E.J. Bancesco on the origins of 'The Scarf'

When I came to the United States early in 1983, I left behind all my Romanian books, worried that on impact with the vast unknown that was the English language, I would retreat for comfort into pages written in my mother tongue, and thus delay acquiring the vital ability to communicate in my new country. And I was right. No sooner had I found myself answering the telephone in an architectural office, than I panicked and fumbled for cover, but there was none.

Today, over three decades later, and with two novels under contract for publication, the English language doesn’t seem any less vast; but like an explorer deep in the wild, I feel a bit more equipped to confront the unpredictable.

I labored about fifteen years on my first novel, Adrift, and for most of that time I never made it past page 93, but in 2009 I began devouring how-to books on novel writing, and two years later I had completed a 94,000-word manuscript.

In 2015, after countless rewrites, I had a publishing contract. This brings me to The Scarf, my second novel, which Raphael was generous enough to show interest in, and then to accept me into his family of authors at Hyperborea. It took me eighteen months to write The Scarf, and just as long to polish it into a submittable manuscript. The plot was weaved around an episode in my adolescence in the summer of 1968 when I was singing with a rock band in a seedy port town on the banks of the Danube.

Just like Clovis, the novel’s main character, I was ambushed by a gang of black marketer hooligans and forced to have sex with a woman who was lame in one leg, only because I had the cheek to pursue a local girl whose protector the gang leader claimed to be.

I do not believe there is one friend of mine left not knowing about that incident. Indeed, I told it so many times, that one day my wife said: “Enough. Do us all a favor, bury this story in a novel, and be done with it.”

And so, I began thinking about this Clovis, and proceeded to endow him with a background, a personality, and a driving desire. These three essentials were daunting at first, like chambers piled up with straw that must be turned into gold by dawn, or else. But then, as happens with fiction when you fuel it with truth, the story came alive and I found myself a witness to its unfolding. Well, almost, and not constantly, for now and then I had to pause, think anew, cut passages I loved, or expound on things I knew nothing about.

In the process, I found that writing means scrutinizing the world with a probing eye, learning the truth about things you must bring into your stories, and most importantly, delivering the truth in a way that hasn’t been done before. Or at least trying until you hurt.