Writer Elísabet Benavent rose to fame in 2013 after self-publishing her first novel, In Valeria’s shoes, and get with her the publication of that book and the rest of the adventures of her heroine Valeria at the SUMA publishing house of Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial. Now, this Valencian woman who has sold more than 2 million copies is about to write a new page in her biography. This May 8 premieres on Netflix, the adaptation of his saga of romantic-contemporary novels with the amateur writer Valeria as the protagonist. From her home in Madrid, the novelist chatted with us via Hangouts and confessed that her cats were delighted with the confinement “because they had never received so much attention.”
I have read the first book in the Valeria saga in these confined days and it has been the kind of escape I needed … What do you think this type of novel has to be perfect for moments like this?
It is a matter of combining two things. One, is the referential part, is that we can see our world, our universe, our friends, our anxieties, our fears, those dreams that we have, our aspirations identified. And, on the other hand, it is the aspirational level that they have. Because they allow us to dream about other things, evoke memories, project wishes.
What has been your role as script supervisor for the Netflix series?
The series is an open adaptation. From the first moment I was very clear that skills I got to a certain point (laughs), I was not prepared to see myself choosing casting or posing a bible or doing the scripts. I prefer to leave it in the hands of professionals. But my role has been beautiful. It has been to ensure that the Valeria spirit is kept alive not only as a whole, but in each character as an individual. For example, Nerea’s character changes almost 200 percent, but she still maintains part of the spirit of that cold Nerea.
In your novel you describe what your protagonists are wearing, but in the series all the actresses’ costumes are a luxury …
Yes, it is very sensory. It is a very plastic series. A spectacular job has been done, with scenery, with costumes. This is one of the topics that surprised me the most for good. The scenarios are beautiful. That Valeria apartment, when I entered the set where it had been rebuilt, is that I was staying to live. It is beautiful and Lola’s apartment is also amazing. And those colors with which they dress in the end go a lot with this Spanish personality that we have to throw ourselves into the streets, to share. Party is breathed. For me it is important that the idea of: “Do not take life too seriously because no one gets out of it alive.” I think they are topics that are often not to laugh at and are treated from a very funny point of view and with all the respect in the world because we are in bad times for comedy.
But I have the feeling that now we need comedy and evasion more than ever …
Yes, in addition to keeping the date that we had originally planned, we will be able to remove the content at a time when people here are already climbing the walls. Pulling out some fresh, fresh content from this shade seems to me to at least brighten up your couch, blanket and Netflix afternoons a bit. If we can take them for a walk through this Madrid that is waiting for us when everything is solved, well that relieves me.
I think you call the genre you write romantic-contemporary. What’s wrong with it?
It is that I flee a lot from the denomination chick-litEverything that smells like the limited audience it can reach is pushing me back a little because we are all fighting against many prejudices. The romantic-contemporary in the end has been a romantic comedy of a lifetime. It usually has as main characteristics: it is located in large cities; It also usually draws on quite creative professions, also because they are the ones that allow you the most entanglement of characters; quite open women. I want to give a vision of the women like those around me: strong, with dreams, with aspirations, who fight hard for what they want, who are inspiring, who decide about their motherhood, who decide how they plan their lives, how they they live, how love lives, how sex lives. I want it to be as much reality as possible and, if it’s not reality, to be as plausible as possible.
You were talking about prejudice and the romance novel has to fight several of them. How do you advocate this genre that is believed that we only like women and that some consider minor?
My reaction has changed a bit over the years. At first, because from your humble situation you think: “Well, I am going to recommend good readings of the genre that I liked a lot, that I was passionate about, that made me laugh, that makes this person appreciate the importance of a smile , to have a good time. ” I always recommend Marian Keyes or the book of Sex in New York, the one that gave birth to the series. But over the years I have realized that there are many people who do not want to stop thinking what they think. I almost always answer the same thing and it is that the sovereign public decides what they read and what they see and that nobody is the one to impose their criteria.
Your career as a writer started thanks to the self-publication of your first novel in fact …
[La autopublicación] It has done a very good thing for the publishing market and it is to democratize the access to be able to expose your work. It is a huge showcase where the traditional publisher is looking for new talents. Keep in mind that when a publisher accesses a platform like Amazon and takes a look at the self-published, it has already screened before because it has the opinions of the readers who have bought. You are already asking for reading reports, which is also going to be the target audience. I am a denier with new technologies and I self-published. It is very intuitive, it is free, it has good conditions to publish, in terms of royalties And it’s a great showcase. There are people who are not even interested in making the leap to the traditional publishing house because it works very well.
Do you think it would have been possible to have a career as a writer in any other way?
I just wouldn’t have dared to do it any other way. I was very afraid of the publisher’s rejection letter. I am very grateful to the platforms, because they also make it very easy. That crazy decision I made one day in February. I regretted horrors, I did not sleep all night, I spent crying with shame because I could no longer pick it up. But it has changed my life.
And now you are on another platform, which is Netflix, which is in millions of homes around the world. How do you live it?
I have a lot of vertigo. This has become very big and I feel as small as when I published it. There is a lot of hope and having a partner like Netflix next to you, who gives you all their support and trust, is comforting. I hope that the relationship established between the book and the series is fed back. Some people, the least, because they are 190 countries, will come to the series because they have read the book. But the huge percentage of people make the trip in reverse. Netflix is giving me a notoriety that I didn’t have. I cannot forget that my job is to write, my children are books. And I have a dream that this will open the doors to many publishing markets that have been difficult so far.
What feeling did you have the first time you saw Diana Gómez characterized as Valeria?
I just didn’t need to see her characterized. They showed me a photo of the casting and, without knowing that I was the person who was going to play Valeria, I said: “Oh, Valeria”. It caught me from the first moment. I do not know if it is that sweetness that she has in her expression, that evoked in me that insecurity that the character of Valeria has sometimes and a bit of everything that runs through the books. Now it is very difficult to think about the characters and remove the faces of the actresses and actors. The same thing happens to me with the spaces in which they move, I can no longer think of Valeria’s house if it is not on the set.
What are you seeing or reading these days?
Well, I’ve seen absolutely all the Netflix docs about serial killers. I am taking advantage of a lot to read, I am reading a lot of black novels and I am also taking advantage of reading some intimate novels that I had a little parked. I’m reading some of them in one afternoon. I am very happy because I had a mountain of books, which I also did not want to remove because it symbolized the time that I had not dedicated to myself, and I am seeing how it falls. I am happy. It is also part of my work and I am not neglecting it.
Any particular title?
I really liked it The women’s station. I sat down with a coffee, when I took the coffee it was cold and I had finished the book in one sitting.
Do you have a different writing routine? I had to change mine because it was hard for me to concentrate …
We are all the same. I spend the day taking photos of my sleeping cats. The problem is that it is costing me a lot to evade the situation. To write fiction you have to do the process in reverse, you have to forget everything else and enter a world that does not exist, that you are building as if it were Minecraft. It is being very difficult for me. The other day I unlocked myself and wrote five pages of the new project. But I am very calm because there is no date either because with all this the editorial calendars have varied a lot.
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