Inside the Book:
Author: Emre Gurgen
Genre: Literary Criticism
Don Quixote Explained focuses on seven topics: how Sancho Panza refines into a good governor through a series of jokes that turn earnest; how Cervantes satirizes religious extremism in Don Quixote by taking aim at the Holy Roman Catholic Church; how Don Quixote and Sancho Panza check-and-balance one another’s excesses by having opposite identities; how Cervantes refines Spanish farm girls by transforming Aldonza Lorenzo into Dulcinea; how outlaws like Roque Guinart and Gines Pasamonte can avoid criminality and why; how Cervantes establishes inter-religional harmony by having a Christian translator, on the one hand, and a Muslim narrator, on the other; and lastly, how Cervantes replaces a medieval view of love and marriage―where a woman is a housekeeper, lust-satisfier, and child begetter―with a modern view of equalitarian marriage typified by a joining of desires and a merger of personalities.
“AN ERUDITE EXAMINATION OF THE THEMES AND IDEAS IN DON QUIXOTE. I THOROUGHLY ENJOYED THE WRITING AND EXPOSITION OF THIS WELL-REASONED CRITIQUE. BUY IT AND STUDY IT. GERALD J. DAVIS, AUTHOR OF DON QUIXOTE, THE NEW TRANSLATION BY GERALD J. DAVIS” WWW.DON-QUIXOTE-EXPLAINED.COM
Question 1- How long does it take you to write a book?
At first, when I was learning how to write a book, when I was absorbing the rules of good grammar, proper syntax, and fitting diction, when I was expanding my vocabulary of concepts—by looking up definitions and applying words to different contexts—the writing process was much slower. During my early years, when I was learning how to write, I wrote, and rewrote, sections of my book, over and over again, so it read more smoothly. But, now that I am a practiced writer, with a large vocabulary of concepts, and an impresssive mastery of grammar, the actual process of writing is much easier. It flows more smoothly. Words just pour out. I do not have to rewrite as much, since my base drafts are better to begin with. And, though, I am a much better and faster writer today because of all my writing practice, still I am not a particularly fast writer, though, I am not a slow and plodding writer either. My pace, I would say, is average. But the quality of my writing, at least the writing I take pride in, is exceptional, primarily because I value quality over quantity in all things, especially writing. Whether I write a book, a short story, a novella, a piece of poetry, or just an e-mail, I try to write it as imaginatively, clearly, and concisely as I can, since effective communication, to me, is the ruling principle of my writing life. If my readers understand what I am writing about, then I have done my job as a writer. If they do not, then I need to go back to the drawing board, until they do.
Strictly speaking, then, though writing Don Quixote Explained took me four years to complete, I have written other books that took more or less time, depending on their simplicity or complexity, their longevity or shortness.
For me, a brief, easy book can take 6 months to a year to write, while a long involved book can take multiple years to finish. Personally, what determines how long it takes me to write a book varies, according to the subject matter of the book, the intricacy of the plot, the simplicity, or complexity, of its theme, its’ narrowness or broadness of topic, and, of course, its length. Is it 150 pages? 300 pages? 800 pages?
Also, for me, writing a book is not merely the mechanical act of actual writing, however rewarding this may be. It also entails a great deal of prewriting consisting of: outlining different plots and themes; writing about my characters beforehand; setting up my scenes.
During the prewriting stage, I detail various natural and man-made settings. I document the goals of my heroes and villains. I trace the conflict of my characters. I develop dialogue by tapping into my emotional subconscious. Then, once all of this pre-thinking and pre-writing is done, I combine all this together into a book. Then I edit, and re-edit. And so on. Until the book is polished and publishable.
So, for me, writing a book is no easy job. Frequently, books take me years to write. They take a great deal of research, brain storming, and trial and error, to think of a good story before I actually write one. For me, writing a book is not just the actual process of fixed writing, (which, can be relatively fast once I have my ducks in a row) but it also includes the prewriting, contemplation stage, which, I find, can take as long as writing the book itself.
I am sure, with practice, I will get faster, over time, so that I can compose one book a year, as most publishers want. But, for now, I would say that writing my books takes me two years, or longer, on average.
Question 2 – What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
As someone who proudly embraces the title writer and eccentric, I have a number of quirks that probably seem odd to the non-writing world.
