It’s been a while since I’ve done any interviews here, but now I’m happy to have an opportunity to talk to another interesting writer, Bogdan Hrib, the author of Stelian Munteanu series (Kill the General is available in English translation, as well as The Greek Connection, published in Canada), he was the vice-president of Romanian Crime Writers Club and now he’s the director/organiser of Mystery & Thriller Festival in Râșnov. He can be found at Bogdanhrib.ro.
Hi, Bogdan. What would Bogdan Hrib tell us about Bogdan Hrib?
It is very hard to find the real Bogdan Hrib. I mean he runs all the time between his life as a publisher, another life as a writer, after that he’s professor for photojournalism. And I don’t have too much time for my family… I’m not very happy for that. Hard to manage a love&hate affair with… me.
Noir and crime fiction have become more than just a genre. How has the history of your country and political situation influenced your writing style and the decision to become a crime writer?
These are two different stories. I’ve decided to become a crime writer when the publisher Bogdan Hrib needed more Romanian writers for a Mystery & thriller series at Tritonic. I had at that time only one or two local authors, and during a holiday in Greece, drinking a huge coffee-frappe I said – why not? So, ten years ago, I’ve published The Greek Connection (Filiera grecească, in Romanian, also translated in English by Mosaic Press, Canada, November 2015.)
The history of my country is a big part of the story from Kill the General – a mixed plot with two lines – the eighties, during the main character’s – Stelian Munteanu – military service’s and nowadays. Barry Forshaw in Euro Noir said that humour was our weapon. It’s true. I’m very proud of his words.
Tell us a bit about Romanian noir and crime fiction scene, who are the most important authors and publishers at the moment.
The most important publishers are… built around some of the most important Crime Writers from Romania: Crime Scene Press, owned by the master of Romanian Crime Fiction, George Arion (Atack in the Library) with Stelian Turlea and Caius Dobrescu and my Tritonic with the new wave: Lucia Verona, Anamaria Ionescu, Teodora Matei, Tony Mott and Dănuț Ungureanu, Bogdan Teodorescu, Petru Berteanu, Lucian-Dragoș Bogdan, Daniel Timariu and me. A wide panorama of our Crime Fiction is represented by the anthology Noir de București – 18 authors with 18 new stories.
There are also important other names like Monica Ramirez, Adrian Onciu. The most famous Romanian Crime writer is, of course, Eugen Ovidiu Chirovici with his Book of Mirrors.
What about the reading culture in Romania? Do you think nowadays people read (and think) more than in the past?
We had a real reading culture during the Ceausescu period. That time national television was a bad joke – 2 hours about the Party and Ceausescu’s family – and the main form of surviving was to read books. Nowadays everybody reads a lot – I mean letters and words – but on Facebook, or blogs, or Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat etc… You must be a professional reader for a big novel or an anthology of Crime Fiction or SF. We have to fight for each new reader – I mean young reader – from book fairs, high schools, book launches…
Thinking… probably the same story. Maybe the mankind doesn’t need any more thinking people. This is like… 1984. Maybe…
But we have new weapons: a brand new wave of very young authors… Napoleon said a long time age: You don’t leave the battle before the end of it. So, we are still fighting for the readers.
Do you do a lot of research for your books or do you just sit down and write out of your head?
Yes, I think having a good research is crucial for good scenery and even for the main plot. I travel a lot, I love to travel… Usually I’m writing only about the places where I was. When I had to write about today’s Somalia it was a little difficult, but I have found some good press agencies and some people from there who gave me all the information. I love to write about small caffes from some great cities, about green gardens, old buildings, small villages, angry seas and mysterious beaches…
You’re also a photographer – how does your writing benefit from photography and vice versa?
A photographer is a hunter. You must be always ready to shoot. So I’m hunting for places – cities, places, bars or restaurants – and for faces, people… A sort of Street Photography. Usually I’m writing about places where I was and from where I have a lot of pictures, of course. Some day – it’s a secret dream – maybe I’ll make a movie from one of my books… I mean a thriller… Who knows? In Kill the General, Stelian Munteanu was a sniper during his military service, it’s the same us a photojournalist.
Another secret dream – a strange book, I mean a thriller, with my pictures and text… A sot of photographic novel. Someday.
Have you ever written (or thought about writing) for film and TV?
Not yet. But I’m in the middle of some negotiations for working part-time writing a scenario. I have already on my portfolio a play… a Mystery one, of course.
Do you think it’s important to devote a lot of energy and time to Social Media? Does it help you promote your work and network with readers and other writers?
Absolutely. The new paradigm of present Media is to be present all the time and everywhere. For some months I have closed my Facebook account and I notice the fall of the sellings. I’m not very happy with this aggressive Social Media, but it is more than necessary. At least for the moment. The readers must be part of your life all the time… But I keep my private life for close friends and family.
Tell us about Mystery & Thriller Festival in Râșnov.
It’s a boutique festival for Romanian authors and one or two Foreigners. Six editions till now. One year (2016) we have moved the festival to Târgu-Mureș where we have more logistics. Mainly it is about books and meeting with readers, one or two conferences, some quests from police or professors, book-signing, book-launches… I’m not so happy with the festival because our readers don’t have yet the habit to meet the authors and ask for some autographs… It is more work to do on this. This year we’ll split all the events between July in Râșnov and late August in Târgu-Mureș. More public like that.
What are you working on at the moment?
Unfortunately I don’t have much time for me. But I’m writing a non-fiction book about Publishing Industry in Romania – history and trends and a new novel non-mystery, the sequel of The Last Photograph – the working title is Marriage in a Capitalism World. A sort of social novel, about freedom during a love affair or marriage…
Who are your literary heroes?
Very simple. Philip Marlowe, Matt Scudder, Mikael Blomkvist, some Danish and Swedish policemen and Romanians: Andrei Mladin (a journalist – main character of George Arion), my authors main characters and, of course, the same old Stelian Munteanu from my series… I’m not very modest.
If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?
I don’t have an answer to this question. I am all I have wanted: publisher, journalist, writer, photographer and professor. Maybe the answer is… professional traveller, if that exists… I love to travel.
If you met a young (or maybe not that young) writer – what advice would you give him?
Read, read, write and read again!
Thank you, Bogdan!
You’re welcome, Renato…