Sunday, May 12, 2024

Message in a Novel

Interview with Mike Downey

Tell us about the book

Istria Gold is the first of a trilogy. Rather than just a straightforward novel, this is a grander concept, if you like, a conduit for portraying Istria at various times in its history. Like the two novels to follow, Istria Gold is structured around three eras, Roman, the mid-1900s and the present day. The most recent introduces the chief protagonist, former undercover cop Marco Mihailić, whose forefathers are involved in equally clandestine activities in the 1940s. The truffle trade drives the narrative in each. Centuries beforehand, the lure of the truffle helps the teenage Lucia escape the bloody confines of Roman Istria.

What’s is the ultimate message u want to convey with Istria Gold?

The book talks the importance to appreciate key values in life such as romance, culture, adventure and history. It also talks about the impact and repercussions of greed

How did your connection with Istria start? 

I first came to Croatia in 1979. I was studying at the Sorbonne in Paris and went to Yugoslavia with my girlfriend at the time, whose parents had a house in Premantura, on the southernmost tip of Istria. I ended up staying there for three months to write my Master’s. I’m Irish by origin and partly grew up there. Istria felt a lot like Ireland. People were hospitable and welcoming. It looks very similar, that green, green landscape. There’s also the regular presence of the Catholic clergy.

What encouraged you to shift towards novel writing at such a late stage in your professional career?

The world of novel writing is littered with writers who come late to the profession. Dafoe was 59 when he began in fiction following the well-trodden path from journalism; Chandler (55) was a failed oil executive; Bukowski was the same age when he hung up his postbag; Lee Child was fired at 40 and famous by 50 and Mary Wesley famously kicked off at 71.  Without making any rash comparisons it’s clearly not unusual in this business for people to take up the pen in advanced years.  The reasons are as many as there are senior starters but in my case it really was a question of one thing leading to another.

In what way does your hat as a novel writer differ from the other hats you wear?

Writing is in my DNA, it’s second nature. I’m always writing in one way or another. When I write novels, I am in full control of the plot, the story, the ending and the final outcome. It is not the people around you that determine what you want to achieve from the story you want to relate. A novel is not conditioned by budgets. You can actually be budget poor, yet rich with ideas and still create something big like a movie. I also feel that a film belongs to many people yet a novel is something which you will identify to a specific author.

You often spoke about gender equality. Where do we stand?

It is something I insist on and try to address directly or indirectly in my work. We need to keep in mind  that 50% of all human beings on this planet are women thus it is imperative to level up gender balance. Istria Gold seeks to address the matter by means of the characters chosen. As a matter of fact, most of the characters are women especially in the Roman section.

What’s next? 

I am working on the next two volumes following which I will then seek treasure elsewhere, in the Far East, amid the myths surrounding the writer Anthony Burgess.

Aqra Wkoll