I pay attention to everything: When I see a stranger with a particular walk, or an interesting look, I take mental notes. When I overhear a fascinating conversation, or experience something wonderful / terrible / awe-inspiring / terrifying, I hold it in my mind for use in my writing. When I experience different climate patterns, like white-out snows, driven rain, blustery wind, or water spouts, I try to note these weather conditions, in case I need them for my books. When I am in a bustling city, a developed town, or a sleepy village, I try to note its characteristics, in case I need to explain it later. I do all this so I can create a plausible mini-world for my readers that corresponds to the larger real world they know. In my everyday life, I try to focus on and retain every detail I can, no matter how minute: Since, to me, it is supporting details, that makes a story believable.
By paying attention to everything − I pack my subconscious with a storehouse of useful information − I store of sights, sounds, smells I may use later − I summon images that I have filed away in my mental database for later use.
Because I am a daydreamer, there are few things I think about more than the worlds and characters that I am writing about. Therefore, my primary writing quirk is to live in worlds that I create even when I am not writing about them.
Question 3 – When did you write your first book and how old were you?
Though, I did not complete my first book until I was 33, currently, I have written two books. Now, I am conceptualizing a third.
To write my first book, then, I drew from all of my previous writing experiences (i.e. high school essays, college term papers, undergraduate and graduate theses, legal briefs, and various memoranda, as well as e-mails, missives, and notes, I wrote).
Honestly, I wish I had started writing sooner since the longer you write, consistently, on a daily basis, the better you write, explicitly, over time. In my view, years of early writing practice would have not only enabled me to produce better fiction, right now, in the form of short-stories, novellas, and novels, but also the long established practice of writing everyday, consistently, would have cultivated stronger relationships with people in the publishing world. In my view, the earlier you begin to write, the more polished an author you become in the long term, since writing, like any cultivated skill, takes practice. The more the better. For this reason, I wish I had started writing poetry, prose, fiction, and non-fiction, from an early age, so that now I could produce creative fiction with ease. But, I didn’t. So now I have to work hard to learn the craft.
Actually, what enabled me to write my book(s) was: my systematic learning of thousands vocabulary words; my voracious reading of many different books (including books on how to write); my methodical study of grammar guides and style manuals; and, most importantly, my systematic practice of writing itself.
The good news is I am still relatively young. So I still have time to improve my writing. I just have to work hard every day to write a novel that tells a great story, one that others will pay to read.
Question 4 – What was one of the most surprising things you learned while writing your book?
Surprisingly, I learned that some of my worst writing could produce something greater, if I ignored all those doubts in my head telling me to remove what I had written. Instead of cutting out what I had written, entirely, sometimes I attempted to improve upon my drafts by rearranging them.
As a novice writer, one of my greatest challenges was building confidence in myself and overcoming self-doubt of writing something wrong. In other words, writing a lot of awful prose lead me to realize that nothing is ever perfect at the outset, in the first stage. That it is possible to transform terrible writing into something good, by changing around paragraphs and sentences, deleting unclear or redundant sections, editing a document for word choice, spelling and grammar, and incorporating outside suggestions.
Question 5 – What do you think makes a good story?
A good story, I think, consists of a timely theme, a tight plot line, believable characters, realistic place settings, and believable conversations that are highly probable. Good writing also has a central purpose, manifest in goal directed actions that can only be accomplished after overcoming a series of hurdles, devised by a main nemesis, an antagonist that makes a protagonist’s accomplishments improbable, and, therefore, impressive. That all elements in a plot—from character development to personal descriptions to conflict, setting, and dialogue—must be smoothly integrated in a story’s plot, not randomly placed there, haphazardly, for the heck of it.
Question 6 – What would you like readers to know?
That my book sold at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington D.C. That Gerald G Davis, a recent translator of Don Quixote, endorsed my book. That I lectured on the Renaissance in Don Quixote at the 41 st International Symposium of Hispanic Literature. That I have an 11 page personal author website, replete with: a book proposal; a CV; a blog; a guest book; an annotated bibliography; a u-tube video of my conference presentation; as well as links to my FB fan page, twitter page, academia.edu account, and books on Amazon.
Emre Gurgen, the author of Don Quixote Explained: The Story of an Unconventional Hero, has a Bachelor’s degree in English from Pennsylvania State University. Currently, he lives in Germantown, Maryland, where he is writing a follow-up Don Quixote essay collection and study guide.