I recently posted a Call to Writers, asking those of you who write to allow me to interview you for a guest spot in my blog. The response was magnificent (and if any of you still want to participate, please contact me for details). I planned to feature a new writer once a week on Fridays. However, last night, when I received the response to my interview questions from my friend and fellow blogger, Christine Plouvier, I knew I had to post her interview today, St. Patrick’s Day. You see, her featured novel is titled Irish Firebrands, so, what better day to put the spotlight on her? In my interaction with Christine, I’ve found her to be very intelligent and thoroughly knowledgeable in her subject matter. She’s quite interesting, and I am enjoying getting to know her, as I’m sure you will once you check out her blog and her book. And now, I turn the microphone over to Ms. Plouvier…
1. Please tell us your name (or pen name) and a little bit about yourself:
I’m Christine Plouvier, a military veteran, retired Registered Nurse, mother of four grown children, and a novelist. I live in Indiana with Oliver, a white cat with black spots, soft fur and a good disposition, who prefers to answer only to “Kitty.”
2. Please provide the link to your blog (and website, Facebook fan page, Twitter, etc.):
3 .How many books have you written?
One novel is finished. Two are in progress. I have ideas for seven more, but at the rate I write, and at my time of life, I probably won’t get them all done! (I’ve also previously indie-published two nonfiction self-help manuals.)
4. Has any of your work been published yet? If so, please share the link(s) to purchase it:
Irish Firebrands is available to booksellers (and libraries) worldwide.
Paperback: My printer’s E-Store, https://www.createspace.com/4252718 (also) Amazon (ISBN 9781484165706)
E-book: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/332520 (includes formatting for Kindle)
Barnes & Noble Nook and most other digital content retailers (Sony, Kobo, Diesel, Apple, etc.)
Library Loan: ISBN 9781484165706, ISBN-10 1484165705, and libraries may buy at Baker & Taylor or Ingram
eBay: Autographed, excess Beta-reader copies are periodically available.
5. If you have been published, did you self-publish or use traditional publishing? Why?
I published independently, because at nearly 200,000 words, Irish Firebrands is “too long” for a debut novel; it crosses too many genre lines for easy classification; and it’s literary fiction, written in “old-fashioned” lyric prose.
6. How old were you when you started writing? When did you know you wanted to be an author?
I developed the ambition to be an author when I was five or six years old; my first foray into writing fiction was at about age ten. The notion of writing fiction crossed my mind again when I was in my mid-forties, but I was in my early fifties when the Nine Muses took up residence at my house.
7. What would you say motivates you to keep writing?
It’s my calling, now. I was in my early twenties when a wise old man advised me to develop my writing ability, to extend my influence for good on Earth, but I only wrote non-fiction until my premature retirement due to disability.
8. Who are some of your favorite authors? What are you currently reading (or what is the last book you read)?
I read too widely to do justice to this question, but I’m partial to authors who wrote before I was born. I have added a few contemporary novelists to the library I inherited from my mother, but, in general, I find that talent in fiction has become a bit thin on the ground, since the end of the Second World War. I’m currently knee-deep in books about the First World War, and an ongoing study of Irish history. One of the books I’m reading now is in German: Im Westen Nicht Neues (“Nothing New in the West,” which an inept interpreter later rendered as “All Quiet on the Western Front”), but it’s slow going. It’s been a very long time since the year I lived in Bavaria and learned German there.
9. What is your preferred reading method? (i.e., Kindle, Nook, paperback, hardback, etc.) Why?
I prefer “real” books to e-books, because reading from screens gives me eyestrain (which is one reason why I prefer CRT monitors to LCDs; the other is because RGB phosphors render truer colors). Hardbacks work the best in my hands-free book holder; paperbacks need to be fairly hefty not to flop around in it, and they require spring-type clothespins to keep my place, too.
10. Do you write in first or third person, past or present tense, and why?
I write in the third person, past tense, using a partially omniscient, anonymous narrator, and no more than five points of view (including the narrator). I find this to be the most flexible way to develop characters, and considering human psychology, it’s the most logical, safe, and effective way to achieve suspension of disbelief.
11. Do you “always read” or do you take breaks between reading books?
I’m a compulsive reader. To prevent wasting brain cells on stuff like the backs of cereal boxes, I keep a book handy.
12a. How many books would you say you read in a year?
40-60. I re-read a lot of books, too. My house is full of books. I eat with books. I sleep with books. They’ll have to pry a book from my cold, dead hands.
12b.How many at any one time?
2-4. I often read with pencil in hand, to annotate the books I own. Those are my “conversations” with authors.
