The Breakout 8 Writers Prize, sponsored by Epiphany and the Authors Guild, was established in order to honor and support outstanding emerging literary voices and bring visibility to the writers of the future. Earlier this spring, we announced the eight winners chosen by our three judges—Hannah Tinti, Alexander Chee, and Tracy O’Neill.
We interviewed each of the winners, and over the course of the next several weeks, we’ll post their Q&As! This week, we introduce you to Marc Castel de Lucas. Marc Castel de Lucas is a second-year undergraduate at the University of California-Berkeley studying literature in Spanish, English, and French. Prior to attending UC Berkeley, he studied at the University of Alabama (where he placed first in the University’s Creative Writing Contest as a first-year) and worked at the Mayor of San Francisco’s Office of Education, the Office of the Mayor of Oakland, and the Felony Division of the Office of the San Francisco District Attorney. He is of Spanish and American citizenship, upbringing, ancestry, and heritage, and intends to work within the field of Spanish-English primary school education, ideally as a teacher of literature and philosophy in a bilingual high school.
How did you first come up with your winning piece?
I don’t think prior to writing—art isn’t about thinking. An issue with the postmodern arts is that they seem to come off as though they were put together in a lab with sterile gloves; as though they were the carefully-manufactured product of some post-industrial automated press. I don’t create art for other people—I create it for myself. I didn’t and don’t think prior to writing—I just write. If you need to censor yourself or if you fear offending others with your writing, you are in the wrong business.
What do you hope to gain from the year ahead?
Who is your favorite underappreciated author we should all be reading?
There isn’t anything that “we” should all be reading. I am a Spanish man, so I have an obligation to my ancestors, to myself, and to my progeny to read Spanish literature and to educate myself on Spanish history. If I were a Danish man, a Japanese man, etc., my obligation would be to other literature—literature produced by my people, reflecting my people, for my people.
Do you have a memorable experience of an influential teacher you’d like to share?
Humanities education is in a sad state in this place at this time—history is distorted and manipulated and presented with a political agenda; literature is distanced completely from the reader and the writer and presented as a series of dry, lifeless documents to be analyzed via argumentative papers, which amount to nothing more than pages upon pages of dust, speaking much, saying nothing. Literature is about flesh and blood and life, words being not more than feeble attempts to capture the beauty to which we bear witness in the world a brief sojourn upon which we have been granted by God. “In a world in which education is predominantly verbal, ‘educated people’ find it all but impossible to pay serious attention to anything but words and notions.”
It’s been said we write what we obsess over. What themes do you find keep cropping up in your writing again and again?
I don’t think about my writing because I know that doing so can only ever be harmful. A good artist writes, and, as his writing unconsciously reflects the Truth, it will inevitably contain meaning beyond that which is visible at the surface.
What was your favorite book growing up?
An abridged version of The Count of Monte Cristo.
If the pursuit of writing is a quiet solo one, what are some ways you connect with other writers?
Writing—like all art—results from extremity of emotion and uncontrollable passion. To me, there is nowhere on Earth less conducive to passion than a fluorescent-lit, white-boarded ‘creative writing’ class.
What’s one bit of advice you wish you’d have gotten early on?
Ignore cowards, fools, and liars; uphold virtue and look down upon sin; wrath is a sin, but so is cowardice; all there is to Goodness is Truth and Beauty.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.