Saturday, November 17, 2012

An interview with Marius Hancu

 "Simon and Hiroko" is a novel about two people, from two different cultural backgrounds, who meet and fall in love. Their path is full of obstacles. Simon is an American professional photographer; Hiroko is a traditional Japanese dancer. Today I have the pleasure of interviewing the author, Marius Hancu. Marius Hancu is also the author of "Our Lives as Kites".

MH: Thank you, Julia, for your interest in my work and for the welcome.  It’s a pleasure to be present on your literary blog.  

Julia: Marius, how did you come up with the idea to write "Simon and Hiroko"?

MH: For one reason or another, the memory has its own strange paths, and it tends to travel back to where the body and the soul, to quote Auden, were once. I lived in Tokyo for close to two years. No wonder perhaps then that I return there many times in my imagination.  Part of my mind, part of my heart remained there forever. Let’s think about much more famous cases, say Lawrence Durrell and Alexandria, Marcel Proust and le côté de chez Swann, Henry James and the States. And, by comparison, how lucky must have been Henry Miller then, to be able to write in real time in the place in which he loved and lived — with no time travel — for such journeys are painful on the mind.
Some of my work touches on magical realism, and one still needs a hard core of reality for it all to breathe truth.  At least I needed such a core in my novels to date. Thus, I prefer to return to places that I know, at least to some extent.
As well, I was so imbued with the history and the reality of Japan and of the Japanese people, so full of it, at the time I left it, that this feeling had to externalize itself somehow, even though like many a writer, I had to recast Tokyo to my imaginings.
Then, just by chance, the experience of reading “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle” by Haruki Murakami came in to reinforce my desire of wanting to write about Tokyo and Japan as a starting point in a love story.

Julia: How long did it take you to complete it?

MH: One year, plus another half a year for various revisions.

Julia: What were the main challenges you dealt with when you wrote about Simon and Hiroko?

MH: The most important one was to create the feeling of love between them.  Visible, palpable love. Only the readers can decide whether I managed.
Another significant challenge was balancing the two main characters with regard to each other in terms of allocated time, strength of character, attractiveness, strong and weak points. I didn't want the reader to favor one of them, as I very much wanted to present them as a powerful, passionate couple  — and most of the time a couple that is out of balance is not strong enough. You might remember the alternation between them toward the end of the novel — in terms of being featured in one chapter. That was part of this balancing gig.
Another difficult issue was how to present the Japanese characters speaking to each other. Unfortunately, in this day and age, bilingual novels are not quite in fashion — they never were — nor is my Japanese strong or subtle enough these days. The natural decision was to make them speak English, with short insertions in Japanese.  That left me with another difficulty, how to simulate in English the jargon of the Yakuza (Japanese Mafia) members. I created a limited English slang that might exist just in my imagination.
Another touchy issue: having decided that the two halves of the novels should have different tempos, I was confronted with the task of implementing that, as it required in the second part shorter clauses, more limited vocabulary, more active verbs, a certain bareness in terms of modifiers, while trying to hold on to the same voice and tone for the characters.

Julia: Do you feel, in any way, identified with Simon?

MH: Well, yes, I went myself to Japan from his world, so I could easily see his POV. However, I was just as much attached to Hiroko. Trying to understand her world had of necessity taken me there.

Julia: Did you miss the characters after finishing the novel?

MH: Serious withdrawal symptoms — yes.  It would have been difficult not to.  After spending a lot of my waking hours wondering what they would do next, it was difficult to cut the umbilical cord and let them fly away.   

Julia: How and when did you first discover your passion for writing?

MH: I guess it was by reading the greats, in my case poetry by Apollinaire, Lorca or Montale.  I was so exhilarated, that I decided to try myself the experience. It was initially poetry, then I decided for prose. Still later, I thought it would be fun to write a three-hundred-pages long novel. The process of physically sitting me down for doing it took quite a while. Years.

Julia: What are you working on now?

MH: A shorter novel set, this time, in a place that I have never visited.  This should be easier on the mind, as it does not have to bring in the play of present any old circumstances or people.

Julia: What do you enjoy most about being a writer? And what is the dark side of being a writer?

MH: For the first, the high of being creative, from forging small circumstances and scenes to spinning off entire worlds. For the second, one of the worst is the isolation you need to achieve in order to put just several valid words on paper.  No surprise then that Philip Roth, a master, has grown fed up with it all.  Still, let all of us writers achieve a small part of what he has.


  1. Wonderful interview, with very focused questions. Sounds quite interesting. I must get a copy.

    1. Thanks, JJ. I'm glad you enjoyed the interview.

    2. I'd like to thank Julia again for a wonderful forum, open to all of you. Best wishes to everyone.

      And, yes, I'd love to have you all as reviewers at Amazon (Kindle) or Kobo (epub - available in 5 days or so) :-)

      I'm going to have a glass of Pinot Noir after this. Cheers!

  2. Hi Marius, lovely to meet you here over at wonderful Julia's blog. I think writing passionate love that resonates is one of the most difficult things for me to convey. It's so annoying when I feel it but to put such a feeling into words and more so in a story!! Very difficult for me!!

    So huge congratulations with your love story - it sounds suitably star-crossed and powerful! Take care

    1. Thanks, Old Kitty. It's good to know that you have such a positive opinion about my blog. It gives me one more reason to keep going!

  3. Wonderful interview with Marius. Thanks Julia for alerting me to this great book. I need to get a copy.

    1. Thanks, Rachna! Feel free to read my review on it on Goodreads. Cheers.

    2. And don't forget, please, to send me your detailed feedback at the e-mail shown at the end of the book. Thanks in advance.

  4. OOH! Great to know about this book. And wonderful interview. :)

    1. Hey, Leigh,

      Thanks and looking forward to have your impressions on it :-)

  5. Great interview. Thanks for the introduction and recommendation for another book. Xx

  6. A love story will gangster elements sounds intriguing.

    1. Suffice it to say, those are not the only strange participants ... :-)


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