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Tags:   Maltese heroes,   Career,   Books,   Culture

By The Swag Team   -  February 23, 2015

The man whose adventure stories in Maltese graced the bookshelf of thousands of Maltese kids over the last 40 years, has also broken boundaries with his adult-oriented tales such as Is-Surmast, Minn Wara z-Zipp and Il-Hajja Sigrieta tan-Nanna Genoveffa among other best-selling titles and theatrical productions. SWAG caught up with Trevor Zahra and asked him to share some of the secrets that make a successful writer.



What is your writing generally about?


I started writing children’s adventure stories way back in the '70s, but simultaneously I also wrote adult fiction. In fact, in 1974 I was awarded first prize for my adult novel Taħt il-Weraq tal-Palm (Under the Palm Trees).



What made you decide to write?


I was brought up in a 'book friendly' environment. My dad had a big library where I used to browse and explore. My grandma and auntie were great story tellers and they kindled in me an irresistible attraction to folktales and legends.



What is the inspiration behind your characters, events and plot?


I’m always implanting fragments of myself in my stories... together with childhood recollections, past experiences, and bizarre and intriguing characters I've encountered. These usually make the basis for my fiction; then fantasy and imagination will fill in the blanks.



How hard is the writing process?


It’s a question of commitment. It becomes a way of life; a necessity. Sometimes you might experience an uncomfortable 'block' which might last long months. But I've realised that during this period the mechanism wouldn’t be idle but recharging.



What are your expectations for your publications at the moment?


I’m looking forward to have some of my books translated and published abroad. At present I have very promising projects. Hopefully, during the present year and the next, I will see the materialization of this project.



 How long does preparing and writing a novel take you?


Good preparation is crucial. Sometimes even a two-thousand-word short story might take months in the making. I’m very meticulous and thorough in my homework and I never embark on the actual writing before I have everything in order. But this is very subjective and other writers might have a very different writing process which would be as valid as mine.



Is writing your full-time occupation?


I spent 33 years teaching Art and Maltese. In Malta, one cannot make a living out of writing, but now I’m retired and writing is my full-time occupation.



When did you start writing?


I wrote my first 'rhymes' when I was nine and almost all my first experiments were in poetry. Then, when I was 14-15 years old, I wrote Il-Praspar ta’ Kunċett u Marinton (The Antics of Kunċett and Marinton) which I published in the early '70s. My first publication was Il-Pulena tad-Deheb (The Golden Figurehead), in 1971.



What has been the feedback over the years?


Writing gives me enormous satisfaction. I like answering fan mail and being connecting with my readers.



Do you feel your works in some way contribute to the moral and character formation of those who read them?


I always emphasize that reading should be mainly an enjoyable activity. Reading should be fun... but like a good healthy meal, it combines the gastronomic pleasures with the intake of essential vitamins and minerals.



How do you write?


I write in the mornings. In spring and summer I wake up at five and sometimes even earlier and immediately switch on my PC. I write directly on my computer in my study, which gives me a sense of security.



Are there any taboos you won’t deal with in your books?


None at all. I believe that one can write on any subject... even for children.  It’s just a matter of style and technique.



Do you have an opinion on the developments in the reading world?


Although I prefer the old traditional book, I also have an e-book reader which I’ve found to be very practical. Researching on the Internet is must and an unquestionable asset, but these are only tools...  reading is the heart of the matter.



Any advice for aspiring novelists and writers?


A good writer is the metamorphosis of an avid reader. My advice is: read, read and read, and when you believe that you’ve read enough: read some more.



What publications can we expect from you in the future?


I’m working on a new collection of adult short stories. Hopefully it will be published by next November.



Where can readers purchase your books from?


My books can be found in all major bookshops.



Find out more about Trevor Zahra through his website.


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