist, so I am very convinced that they do. Social networks too. In the end, people form their political opinion not only by talking in a bar, but also by talking in a bar with someone who has read the newspaper. The work of journalists is especially relevant when discerning what is true and what is not, and when transmitting a certain rigor at a time when there may be information of all kinds on Twitter.
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