Q&A with Paulo Coelho discussion

10 Questions with Paulo Coelho -- Goodreads Interview

Comments Showing 1-20 of 20 (20 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Jessica (last edited Feb 24, 2008 11:21PM) (new)

Jessica (jessicareading) | 2 comments Goodreads: The Alchemist was first published in 1988. Now 20 years later, how do you feel your writing style or priorities as a writer have changed over the many years of your career? Would you describe writing as your own Personal Legend?

Paulo Coelho: Last year I wrote a column about the way I felt about the release of my book, The Witch of Portobello. I was in Lisbon, just hours before the book was released in Portugal and in Latin America. I was walking along the streets of this marvelous city thinking about the moment when the first reader would touch the book in the shelves of the bookstore. I was excited and realized that I was still able, after publishing many books, to feel exactly the same way as in the release of my first book, The Pilgrimage. Of course, with success, the dimensions change but the inner feeling of sharing my soul with others remains intact.

My personal legend has always been to become a writer. I'm glad I can say that I'm fulfilling my dream. But this must not be interpreted as "the end of the line" - on the contrary - I have to commit everyday in order to stay in this path that I've chosen. One is constantly challenged - even by success.

GR: You have stated that each of your books was written over a period of only two to four weeks. Describe a typical day spent writing.

PC: When I finally feel I'm ready to embark in a new book, I always go through the following cycle that takes me from two weeks to a month.

Before going to bed I have everything planned: I will wake up early and dedicate myself solely to the novel I'm writing. The only thing is, when I wake up I decide to browse through the net, then it's time for my walk. When I come back I quickly check my mails and before I know it it's already 2:30 p.m. and time to have lunch. After which I always take a sacrosanct nap. When I wake up at 5 p.m. I come back to my computer, check another set of emails, visit my blogs, read the news. Then it is already time for dinner - and at this point I'm feeling extremely guilty for not fulfilling my goal of the day. After dinner I finally sit at my desk and decide to write. The first line takes a bit but quickly I'm submerged in the tale and ideas take me to places that I never thought I would tread. My wife calls me to go to bed but I can't, I need to finish the line, then the paragraph, then the page...It goes on like this until 2 - 3 a.m. When I finally decide to go to bed, I still have many ideas in my mind-that I carefully note down on a piece of paper. I know though that I'll never use this - I'm simply emptying my mind. When I finally rest my head on my pillow I make the same oath - that the next day I'll wake up early and that I'll write the whole day long. But this is useless: the next day I wake up late and this cycle starts all over again.

GR: Tell us about The Experimental Witch. How do you envision the finished product?

PC: I'm an "Internet addict" and decided last year to release 1/3 of The Witch of Portobello in my blog www.paulocoelhoblog.com in several languages. Readers from all over the world could read the first 10 chapters and leave their comments. It was a great experience and last year in July I wanted to further this interaction with my readers by inviting them to adapt the book for the screen. As you know there are 15 narrators and filmmakers are invited to chose one and film all the scenes where they interact with Athena. Once their video is done they are invited to post it in YouTube. Composers from MySpace are also invited to show their material until the end of May. The rules are equally in my blog in the following address:

Since this is an original idea, it's very difficult to predict how the finished product will be. We have many directors in mind to edit the raw material from the readers and the aim is to show the film in Cannes next year and then release it in movie theatres.

GR: Unlike many bestselling authors, you have opted not to sell the film rights to your books. The Alchemist is the only exception, and you have even tried to buy back those rights for a very high price. What is different about The Witch of Portobello?

PC: It's true I've always been reluctant to sell the rights of my books since I think that a book has a life of its own inside the reader's mind. Seldom do I find that film adaptations of books work well. With time, though, I decided to open up this possibility for certain titles of mine like The Alchemist, Veronika Decides to Die and 11 Minutes. I don't like, though, to meddle in these productions.

With the Experimental Witch is different because I decided to invite my readers through the Internet to adapt their vision of the book. It is my way of having a peep into their universe besides of being a true original idea: the first movie made by the readers.

GR: With membership on Goodreads, Facebook, MySpace, and others, you have a wonderfully accessible Web presence. How do you feel that the Internet is changing the way people have access to art and artists?

