Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Interview with literary critic Voicu Mihnea Simandan

Today I have an interview with Voicu Mihnea Simandan, the author of The Matrix and the Alice Books, a non-fiction / movie studies / literary criticism book.

Voicu will be awarding at each stop to a randomly drawn, most engaging commenter, an e-copy of The Rage of a New Ancestor, a collection of short stories set in Asia, where Voicu also has one contribution. Also, a Grand Prize of a $10 gift card will be awarded to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour. 

To be entered for a chance to win, leave a comment below. And to increase your chances of winning, visit other tour stops and leave comments there, too.

Welcome Voicu. Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
I was born in 1978 in Arad, a small city in western Transylvania, Romania, in Eastern Europe. My father is a journalist and an author with tens of books of non-fiction and poetry published under his name. In 2002, I moved to Thailand to work as a secondary school teacher and continue my graduate studies. Now I live in Bangkok where I teach writing and Social Studies at an international school.

Please tell us about your current release.
The book that I’m virtually touring now is an intertextual study of the film The Matrix and the books Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll. The initial research for the book was done as part of my two-year master’s degree studies in Bangkok. But, the first hurdle was finding a professor at my university to agree to supervise my thesis and then pleasing her with my work. Eventually, after three initial attempts, we agreed upon presenting the similarities between The Matrix and the Alice books using an intertextual framework.

What inspired you to write this book?
I have probably seen The Matrix trilogy over one hundred times and having the book in my hands has brought my longtime obsession with The Matrix and the Alice Books to a satisfactory conclusion. Now it’s time for the world to read it and dive down the rabbit hole and explore a world where the boundary between dreams and reality is blurred by some of the most remarkable and memorable fictional characters ever to appear on the pages of a book and on the screen of a TV.

“In The Matrix, Neo comes from the Oracle a bit disappointed with what he had just found out, but Morpheus tries to show him the way: “Neo, sooner or later, you’re going to realize, just as I did, that there’s a difference between knowing the path... and walking the path...” Alice wakes up only when she is ready to face the real world, just as Neo has to understand that, in order to defeat the agents and end the war, he has to face his demons and take control of his own life. […]

In The Matrix, Cypher confesses his regrets to Neo over getting unplugged. “You know, I know what you’re thinking, because right now I’m thinking the same thing. Actually, I’ve been thinking it ever since I got here... Why, oh why, didn’t I take... the blue pill?” The repeated phrase shows hesitation and the intensity of Cypher’s emotions. Neither Alice nor Cypher understand the new world they have entered, and both have second thoughts about remaining there. But, while Alice tries to unlock the secret of wonderland and eventually is able to control it, just as Neo does in the end, Cypher betrays his crew members in a desperate move to be reinserted into the Matrix.

Despite an ever-changing environment and logic, both Alice and Neo continue to deal with the challenges that beset them. No prior experience in wonderland or the Matrix can teach them about what to expect in their next undertaking; nevertheless they manage to get through each encounter, ready to face new situations.”

What exciting story are you working on next?
For 2014, I’m planning to release the following titles: Riding the Cylinder, three science fiction short stories set in Thailand; Taking the Seas, a book of adventure stories for the young ones; Angelee, a collection of short stories and, of course, my pièce de résistance would clearly be The Buddha Head, a suspense thriller set in Ayutthaya in Thailand.

At the same time, I am at various stages of completion with three other books of non-fiction which have the working titles of Thailand from A to Z: Sports, Activities, and Martial Arts; 10 Destinations In & Out of Bangkok, and Archery from A to Z. Also, I have started work on The Ancient Sword, the second novel in The Ayutthaya Trilogy,” which started with The Buddha Head.

Have you always enjoyed writing?
As a young boy, I used to see and hear my father writing fast and furious on his noisy typewriter on a daily basis. I published a very short news item in a local newspaper in 1995, at the of 17, and ever since then I have published hundreds of articles and about two dozen short stories in newspapers, magazines, anthologies and websites around the world, using both English and Romanian text. For me, writing seems to be a family legacy.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I am a full-time secondary school teacher. I teach writing and Social Studies to middle school and high school students at an international school in Bangkok. I’ve always loved working in education, teaching being the only profession I’ve had in my work life. Teachers benefit from fairly long holidays which are a blessing to any writer. 

Time management is a topic approached in many articles and in this hectic world we live in, people struggle to find the time to do whatever they love doing, but at the same time making and securing a living for themselves and their families. Writers and athletes are no different. To be able to make a living as a writer or an athlete requires for someone to see the genius of your words and talents. This is reserved to a very small percentage worldwide.

I believe that (emerging) writers need to read in order to improve and, eventually, master their craft to perfection but, more than often, you hear ‘wannabe’ writers complaining that they don’t have enough time to read as they also have a full time job and are also trying to finish “that” book. This, to me, sounds like a lame excuse. I strongly believe that reading is not something you “have to find” time for, but rather something you “should make” time for.

Like with anything else in our lives, it has always been and it will always be a matter of choice. Everyone’s got only 24 hours in a day, but still there are people who make the time to read every day and are able, at the same time, to keep a job and, in the case of writers, continue with their work.  

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I do the bulk of my writing on a MacBook Pro laptop but I also keep three notebooks and notepads where I handwrite ideas for future stories or articles. In these notebooks I also keep track of my writing schedule and it is where I paste newspaper cut-outs which might just be the start of a future short story, novel or article. If I’m in my condominium in Bangkok, I write at a desk or on a sofa with crossed legs and a pillow on my lap to support my laptop. If I’m on holiday, I take my laptop to one of the nearby coffee shops that I usually frequent, order a coffee and type away until it’s time to go to aikido or archery training.

As a child, what book did you like to read?
The world Lewis Carroll created in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass had a great impact on me and, as a child, I often found myself slipping down my own rabbit hole under a pillow-made castle, joining Alice in her wonderful adventures. Jules Verne’s adventure novels, especially Around the World in 80 Days, instilled in me a strong desire to see the world and Verne’s great explorers, men of arms and scientists soon became my heroes in whose footsteps I hoped to follow. Now, in my mid-30s, after having published a postgraduate study about the Alice books and having made a new life for myself in Asia, miles away from my home country in Eastern Europe, I do believe that the books I grew up with have made me the man I am today.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
I’d like to quote what Morpheus told Neo in The Matrix, “Neo, sooner or later you’re going to realize, just as I did, that there’s a difference between knowing the path, and walking the path.” Regardless of your dreams and ambitions, just wanting to do something is not enough. Getting down to doing it and facing the challenges life puts in your path is a journey we all have to take in order to become successful.

Ways to connect: Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Blog | Website

Buy links: Amazon | Amazon UK | Kindle US | Kindle UK

Thank you, Voicu, for this great interview. Good luck with the book tour!


Goddess Fish Promotions said...

Thank you for hosting today.

bn100 said...

Fascinating places to live in

bn100candg at hotmail dot com

Mihnea said...

Which one?
Transylvania or Bangkok?
Or maybe the Matrix or the Wonderland...

Natasha said...

Thanks for the chance to win!
Sounds really good!!
natasha_donohoo_8 at hotmail dot com