From Transylvanian Physician to Doctoring the Books
Fangs ain’t what they used to be at BeWrite Books … thanks to new blood all the way from Transylvania!
After six months working behind the scenes, Romanian-born Anton ‘Tony’ Szmuk is now ready to get his teeth into the top spot as BB’s publisher in partnership with editor Neil Marr.
Already, forty-eight years old Tony, who now lives in Canada, has proved his value as a talented designer, expert technician, sound administrator and enthusiastic promoter and marketer.
You can see his stunning cover art on BB’s three recent releases, The Movie, The Blue Man Dreams the End of Time and Bottom of the List. He’s also learned the ropes of text design, format conversion and setting books for print and ebook alongside BeWrite Books’ co-founder Alex Marr, who will soon be leaving the company after 10 years to follow a new career path in the UK.
It was Tony – with help from BeWrite Books editors Hugh McCracken and Sam Smith – who converted and uploaded more than eighty titles to Smashwords over the past month, an amazing feat that makes BB Smashwords’ third biggest publisher and its biggest outside the US. He’s also working on ebook format conversions for the BB book store and for several massive and prestigious new retail outlets he’s negotiating with. This past week alone, his work has earned BB partnerships with the ultra-selective ContentReserve and Scribd operations – BB is now one of the very first non-US publishers to be signed by Scribd.
Tony’s even finding time to work with Alex in completely re-building a vastly improved www.bewrite.net website.
He is also responsible for setting up the formerly UK-based publishing house as an ‘official’ Canadian company as of Friday Feb 26, though BB will operate as it always has as an international, web-based affair with staff in Canada, France and the UK and authors and retailers all over the world.
BB editor Neil Marr said:
We’re all thrilled that Tony’s come aboard. I’ve known and admired him for a long time. In fact, when BeWrite closed its non-commercial community forums some years ago, it was Tony who immediately stepped up to the plate and opened www.bibliophilia.orgwithin a couple of days as a new meeting place for our members. Tony doesn’t hang around and everything he sets his hand to is neat, innovative and professional. He bubbles with the energy, enthusiasm, talent and know-how BeWrite Books needs to grow. And he admires writers and good literature – that makes him a natural for the big job ahead.
Fellow fiction editor Hugh McCracken said:
Sad as we were to see Caitlin Myers leave the company last summer for new adventures elsewhere, we’re overjoyed to see someone of Tony’s caliber take the reins.
Poetry editor Sam Smith added:
We’re looking forward to an exciting future with Tony. And, although Alex will now be on the sidelines after so long as a key player, we’ve all become close friends and I know he’ll always be there when he’s needed. He has an open invitation for a Lakeland holiday at my place.
Neil’s son, Alex (Sandy), who set up BeWrite with Neil and Caitlin on January 1, 2000, took something of a back seat two years ago because of day-job pressure in Munich, Germany where he was based. But he was always on hand for willing help and expert advice and – in spite of the upheaval of a recent move to the UK and a demanding new managerial IT job – put in every hour he could spare to help with the technical and admin side of things after Caitlin left and to help show Tony the ropes. Even now, he’s currently working on the complex accountancy involved in BB’s receipts and royalty payments. That is likely to be his last ‘official’ task for BeWrite Books; but he’ll never be far away for informal advice and encouragement.
It’s been exciting to see what was just the germ of an idea over a midnight toast to the new millennium with my Old Man developing the way it has. I’m proud of what we and our authors have achieved. But now it’s time for me to move on and dedicate all my time and energy to a challenging new job and a new home. Having come to know Tony, though, I feel I’m leaving BeWrite Books in the very best of good hands.
Tony was born and raised in Tirgu Mures, Transylvania – Dracula country to Bram Stoker readers and horror film fans. There, he became a physician … and later a world wanderer in search of a destiny.
Here’s his story in his own words:
By the age of thirteen I was nuts about music. The first piece I really fell in love with was Beethoven’s Violin Sonata No.5. ‘Spring’. Then came Paganini, Vivaldi and, ultimately, Bach. I had all sorts of ‘periods’ with the music, the Brahms period, the Stravinsky period, etc. Bach wasn’t a ‘period’ for me. It’s just Bach, and then comes music. Of course, I got into jazz as well and all kind of world-ethno fusion which I still enjoy very much.
At about the same age I started to get involved with literature. Reading everywhere, at any time possible. I think, Steinbeck was my first love. Lots of ‘periods’ here too: Céline, Borges, Camus, Mann, Bulgakov, Huxley, Marquez, Čapek, Llosa, Kafka etc. But, just like with Bach, I discovered Dostoyevsky and that was it; he’s my superhero when it comes to literature.
As an adolescent, I fantasized about becoming a writer, but I realized that I didn’t know much about life and the world … or anything much at all. I didn’t even know what to with my own life, so I gave up my writing dreams, because what could a guy who doesn’t know anything about anything write about? Instead, I went to university to become a doctor and hopefully, to find out more about something. I found that medicine was not my thing pretty quickly, but I still graduated the medical school because I wasn’t ready to break my family’s medical tradition.
I became a practicing physician. But after two years, I said to myself that enough is enough, I jumped in my old Mercedes 300D and went to Budapest to ask my Hungarian girlfriend to marry me. She said ‘You don’t really want that. You don’t really want anything, or you don’t know what you want. It’s the same thing.’ So she dumped me and on my way back to Romania, on the train (the Mercedes was lying crashed in a Hungarian ditch somewhere) I realised that she was right.
I thought that if I don’t know what to do anyway, I might as well emigrate to Israel. I got there in 1993 and started to work all kind of jobs: motorcycle mechanic, translator, diamond cutter, construction, etc.
After few years, I turned back to Romania to visit my friends and family and got married. Not a very smart move, but at the time it seemed alright. So, what to do next? I started to work with some friends who were byzantine church painters. To say the least, very crazy artists. Life was good. Byzantine fresco and icons on wood were interesting stuff to learn about … and the food and booze at monasteries and in small villages was awesome.
Then it occurred to me that these things called computers (I had no idea then how they worked), could be used to make icons on wood on an industrial scale. So, I bought a PC and some books and I started to learn about computers and stuff. With my painter friends, we made thousands of icons and sold them all over the world. That was fine, but after a while I figured that computers are really fun to work with, so I gave up the icons business and I opened an Internet Café with a friend of mine from Germany.
Business was booming, but after a couple of years, broadband came in and I became a bit bored. Then I divorced, closed the business and went to Spain, then Germany to find something else to do. I spent four or five years in Germany, repairing computers and working as a nurse, thanks to my medical education. I was about to start working as a doctor because, again, there was nothing else to do, but I met my present wife who was living in the US at the time. We got married and moved to Canada. BC is a wonderful place.
Waiting for my residency papers and right to work in Canada, I started to make all kinds websites just to keep myself busy. That’s how I met Neil Marr and BeWrite Books some years ago when he sent some articles to one of my general interest websites.
We’ve always got on well and seen eye-to-eye, though Neil’s invitation to work with BeWrite was quite unexpected – and welcome. The work’s demanding, but it involves computer skills, art and design, literature, imagination, meeting and befriending creative people … all the things I love most. The future looks rosy.
Tony officially takes his post as BeWrite Books Publisher on March 1.