PC: To write is a very lonely activity. When I write a book, I'm face to face with my soul, and this sometimes leads me to paths that I never imagined existed within myself. When I finish a book, I have the feeling I gave birth to something that now is independent of me, something that carries my soul away from my imagination and into the minds and hearts of my readers.

When this happens, it's pure magic: During signings I could see that readers totally understood my questionings and truly shared the experiences.

This feedback is also possible through my blogs. I check every day the messages, and I'm sincerely moved by the beautiful words of wisdom that my readers share with me. In a way the Internet is enabling the writer to no longer be alone, to debate ideas, to share information and to get inspired by the readers.

message 2: by Linda (new)

Linda Lavid (lindalavid) | 2 comments "But in the end all religions tend to point to the same light. In between the light and us, sometimes there are too many rules. Some of these rules are important, others should not blind us, do not diminish the intensity of this light, the soul of the world."

"And one has to understand that braveness is not the absence of fear but rather the strength to keep on going forward despite the fear."


message 3: by Jessica (new)

Jessica (jessicareading) | 2 comments Goodreads: On your blog, you recently described traveling as the best way to learn. Goodreads has members in more than 200 countries -- do you think the Internet can be used for similar learning and to promote dialogue across national boundaries and language barriers?

Paulo Coelho: Internet is a wonderful tool of communication. Its ability to enable low-cost instant communication regardless of physical boundaries is fascinating and full of promises. Of course, as a medium, it can be used to promote dialogue between people from different cultures.

I've read somewhere something that has fascinated me. That the Internet is also breeding a new and young culture: the culture of super-communicators. Youngsters that were born into the Internet era are actively showing how they can be at once talking on msn, poking a friend in Facebook, up-loading their garage band song into MySpace, up-loading their 30-second film recorded with their telephone on their YouTube account and still have time to play web video games with hundred of other users across the web. When I think of this new generation I see a new culture all together arising. Unfortunately too often people of my generation can't even grasp their children's universe. Yet what the youth is doing, out of intuition and entertainment, is creating a new way of communicating that has nothing to do with the passive TV generation era.

But one has to keep in mind that the Internet, it's a medium and therefore it can be equally used to fire up tensions and provoke ruptures.

GR: As a Messenger of Peace for the United Nations, you recently attended the first United Nations Alliance of Civilizations Forum, a global campaign that aims to eliminate prejudices between cultures. As a writer, what is your role in this campaign and what have you learned?

PC: The type of work that I want to develop with the UN would be the one where I would use culture, the last bridge that in my view remains intact in this divided world, to reassemble people. The power of storytelling is exactly this: to bridge the gaps where everything else has crumbled.

GR: Your work has been translated into 67 different languages, which gives you a remarkably international audience. There must be a large amount of trust involved when working with a translator. How do you feel reading one of your books in a language other than Portuguese affects the reader's experience? Does something get lost in translation?

There's a chain that enables my words to get to the reader's imagination. There are many people involved: my agent, my publishing houses, the booksellers, and of course the translators.

Indeed, there has to be a great amount of trust for the book to reach the safe harbor of the reader's hands. I have to trust the translator. It's a profession I have a profound admiration for. My father-in-law was a translator and I know how in this line of profession, translators honor the text and diligently try to remain faithful to the essence of it.

GR: The message of The Alchemist, and many of your other books, transcends the definitions of a single religion. Is it one of your goals to provoke inter-faith dialogue?

PC: It's important to distinguish between religion & spirituality. I am Catholic, so religion for me is a way of having discipline and collective worship with persons who share the same mystery.

But in the end all religions tend to point to the same light. In between the light and us, sometimes there are too many rules. Some of these rules are important, others should not blind us, do not diminish the intensity of this light, the soul of the world.

For me, literature and spirituality are the same. In my first book, The Pilgrimage, I wrote about my real journey, my true story.

You see, during my pilgrimage it became increasingly apparent that I wasn't happy and I had to do something about it - stop making excuses. I realized that you don't have to jump through a series of complicated hoops to achieve a goal. You can just look at a mountain and get a connection with God; you don't have to understand the mountain to feel that.

