Carlos Ruiz Zafón is a contemporary Spanish novelist and writer who has had many of his books turn into best-sellers. His most famous book is La sombra del viento (The Shadow of the Wind) which has won numerous prizes since it was published in 2001.
Carlos Ruiz Zafón was born in Barcelona in 1964, and according to himself, had known that he wanted to be a writer from around the age of 5 or 6. However, he has never been sure as to where this early vocation had come from. His family had no literary tradition - his mother a home-owner and his father a successful security agent - although he said the world of reading and books was important in their household.
He went to the Jesuit-run San Ignacio de Sarrià School and then went to study Information Science. During his first year of study, he was offered a job to work in the world of publicity. He eventually became the creative director of an important publicity agency in Barcelona, but in 1992, he decided to abandon that world to concentrate on literature instead.
Beginning with children's literature, Carlos Ruiz Zafón's first novel, El príncipe de la niebla was published in 1993 and was a success, winning the Edebé Prize. With the money earned from this book, he decided to realize a childhood dream of his: to go to Los Angeles and see the home of cinema. He spent a number of years in the United States writing scripts at the same time as releasing a few new novels. The three following novels by Ruiz Zafón were also aimed at young readers: El palacio de la medianoche (1994), Las luces de septiembre (1995) (these two books form part of the trilogy that starts with his first novel. Today they are often published as one volume), and Marina.
However the transformation of the Spanish novelist into a best-seller came in 2001 with the publication of his first novel aimed at adults: La sombra del viento - a complex story within a story set in post-Civil War Barcelona. This novel was translated into a number of different languages, and although it had a slow and difficult start in Spain, it soon became one of the biggest selling Spanish language books in the world (selling over 10 million copies), thanks to the global market. It has also received a number of prizes over the years.
Despite the numerous offers that he has received, Carlos Ruiz Zafón has so far refrained from allowing a film version of the book to be made. He insists that he does not need the money, and that no physical film could be better than the image that one sees when one begins to read the book.
Ruiz Zafón's second novel aimed at adults El juego del ángel came out in 2008 and was another success for the contemporary Spanish novelist. The launch of the book was accompanied by a large campaign with guests, reporters and TV cameras. If you had been lucky enough to visit Barcelona at this time, you would have seen long queues of people waiting to get the book and start reading. In fact, in the first week over 250,000 copies were sold in Catalonia alone.
These two novels form part of the tetralogy of works that Carlos Ruiz Zafón dedicated to his hometown. The third book, which has been said to be more optimistic and less defeatist that the previous book, is called El prisionero del cielo, released in 2011.
With regards to his creative writing style, Ruiz Zafón has said that he writes as though he is writing a film, in three stages. The first stage is the preproduction stage, in which you create a map of what you are going to do, although you often end up changing it all. Then you have the filming stage where you collect all the elements to make up the film. However during this stage you often get deeper and deeper into the story, more so than you expected, and you have to change a lot around. Then the final stage is making it all seem natural and this is the part that takes the most work. Visualizing his narratives in a cinematic way helps Ruiz Zafón to write, often writing as though he is writing a script.
His most famous novels are of course the two best-sellers, La sombra del viento and El juego del ángel, and they are great books to start with if you want to learn Spanish through some contemporary Spanish literature. Furthermore, these books have also earned him many prizes including the Silver Premio Euzkadi in 2008, the Barry Award for Best First Novel in 2005, and the Best Foreign Book in France in 2004.