Author blog: www.paulcavilla.com
Q. Where are you from? Tell us a little bit about yourself.
A. I’m from Toronto, but my heart belongs in Europe. Spain, France and Italy to be more precise. If I’m not living there, I’m making plans to return, and while I was born and raised here in Canada, I always feel a little like a foreigner in this country. I’m a true expat, and I think a lot of it has to do with my roots. My family comes from Gibraltar in the south of Spain.
My formal education is in the visual arts. I studied at the Ontario College of Art here in Toronto, and have made my living as an artist since I graduated in 1991. I paint commissions, large scale murals, and oil paintings. I started writing in my early twenties, filling dozens of hand bound journals with my thoughts and observations. It wasn’t until 2003 that I started writing fiction. The Compostela Cube is the second novel I’ve written, the first being the still unpublished Gordon’s Feast.
Q. Tell us about your book. How did it get started.
A. The Compostela Cube is a story about mankind’s incessant search for the meaning of life. In essence it’s a grail quest, but the thing that sets it apart from other adventures of this sort is that it revolves around all the myths and conspiracy theories that have been inundating pop culture of late; it ties them all together, and points out the powerful messages hidden within them. Of course, it’s all done in fun, and while the underlying structure of the novel has some real depth to it, the storyline itself is action packed, and designed to keep the reader on the edge of his seat as the mystery unfolds.
The Compostela Cube got started as a protest to Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. I’d been so impressed with the movie-like flow of its narrative, and the clever way that fact and fiction were combined to reveal the mystery. What perturbed me to no end was the way that Dan Brown destroyed the mystical magic of the Holy Grail, turning it into nothing more than a glorified birth certificate. When I finished the novel, I was left with a kind of vacuous space in my heart. I felt hungry. I wanted more, and it was my need to fill that space that gave birth to The Compostela Cube. I’d been researching esoteric knowledge for the past decade, and only now did I know what I was going to do with all the things I’d learned.
Q. How do you create your characters?
A. To me, each character needs to fulfill many different purposes in a novel, and it’s these purposes that shape the character. I think about the main concepts that I want to communicate to the reader, and then figure out what the best way to do this might be. Each concept is usually embodied in a character, and presented to the reader through him (or her). I love archetypical characters because it’s a way to create instant depth, and make the reader feel like she’s known the character always. Lots of times, the archetypical construct plays right into the concept I want to relate. One example of this in The Compostela Cube might be the character of Ikhlas. I wanted to embody all that was noble, humble, and loyal in us, and I used the “gentle giant” archetype to do it. Throughout the novel, Ikhlas brings strength and honor to the narrative, reinforcing the heroic nature of the quest.
Q. What inspires you, and what got you started in writing?
A. The thing that inspires me in writing is the same thing that inspires me in life. It’s the sweeping observation that there is much more to this world than meets the eye. The magic of life is what inspires me; the synchronicity of events; the mind boggling mystery of it all; the unrestrained beauty. Confusion is what got me started in writing. If I was ever going to begin to unravel these mysteries, I needed to write things down. I needed to take notes. It was not long before theories began to emerge, and from there, fiction. Writing to me is a very organic and intuitive process. It reveals things that I could never have imagined had I not sat down to write them out.
Q. Where do you write? Is there something you need in order to write (music, drinks)?
A. I write at my computer, in the same studio where I live and paint. It’s a corner unit in an old factory loft building. High ceilings, wooden beams, exposed brick, big windows, dust and cobwebs. It’s the ideal place to write because even though I’m alone, I can hear life happening around me, and I’m never lonely. This old building was built to make textiles in the early nineteen hundreds, not to be lived in. You hear everything, and it’s comforting. If there’s one thing I absolutely must have in order to write, it’s a bathtub. At the end of everyday I’ll light some candles and climb into an old claw foot tub I found at the wreckers years ago. I’ll think about what I wrote that day, and figure out what it all means. Writing to me is a kind of purging. I open the door and let the words come out. Lots of times it takes a good soak before I can figure out what the heck is going on in the book.
Q. How do you get your ideas for writing?
A. It’s mostly a problem/solution thing. I have a concept that I want to relate. The idea comes as a result of the solution I need in order to relate it. I think of metaphors that could be used to illustrate the concepts. I think of analogies, or maybe contrasting elements that might showcase something more effectively. A scene will usually surface, or maybe a scenario or a series of events. I’m not really in control of the ideas. They just come. It’s definitely a “necessity is the mother of invention” kind of thing.
Q. What do you like to read?
A. Ever since I started writing The Compostela Cube five years ago, I’ve only read non-fiction, and almost always related to my research. I find that the moment I start reading fiction, the author’s style gets tangled up with my own style and muddles up everything. A few years back I started reading The Lord Of The Rings. It had been years since I read it, and on a whim I picked it up. It didn’t take long before I was writing just like Tolkien. It was ridiculous. Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever be able to read fiction again. It worries me because I’ve always loved to read. I’m sure I’ll get past this. It’s probably because I’m relatively new to writing.
Q. What would your advice be to aspiring authors with regards to writing.
A. My advice would be to write before you do anything else, that is to say, first thing in the morning. It was advice that was given to me, and it’s proved to be invaluable. Sometimes, as is the case right now, I’ll wake up really early and write until my eyes burn, and then I’ll go back to sleep and wake up at noon. For whatever reason, the best writing happens in the morning. It’s also the best time to create a routine, and writing thrives on routine. Writing needs to be done every day, like clockwork, and when you get used to doing it first thing in the morning, you can never forget to do it.