When I say I am a novelist, I don’t mean I write.
After a recent bout of depression, writer Ana Maria Martínez was struck by a revelation: she didn’t even know what a novel was.
After being forced to give up her job in the entertainment industry, she decided to become a novelist.
Now, a year later, she’s been awarded the Pulitzer Prize for her work, along with the Spanish National Prize for Literature.
It was a dream come true for Martínguez, who first started writing when she was seven years old.
“I had a dream,” she says, sitting at her kitchen table, “that I could become a writer.
And so, after I got to the point where I was writing a lot, I started reading.”
“I was reading a lot and I started thinking that it would be fun to become one.”
It was this fantasy that drove Martíntez to turn to literature in the first place.
After graduating high school, she moved to Madrid to study at the Sorbonne and graduated in 1996 with a bachelor’s degree in English.
A few years later, Martíndez got her first job at the publishing house La Vida (The Voice) in Barcelona, where she worked on a series of novels based on Spanish history and culture.
“In Spain, literature was an obsession,” Martínnes father, Juan Antonio, says.
“But in Barcelona we didn’t have the same passion for literature as in Madrid.”
After a few years at La Vido, Martiñez decided to return to her home in Madrid and become a novelist.
She was thrilled to be hired by one of the world’s biggest publishing houses, and she was immediately hooked.
But when she got to Spain, she realized she didn, in fact, have the right skills.
“There were no books, no books of poetry,” she recalls.
“So, I just started writing, and I’m not going to stop writing.”
For a while, she wrote short stories, but eventually her writing became more and more detailed.
She also took up poetry and started a magazine, La Vía.
When her publisher asked her to work on a novel about a young man who discovers that he is a writer, Martietez decided on the novel “El Jefe.”
It became a bestseller in Spain, and her second novel, “El Hombre,” was published in 1999.
She has since written nine more novels, including a collection of short stories called “The Last Day.”
It has also inspired many other young authors to take up the profession.
Martínes first novel was published by Penguin Books, and it’s now available in over 30 countries.
“When I wrote El Jefe, I knew I was going to write about something very personal,” Martiño says.
She didn’t expect it to take off.
“At first, I thought, ‘Oh, I’m going to be a writer,’ but then it dawned on me: I’m a writer because I like to write.
And I’m also a novelist because I think that what I do is important.”
She’s not alone.
For more than a decade, there’s been a trend in Spain for young writers to pursue their writing passions through novels.
In fact, the number of young authors pursuing their writing careers in Spain has increased from just 1,500 in 2013 to 4,700 in 2019.
“The novel is an expression of human identity,” says Jorge Fernández, a professor of Spanish literature at the University of Barcelona.
“We are talking about a person, a story, a place, and, in particular, about a writer who lives inside the book.”
Fernánes research has shown that young Spanish novelists tend to be less interested in the literary arts than their parents.
“It’s true that young people in Spain have more freedom to be themselves and express themselves in a different way,” Fernáns said.
“They have more access to the world and the internet, and that’s something that I think contributes to their writing.”
This openness is also reflected in the number and diversity of young novelists.
The number of writers writing about their love of literature has also grown.
A recent survey by the publishing company La Vanguardia showed that almost half of Spanish novel writers are women, with women making up almost 40 percent of the literary industry.
“Young women are more likely than their male peers to be interested in writing about the world, history, the arts and literature, as well as the idea of the individual, their place in society,” Fernayzes research has found.
In a way, Fernántes research shows that the young people who are doing their best writing aren’t doing it alone.
They’re doing it with their peers.
“If I’m writing, it’s not because I want to be alone.
I just want to write,” Fernayss daughter, Nisa, said during a conversation with TIME about the importance of her father’s work.