Miquel Reina is an award-winning designer, author, and art director specializing in web, digital, interaction, and motion graphics design.
While he has worked with many leading brands and companies, Reina’s passion for storytelling has led him to become a celebrated novelist. His debut novel, Lights on the Sea, has received widespread critical acclaim and has been translated into five languages.
The novel tells the story of Mary Rose and Harold Grapes, a retired couple still grieving the loss of their son thirty-five years ago. Living in a house on the edge of a cliff, the Grapeses’ home is uprooted by a violent storm on the eve of their eviction. As their past fades away and they float adrift, the couple finds themselves on a journey of redemption, survival, and wonder.
Hi Miquel, great to have you here with us today! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? You’re originally from Barcelona, right? What was it that drew you to the creative life?
Thank you very much Famous Writing Routines for this interview. Yes, indeed, I’m originally from Barcelona, although I moved to Vancouver in 2016 and have been living there since then. I’ve always been someone who has been attracted to art and creativity in general from a very early age. When I was a child, my parents enrolled me in painting classes because I loved to draw, and it was a wonderful way to get in touch with my artistic side and develop my sensitivity more.
It’s not surprising that I decided to study design, and although I specialized in industrial design, after finishing my studies, I realized that I was much more attracted to the world of video and advertising. From there, I started working at several of the best advertising agencies in Barcelona and wrote and directed some music videos, one of which was even a finalist at the Tribeca festival. I’ve always enjoyed telling stories, whether through design, music videos, or writing. That’s why during my years working as an art director, I started writing more as a hobby than anything else, until it led me to complete my first novel, Lights in the Sea, in 2016, just the year I moved to Vancouver for a job offer.
You describe yourself as a dreamer. What are your dreams for your writing career and where do you see yourself going in the future?
Yes, I’ve always been a dreamer. Having dreams or goals to achieve is like a kind of fuel that helps me move forward in life. My dream would be to continue writing my stories and have them reach more and more people. In addition, I recently started writing scripts, a medium that fascinates me and that somehow gets much closer to the audiovisual medium in which I trained. A few months ago, I started having conversations to adapt Lights in the Sea to film, thanks to a CAA (Creative Artist Agency) agent who read my book and loved it. Let’s cross our fingers that this story ends up on the big screen.
Lights on the Sea has received some great reviews. Kristin Hannah even compared it to Life of Pi. That must be very exciting for you. Can you tell us a little bit about the story and what inspired you to write it?
I’m a big fan of Life of Pi and Yann Martel’s writing style, so that comparison is the greatest of compliments to me. And undoubtedly, there are elements that recall Life of Pi. In short, Lights Over the Sea is a great ocean adventure, but unlike Life of Pi‘s lifeboats and tigers, in Lights Over the Sea, the protagonists, Harold and Mary Rose Grapes, drift aboard their own home and the greatest of their dangers, aside from the sea itself, is undoubtedly their past. A past from which they didn’t know how to turn the page and which they will have to confront again on this unusual journey that will test them in every way.
The story follows Mary Rose and Harold Grapes as they float away from their past and move toward a “revelatory and cathartic new engagement with life.” Can you talk a little bit about what you hope readers will take away from this story?
For me, one of the most important points when it comes to writing a story is that, in addition to entertaining, it stirs the reader in some way from within. And with Lights Over the Sea, I wanted to achieve precisely that balance, in which the plot of survival at sea was frenetic but at the same time, and like the ocean itself, it was deep in themes that are often difficult to address in novels. Many of my readers have written to me saying that they felt they had made the same journey as Harold and Mary Rose, not only the physical journey, but above all the introspective one, reflecting on their lives and on what is truly important in them.
The novel has been described as having a “dreamy, fable-like quality.” How did you approach creating this dreamlike atmosphere in the story? Do you think your background in design and cinema had any influence on this quality?
Since I was a kid, I have always felt a great fascination for stories. One of my best childhood memories is the moment when my grandmother told me bedtime stories; I was obsessed with Jack and the Beanstalk! Moreover, my literary tastes have always danced between fantasy and reality. I love the fantasy genre, for example, The Hobbit is one of my favorite books, and I adore the magical realism of Gabriel García Márquez. I suppose that is why, when I started imagining the story of Lights Over the Sea, I always thought of it as a kind of fairy tale for adults, in which verisimilitude is not the most important thing, but rather the universal truths hidden in those images.
Can you tell us about your writing routine? What does a typical day look like for you?
I try to write every day from Monday to Saturday, leaving Sunday for rest so that I can disconnect and recharge my creative batteries. I usually write in the afternoons, after finishing my workday in the small design studio I founded, for a minimum of three or sometimes four hours. Sometimes the sessions are more productive than others, but I think the important thing is not to lose the habit so as not to break the routine. I believe that writing is like exercising, it may be difficult at first, but it is important not to give up, because the key, as many things in life, is consistency.
If you could have a conversation with any author throughout history about their writing routine and creative process, who would that person be?
I would love to have a long and leisurely conversation over a good cup of coffee with Gabriel García Márquez and learn from one of my greatest literary references.
I’d love to know about the books you’re reading at the moment. What have been some of your favorite recent reads?
I’m currently reading The Infinite in a Reed by the writer Irene Vallejo Moreu. It is an amazing and inspiring book that tells us about the invention of books and their influence on human history. A book that I recommend reading to all literature lovers.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers out there who are just starting out on their journey?
Well, I still have a lot to learn myself, but I think the best advice I have been given is not to get caught up in the idea of perfection. It seems logical, but often, and I say this from my own experience, we sabotage ourselves in search of that perfection that doesn’t exist. It is important to learn that writing is a process, that it is better to let go, and even if our first drafts stink, it’s okay, because it means we can learn to be better writers during the writing process.
What does your current writing workspace look like?
Currently, my workspace is somewhat portable. Some days I write at a desk I have at home by the window and others at a small desk in the main library of Vancouver. I started going there after the pandemic, to clear my head and get out of the house a little more, and since then I love writing there. The architecture of the building and its light are beautiful, but above all, I feel that all the thousands of volumes surrounding me somehow inspire me to be a better writer.
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