Frane Herenda, writer and columnist, author of the novel about the Crusaders’ siege of Zadar “1202.”
I was born in Zadar in 1983. I graduated from the Faculty of Pharmacy and Biochemistry in Zagreb. For nearly a decade, I worked in marketing and sales for large pharmaceutical and cosmetics companies, constantly writing in my spare time. Today, I hold lectures and workshops, mostly to other pharmacists, regarding phyto-aromatherapy (the use of herbs for therapeutic purposes) and the production of natural cosmetics. In addition, I advise people on the appropriate use of herbs and write professional columns for Zadarski list and naturala.hr.
HOW DID I START WRITING?
I started writing during my first year in high school, but a more important question would be when I learned to read. I learned to read at a fairly late age, troubled by dyslexia, in a shelter, going through comic books and the first books I could get my hands on. Luckily, the limited number of books at my disposal included fantastic children’s titles such as Stevenson’s “Treasure Island”, Vern’s “Journey to the Center of the Earth” and “From the Earth to the Moon”, “Tarzan”, “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”, and many comics. I must have read each book dozens of times, living through their reality with more intensity than the monotone reality of my mother, my little brother, and me hiding in the basement when the sirens would go off. Today, my childhood seems more unreal than the novels I read at the time. That is when the humorous family episodes with my imaginary childhood memories began, of which we still occasionally talk.
Starting high school, I also started writing poems, which was probably a result of puberty and my extremely romantic, but unsuccessful infatuations. My first stories were indeed morbid, and influenced by rock and metal music, which dominated and still dominate my musical tastes. Some of the stories, for which I even received acknowledgments at LiDraNo, were published by the Secondary Medical School in Zadar in the collection of stories entitled “Ponoćni tulum u školi” (Eng. A midnight party at school), with Doctor Mirko Jamnicki Dojmi as chief editor, a true Renaissance man in modern times, physician, musician, writer, and editor.
I wrote my first collection of poem when I was sixteen, which I finished with the help and suggestions from poet and journalist Miljenko Mandža, for whom people said had the gift of prophecy. I still remember the fear I felt as my aunt was driving me into the city in her Fiat 126 so I could take the first copy of the collection I was firmly gripping with my hands. That collection of poems was accepted and scheduled for printing and publishing, but it may still be haunting the offices of Matica Hrvatska (Matrix Croatica).
PETA DIMENZIJA (ENG. FIFTH DIMENSION)
As our Gymnasium of Franjo Petrić, popularly known as MIOC, did not have a school magazine, some of us enthusiastically got together during the second grade and published two issues of a magazine entitled “5. dimenzija” (Eng. Fifth dimension). I still fondly remember the days when I was an enthusiastic 16-year-old chief editor of a magazine with a fantastic team: Igor Lončar as the technical and graphics editor, Jakov Šokota as editor of photography, and numerous colleagues who gave their contributions. To hold the magazine freshly out of print was a surreal experience.
We collected the money needed for publishing ourselves by selling the magazine in other schools in order to pay our debt to the printing office. We made the first photo comics in Croatia, and wrote about alternative topics. But we primarily had a lot of fun. The friendships, contacts, and experiences I gained then stuck with me to this day. We received awards at LiDraNo, and the same team also made the first yearbook in our school at the end of the fourth grade.
Igor Lončar is the co-author of the cover for “1202.”, and it is a known fact that the cover art is partially responsible for a book’s success.
Due to my experience with “5. dimenzija”, I was invited to “Zadarski list” and had the opportunity to work in a real editorial office at the age of seventeen. I wrote as much as I could during winter, but I lived for journalism during summer. I gained experience on hundreds of news articles, followed events, wrote reports, but I learned the most from the editor of the culture section, Goran Bujić.
I had already been working as a freelancer for several months before I decided to approach Bujić. We had a somewhat complicated history. He was the best of Zadar’s critics, while I was a pretentious young man who reacted badly to his criticism which I could not see as an opportunity for improvement at the time. I learned a lot from Goran Bujić and would have learned even more if I had continued down the path of a journalist. I regret that “1202.” was not published during his lifetime, so he could dissect it with his sharp critic’s pen.
Many friendships and acquaintances from the editorial room will last a lifetime. Photographer Vedran Sitnica made the cover for “Daleki vrhovi” (Eng. Distant peaks), my first (published) collection of poems, while Goran Matošević took the photograph for the cover.
What unbelievable luck for a young man who wanted to become a writer and a journalist! To meet and learn from men like Mirko Jamnicki Dojmi, Miljenko Mandža, Goran Bujić, Nenad Vertovšek etc. To learn briefness of form, how to talk to people with different backgrounds, how to ask questions.
The most frequent question I hear is: “Why pharmacy?” The answer to the question is not simple. The choice will never stop perplexing me as well, just like when I was headed to the Gymnasium of Juraj Baraković, but stopped along the way and ended up enrolling into MIOC. Both decisions were spontaneous and I never regretted making them. I am certain that two things brought harmony and peace to my creative process, but also my life in general, and those are deciding to study pharmacy and training karate my whole life. Both pharmacy and karate taught me how to pay attention, stay focused on the moment, how to approach things analytically etc. Through those two aspects of my life I gained what was missing, and what turned out to be essential for writing.
The analytics of drugs and organic synthesis in the service of writing? It sounds silly, but the principles are the same.
At collage, I continued my editorial work, to a degree, at the student magazine dealing with pharmacy issues “pH”.
FIRST COLLECTION OF POEMS
A year after publishing a collection of stories, i.e. in 2004, the Secondary Medical School published my collection of poems “Daleki vrhovi” (Eng. Distant peaks), under the editorial guidance of Mirko Jamnicki Dojmi. The collection features a portion of the poems I wrote from the time I was sixteen to when I was twenty-one, reflective and romantic poems of an adolescent. All 500 copies of the collection were sold during the following years. Shortly afterward, I prepared another collection of poems entitled “Treći čovjek” (Eng. Third man), but every time I thought of publishing it, guilt made me continue pushing the boulder called “1202.” up the hill.
At about the same time my collection of poems came out, I started writing a novel about the Crusaders’ siege of Zadar entitled “1202.”. It was published twelve years later, by Profil, and Adriana Piteša was the chief editor of the edition. Twelve years… I was a true prisoner of the novel. The unease I felt for twelve years as I went to bed, when I woke up, the guilt whenever I was inspired to write about some other topic… But it finally reached its final destination on the bookshelves of my readers.
For twelve years the novel “1202.” was a need, a burden, and a pleasure. For a final jolt of inspiration, in order to finish the novel, I left a pharmaceutical company so I could have the entire summer and completely change my life. I had to head down a new path and to finally finish my novel. I wrote the last pages while looking at the island of Biševo from Komiža.
Nothing could have prepared me for the feeling I felt when I took the first copy of the novel into my hands freshly from print and took in its scent!
Last summer in Komiža, I finished my new novel, which will be published soon, also by Profil. I left historical issues behind and tackled an explicitly modern, corporative love story, the essence of which is the escape from the alienation of modern capitalism.