Pedro de Alcantara Interviews the Author of Befiddled

Pedro de Alcantara: Thank you for agreeing to this interview.

Pedro de Alcantara: It's always a pleasure to speak with my fans. But don't you dare spread false rumours about me, or I'll sue you for libel, slander, and… and harassment.

P.d.A.: Your threats don’t scare me. I know you just love talking about yourself. So, Befiddled is your first novel, and it's a coming-of-age story, like thousands of first novels of that sort. Does that mean Befiddled is autobiographical, like those thousands of books out there?

P.d.A.: First and foremost, I resent the implication that my book is anything like these books you’re talking about. Befiddled is unique. But, if I’m honest with myself, I have to admit that it’s somewhat autobiographical. Like Becky, I was a discombobulated kid who hated sports and who didn’t have a lot of friends. (Do you want to see what a freak I was? Warning! It's SCARY! This is me playing the recorder on a TV show when I was about thirteen.) Like Becky, too, I desperately wanted to become a musician. After I learned the recorder I took up the cello, and I went on to become a professional musician. Unlike Becky, though, I came from a loving family. My mother was an excellent amateur pianist. We played chamber music together all the time, and we attended dozens of concerts together over the years. Like Benjy, I wrote a newspaper, in my case in collaboration with my older brother Luís Eduardo. Our newspaper was called “A Farpa,” which means “The Splinter” in Portuguese. Here's an old issue of “A Farpa.” And, like Mr. Freeman, I’m a music teacher, and I help players and singers become better musicians. So, yeah, Befiddled is autobiographical, but not in a banal, straightforward way like those thousands of books out there. But let me add that some of those thousands of books out there are pretty good too!

P.d.A.: Where did you grow up?

P.d.A.: In São Paulo, the biggest city in Brazil. There are about 20 million people in São Paulo and its suburbsmore people than the entire state of New York, or as many people as the populations of Connecticut and Massachusetts and New Jersey combined, with Rhode Island thrown in for good measure. More people than—well, you get the picture. A big industrial city with lots of skyscrapers and some beautiful parks and a great museum. If you’re curious about São Paulo, click here for a site full of information in English.

P.d.A.: Some people say you never actually grew up.

P.d.A.: Why? Just because I enjoy a pacifier with my coffee? And what about you and those plastic diapers you wear to bed, uh?

P.d.A.: Okay, okay. Let’s drop that. Do you have brothers and sisters?

P.d.A.: Well, you know about Luís Eduardo, my partner at “A Farpa.” He’s a mechanical genius who runs his own engineering company. My older sister Mônica is the family’s mystic and seer and all-around creative spirit (typical Pisces, if you know what I mean). My younger brother Floriano also runs his own company, designing and manufacturing great toys. And the family’s baby is my sister Marina the Brainsshe’s a psychologist and university professor who teaches a course on phenomenology (don’t ask). My parents had their five kids one after the other: Bam! Bam! Bam! Bam! Bam! I’m the third “Bam” from left to right or from right to left, however you want to count it.

P.d.A.: Let me see if I got this straight. You grew up (as if!) speaking Portuguese in Brazil. But you write in English instead. What gives?

P.d.A.: I left Brazil when I was 19. I studied music in the US for six years, and then I moved to London, England, where I lived for another seven years. Then I moved to Paris, France, where I still live. By the time I started writing I had been away from home for twelve or fifteen years, and by then my brain had been rewired to function in English and in French as well as in Portuguese. There have been quite a few writers over the decades who wrote in languages other than their mother tongues: Joseph Conrad, whose first language was Polish but who wrote in English; Vladimir Nabokov, who wrote in English and German as well as his native Russian; Milan Kundera, who used to write in Czech but who now writes in French; and many others besides.

P.d.A.: What’s your next book about?

P.d.A.: I have two books in the works: Latrella Rewinds, a novel for young adults that will be published in the second half of 2008 or the first half of 2009; and W.W. Werewolf, the story of a boy who dreams of becoming a werewolf (better to get back at some people who have been giving him a hard time). W.W. will be a comic horror novel full of absolutely disgusting people and things and events. You’ll love this book, and then you’ll hate yourself for loving it (since loving it is a sign you’re sick in the head, my friend).

P.d.A.: Where do you get your book ideas?

P.d.A.: From the Internet! No, seriously, my ideas come from my own experiences, my imagination, other books I’ve read, and comic books and cartoons and movies too. Mostly, though, the original ideas come from a feeling deep inside myself, something I’ve lived or dreamed or feared or desired for myself. Even W.W. Werewolf will be autobiographical in some indirect ways.

P.d.A.: Well, thanks for sharing your thoughts with us. If we can call them thoughts.

P.d.A.: If you weren’t virtual I’d beat you up.

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