ENCOUNTERS WITH AUTHORS: CHARLES CASHA
Charles in his study at Haz-Zabbar
With Mr Reuben Gauci, Consul General at Consulate General of Malta, Istanbul Turkey while participating as an author in the Tanpinar Festival of Literature in 2012
First prize for L-Ewwel Darba li Ħassejtek - a novel for teenagers - Agenzija Żgħażagħ and National Book Council - 2013
SWAG sat down with Charles Casha, a teacher for over 40 years, who has accumulated an impressive CV of Maltese literature. Casha’s books fall into different categories for different age groups but have proved massively popular in the last half century.
It has been said of him that he explores situations and characters taken from real life and creates characters about whom he writes with love and respect, describing them as if he were a portrait painter.
In spite of the strong demand he had for children’s literature after the success of Fra Mudest, he managed to publish seven adults novels, six books of short stories for adults and three books for teenagers. However, Fra Mudest, a character in a series of books for children, was created in 1967 and is probably his greatest success. Casha has also written poetry, which is collected in two books; Mumenti and Riflessi which were published in 2013 and 2014 respectively.
In October 2013 he represented Malta as an author at the Tanpinar Literature Festival in Istanbul. Casha was awarded the Midalja għall-Qadi tar-Repubblika in 2012 for his contribution to Maltese Literature.
In your own words, what is your writing generally about?
My contribution as a prolific writer to Maltese Literature spreads over 40 years. My writings are aimed at different ages although at times these two orientations seem to meet halfway. I have published textbooks, reading schemes for the very young, novels and short stories and plays for children, novels for teenagers, short stories and novels for adults and poems.
What made you decide to write?
My greatest ambition was to write and publish a novel in Maltese. As a young boy I enjoyed narrating stories to my friends and this instilled in me the love for writing. Moreover, I was encouraged to write by the late author Ġużé Chetcuti, who was my Maltese teacher in Form Two at the Lyceum. After reading one of my short stories he told me: “Casha, keep on writing”. I never looked back from that day onwards.
What is the inspiration behind your characters, events and plots?
I enjoy observing people around me and I am always on the look out for little details. My experiences have a great effect on my writings. I am always interested in what is happening around me and take note of something that strikes me.
How hard is the writing process?
It is a very hard process indeed. One has to be patient, wait for the right moment and inspiration, revise and rewrite until one is satisfied with one’s work. A writer has to dedicate all his energy and concentration when writing, whether it is a book for young readers or for adults.
What are your expectations for your writing at the moment?
I expect my readers to enjoy reading my stories or novels and give me their feedback which I appreciate a lot. After all, writing is sharing ideas and thoughts with others.
How long does preparing and writing a novel take you?
This takes a considerable length of time. When I finish the first draft on the computer, I put it aside while I occupy myself with other writings. As time goes by the story seems to germinate and new ideas and situations are introduced. It is here that the characters (always the point of departure of my short stories and novels) seem to take over. Changes occur until I am satisfied with the version which I have to submit to the publishers. On re-reading the novel or short story more that once, I become more objective and critical of my own work. So all this takes quite a long time – from one to three years.
Is your writing a full-time occupation?
No. I write for pleasure but I do dedicate a lot of my time to writing.
When did you start writing?
My first short stories were written when I was around 14 years old. However, my first (rather short ) novel L-Għalqa fuq il-Għolja was published in the series Librerija Popolari – It-Torċa) in 1968. The first book for children was published in 1971 (the first publication by Merlin Library). This was Fra Mudest, a character I created in 1967 for the Children’s Own magazine and which was my greatest success.
What has been the feedback over the years?
Feedback has been quite encouraging and satisfactory, whether it came from readers, reviewers, publishers or other authors.
Do you feel your works contribute to the moral and character formation of those who read them?
As far as books for teenagers and adults are concerned this does not apply. However, working as a teacher for so many years, I might have unconciously contributed to the moral and character formation in children’s books. I must emphasize that it is not up to the writer to be moralistic in his works.
How do you write?
Sometimes I make my first drafts on old diaries until I start working on my computer. It is also my norm to work on more that one book and this change helps refresh my mind.
I prefer to write in the morning or in the afternoon and I never work late at night. Most of my writings originated while going out for a walk, near the sea or during some event where I happen to lose interest in what is going on.
Are there any taboos you won’t deal with in your books?
In an interview published in one of the local papers, I clearly stated that I cherish certain values which do not change by time or become obsolete according to fashion. This I keep in mind when I am working on a novel or short story. I do believe that literature should be free and authors should not be hindered from expressing what they feel. I try to treat delicate issues with elegance. I am totally against using vulgar language or explicit descriptions with the aim to shock or for publicity. I believe that an author should show respect for his readers’ intelligence.
Do you have an opinion on the developments in the reading world?
With regard to the local situation, I believe that there was a great improvement in the last 20 years, thanks to the professional productions by our leading publishers. Also new subjects and genres were tackled by Maltese authors and we have seen a generation of new writers.
Technology has helped in the publicity of the traditional book. I still love the traditional book form but would surely welcome new reading facilities which would make literature more popular.
Any advice for aspiring novelists and writers?
Read and observe. Be patient. Revise your work until you are satisfied. Do not hesitate to seek other people’s opinions. Accept constructive criticism but do not give up when faced with unjust reviews or judgements.
What publications can we expect from you in the future?
Recently I was informed by my publishers that two novels submitted (one for adults and for teenagers) have been accepted for publication. Hopefully one of them will be published in November 2015. At the moment I am working on a number of very short stories which I intend to submit to my publishers as soon as they are ready.
Where can readers purchase your books from?
Find out more about Charles Casha through his blog.
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