When I first got back from the trip it was an anti-climax. I found it hard to acclimatize to my normal life and I was impatient to change my life immediately. But changes happen when you're ready. It took a few months to realize that I must solely concentrate on writing a book, rather than trying to fill various roles as I had before. The pilgrimage was to be my subject and as I started I took my first step towards my dream.

GR: What advice would you give to a new writer just starting out?

PC: To knock as many doors as possible. That's how I did it in the beginning. People don't think about this now, but becoming a best-selling author was a long journey and I faced many setbacks along the way. For instance, I had a rough time with my second book The Alchemist. It was first published by a small publishing house and even though it sold well, at the end of the first year, the publisher decided to give me back the rights since, according to his words, "he could make more money in the stock exchange." At the time I decided to leave Rio with my wife and we spent 40 days in the Mojave dessert. I needed to heal myself from this and when I came I decided to keep on struggling.

I realized that despite the fear and the bruises of life, one has to keep on fighting for one's dream. As Borges said in his writings "there is no other virtue than being brave." And one has to understand that braveness is not the absence of fear but rather the strength to keep on going forward despite the fear.

message 4: by Mohammad (new)

Mohammad Yousefi (yousefi) | 1 comments I think that If anybody in the world do this rule that Paulo Coelho mentioned, certainly should be successful.
"My personal legend has always been to become a writer. I’m glad I can say that I’m fulfilling my dream. But this must not be interpreted as "the end of the line"—on the contrary, I have to commit every day in order to stay in this path that I’ve chosen. One is constantly challenged—even by success."

message 5: by Effat (new)

Effat | 1 comments what should you do if you can't find your personal legend?, i really tried alot but in alot of times i feel like iam not sure that the decision that i will take will be the right one.

message 6: by kristen (new)

kristen | 1 comments I think it's very similar to what Paulo says about emptying his mind when he begins writing a new book. You may have to explore many words and worlds before you enter into that space of clarity. Also, don't limit yourself by thinking that your personal legend is so singular. I think for many of us we will explore multiple paths and realms before we discover something that really speaks to us. And learning to enjoy that journey and feeling of limitlessness is absolutely part of it all too. I do believe that as long as you sit with the sincere intention to discover your own truth, it will come to you eventually. And totally, I agreee with Hrvoje on not getting hung up on failures. If you at least—act, than you're contributing to the forward motion of your own happiness.

message 7: by Naomi (new)

Naomi | 1 comments Dear Mr Coelho,
After reading some of your books, I felt the likeness in almost all the books. About the warrior of light, the road to santiago, and some other things. It's not only me who felt that way, I have a friend who also feel the same. Honestly, it made us a bit bored with your books (sorry...), if before my desire to read more of your books was so big, now not really anymore, not like before. Why is that Sir??? What is the teaching or the point of your decision on putting same things again in your next book? If I can get your answer on this, I hope my desire to read more of your books can grow again (even though I actually listed your newest books to read). Thank you very much and please don't get upset on my comments...>:D<

message 8: by Amit (last edited Jun 08, 2008 02:32PM) (new)

Amit (thumperbigboy) | 1 comments hello sir, its been just 2 months since your works came into my life and it seems to have brought some changes in my life. i have never been into reading and writing was the last thing i would have ever done, but it has all changed and all thanks to u. After reading your works i have a strange urge to write which is something i had never experienced in my life and believe me i have now discovered a whole new facet of my personality, the writer inside me!!. It is the same feeling as u had described where one feels ripe and full inside and ready to deliver. i have read about 5 books so far and i found them really good reading experience and something that touched somewhere deep inside and i could always identify with all that is written there. I have become a great fan of your works but yes one thing i have to agree to what Naomi has to say, that there are somethings which remain almost like a constant in most of your books and it may have become a drab for some of the readers like Naomi and they are right in feeling so. Although personally speaking i have still not got enough of what you write and i still have to discover the path that you have shown me not for anything else but for myself, to find myself, to meet my soul. But sir with all my sincere intentions as your fan and as your true well wisher i would like to express that i think that you can once again think of undertaking a pilgirmage, a journey and maybe you would be able to discover something new inside you and from that we would be able to learn and follow some new direction or discover some new dimensions to life and so many other things that you write about. I personally felt that readers like Naomi are the ones who are the true wellwishers becuase she has come out with her sincere viewpoint and i really appreciate that. I guess our critics are our best friends as they make us evolve and thereby bettering ourselves. In the end i would like to thank you for writing with your heart and soul and for touching the lives of your readers in such a special way and personally for me, in helping me find myself.

