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On The Table Read Magazine, “the best book magazine in the UK“, author João Cerqueira shares the inspiration behind his new book, Perestroika, and his creative writing process.

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the best creativity magazine in the UK, the best book magazine in the UK, the best arts magazine in the UK, the best entertainment magazine in the UK, the best celebrity magazine in the UK, book marketing UK, book promotion UK, music marketing UK, music promotion UK, film marketing UK, film promotion UK, arts and entertainment magazine, online magazine uk, creativity magazine

Written by JJ Barnes

I interviewed João Cerqueira about his life and career, the story of his new book, Perestroika, and what inspired him to write it.

Tell me a bit about who you are.

I was born and live in Viana do Castelo, Portugal. I completed a PhD in Art History at the Faculty of Letters of the University of Porto. I teach at the Escola Superior de Educação de Viana. I have written nine books, published in eight countries and I have won five literary prizes in the United States and one prize in Italy.

My childhood was spent in the countryside and on the beach, so I have always had a very close relationship with nature. Despite shooting birds and killing mice as a child, today I am a defender of nature and its creatures. I live on a farm where I grows fruit trees and vegetables with my wife and our daughter. I can’t have dinner without drinking wine, and I love champagne.

João Cerqueira on The Table Read Magazine
João Cerqueira

My father was the founder of the Tennis Clube of Viana, which is why I started playing tennis at a very early age. At the age of twenty I began to practice Shotokay Karate under the guidance of the Japanese master Atso Hiruma.

When did you first WANT to write a book?

My love of books was instilled by my father, who bequeathed me a library with over a thousand books. I looked at those books and dreamed of doing something similar. I thought those writers were the most important people in the world. I wanted to be like them.

In this library I discovered the classics of world literature. Among the reference books, I discovered, as a spiritual guide and instruction manual for the winding road of life, Erasmus of Rotterdam’s In praise of Folly. This is why humor is so important in my writing.

When did you take a step to start writing?

It was a late summer afternoon and I was swimming in a pool. I felt like I had to start my first book. And it had to be now. I couldn’t delay it any longer.  This sounds like something out of a bad novel, or a ridiculous television series, but that’s how it happened.

I got out of the water and went straight to the computer.

How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?

Writing is a job like any other and requires effort and discipline. So, every day I sit down in front of the computer to try and create something new. But I rarely write more than two pages a day because I am always striving for perfection. As such, my first book, like the rest, took almost a year to write. Even then, it took a few more months of successive readings until I felt that I could no longer improve the text.

How long did it take you to complete your latest book from the first idea to release?

It took me a year to write it. But after that, I needed four months of successive readings and rewrites to consider the book finished.

Focusing on your latest release. What made you want to write Perestroika?

The novel Perestroika results from the profound impact of the images of the fall of the Berlin Wall and people demanding freedom in the streets of communist countries. In addition to bringing freedom to half of the Europeans, Gorbachev’s Perestroika ended the Cold War and the threat of nuclear war. However, oddly enough, the topic was forgotten. To my knowledge, there is no film, TV series, or novel—except mine—that addresses one of the most important changes of the 20th century.

Furthermore, I visited Cuba three times and saw with my own eyes how a communist country works: there is no freedom of expression, there are no free elections, there are no human rights, and anyone who protests is arrested.

Additionally, some characters in the book are taken from European history:

The painter Ludwig Kirchner, Lia Kirchner’s father, was inspired by the German expressionist painter of the same name, whose works Hitler considered Degenerate Art.

The People’s Commissar for Culture, Zut Zdanov, was inspired by the Stalinist leader Andrei Zhdanov, responsible for culture in the USSR, who defended socialist realism in art and banned modernism.

President Alfred Ionescu was inspired by the playwright Eugène Ionesco, creator of the theatre of the absurd – which brings us back to the absurdity of communist regimes.

What were your biggest challenges with writing Perestroika?

Perestroika by João Cerqueira on The Table Read Magazine
Perestroika by João Cerqueira

The biggest challenge was the way Lia Kirchner, the main character, interprets her father’s paintings and associates them with political repression. I also struggled with the transition from the narrator’s voice to the characters’ thoughts; I used italics to separate the two. Finally, I had to find the necessary humor to prevent the book from becoming too dark. The French consul Mathieu Foucault, who takes advantage of Perestroika to make money from pornographic films, is the counterpoint to the concentration camps.

What was your research process for Perestroika?

In order to reproduce the living conditions in these countries, I consulted a wide range of texts, including the works of Anne Applebaum. The novels that influenced me are George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s The First Circle and The Gulag Archipelago, Mikhail Bulgakov’ The Master and Margarita and Heart of a Dog, Victor Kravchenko’s I Choose Freedom, Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon, and others.

How did you plan the structure of Perestroika?

In the case of Perestroika, I first wrote down the names of the main characters, their physical characteristics, and the role they would play. If you want to create a new country, you have to create a lot of characters and that’s how I was able to orientate myself in the development of the narrative.

In addition, there were three themes that I had decided to include in the book: child abuse, the search for unknown fathers and neo-Nazis in Europe.

Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did Perestroika need?

The original version was written in total solitude. I didn’t let anyone read a single line, not even my wife, until I thought the text was ready. My translator was Garry Craig Powell, a writer, and a professor of English literature. So, he was my editor too and a few changes were made by the publisher.

What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a book?

Be original and never give up.

Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?

My latest novel, is a post-apocalyptic story. The concept of a world-ending ‘apocalypse’ dates back to the Old Testament with the Flood that destroys humanity; and continues in the New Testament with John’s Apocalypse. In 20th century fiction, the main causes of the end of the world are frequently nuclear wars or alien invasions. In more recent, 21st century novels, the end of the world is often attributed to climate change or pandemics. However, I prefer not to specify a cause for the apocalypse—most survivors aren’t sure what happened—because that could imply a solid scientific basis.

It was the most difficult book I’ve written so far because I had never addressed this topic. It’s difficult to inject some humor in a world similar to that of The Walking Dead.

And, finally, are your proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?

My books are my other children. I love them like a father and I am proud of their results.

Pop all your book, website and social media links here so the readers can find you:

Perestroika: Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth by João Cerqueira (paperback, £12.99) is published in the UK by Arkbound:  




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