January 24, 2015

Interview with Javier Sedano

Javier Sedano (Torrelavega, Cantabria, 1961) has talked to spanishgayfiction.blogspot.com about his first novel, Tras las puertas del corazón. The reader will find in this interview the pleasure of a contentful conversation, discussing issues such as nudism, sexuality, protest theatre, lack of values, hippie-style life, the historical development differences between Spain and the USA—Hope the reader enjoys Sedano’s speech as much as I’ve done.

SPANISH GAY FICTION: Tras las puertas del corazón has many speeches. But perhaps one of the most obvious is its defense of naturism. Up to what point nudism is important in your life? Do you think that it tends to be misunderstood? Many people—especially gay people—view nudist locations as strictly sexual meeting places.

JAVIER SEDANO: Nudism is a way of living in harmony with your environment, and that is the way I enjoy it whenever I can. It makes me feel alive and free, and of course those who have not been in contact with nudism tend to think that this is a way to be provocative and show off—far from reality, indeed.
And your last statement is true. Many gays find in nudist areas another place for sexual encounters, something that cannot be prevented. That was one of the reasons that led me to write Tras las puertas del corazón among many other motives: showing nudism as a normal thing that has nothing to do with sexuality.

SGF: If I am not wrong, Tras las puertas del corazón was your first novel. How was the experience not only to write it, but also to find a publisher?

JS: It was my first published book, but I had already four books completed and was writing the second part, Preguntas sin respuesta (“Unanswered Questions”). The experience was exciting, as I was facing a long, major story for the first time. The idea of publication came from my friend Raúl, who was the first one that read the novel and told me keenly that I had to send it to a publisher.
Odisea[1] answered before a month’s time. They found the story very interesting, and some months later the novel showed up in bookstores.

SGF: Your full name is Francisco Javier García Sedano. Some of your novels are published under the name of ‘Javier Sedano,’ and others by ‘Frank García.’ What are the reasons of choosing one name or another?

JS: Let us say that those books by Javier Sedano are more conventional, more romantic; novels where I immerse the characters in historic moments of our society, and the language is more precise. On the other hand, those by Frank García are more erotic and sassier as style is concerned.

SGF: Alex is a Spanish guy who travels to the USA in the mid-1960s, and lives through a series of experiences certainly impossible for him if he had remained in Spain. How much of your experience is there in Alex’s story? And how much of fantasy about the way you would like your life should have been is there in the life of Alex?

JS: I gave to my characters—not only Alex—the best of me. There are many true moments of my life and the lives of people who have surrounded me in the best moments of my existence. I gave to every one of them a part of my personality and then, of course, the freedom of fantasy that enriches all the characters even more. Regarding situations that I would have liked to live, they would not be Alex’s precisely, but Ray’s. Ray enjoys that restless spirit in me. The freedom to do whatever he wants and offer all his best to the others—I have never achieved that, nor even got closer to this.

SGF: Would you say that the hippie movement in the USA is for you the closest thing to an earthly paradise in contemporary history? Do you think that this philosophy is still alive in our times?

JS: The hippie movement as such was not so idyllic. They sought to live in harmony with life, with nature, with the environment wherever they were in and, above all, respect to your neighbor and the cause of peace. Anyway, as I see it, there was one problem: drugs. And in answer to your second question, I feel that this philosophy of life could be perfect and, in fact, there are some colonies and small towns recovered where many young people are living this way. The return to Nature…It would be perfect to live all together, creating a community without drugs, since I believe that they do well to no one.  

SGF: If I had to criticize the plot of the novel, it would be in relation to Ray’s and Alex’s roles as fathers. I still have reservations about the reasons why they kept themselves in the shadow of the lives of their children. It is just astonishing that two guys that give off so much love moved away from their own children. Use this moment to defend their motives, Javier...

JS: Neither of them is proud of this separation, this distance, but it was a way to show the readers how many mistakes you can make just by saying, “I will be there tomorrow…,” “Next week by all means we will meet…,” and so many other things over your life. If you realize, in this novel there is much criticism on social conventions and even situations we all have gone through or seen others making mistakes easy to solve if we take our time for ourselves.

SGF: I find curious that in your descriptions of open relationships jealousy rises up never. To what extent do you think that this is viable beyond fiction? Do you think that an open relationship where jealousy never arises is possible? Have you ever lived such a relationship?

JS: I am the sort of person who thinks that there is no room for jealousy if there is sincerity from both sides in a relationship. Jealousy is caused by mistrust and lack of self-confidence from oneself. If a half of the couple hides a situation, whatever it may be, from the other—in the novel this is also taken into account—, it must be done what I believe it is fair between two reasonable people: find the moment and talk about it. (It happens between Ray and Alex in one scene by the lake). And yes, I have lived a similar situation and it worked; the problem was that we had to break up for reasons that had nothing to do with jealousy. Today we are great friends.

SGF: Speaking of the sexuality issue…Ray and Alex are bisexual. Some people take for sure that bisexuality does not exist: you are straight or gay, but never both at the same time. The truth is that, though Ray and Alex can love women, they never love women as much as they love each other. Do you think that one can love with the same intensity both a man and a woman? And do you think it is possible a communal living as Ray and Alex making up a foursome with their wives who, by the way, love each other as well?

JS: In this novel I had the problem of trying to picture all kind of feelings and emotions that human beings can ever feel, as well as our ethical and moral codes. According to many readers, I achieved this. That was the main goal, and bisexuality—so punished by straight and gay people—had to be highlighted, just to show that love has nothing to do with labels, and you can certainly love a man just like a woman, or even love a man and a woman at the same time. Why not? I knew a relationship similar to Alex and Ray’s some years ago.

