GeekPlanetOnline Interviews

Gillian Coyle interviews acclaimed writer Rosa Montero about her novel Tears in Rain.

 
 

GeekPlanetOnline Interview: Rosa Montero

 


 

Rosa Montero is a novelist, award-winning journalist and former Editor-In-Chief of the Spanish newspaper El Pais. Relatively unknown in English-speaking territories, she has written for children and adults alike and has over twenty novels to her name, a number of them prize-winning. 2011's Lagrimas en la Lluvia (Tears In Rain), recently translated into English and released in the US and UK by Amazon Crossing, is her first science fiction novel, and only the third released in the West. Gillian Coyle speaks to Ms. Montero via email about the influences, politics and themes of this powerful story.


 

You have a long and distinguished career, but very few of your novels have been translated into English. Do you have a sense of why this work in particular is being brought to a new audience?

Thanks for the distinguished part! Who knows. I am translated into more than twenty something languages all over the world but it is true that I only have had three books translated into English up to now. But I am old enough to know that the translation business is a very weird and unpredictable thing... I would really love to be more visible in the English language, but I am ready to cope with everything, lol!

What is it about Blade Runner that made you want to use it as a touchstone in telling this story?

Actually, things didn't work that way. You don't choose the story you are going to write, but rather the story chooses you. One day it appears in your head, as suddenly and out of the blue as dreams appear in the night. One day I felt the urge to create a world of mine, a world I could visit from time to time when I feel like it... I wanted to give that world to myself as a present, I wanted to enjoy writing a book with all the freedom and the passion and the happiness I felt when I wrote at 20 years old before publishing, before success and failure and best sellers list, lol.... And when I felt this urge, I said: it will be a thriller and a science fiction story, just because, as a reader, I love thrillers and science fiction books. And then, after having decided that, suddenly I saw the main character and I knew it was going to be a she and a replicant, probably because the main subjects in all my novels are life versus death, and memory and identity. And the replicants (or Dick's androids) offered a wonderful basic metaphor for all these.... I took the replicants theme as a classic modern myth as I could have written about Oedipus myth, for example.... I mean, my book is not really a sequel to Blade Runner, and although I loved the film, I am not a Blade Runner fanatic at all.

In Blade Runner, empathy is presented as the defining human characteristic. In your novel, it's memory that appears to define humanity. How important do you think memory is to our identity?

Actually, in my novel there is no difference between human beings and replicants.... They have the same emotions, of course a lot of empathy, and memory is indeed a fake for both of them... Human memory is just a fiction, a construction, we invent our past. I have a brother and sometimes we talk about our common memories from our childhood, and I can tell you that his parents are not my parents at all, lol! Because he wrote his past in a different way than I did.... We humans are all writers of a novel, in which we have the leading role.... And, if we invent our memories, that means our identity is also a construct, an invention, because identity is built upon memories.... Actually I think that the striking feature of Human Beings is their capacity to create and appreciate beauty (by the way, my replicants can appreciate beauty too.... )

Body Art plays a significant role in the novel, did you have an interest in this previously, or did you research it for the novel?

Oh, no I didn't research it at all... I have a certain interest in it, indeed.... For instance, I have always loved tattoos... I tattooed a salamander on my arm 12 years ago and I had to refrain myself from going the next day to get another tattoo! You feel such an exhilaration! It is a marvellous feeling to be able to mark this body of ours, which betrays us and in the end kills us.... From now, tyrannic body of mine, you'll have to bear this salamander that is a product of my will.... I have changed my body in a permanent way through my will, and that is a consoling thing.

In your depiction of Technohumans, there's a resonance with the plight of soldiers trained to serve society and then abandoned by that society. Is this something you feel strongly about?

Not really. I don't feel very close to the military psychology, or point of view. I hate war films and never go to see them, lol.... But I feel very near to human suffering in every sense, and these old, broken and abandoned veterans are people who suffer.

The aliens in Tears in Rain feel very alien, different from the stereotypical bumpy-forehead types we're often presented with. How did you go about creating these cultures and physiologies?

They came by themselves.... As I said, novels are dreams the writer dreams open eyed.... They just appeared there. And I felt alien when I wrote about them. You have to feel inside every one of your characters if you want them to be complex and real enough.... So, I had been as alien as Maio, my translucent man from Omaa planet. At the end, we are all humanoids, so, very near people....

You depict the dangers of far-right politicians, with their widening agendas of marginalisation and historical revision, in a way that feels scarily prescient. Do you feel we are in danger of forgetting the lessons of the last century?

We humans are always in danger of forgetting everything. In the Dark Medieval Ages, we forgot all the sophisticated knowledge from the Greeks in the Pericles age and we went backwards a lot of centuries... One of the things my novel says is you cannot be passive, you have to fight socially and politically to move the world ahead to a better world, because if you don't do that, you risk the chance of a regression to barbaric times. And, yes, I see all around the world certain totalitarian or tyrannic nostalgia. Very worrying.

You have an interesting take on the future of commercialism and corporate culture, does its increasing control over our lives bother you?

I don't really thing they are going to increase their control, and my book doesn't depict that.... I think big powers have always controlled people, or tried to.... And nowadays I think this control is softer than before.... Democratic societies have ways of controlling the controllers, so to say.... Look at the Wiki leaks affair, for instance....I am not pessimistic at all.

 



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Interview conducted by Gillian Coyle. Our thanks to Rosa Montero for taking the time to speak with us. 

Tears In Rain  is available in both Kindle format and paperback from Amazon. You can read Gillian's review here.