Life in Writing
This was a fun interview. Zoltán Pósfai hails from Hungary, and is able to represent a very different world view from my own because of it. In this interview we discuss his book series, Witchhunter, as well as his upcoming event at the London Book Fair. Check out the interview below.
Q. Where are you from?
A. I’m from Hungary and currently live in Budapest. I spent several years abroad in many countries and that makes me a bit of a cosmopolitan.
Do you have a job other than writing?What do you do?
Yes, I’m not a full time writer. I’m originally a physicist, but I had to turn to other areas. I’m currently working in the IT sector. I started out as engineer and later architect and by now I turned into a manager/head of/lead. The technical type, not the report hoarder one.
Q. Why do you write sci-fi and fantasy?
A. The reason I mostly write in these genres is that my goal is not just a few hours of entertainment for the readers, but to play around with different personal, psychological, social, ethical questions. My opinion was always that if you want to understand how something works and be able to find a good way, you have to know it in the full spectrum. This means that you have to know it in the extremes as well to be able to find the right balance and know possible weaknesses.
There are two ways to gather knowledge. Experiment and read as much as possible, or create thought experiments. The former is more exact, but limited. The latter is less exact, but limitless. Science fiction and fantasy let’s you create any setup and play with it.
Q. What are you currently working on?
A. I have multiple works in the queue. ‘The Witchhunter’ is a trilogy and I’m preparing the second book. It requires a lot of background investigation before I will be able to write the first lines. Sometimes I spend a whole night to be able to put a single word in the story.
Also in the works is a collection of science fiction short stories I’ve written or I’m about to finish. As I like to cross boundaries, one of them may become a screenplay as well.
I’m also considering to write a companion book for the Witchhunter trilogy as there are many hidden hints and there are also some descriptions of witchcraft and the world that couldn’t make it into the books.
Tell us a little bit about it.
The second Witchhunter book takes place soon after the first book. While the first book was about the slow process of facing the new things and turning into an inner turmoil, the second will involve a lot more classic investigation and action. The main point remains the problem he is facing, but you will see more of his human side. And also that of other characters.
Q. When will your next book be released?
A. I plan to publish the short story collection sometime in May and then start to write the second book of the trilogy.
Q. When did you decide to become a writer?
A. I’ve been creating worlds, stories and situations since I was little, but left them brewing inside. Then, I started to write for the drawer. Already in written form, but never satisfied. Sometime in 2014 I decided that it’s time to start writing for a broader audience. I didn’t feel ready or satisfied with myself, but I doubt I will ever be. A healthy dose of doubt drives you to make things better.
Where do you get your inspiration on what to write?
I get inspiration while I’m sleeping. And while I’ awake. I read a lot and in many areas. I also have a rather flexible and quick way of association. This means that I’m able to start new things almost anywhere, any time. It is related to why I became a physicist in the first place. You have to be very open minded, able to let go everything that you learned in your everyday life and need to be able to connect very different things. (I did most of my work in particle physics and cosmology.)
Q. What are some of your hobbies outside of writing?
A. First of all, I’m an information devourer. I have a couple of favourite subjects: sciences, history, psychology, sociology, maps, traveling and anything creative. I’m a real survivalist. If a sudden ice age comes or an asteroid hits the Earth, I’m probably someone you’d like to have around.
I like to learn languages and when I can, I want to read books in their original form.
Also do all sorts of sports when I get the chance. Some of the more interesting ones are gliding, scuba diving, free diving, spelunking.
Q. What book are you currently reading?
A. I’m doing some reviews and beta reads for other indie authors and also rereading a few Herbert books. They always give me inspiration.
Q. Who are some of your favorite authors?
A. I have a clear first place. Frank Herbert. He captivated me by how he was able to create whole worlds and enjoyable stories, while the main point was almost always about discussing problems. For example the main point of the six Dune books is the dissection of social and psychological problems of humans. Why people act as they do individually or in groups? Is it possible to change it? At what price and with what results? In the nineties I even had some connection with Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson when they started to think about the prequels.
Apart from Frank Herbert, I prefer to note individual books as favourites and they are not all from the most popular shelves. For example A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller,Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler, Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke to mention a few.
Q. What do you do to market your books?
A. First of all, I’m trying to find the right channels to my target group. My writings are not light ones to read on the bus and you will probably never see them in a supermarket.
While general social media is not my area, I decided to start a blog where I can write about my thoughts, write reviews and do some interviews with selected authors. My blog is called Mentat Online and my motto is “Thoughts about writing, writings about thoughts”.
Q. Of all the books you’ve written, which is your favorite, and why?
A. With one book published at this point, the answer would seem obvious, but I’d twists the question a bit and chose the first short story I published. The title is Thirty-six Righteous People and it was written in Hungarian about ten years ago. I’m just translating it to English and it will be part of the short story collection I’m about to publish. In many ways that’s my ‘first’ and it was an important step on its own.
