Gabriel Farago interview: on law & writing

Gabriel Farago is a lawyer with a career filled with potential ideas for any writer. He says on his website that he likes to weave fact and fiction into a seamless storyline, which means you’re not going to know what’s real and what’s not.

Throw in a love for Egyptology, a degree in literature and you’ll get a sense of what drives his writing. It’s a powerful mix, and when you realise Gabriel travels to all the destinations in his books, they become all the more compelling.

His newest release is The Disappearance of Anna Popov, and when you read on you’ll see how real life events inspired a tale of bikers, the disappearance of two girls and the occult in Outback Australia.

What are you looking forward to reading next?

I have a rather long ‘like to read’ list. Because being a full-time writer is so time-consuming and the research for my books so extensive, I find that there is never enough time to read just for pleasure. However, the next book I look forward to is Zealot by Reza Aslan, a New York Times Bestseller, about the life and times of Jesus of Nazareth.

How did writing become your passion? When was it that you realised you absolutely had to write?

I can still remember the day I was given the key to my grandfather’s attic; it was on my 10th birthday. We were living in my grandparents’ hunting lodge in Austria at the time and the attic was a  wonderland; especially for a young boy. It was a place where you could dream and let your imagination run free. And there was certainly a lot to stimulate the imagination – books mainly, hundreds on them. This is where I discovered the joy of reading and began to write short stories. A couple of years later, in high school, we were asked to write a short story about an event that changed our lives. My story was entitled ” Coming Home for Christmas.” The teacher entered it in a little competition run by the local paper. The story won a prize. This was my first step towards becoming a writer. This, and other short stories of mine can be found on my blog. Just visit my website at www.gabarielfarago.com.au and enjoy!

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Did growing up in Hungary shape you as a reader and writer? How so?

I was very young – just 6 – when we left Hungary during the Revolution in 1956 and went to live in Austria with my grandparents. I attended school in Austria for ten years ( Jesuits) and it was during that time that I developed my love of books as I mentioned earlier. Living in my grandfather’s hunting lodge and exploring his attic with all its wonderful treasures had a profound influence on me, as I began to read the fascinating books I discovered there.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get to meet my grandfather – he died many years before I was born – but I got to know him through his treasured possessions stored in his beloved attic.

Your love for biographies and histories started at a young age – were these not odd choices for a young boy to choose to read? What about the two genres held your interest so much?

As an only child growing up in an adult world, reading soon became a passion. This is how, and why, I began to read biographies and history books. Perhaps a curious choice for a boy so young, granted, but the interest in those genres stayed with me to this very day.

The Disappearance of Anna Popov is your newest title – tell us a little about how this story came to be.

The type of books I write can best be described as ‘thrillers for the thinking reader.’ For a work of fiction to become a compelling read, it has to be anchored in real life and portray real people. I try to do this by basing my characters on people I’ve actually met. Practising  as a criminal lawyer for many years has given me an accurate insight into human nature and situations I can draw upon when shaping my characters for my books, and developing the storyline and the plot.

The Disappearance of Anna Popov, is a good example. The book was inspired by real events, and all of the key characters are based on real people I have come across during my years at the bar. Over the years, I represented several notorious bikies  and bikie gangs which has given me a unique glimpse into a dangerous and often alien underworld. In addition, I only choose subjects  that really interest me, and I believe would interest my readers. As the bikies were deeply involved in the occult, this became a good fit and a fascinating topic to learn more about and explore.

In addition,  I visit all the places mentioned in my books and carry out extensive research into all relevant subjects, as accuracy and authenticity are paramount. For a work of fiction to hold the reader’s attention, it has to appear ‘real’ and be accurate. The reader must never know where fact and fiction meet. The transition from fact to fiction must appear seamless and natural. That’s the mark of a good fiction writer and, in my view, perhaps the most important element he has to get right.

Has your time as a lawyer influenced how you write? How so? Have there been elements that have been positive and negative?

My training as a lawyer – I have degrees in law and in literature – has instilled in me a discipline to deal with and understand real cases and situations that were often stranger than fiction. This had a profound influence on my writing and the subject matter of my books. I firmly believe that a serious writer cannot grow out of a vacuum, but has to draw on real life experiences to be able to write convincingly and with authority about subjects that will appeal to his readers and make them turn the pages. Imagination alone is not enough. To be convincing, the writing has to be backed up by reality and insights that only come with a certain maturity.

Looking back at your career – writing and law – is there anything you would change? Why?

Looking back at a long and, dare I say, exciting and rewarding legal career, I can say with confidence that there is really nothing I would like to change. I believe that the discipline and experience of practising law has made me a better writer and given me access to a  treasure-trove of subject matter and material to draw upon for my books.

Law has been my lawful wife and literature my mistress; when  I got tired of one, I spent the night with the other. However, I must confess that these days I spend a lot more time with my mistress …

What’s coming up for you in 2015?

My next book – The Hidden Genes of Professor K – is due to be released later this year. It’s an exciting, international thriller about the intriguing world of cutting-edge medical research and pharmaceutical companies that will stop at nothing to get their greedy hands on breakthroughs that can earn them billions. I am presently working with my editor and book cover designer on completing the project in time for publication in November.

What do you think of The Disappearance of Anna Popov? It’s a compelling combination of truth and fiction, don’t you think? For more on Gabriel, check out his site. And hear from Gabriel In the Hot Seat with Jenny Mosher where he talks about his writing.

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