Today we’re visiting Barcelona at the beginning of the last century to explore Andrés Vidal’s new novel, The Dream of the City.
Welcome, Andrés. I’m glad you stopped by so I can chat with you about your writing.
To get started, please tell us about your novel.
AV: Try to imagine yourself in the Barcelona of 1914. Try to imagine walking around a building site of four magnificent towers that rise to the sky and belong to a temple just in the beginning of its construction. And try to imagine the life of one of the stonecutters, a well-off woman with singular personality, who will encounter an ambitious man related to her jeweler family. Many things could happen, no?
What prompted you to write about this historical event or era?
AV: I am in love with the beginning of the 20th century. Many things changed in Europe then. The growth of Barcelona city, Antonio Gaudí’s art, the end of Modernism (also called Tiffany or Art Nouveau in the USA), the revolution of craft production in many jobs. When I collected some of these elements and mixed them with the story of two people coming from pretty different origins, but meeting in the same place at the same time, the tale was born and I enjoyed diving in the development of the substories and details.
How closely did you stick to the historical facts? If you used them loosely, how did you decide whether to deviate from them?
AV: I always make an effort to be faithful to the historical facts, to keep the surroundings real. Then, with the maximum respect for the stated circumstances, I start wondering and imagining about the dialogues that could have happened, and I link it with my “script”. This is one of the very best moments in historical fiction writing!
What research did you do for this book?
AV: Plenty of historical research, mainly about Gaudí and his architecture, the Sagrada Familia idea and construction (especially in its beginning; remember it is still under construction, till, at least, 2026), and the Barcelona transformation with its pharaonic Eixample project being carried out.
I did, as well, specific research of real stories of personal progress in familiar craft enterprises that had changed owner due to “special” circumstances. I swear each one of them deserves a novel!
Do you use a mixture of historic figures and invented characters in the novel. Which is more difficult to write? Which to you prefer to write and why?
AV: For the historic figures, maximum respect. I have to say that this tenses my nerves to the limit, but results in very grateful readers.
Concerning the invented characters… it is a pleasure, the domain of imagination and creativity! I do not know any writer that is not tremendously entertained by them.
In an historical novel you must vividly re-create a place and people in a bygone era. How did you bring the place and people you are writing about to life?
AV: When the place and people were well documented (very well documented, I mean), it became very simple: you were already there! Remarkable how you can “move” inside, and this results in one of the biggest joys of this métier.
There often seems to be more scope in historical novels for male characters rather than female characters. Do you prefer to write one sex or the other. And, if so, why?
AV: Interesting question. One of the things I have to say is that certainly History had usually mistreated women, not just obstructing their progress, but also omitting lots of references in documents that today would allow fair restorations. The other thing I have to say is that I am working on a new novel idea and… women are in the centre of it. 😉
About the author: Andrés Vidal is the pseudonym of Marius Molla. He is the author of two other novels that were successes in Spain: Inheriting the Earth (2010) and The Dream (2012). By training the author is an industrial engineer in Barcelona.