Thirty-six Righteous People is a story in a world, where humanity locked itself into the Third World War. A war that has been going on for centuries and because of nuclear weapons everybody lives underground in a society specialized to serve the war. Of course, not everything is as simple as it may seem.
Q. If any of your stories could be made into a movie, which would you choose?
A. I think it’s not a trivial task, but the Witchhunter trilogy could be made into a movie, but there are two important things to note. The first is that I’d choose three different directors for each book as the style and content changes as the story progresses. The first book is rather introverted and a big portion of the story is within the hunter’s mind and this is not an easy task for most directors. The second, in terms of directing, is closer to a meaningful, but usual fantasy. For the time being, I’m withholding information about the third one.
Casting would be important as this is a character driven story. Vigo Mortensen would definitely be my first choice for the hunter. For the main witch character, Uma Thurman was my main choice, but with her recent ‘changes’, I’m reconsidering. I have ideas for currently background characters and those that will appear in the second book, but I will wait with them until the second book is out.
If you could be friends with a fictional character (Including any from your own stories) who would you choose?
From other’s books, I’d choose Duncan Idaho or Miles Teg (in this order) from the Dune series. They are both people I’d like to have a friends and would love to know them personally. Both are intelligent people with a lot of experience and a sound ethical soul. They also know what it takes to participate in happenings that are much bigger than themselves.
Knowing my own characters too well, makes it difficult to imagine them as independent persons and friends, making it difficult to choose. If I had to choose, it would probably be either Scarlet, the main witch character from the Witchhunter trilogy or the AI character in one of the short stories I’m about to publish.
Does your taste in movies and shows line up with your taste in books? If they differ, how so?
I watch movies with two distinct goals. They should either be entertaining, providing fun, visuals and some free time well spent. The other category is when I expect some ‘content’. These may be simple by appearance. For example The Man From Earth is a very simple and low budget film, while it has everything that is needed. The latter category does overlap with my writings.
The main difference is that most movies tend to provide a happy ending or just some twist at the end. Real life is always a mixture of good and bad things (or just neutral) and in this regard I tend to be a realistic writer.
Q. Do you have a certain place that you like to do your writing? Does environment affect your work?
A. I’m very open minded while I set up the world, situation, environment or characters, but once it is done, I try to make the events as realistic as possible. Imagine a whole virtual reality, simulation system in my head that actually builds most of the story by running a simulation. For this, I need to be able to detach from reality. Most of the times I have this possibility during the night, alone, but a considerable portion of Witchhunter was written while I was on public transportation with a crowd around me. They became a kind of white noise background.
Q. Of all the books in the world, why is yours worth taking the time to read?
A. Because it gives you new ways to look at our world, our history and gives you a lot of things to think about. It’s a good starting point for people to talk about matters related to the story. While there is enough story and adventure to make it a good read itself, I see a group of people having conversations and arguments about the second layer of content.
Q. Leave the blurb to your latest book.
A. Conley Theron had been a lone witch hunter for centuries. Some events, he mostly erased from his memory, fuel his relentless hatred toward the witches that most of the world considers old tales. His mysterious longevity and immunity to witchcraft allowed him to become a prime predator.
During his hunts, he finds traces of a witch who apparently slipped away from him for a long time. While investigating and pursuing her, the hunt takes a twist unexpected to both. The witch home world is exposed for the first time while the hunter's motives and past start to crack. Is his goal as pure as he believed it for centuries? Who is she? And why is she so different?
Q. What makes the main character of your latest book interesting to read about?
A. One of the things people tend to forget is that fanatic pursuit of a goal is seldom coupled with bad intentions. Most of the times they are based on good concepts and people involved believe they are doing the right thing. Something just went astray and if you do not stop to evaluate what you do, because you “know” it is the right thing, the result will not be what you wanted. This problem is magnified in the main character as he is several hundreds of years old, spent his life in solitude and is generally helping people where he can. He is also the ultimate survivalist.
Q. Do you have any events in the near future?
A. Although, in the end, I wasn’t able to manage my personal attendance, I will be represented at the 2016 London Book Fair. I’m inviting readers around to visit the fair and while they are there, to look for my book as well. You will find my book on Level 1, at the Author HQ area, 1D50. I’m well represented. Visitors can get answers for many questions or get them forwarded to me. I will be constantly online during the fair and will answer you shortly.
If you enjoyed this interview and would like to know more about this author or his books, you can check out his blog at: http://mentat.online or you can find him on Goodreads here: https://www.goodreads.com/witchhunter
Daniel M. Quilter is the author of A Soul Divided. On this blog he'll interview other authors, review books, share nerd wisdom from popular sci-fi and fantasy, and occasionally share his insights on writing. See a list of his works or see what he's working on.
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