message 9: by Jenn (new)

Jenn (inthemindseyeoftheuniverse) | 1 comments Dear, Mr. Coelho I want start off by saying thank you so much for answering my friend request. It means great amount to me and I really appreciate it. I am pretty young but I love books and I especially love to write, it's my passion. I aspire to be an author and do have written works (unfinished) which I am in the process of one. For school I had to do a research project. I asked for the country Brazil and picked you as the author (1) because you are my mom's favorite and (2) I had practically all your books at home (in spanish) and you seemed to be the best choice. I learned about you as much as I could and tried to analyze why you wrote certain things. I was astonished. I have a couple questions. (1) what would you offer as advice to a teenager like me who wants, no yearns, to become an author? and (2) do you believe that most of the things we see, the life (our own) we experience and what we see yet sometimes don't speak, do you believe that steals our sanity whether a great amount or just a bit to drive us crazy at night when we think and can bring us to tears?

message 10: by Dycz (new)

Dycz Tacu (unknownvisitor) | 1 comments Hi Mr. Paulo Coelho. Thanks for evrything you have thought us. God bless.

message 11: by life form (new)

life form (taozi11) | 1 comments Mr.Paulo Coelho,I haven't read any of your books yet, but soon I'll start with one.And I believe this could be a good start,or rather,a new journey for a Chinese who can hardly finish reading an English novel.

message 12: by === (new)

=== im 12 and writing a book!

message 13: by Foroogh (new)

Foroogh (forooghg) Mr.Coelho I recently finished 5th Mountain,during reading it I was so impressed and was really enjoying it.But when I finished it unfortunately I didn't get your finall goal of this book.Would you please explain it?

message 14: by Zahra (new)

Zahra r (zahrar) | 1 comments dear sir
im one of ur biggest fans.ihave lot's of questions.i wish i could see u here ,in iran,but i yake advantage of this website and ask u coupli of questions.is the main charachter of portobeloreal?and can u tell us more about finding our real love?

message 15: by Foroogh (new)

Foroogh (forooghg) javab nemidan dige Zahra joon

message 16: by Margo (new)

Margo (margharita) | 1 comments Oh Paulo... Your books are a true inspiration. Some of your ideas covered in the books are very visionary and life changing. Thank you for what you do! You're a living Legend!

message 17: by Mohit (new)

Mohit Misra (mohitmisra) | 1 comments Jessica wrote: "Goodreads: The Alchemist was first published in 1988. Now 20 years later, how do you feel your writing style or priorities as a writer have changed over the many years of your career? Would you des..."

I enjoy reading you. :)

message 18: by Alifya (new)

Alifya | 2 comments i try not 2 miss any of ur buk but still m in deep depression..m a 15yr old girl...who gets bullied now n den...n is designated as a looser....lost all hope frm life...bcoz of des...things my academic performance is going down too.....feeling helpless....d reason i find for my shyness...is dat i don't look gud...i read your buks...tried 2 imbibe ...ur given values...bt i dunno y..its hard 4 me...plzz suggest sumthing...reply soon.

message 19: by Julia (new)

Julia Hughes (juliahughesbooks) | 1 comments 'a book has a life of its own inside the reader's mind' That's it! Done deal. Sign me up - I'm a fan. Some books do work on film - Schindler's Ark & To Kill A Mockingbird captured 'Scout' exactly as I imagined her - but some books should remain firmly in the reader's imagination. Mr. Coelho I applaud your writing programme too, and thank you for revealing your soul. It is a very fine one.


message 20: by Anissa (new)

Anissa Daoudi | 1 comments Hi Paulo,

I have a PhD student working on your novels, precisely, on the translation of your novels in Arabic. Do you know of any other academic studies please. It doesn't matter to what language.


back to top