ABOUT YOUR CURRENT BOOK::
13. What is the title of your current work in progress of the most recent manuscript you’ve completed?
Complete novel: Irish Firebrands. Works in progress: The Passions of Patriots (a prologue), and a sequel (untitled).
14a. What is your novel’s genre? Would you say there is a sub-genre?
I write literary fiction. Irish Firebrands tackles the timeless themes, tropes and tableaux of the half-dozen genres whose lines it crosses (psychological, paranormal, Boomer-Lit, romantic, religious, melodrama). It also cuts through the confabulation surrounding contemporary controversies (mental illness, alcohol abuse, domestic abuse, assisted suicide, religious conversion, abortion, breast cancer, prostitution, pornography, priestly pedophilia, industrial school child abuse, Irish WWII neutrality). Even the Library of Congress ended up classifying Irish Firebrands simply “American Literature,” when, upon registering copyright, the first edition was selected for retention in the Library’s collection.
14b. What makes yours different than other books in the same genre?
Whatever readers seek … Boomer mid-life crises over male pattern baldness, wet dreams, crows’ feet and middle-age spread; melodramatic, larger-than-life personalities with mysterious pasts; realistic characters who exhibit genuine behavioral psychopathology; religious fiction in the grand tradition of misery literature; an exotic paranormal setting featuring an ancient Irish farmhouse; historical and social controversy; a romantic beach-read with classic character-driven, candyfloss boys-meet-girl, will-she-won’t-she-and-with-which-one passion … Irish Firebrands delivers.
15. What inspired the current or most recent story you’ve completed?
Disgruntlement. When I could still attend the public library’s book discussion club, I kept asking, “A Brand Name Publisher paid good money for this?” Then, when I was in the middle of graduate school, my subconscious mind got fed up with all of the technical writing I was doing, so it took a sword and a pike out of the thatch, and invited the Nine Muses to invade, in support of its fight for its own allotment of creative writing earth (kind of like Dermod MacMurrough inviting Strongbow and the Normans to Ireland, to help him get back his kingdom.) The rest is history….
16. What is your target audience’s age, gender, etc.?
I write for adults of both sexes who like to learn a little from fiction, enjoy having words paint pictures inside their heads, and don’t mind seeing a faith-based character get snarled in a strong romantic subplot of moderate heat.
17. Do you want to tell us a little bit about your story?
The opus story line is a family saga, told in loosely linked stand-alone books that cross genre lines and include social and/or historical controversy. See synopses at my WordPress blog pages, “Irish Firebrands” and “What’s Next?”
ABOUT HOW YOU WRITE::
18. How often do you write?
Almost every day. Some days I spend all in research. Blogging is useful when characters don’t cooperate (see #24).
19. Approximately how many words do you write at each sitting?
A rough guess is anywhere from 25 to 2,500.
20. Do you do your own editing or send it to someone else?
I edit spelling, grammar and syntax as I write. At completion, I edit punctuation, factual accuracy, and continuity.
21. What is your method of writing? (i.e., Do you write the entire manuscript, then go back and make changes? Do you plan chapters as you go along or write the story then go back and add chapters? Do you re-read as you go along or after you are done with the first draft?)
I’m a “pantser,” who writes parts of scenes as they come to me. I don’t “plan” or “plot,” but I do use calendars for continuity, and my historical novel requires timelines to keep details straight. I use these tools after I write a scene.
22. Do you have a muse? If so, please elaborate. If not, what inspires you?
All nine of ’em, and they eat me out of house and home. I elaborate in my WordPress blog, http://wp.me/p30cCH-9P
23. How long does it take you to write a full manuscript?
As long as it takes. It has to happen in my subconscious mind before it can ooze from my fingertips. I began Irish Firebrands on a morning in mid-February, 2009, and the last plot hole closed at about 11.30 pm January 27, 2012.
24. Do you give yourself a word limit for each day or a time limit to finish your novel? If so, please elaborate.
No. You see, it’s not “my” story, but that of the characters I’m reporting on. If they’re not in the mood to entertain me, they like to go missing. I can prowl the perimeter of their dwelling, but I can’t get in, and the windows are closed and covered. I can hear only faint music or the murmur of speech, until one of them leaves a window uncovered and I can spy on soundless action. Or maybe somebody opens a shuttered window, just enough for me to eavesdrop on some dialogue. Eventually I find the door ajar, and I can sneak in again, to watch and listen from a dark corner, putting what I hear and see into words that paint pictures.
