We interview the author of the crime novel 'When nobody sees us'

Sergio Sarria with a pencil in his hand is synonymous with wit, humor and social criticism. This is what we have seen when he produces scripts like those in the 'El Intermedio' program, or with his first book. At least until now!

This time, Sarria has decided to take a step towards a totally different direction with his new novel, When nobody sees us, a thriller exciting with the Holy Week backdrop.

The central scenario of the story is Morón de la Frontera, a quiet Andalusian town that, suddenly, is dotted with disappearances, deaths, drugs. That and a US base make you put yourself in the shoes of Lucía Gutiérrez, the sergeant of the Civil Guard who investigates the case, and try to unveil the gloomy relationship between them all.

Why this change of registration? We wanted to interview Sergio Sarria to ask him and try to understand how he has built a novel that has hooked us from beginning to end.

'When nobody sees us' is a thrilling 'thriller' that has little or nothing to do with the comedy to which we are accustomed. ¿Why the change?

A need to change the registry. For the last eleven years I've done all the possible jokes about politicians in 'El Intermedio' (The Sixth). Bárcenas, Rajoy, Pablo Iglesias … I have highlighted all their shortcomings and errors. Something similar happened to me in my previous novel, The man who hated Paulo Coelho, a comedy that emphasized the stupidity of the main characters and the snobbish environment in which they moved.

So I wanted to do the opposite; judge less and empathize with all the characters, that was the action itself and the events that were defining them, and not me. In that sense, the police genre allows making more subtle social radiographs, where each of the characters have to choose how to react to each of the events they face.

By action or by omission, the continuous events that occur in When nobody sees us, they force the protagonists and the secondary to react in one way or another and leave the reader the entire responsibility of judging them and understanding, or not, their motivations.

From the first page, the reader encounters a succession of events of an intensity that goes more constantly, almost without rest. How is a novel constructed with so much narrative power?

Interview with Sergio Sarria, author of 'When nobody sees us'

Probably because I'm a television writer and on TV there is a maxim above all others: keep the pace at all costs, not invite the viewer to change the channel.

In fact, I build novels in the same way as a television series. Before starting to write anything, I make a summary of the plot, the characteristics of the main and secondary characters, the organization of the chapters, and the story line where the main story and its subplots will go.

To put it in a way, I make a preliminary map so as not to get lost in the way with plots that do not go anywhere and slow down the action. That way, you make sure that everything you read supposes an advance in the story, that there are no fillers and, hopefully, that you are not tempted to stop reading to change the channel and see La Pantoja in 'Survivors' .

Holy Week and Andalusian culture are essential in the book. With what intention do you mix a 'thriller' that could be typically American with the Andalusian universe?

With the intention of giving it a personality of its own, that is not a thriller plastic, so to speak, but you believe it, that there is truth not only in history but also in the universe in which it develops.

A Civil Guard sergeant who lives in an Andalusian village, does not share the same culture and can not react in the same way as an FBI agent in Atlanta or a police officer in a small town in Sweden.

On the other hand, both a thriller American as a Swedish start from local universes to be global, and it always seemed to me that Andalusian Holy Week is an element that defines us perfectly sociologically and that draws attention outside. Not to mention the iconic strength that is in the processions: dim light, the sound of the drums, the incense anesthetizing the streets and the faces of pain of the Christs and the Virgins. In its own way, The Passion is also a kind of thriller

Lucía Gutiérrez, sergeant of the Civil Guard, is the protagonist who is in charge of investigating all the events that include suicides, delusions and disappearances with a common point. How would you describe it?

I think it's easier for me to describe it by saying what it is not. She is not an agent with special abilities or out of the ordinary. It is not diplomatic. It does not have good character. She is neither the best mother nor the best daughter-in-law. It does not have a size 38, nor is it close to it.

Lucía Gutiérrez is a deeply imperfect woman and full of contradictions. But … he does not give up. Never. Not before his own failures or those that prevent him from knowing the truth of what is happening in Morón de la Frontera. I would say that it is your greatest virtue, to resist, to overcome your demons to survive one more day even if you are trapped in a life that does not satisfy you at all.

The novel takes place in the apparently quiet city of Morón, but also in the large American military base that is governed by its own rules. Why have you chosen this contrast of scenarios?

I found the contrast between an eminently rural municipality with such strong traditions and the environment of the American air base, which represents the military and aeronautical vanguard of the United States very interesting.

It's like having a city inside another city. A typically Andalusian town next to what looks like a Texas town with drive-in movie theater, baseball league, hamburgers from the 60s and even an oil pipeline that connects you to the Rota naval base.

An open and hospitable place in front of an opaque military enclosure where not all are welcome. Two nearby urban centers but with totally different realities. Something that even the press has echoed. How not to use this contraposition of scenarios? Undoubtedly, Morón had all the ingredients to locate there a thriller

Throughout the book we see a plot with images of great strength. Do you think that 'When nobody sees us' drinks from your experience in the audiovisual world?

Totally, I write as if I were editing video sequences, as if instead of Word I used Premiere. For me what is said is as important as the staging, and I think that in the thriller It helps the reader get hooked on the story.

The way you find a corpse, initiate a persecution or interrogate a suspect must have its own personality. I like to start all those actions with an original point of view and describe them as if I had a video camera.

Precisely because of this, because shooting of the audiovisual, it helps me a lot when writing to find a song or melody that fits the image I am describing. Almost all the songs that appear in the novel are because I also listened to them while writing. Even the marches of the bands of cornets and drums, which I put at full volume to get mentally inside a procession.

Maybe I just raised the number of reproductions of 'Pasan los campanilleros' or 'Presentado a Sevilla' on Spotify to the height of any Rosalía song.

Who would you recommend your book?

First of all, to everyone who enjoys the police genre. But also to those who are curious about how the Easter brotherhoods in Andalusia work, the American military bases or want to know some of the problems faced by the inhabitants of rural areas. Or, simply, to all those who seek pure and hard entertainment.

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