Today, I would like to welcome author Francis Berger to the blog. Here he tells us a bit more about himself and his novel, The City of Earthly Desire.
What was the inspiration for 'The City of Earthly Desire'?
The inspiration for 'The City of Earthly Desire' is rooted in a combination of many events and experiences: my visits to Hungary as a child and young adult: the two years I spent living in Budapest from 2001 to 2003: my memories of the city after the collapse of communism coupled with subsequent research into the time period: a yearning to incorporate the plight of ethnic Germans in Hungary after World War II into a narrative without creating a story solely based on that tragic and virtually unrecognized chapter of history. There are dozens of other factors, but for the sake of brevity, I'll leave my answer there.
Which character was the most interesting to write?
They were all interesting to write, but the one I had the most fun writing was Anthony Vergil, the stylishly-dressed dandy and unabashed hedonist whose occupation as a war-correspondent was nothing more than a means of balancing the decadent pleasures of his 'little indulgences.'
Do you find novels or short stories easier to write? What is the difference for you?
My narrative ideas tend to be fairly complex and vast, far too complex and vast to fit the confines of a short story. I like to develop characters fully and pace stories over extended stretches of time, which is nearly impossible to do in a short story. Though I wrote short stories when I was younger, I doubt I would have much success at them now.
What other projects do you currently have in the works?
Currently I'm focusing most of my energy on promoting and marketing 'The City of Earthly Desire'; that is a project in of itself, I can assure you. I would like to begin working on another novel this coming summer, but I am still mulling over possible ideas.
Reinhardt and Bela, the main characters, are artists. Do you have any artistic abilities?
If you count writing as a form of art, then I would consider myself an artist in that arena and that arena alone. Sadly, I have no other artistic talents of which to boast. But I have always had, and continue to have, a deep appreciation and sublime respect for artists, be they painters or sculptors or composers or poets, especially the great ones who struggle to create beauty in a world that is often indifferent to them and their creations.
Who or what inspires you the most?
Truth. Beauty. Virtue. If those don't work, I think of the author Stephen Vizinczey who escaped Hungary after the failed uprising in 1956 and landed in Canada with only fifty words of English in his arsenal. Finding himself a writer without a language, he contemplated suicide, but thankfully turned to teaching himself to write in English. Within a decade, he had written and self-published the critically-acclaimed 'In Praise of Older Women' and was praised for 'teaching the English how to write in English.'
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?
I would return to Hungary and visit other places in central Europe. Writing this novel has only increased my curiosity about that part of the world.
Did your teaching career have any influence on your writing?
It may shock some to hear this, but teaching literature at the high school level is not the awe-inspiring, soul-satisfying occupation Hollywood makes it out to be through films like 'Dead Poets Society' and 'Freedom Writers.' On the contrary, I have found that most students today are disinterested in books and are apathetic about literature; however, nearly all students enjoy good stories. If anything, teaching has reminded me of the importance of writing engaging narratives, of crafting stories that draw the reader in and make them forget they are reading a book.
What is one of your most memorable teaching moments?
It is a moment I experience one or two times a year – the moment the class becomes invested in a story and begin to ask self-generated questions before and after reading.
What is something that readers may be surprised to learn about you?
I'm a terrible blogger – at least so far. I started a blog about three months ago to support the release of the novel, but I find it very challenging to come up with ideas for posts. Nevertheless, I'm going to stick with it, because when I do post, I find the experience quite exhilarating. Perhaps all I need is time and practice to master the medium.
Anything else you would like to share?
Just the novel . . . oh, and kind regards.