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‘Poppies in October’, by Laura Riñón: the novel in which books mark life

Some books come into our lives when we are ready to receive them, although it seems that we are the ones who choose them. Some readings lead us to others, like an invisible compass that guides our inspiration. I couldn’t say how many times something like this has happened to me, but I know which book was that led me to start writing the novel. Poppies in October. I don’t know if there are established guidelines, an inevitable decalogue that must be respected when writing. If there is, I have ignored it due to ignorance or disinterest. My stories are mine and, better or worse, I tell them how I think they should be told.

I know that my memory does not fail me when I say that everything happened like this:

I landed at the Madrid-Barajas airport while reading the last page of the book that I started reading when taking off from Berlin. And while the plane was taxiing on the runway I was thinking about how good it would have been for me to read that story a few years earlier. I disembarked with the haste of someone who is late for an appointment, but no one was waiting for me. Something told me that I had to sit down and write as soon as possible., that there was no time to waste. As if it were a literary crush, I felt conquered by a new story, even though I knew nothing about it yet.

I drove towards my house with my eyes distracted and my speed contained while I began to write mentally – I don’t just write on pages – and the words were arranged with such fluidity that not even the roar of the car wash rollers made me lose my mind. concentration. I had finally come across the novel I had been looking for for so long.. And all thanks to The misunderstanding by Irène Némirovsky, the book that I read during that flight and that awakened a new story in me. I will not write anything about that novel, but I will not finish this paragraph without recommending its reading.

Laura Riñón Sirera, author of ‘Poppies in October’.

I have always believed that, whether we are readers or not, we have a literary chronology that defines us. The books written by others become the mirror of the self that we once were and even tell the story that we believed was only ours. And that was how, during the days following that revelation, I began to work on Carolina’s life, the name with which I baptized the protagonist of The novelits provisional title. I didn’t know anything about Carolina then.I didn’t know her family or what she had done before turning forty, the age she was when we met. Little Women It had to be the book with which she began her literary chronology – it had to have something in common with her – and from there, I began to wander through the universe of the unknown woman who was beginning to give me so many insomnia.

“Whether we are readers or not, we have a literary chronology that defines us”

His family took shape as the titles of the works began to be revealed, his father turned out to be English and the love story that he and his mother lived must have seemed like something out of a Jane Austen novel. Carolina Smith’s life was going to be the one I wanted and the books chosen would define the most relevant stages of her history. But someone like her needed an accomplice, a person who lived in a reality with less intensity or drama, and Guillermo, her twin brother, saw the light in the first pages.

The scenarios had to be as literary as possible. Paul, the father, was a respected literature teacher and the close friend of Richard Booth, creator of one of the most magical places in existence, the literary village of Hay-on-Wye. His wife Bárbara, mother of Carolina and Guillermo, worked as a literary translator and she was far from considering herself an ordinary mother. She was working at the National Library of Madrid when she met Paul, they fell in love and I had no choice but to choose Persuasion to finish telling the beginning of his story.

Later, Martina would arrive, her only granddaughter and the person responsible for everyone knowing her grandmother as Barbuela. The family was complete. I only needed the supporting characters to support my protagonist, but before that, since I always wanted to have a bookstore, I wanted to give Carolina my dream and I named her Jo’s bookstorebecause as the protagonist herself says: “Jo was Jo long before I chose her name.”. And with Jo came Lana. And she arrived in the most sensational way that could have burst into the life of her boss and protector. She would be an enigmatic and cheerful character, a determined young girl who would make the days that Carolina was going to face more bearable. But Lana must have had a past too. And it didn’t take me long to discover her secret.

In life and in fiction, secondary characters have always captivated me. Without them no reality could have happened as it did. For better and for worse. Carolina Smith was a fragile and scattered woman, addicted to intense thinking, so she needed someone with a sensitivity similar to hers who would take life with the certainty of constantly being on the last day of her own existence. she. And Andrea appeared, a character inspired by the memory of Sylvia Plath. Andrea would have a paradoxical and surprising soul, and she would be a tormented woman, full of talent and enthusiasm.

She and Carolina met while studying at an English boarding school and never separated. I think that Andrea’s arrival was what made the story begin to write itself, I even traveled to London, walked – or loitered – along the street where Sylvia said goodbye to life. I recreated that cold February day and I admit that I feel some pride when a reader confesses to me that they met Sylvia Plath through my novel. It’s the least I can do after borrowing the title of your poem, Poppies in October.

“Write Poppies in October “It has been one of the most exciting things I have done to date.”

But I still hadn’t managed to come up with the most important answer: What could I do to position the novels in Carolina’s chronology without it seeming forced? It was essential to create a conflict between mother and daughter and for the language of literature to be the only one that both women shared. I rewrote the beginning, sat Barbara in a hospital room, stripped her of her strength and the power she wielded over her daughter, and continued her literary chronology.

The love story I chose had to be related to The misunderstanding, and thanks to her Carolina would be forced to mature after surviving a relationship similar to the one portrayed in Némirovsky’s novel. Then came the moment when she finally became aware of everything that had happened before sinking into inconsolable grief, and she appeared Nothing by Carmen Laforet. And Virginia? She had to be. Which work would fit best? I embarked on reading what had been written so far and decided that Mrs. Dalloway It was essential. Carolina had become Clarissa Dalloway at some point, but so had Barbuela, and Andrea and even Lana. All of them, in one way or another, were Mrs. Dalloway.

Write Poppies in October It has been to date one of the most exciting things I have done. At that time I traveled a lot, and the places where my characters walked were the same ones where I got lost in search of inspiration; London, Boston and even Venice. I enjoyed some situations such as the meeting between Hemingway and Carolina’s grandfather or when I sneaked into Paul and Barbara’s secret room. Fiction surpassed reality.

Poppies in October He found me to write a novel about the healing power of words and that’s why I chose one of the best beginnings a story like this could have:

“Mom devised a method so that we could forget the bad things that happened to us, and so that in turn we would always remember the lesson learned. She would rescue the quote from a book or the dialogue that she considered appropriate for the occasion, and with her perfect handwriting she would write it on one of the white tiles in the kitchen at home. Thus, by reading them every time we passed by, we would remember the reason for what was written, and “We would understand that no matter how much something hurt, there was always someone who at some point had felt the same as us.”.

Just as it happens with the books that choose us, some writers spend time observing and waiting until that magical moment in which the story appears. Our history.

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