Author Interview, Marie-Jo Fortis

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Interview #77, with satirical thriller French writer, Marie-Jo Fortis!

Hi Marie-Jo! Describe yourself in 5 words:

Hi Jess! Okay, here goes: Determined, with sense of humor.

Cool! Share a short blurb of your work (10-100 words):

chainsaw_jane

“Fortis has a marvelous character in Chainsaw Jane…”
~ Kirkus Reviews

Now, for the excerpt, just a little sentence that describes Chainsaw Jane: “With her staccato gestures, mud-covered baggy jeans and clodhoppers, she looked like a barrel drunk with its own wine.”

Share an excerpt of your favorite author’s work (10-100 words):

From Balzac’s Le Père Goriot: “Holding this book in your hand, sinking back in your soft armchair, you will say to yourself: perhaps it will amuse me. And after you have read this story of great misfortunes, you will no doubt dine well, blaming the author for your own insensitivity, accusing him of wild exaggeration and flights of fancy. But rest assured: this tragedy is not a fiction. All is true.”

I chose this because I do think that great fiction, the one that gets to the core of things, is truer than what we call reality.

I agree! Comment on the writing versus publication process, in your experience:

The writing is just plain fun while the publication process is woooork! Kidding! It’s all fun and sooo easy! Okay, kidding again. Non-writers believe that writing is a simple, amusing activity, an entertaining choice. To these people I want to say, don’t choose writing if writing does not choose you. Writing is as much an addiction, a dependence, as it is a passion. Of course, you can argue that passion is a dependence. You write because you cannot imagine life without it. There are moments when you want to free yourself from it, but as soon as you take some distance from it, it calls you back. It is a love made of pain and pleasure, a mental sadomasochistic adventure. It is also work, work, work. Hitting your head against the wall every time you get a rejection slip. That’s why so many take matters into their own hands and self-publish. But that alone belongs to another discussion. This said, nothing compares to the heights of creativity, when you have found that beautiful sentence, that expression that just clicks, this “mot juste.” Nothing compares to that.

As for publishing, you have to wear a different hat, don’t you? I was the publisher of a litmag years ago, so I have a little experience, even if the publishing world has changed tremendously since. The publication process is about image and marketing. This means that today’s writer needs to double as a business person. Produce a brand. You have to act as a humble peacock. If this sounds like an oxymoron, it probably is. Let me explain to the best of my abilities. You have to show off as much as possible (that’s the peacock part) while thinking of yourself as simply a product. I don’t know many fiction writers who like to see themselves as products, so that’s the humbling part. But to market a book in today’s world, one must market oneself. The left side of my brain gets it; the right one is still pissed off. So there is still training to do on that side.

Very eloquently expressed. I’m a fan of Tarot cards, so the mention of them in the product description for Chainsaw Jane certainly caught my attention. How did you develop an interest in Tarot?:

During one of the trips my husband and I took to Lily Dale, the famous mediums village in New York State, the psychic who gave us a reading recommended Tarot as a way to develop psychic abilities. Since I am a native of France and raised to rely on rational thinking, I thought…mm…okay…whatever. But I am also very curious. Not to mention a Basque; and the Basque Country still has a number of operating “witches.” So I ordered a Tarot set and started studying it. It became a habit to the point where I started reading Tarot to family and friends. Now they come to me and ask for readings. It has basically become a reflex these days. When I am confused about a problem, I use both Tarot and reasoning. I don’t feel the right and left side of the brain are, nor should be, mutually exclusive.

You list some very interesting and eclectic influences on your Goodreads bio (Balzac when it comes to psychology; Voltaire for the bite and satire; Agatha Christie for the structure of the novel). Which of their works would you recommend to readers who would like to try reading them for the first time, and why?

For Balzac, it’s difficult to recommend just one novel from the Human Comedy, as he created one masterpiece after another. I fell in love with him when I fell in love with reading, when I was twelve and when my older sister handed me Le Père Goriot. It’s a poignant story about a man victimized by his daughters. It’s a novel about cruelty, rapacity, as many of his novels are. Balzac depicts his predators like dehumanized machines or marionettes; his victims are poetry. Cousin Pons’ main character is one example of this poetry, and the novel has powerful moments about art collecting, the love of art, the love of beauty. And then there is The Magic Skin, one of his philosophical novels and a dramatic reflection on the meaning (or lack thereof) and brevity of life. In general, the way Balzac portrays, say, the greed of bankers and 19th Century nascent capitalism, pretty much shows that society in its core has not changed.

I love most of Voltaire’ satiric tales, but Micromegas is my favorite. It announces sci-fi, as it is an interplanetary story. There, Voltaire makes fun of human arrogance. A very good lesson told with the philosopher’s customary bite and wit.

For Agatha Christie, I have grown to prefer her Hercule Poirot novels over her Miss Marple ones. To the point that one of the main characters in Chainsaw Jane is actually a parody of Hercule Poirot. Poirot is both an absurd and brilliant character, and I believe the simultaneously absurd, vain and brilliant side of him translates a little better into our world than Miss Marple, although she can be a comforting grandmother. Okay, grandma a bit on the sly side. But still, only when she’s detecting. This said, once I started with one Agatha Christie novel, I had to get another one—Miss Marple or no Miss Marple. She became an addiction. But if you only want to read just one Agatha Christie novel, read what I consider her masterpiece, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.

