At 42, Ledicia Costas has been writing for more or less 20 years, has published 20 books and won 20 awards. The last one was given this Tuesday in the middle of the Madrid Book Fair: the Lazarillo Prize for Children’s and Youth Literature for The mechanical hare —a novel in Galician that will be published in the fall about “a heartbreak between teenagers and the sleaze of bookmakers”—. She is the first person to have won it three times since it was established in 1958. Author of Scarlet fever, the corpse cook (National Prize for Children’s and Youth Literature 2015), The Ballad of the Unicorns or series like the mini dead either Miss Bubble, la viguesa launched three years ago to the novel for adults with the thriller infamy and, after a confinement “killing bugs on the console and eating chocolate”, he got back with light strokes (Destiny, 2021). Precocious and tireless, she left the law profession after two years of practicing because she was already earning more money writing and because she did not want to be “a writer in precariousness”, dedicating herself to what she really likes in her spare time. “I decided to make literature my profession,” she says, “it could have gone wrong for me.” But not.
Ask. 20 years, 20 books, 20 awards. What do you feel?
Response. My God, how productive. How I have been able to write so much, especially in the last eight years. I haven’t stopped, I need a break. Although… it’s a drive, I’m into walking.
P. And how has he been able?
R. I am my worst boss. A slaver. I work from Monday to Sunday. And that I am enjoyer, I love to travel, go to the movies, be with my friends, I like to live, but I love writing. I dedicate between eight and 10 hours a day. It’s the only formula I have, if someone has a better one, let me know! When I say that I am a very slow writer, people don’t believe it. But if you produce a lot! Now, because I dedicate many hours to it, there is no other.
P. Define slow.
All the culture that goes with you awaits you here.
R. Well, in 10 hours I can take out 4 pages, five on a brilliant day, and the next day I have to throw away half.
P. Is presenting yourself for so many prizes also part of the job?
R. It helps me to have an imposed plan. I know that I have to enter such a contest and by that date I have to have a novel written. If I don’t win, it doesn’t matter, I already have work to move in editorials.
P. His first book that was a revenge for a suspense in the Galician language…
R. I must have been 16 or 17, it was a required reading in high school, a rollazo with a very hard prologue that I skipped. The first question of the oral exam was about the prologue, I confessed and the other two were also about that. I got a zero. So I wrote the book that I would have liked to have read for the exam. It was about a boy who gets stabbed and his gang decides to get revenge.
P. And now his books are among the most demanded in Galician institutes and schools… Revenge completed.
R. Since 2014 I have been able to give more than 1,200 talks in educational centers. It got a little out of hand, there came a time when I had to hire someone to coordinate my agenda. You have to accompany the books, do promotion, give talks, but I would like to have more time to write. I am particularly excited that Infamy, a book for adults, be the most widely read in Galician high school clubs because it is a voluntary activity, it is the kids who have grown up reading my children’s work who ask for it.
P. And what do they tell you when you go?
R. Well, sometimes they get scared, since there are so many dead characters in my books, they don’t believe I’m alive. One told me “at school we all thought you had clapped your hands”.
P. And with good reason, Ledicia (joy in Galician) is a bit of Morticia.
R. Well, it hits me… And look, I’ve been called all kinds of things, Leticia, Alicia, once a mobile salesman called me Presbyopia!
P. What do you have with death?
R. I have always liked gothic stories, the macabre, although always humorous, vampires and ghosts, from little Angela Sommer-Bodenburg, Bram Stoker, and then manga, Miyazaki, Phillip Pullman, Neil Gaiman. Between that and the fact that I am Galician… My grandfather took me to the cemetery every Saturday. To do normal cemeteries things, change the flowers, clean the graves. He seemed fascinating to me, he marked me. And whenever I can, when I travel, I visit cemeteries. I have photos of about 30, I have been to Buenos Aires, Brazil, Paris, but my favorite is San Amaro, in Coruña, which is above the sea.
P. And he also plays to kill, right?
R. We tend to demonize video games. I was a super-reader and I used to play loads of games when I was little, Arkanoid in the arcade machines, Donkey Kong, in that dwarf Nintendo all pixelated, I was hooked on Tetris. And today I’m still playing. Minigolf with virtual reality goggles, although I feel a bit absurd in my living room, Grindstone, which is about killing vermin and getting jewels, so much so that I go down the street looking at precious stones, Animal Crossing, where I’ve been in my house a library and a cemetery full of tombs in the basement, Kirby and all the Mario. I love them: advance, jump, eat mushrooms, kill. I play daily, like half an hour before bed or when traveling. When I get tired of reading, I kill.
P. He writes in Galician and translates into Spanish. Does she fight with herself?
R. I have decided not to do it anymore. It takes away my time to write and I felt like an intruder. There are professionals who have studied for years, are precarious and are going to do extraordinarily well. And I also left it because it made me want to change the books from top to bottom, to kill entire characters. In light strokes the old woman spoke Galician with words in Spanish, and I had to turn her all the way around so that she spoke in Spanish gelding (with twists in Galician). It was a pain.
P. In that novel there is a very eighties girl plot, the ravages of the heroine.
R. The Mothers Against Drugs movement emerged in my neighborhood on the outskirts of Vigo. My godfather died of a heroin overdose when I was 11 years old. We saw everything, the syringes in the parks, the lines of kids, lifelong neighbors, who lined up at the house where they passed in front of my balcony. They sneaked into the farms to steal lemons to mix the drug when they heated it in the spoon.
P. Vigo, the city of lights…
R. I also visited that matter in the book ghostly, where several authors wrote about our cities. In my story, a mayor wants to turn Vigo into the city of light by putting in a million light bulbs, but the ghosts want total darkness and cause a big blackout to celebrate him. It was my personal tribute. I don’t know if Abel Caballero will have read it.
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