How did Sudbury's Reza Juma become a Spanish literary sensation?
The Nickel City-raised author found his talent while spending time in a Mexican jungle
Reza Juma didn't intend to become a best-selling author. In fact, the Sudbury-born Juma didn't even speak Spanish until he was a student at the University of British Columbia.
"I took a bit of Spanish. I think it was more of a coincidence or a fluke," Juma told CBC's Morning North.
"I took a four-month course, which ended up turning into 13 years."
Juma moved to Spain, where he ended up working for athletic wear company Puma. But the european business shut down during the 2000 economic crisis.
"I had to make a decision," Juma said.
"Conform, or do something interesting. I went to Mexico, which is very different than Spain. It's not very safe. But there's a lot of money, a lot of opportunities."
He worked in human resources for Volkswagen, but found the job was making him unhappy. It wasn't until he took a job deep in the Mexican jungle that Juma found the inspiration he needed.
"I was living in a mud hut built out of bamboo and palm trees," Juma said.
"I was bored with my free time, so I started writing. That's where the first book came out."
His first book, Mil Besos, written in Spanish, was a success. The accolades didn't surprise Juma.
"I had an idea that people would really like the book," he said.
"I had a really good story, but my literary writing skills were not so good, because I had been studying international relations and political science and working at Puma. So I never did poetic, literary-type work.
"When I released the first book, everyone made that comment to me. 'That was an amazing story but you can brush up your literary style,'" Juma said.
His second book — a 500-page historical novel — was written as a way to "convince my public I am a good writer," said Juma.
Juma now gives presentations and readings to sold-out crowds in Mexico and southern Spain. He says, despite the attention, he isn't letting the success go to his head.
"You have to be humble in this profession," Juma said.
"You have to realize you're going to go to have an event and only six people are going to show up. You have to present because those six people wanted to meet you.
"You can't be pompous, even for two people. They're there for you."