I have a short story collection by Ms. Christie that I like a lot ;) Please share your #1 tip for writers:

I’ll repeat what Gwendolyn Brooks once told me: “Revise, revise, revise.” At the time, I was very young and thought this was the end of the day, the poet was tired or had fallen on her head somewhere, and therefore she didn’t know what the hell she was talking about. But years went by and I know now that “revise, revise, revise” is one of the best pieces of advice any kind of writer can receive.

Your websites/blogs/etc:

www.mariejofortis.com

www.mariejosvoice.blogspot.com

and of course, you can find me at Goodreads, Twitter, Facebook; Book Country on occasion. There are others, but I won’t mention them until I start visiting them more often myself.

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Much thanks to Marie-Jo for stopping by — do visit Marie-Jo’s Website for more info on her projects!

MARIE-JO’S SHORT BIO (in his own words):

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Marie-Jo Fortis had to fight many odds, make many sacrifices, in order to leave France and cross the Atlantic with the man she loved. She could hardly speak English when she reached the US, but that did not stop her. She attained a Master’s in English literature after studying at l’Ecole du Louvre and La Sorbonne Nouvelle in Paris. Her work has been published nationally and internationally in Freedom International, Poésie Première, Talus & Scree, and other periodicals. She also founded Collages & Bricolages, a literary magazine she edited for fifteen years, which received accolades from the US and abroad.

Website | Chainsaw Jane on Amazon

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Author Interview, Danielle Bienvenu

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Author Interview #43, with the multi-talented Author, Photographer, Singer, French teacher: Danielle Bienvenu!

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danielle bienvenu

Hi Danielle! Please describe yourself in 5 words:

It isn’t as easy to describe myself as I thought so I enlisted the help of others. The consensus is I’m spontaneous, determined, a fire ball, quirky, and passionate about life.

Great (“fire ball” always reminds me of the song of the same title by Deep Purple!). Please share a short excerpt and blurb of your work (10-100 words):

sarah_secret

From my latest book, “Sarah’s Secret”:

Elijah stilled himself. Once he had been eighteen years old. He was just a kid full of ideas and dreams, dreams of a peaceful world. Ideas of protecting home and making everyone he ever cared about proud. And they would have been proud if they were still alive. Elijah swallowed hard as the memory of home penetrated his senses. They were bittersweet memories of his father playing catch with him. His mother was gone, killed by a drunk driver when she and his father were bringing Elijah’s birthday cake home. Somehow his father managed to survive. Elijah was seven years old. Guilt engulfed him just for a moment and just like boot camp, Elijah pushed himself through the pain and focused on his dad. He’d been bound to a wheelchair as a result of the accident. There wasn’t happiness and smiles that day, no mother to share the birthday cake with. There was just emptiness. It didn’t matter how many years passed since the day he lost his mother. Elijah could still see the ache in his father’s eyes. He’d never forget the look of desperation, not as long as he lived. It was something Elijah grew accustomed to seeing in Afghanistan. Soldiers fighting for freedom, fighting to protect the country they honored and the family they loved while being racked with desperation to return to them. It was a desperation to survive. Everyone in the desert had something to live for. The terrorists had their dreams for murdering innocent lives in the name of their god. They were determined to bring down the “infidel.” Elijah’s buddies had their dreams to get the job done and return home to their wives and kids. But Elijah had no one to go home to. And so he fought.

Share an excerpt of your favorite author’s work (10-100 words):

I have many favorites but I’ll quote from one of my favorite books of all time — Somewhere in Time by Richard Matheson:

My body and mind seemed paralyzed. I could not believe it. I could not have moved or spoken if my life depended on it. Only one thought penetrated. Why was she, too, standing mutely staring at me? Then abruptly, unexpectedly, she spoke, the sound of her voice making me start.

‘Is it you?’ she asked.

Had some enchantment totally beyond my visions taken place so that she knew about me?

And Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt:

“Everywhere around us, things is moving and growing and changing. You, for instance. A child now, but someday a woman. And after that, moving on to make room for the new children.”

Winnie blinked, and all at once her mind was drowned with understanding of what he was saying. For she-yes, even she, would go out of the world willy-nilly someday. Just go out, like the flame of a candle, and no use protesting. It was a certainty. She would try very hard not to think of it, but sometimes, as now, it would be forced upon her. She raged against it, helpless and insulted, and blurted at last, “I don’t want to die.”

Comment on the writing versus publication process, in your experience:

The writing process is so much easier to me than the publication process. I wish writing didn’t contain four jobs: writing, editing, publishing and publicist but it does. I’d be much happier leaving the dirty work to someone else so I could focus on simply writing. Writing is the best part.

Can’t say I disagree ;)! What is your definition of “good writing”?

In my opinion there is no good writing. If it is good it’s bland. I want to be captivated when I read and I want to captivate others with my writing. If my pulse isn’t quickening in a thriller or I’m not riveted by what the lead will say or do next it’s no good. That being said I am a much harsher judge on my own work than anyone else’s.

Agree on the last point too :) Please share your #1 tip for writers:

Do you feel compelled to write? Do you skip meals or sleep to write? If so, then you are a born writer. You won’t feel completely fulfilled until you write. Don’t let anything keep your from going after your dream. If you want to write, then write.

Please let us know your websites/blogs/etc:

My official site: www.daniellebienvenu.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Danielle-Nicole-Bienvenu-Dove-Photography/113907332022868

My e-books are found on Smashwords.com

My paperbacks can be found online at Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, Borders, Amazon and international vendors.

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Much thanks to Danielle for stopping by — be sure to check out her website for more info about her and the many artistic projects she is up to!