André Filipe Rosa Viegas is a Portuguese writer residing in Kuwait. After completing his internship in Malta, he shifted to the Middle East and pursued a career in Human Resource in the past seven years. Somewhere along his life’s journey, André discovered a love for writing. With a passion for food, books, animals, and long drives, André is a zealous person who loves what he does. We had the privilege of interviewing him as we spoke about the inspiration behind his upcoming book “The Roman Bridge.” We also had the chance of discussing career prospects in the Middle East’s literary realm and how more individuals from the East should pursue a career in the arts and literature.
Eman: Can you describe that moment of epiphany when you realized that writing is something you’d want to do in your life?
I can. December 2020. When chatting with my wife over what we accomplished in the (last) year and what is to be accomplished next year. I decided that after opening my online bookstore in 2020, the next step was to publish a book in 2021.
Eman: When you’re writing a story, how do you deal with the emotional impact it has on you?
By talking about it with my close family like I have suffered and struggled with those emotions. There are bits of drama in my book that required deep breathing to write about but the meaningful action to bring awareness to those topics makes it all worth it.
Eman: Every writer faces writer’s block at least once in their lives, whether we like it or not. And every writer has their way of overcoming writer’s blocks. How do you deal with artistic blocks?
Research. Reading books… and coffee. When in doubt of what may be the next step to be taken to enhance the plot, I research the subject online, read books to help relax and dwell on the subject and drink coffee. The scent and flavor soothe my creativity.
Eman: Can you tell us briefly about your journey towards becoming an author?
It starts and ends with books. Cliché or not, reading books allows you to imagine. And when you imagine, you build up ideas in your head. That’s what happened to me. I got ideas from a few books but realized I’ve not seen one yet of what I wanted to write about. Therefore, I decided to strike with something original and, hopefully, unprecedented.
Eman: Growing up in the Middle East, there is not much scope in the literary field. Students who pursue a career in literature are often demeaned or looked down upon. Pursuing a writing career is probably our last option. Can you please give your opinion on that?
My opinion comes from my life motto, which is: the same boiling water that softens the potato, hardens the egg. It is not about the situation you’re in, it’s how you handle it. I’ve applied this life motto all my life and it works as it changes your perspective. Pursue a career in writing and strive at it. If you find a closed door, don’t keep banging, just go to the next one. There will be someone who opens a door for you.
Eman: What books or authors have most influenced your own writing? Is there a writer you really look up to?
Portuguese writer José Rodrigues dos Santos is my main choice as he allowed me to build my devotion to reading. However, writers like 2020’s Scotia Giller Prize Winner Souvankham Thammavongsa and P. Djèlí Clark have really been the ones whom I’ve gained the inspiration from to ultimately place the pen on the paper.
Eman: There is an immense underrepresentation and underappreciation of writers of color in the publishing and media industry. What is your opinion on that?
P. Djèlí Clark, the author aforementioned whom inspired me, is probably the best writer I’ve encountered, taking literature as a form of art. His skin is darker than mine and he is extremely talented. The colour of your pigmentation should never, ever, interfere with the talent and skill you possess and produce. I recommend everyone to watch videos of the American educator, Jane Elliott, speaking on the topic of racism.
Eman: To break into the publishing industry is very hard. Before publishing your first book, had you ever faced failure or rejection from publication houses?
Of course, it’s part of life, rejection. I’ve accepted it as it allowed me to reach Arwiqa Publishing whom I’ve agreed to publish with and I couldn’t be happier about it. Optimism and realistic expectations are the keys to strive in today’s world.
Eman: If not a writer, what else would you like to pursue as a career?
My job. Learning and Development. I love to train people, coach, counsel, support, and interact with employees and see them grow professionally. I’ve been doing it for years now and my desire to help people reach their full potential is insatiable.
Eman: What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
From my wife: there’s a time for everything. I am and been always an anxious and fast-paced individual with a lack of patience. She taught me that things happen in their course and sometimes we simply have to wait. We don’t see it now, but those things happened perfectly in that time you were not expecting for a reason.
Eman: What advice would you like to give to all the aspiring writers out there?
Read more books from writers of different nationalities. See their way of putting the world into perspective and grasp their creative design of plots. It helped me a lot to widen my skill as a writer and understand how could I build a better book.
Eman: If you could meet your younger self right now, what would you tell him?
I would avoid that interaction. I would not interfere with my past as it led me to here, where I stand. All those mistakes and virtues had a purpose in my life and I’m grateful, humble, and overall joyful to have experienced all that. Wouldn’t have it any other way.