SGF: Alex’s story is clearly divided into two parts: the first one happens in the USA and the second is set in Spain. Both seem to work like the yin yang theory. It is obvious that the positive events take place in the first part, and the reader bumps into the most dramatic side of the story in the second part. Alex himself finds out his dark side as well. Did you have in mind this yin yang philosophy when considering the two-part construction of the novel? Could the reader consider a political reading of your choice?

JS: I feel that my characters live hard situations in both parts of the novel. We must bear in mind that the reason why they pack their bags and go to Spain is, in my opinion, one of the most shocking moments of the whole novel, though it is true that they will face the greatest difficulties in Spain. These are social and mainly emotional clashes. If you stop to think, you will realize nothing happens for the hell of it and, on the contrary, their lives will be in constant struggle with everything around them. They are two very lively beings, living day-to-day. But as I said before, I wanted to show all the human feelings, good and bad, and among the bad ones there are anger and hate, which blind Alex in a particular moment.

SGF: What do you remember of Spain in the Transición period?

JS: I was very young, but I remember some crazier years when everything taught as wrong in the past was viewed as something natural then. Many people were afraid of this. It was a vivid cultural, social, and political time. As Alex says, the winds of freedom blowing in Spain were the same as the ones they had got to know in the USA years before.

SGF: One of the aspects that I find most remarkable is that a great part of the narrative is based on conversation, which is unhurried, thoughtful, and respectful. Did you do this as an example of what should happen in real life, as a way of defending a positive attitude in the exchange of opinions in a world where this feature does not seem to be in vogue precisely?

JS: Yes, in my novels I want to give a great importance to conversations, as each and every one can express the way they are, think and feel. As you say, most of today’s problems actually arise out of the fact that people do not talk; they do not sit down and speak calmly and, worst of all, they do not listen to the others when they are speaking.
We could say we live in the Age of Individualism, something that has been very stealthily instilled in us and we are unaware of this. We can see people who are not speaking but yelling everyday on TV. Politicians do not listen, but even insult each other. Courtesy, greetings…all that is rot in oblivion. Everyone wants to impose their law and way of thinking, and even people on the streets or terraces do not chat, but text message.

SGF: You can also guess some didactic intention in many of these conversations. Nelson Mandela said: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Have you ever considered that Tras las puertas del corazón may change the reader’s life philosophy?

JS: It was unintentional, though other people have told me the same. Tras las puertas del corazón is a novel straight to the heart of the reader’s brains. I sought to make flesh and blood creations, not ink and paper ones. I wanted to show the reader positive values that we are losing in favor of pointless criticisms, desire for power, unachievable ambition, contempt for contempt’s sake, despising what is surrounding us…Above all, human beings are able to achieve their goals without needing to step on anyone; on the contrary, the point is sharing.

SGF: It is quite odd that a gay couple does not endure homophobic attacks throughout their relationship during the 1960s, 70s, 80s, 90s…Homophobia appears occasionally in two moments of the novel: the mention of the Stonewall riots, and as a feature in the character of Laura. Keeping Ray and Alex’s love story clear of homophobic conflicts, was it a voluntary choice from you? If that is so, why? 

JS: I did not delve into the issue of homophobia as I did not feel it was necessary in the story, though it is subtly mentioned. I was sure that the time for a deep treatment in a stark, shocking novel would come up someday, as it happened when completing the trilogy with Corazones en libertad (“Free Hearts”), where the main topic is homophobia.

SGF: Ray and especially Alex are really committed to the theatre world during their stay in both San Francisco and Barcelona. Long time ago, theatre was a means of making the audience socially aware, protesting against abuses of power, breaking the social mold. What is your relationship with theatre? Do you think that there is still this sort of theatre, or is it pretty light in our time?

JS: I discovered theatre when I was a child, along with my mother, through  “Estudio 1” on TVE;[2] I later had my amateur efforts when I lived in my hometown, directing short plays by me or some friend. This is one of those passions, together with cinema, that I am always willing to live intensely whenever I can.
And in answer to your second question…Yes, that independent drama defending a theatre closer to the audience, created by small companies and performed in small theaters, is back. The economic crisis has stimulated imagination again, and today there is no need for a big theater to see a good play. There are wonderful plays in small theaters.

SGF: What are you working on now? What are your most immediate projects?

JS: Now I am promoting my new novel, Al filo de la pasión (“On the Edge of Passion”) an erotic novel. The female protagonist, high class thirtysomething Carmen, a passionate, intelligent, beautiful woman, meets León, a 20-year-old boy anxious to discover sexuality in full. The two of them will live the most intense sexual experiences, with continuous surprises throughout the story. It is published through Amazon, and under the pen name of Javier Sedano. [You can buy the novel here.]
In a few days Macho Alfa (“Alpha Male”), a gay erotic novel, will also be published—through Amazon as well—under the pen name of Frank García in this case.
Apart from that, I am working on a play, and very soon I will start a series project shared with a friend, an extremely modern comedy.

[1] Odisea Editorial: Spanish publisher devoted to LGBT-themed literature.
[2] TVE: Televisión Española (“Spanish Television”): this is the public national TV channel in Spain; “Estudio 1”: a very popular TV series, showing from 1964 to 1984, in which a celebrated play—national or international—was performed in each episode (e.g., Reginald Rose’s Twelve Angry Men, José Zorrilla’s Don Juan Tenorio…). This program format was recovered in modern times, though unsuccessfully.

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