25. How do you come up with your character names and geographic location / business names?
Most of the characters named themselves. In Irish Firebrands, I did have to tweak Dillon and Dermot, before I got them right; and for a while, all I knew for sure about Lana was that her name had to begin with an “L.” The Muses dictated that the story take place in or near Dublin; Drogheda, County Louth; Trim, County Meath; the south County Meath townlands; Galway City and County Galway; and Croagh Patrick, in south County Mayo, Ireland (about which I knew nothing); except for Chapter 31 and a part of 32, which take place in the environs of Washington, D.C. (close to where I lived in Maryland, in the late 1970s). Dillon Carroll’s farm, Drumcarroll, is fictional, and the story that Dillon’s grandfather told him about how he came to name the place differs from how he really did it, which is revealed at the end of The Passions of Patriots.
Also in The Passions of Patriots, the main Irish characters came from IrishFirebrands, and I consulted Irish name books and German soldiers’ memoirs for other names; but its being a historical novel meant that, except for Ballymorris, the fictional village in Connemara, County Galway, Ireland, and the fictional auf Alpenheim family’s valley domain, in Upper Bavaria near the Austrian border, the locations had to be copperfastened by facts.
26. How long (or how detailed) are the notes you take before you start writing?
After transcribing my longhand notes for the first novel, I had about 45,000 words. I continued to scribble when away from a keyboard, but I don’t put a number to the quantity, now, unless you want to count the three times I’ve won at NaNoWriMo, working on segments of the new historical novel.
27. Do you have any “must haves” to help you write? (i.e., a full cup of coffee, a view of the ocean, etc.)
My must-have is music, played while writing, and when I sleep. During the writing of Irish Firebrands it was instrumental Irish trad, and motion picture soundtracks. For The Passions of Patriots, it’s Beethoven’s symphonies, and Wagner’s operas. Wagner’s tragic protagonists all prefigure the developmental arc of my German hero, and the rich male voices in the “Chorus of Old Pilgrims” from Tannhäuser, and its message, evoke all the soldiers who died:
Through Atonement and penance have I made peace / with the Lord, who grants indulgence to my heart, / who my repentance with blessings crowns, / the Lord to whom my song ascends, / the Lord to whom my song ascends! / Salvation’s grace to the penitent given, / he goes now into blessed peace. / Before hell and death he fears not, / so praise I God my lifelong! / Alleluia! Alleluia! Forevermore, eternally! (my translation)
28. Do you only write during a certain time of day or in a certain location? If so, do you make yourself stop after a certain time?
New prose only dribbles during the day, but volume picks up after dark, peaking between 10.00 pm and 2.00 am. I wrote most of Irish Firebrands in a reclining chair in my living room, but when health complications brought the risk of injury from pressure points, the work moved into my room, where it shifts between bed and rocking chair.
29. Does your real life ever neglected because of your writing? If so, how do you feel about that?
Oh, all the time. But my disabilities also have a lot to do with that, so whether I only can get research, writing or editing done, or I can do a load of laundry or wash a sink of dishes, I still consider the day to have been productive.
30. What is the quirkiest thing you do or have ever done when writing?
I went to Ireland for two weeks, to see some things I couldn’t find adequate photos of on the Internet.
ABOUT YOUR WORK::
31. If you have written more than one novel, which is your favorite and why?
With only one completed novel, it’s more a matter of favorite scenes or chapters. In Irish Firebrands, my favorites are Chapters 9 and 10. The Passions of Patriots has bad guys and violence, so it’s hard to enjoy the scenes I’ve written so far, despite my affection and sympathy for the good guys.
32. If you could be one of your own characters for a day, who would it be and why?
I’ve “been” all of my main, secondary, and some of my minor characters during the writing of their stories (that’s the “method acting” part of writing), and the bit players were assembled from stray elements of my past experiences, so I’ve already walked a lot of miles in those moccasins. This includes the male characters. I raised three sons, so I have considerable experience with typical testosterone-based life forms (except that all three of mine detested sports.)
33. If one of your books became a movie, who would you choose for the “perfect cast” of main characters?
I don’t watch TV, and I rarely watch motion pictures, so I’m not acquainted with the talent pool. But I suppose Gabriel Byrne would make a good Dillon Carroll, and I’d insist on getting sean-nós dancer Brian Cunningham to write and direct the choreography, and portray Dillon in his youth. But I have no idea about any of other characters.
34. What is the oddest thing you have ever researched for one of your books?
There have been several. For Irish Firebrands, the oddest things I learned were about organic dairy farming, golden torcs, and that the legendary Queen Medb of Connacht was killed by her nephew, who avenged his mother’s murder by hitting Medb in the head with a cheese he threw with his sling. For The Passions of Patriots, it was discovering, during research into trench warfare, clues that Erwin Rommel probably suffered from gluten intolerance; the collusion with Germany connived at by the government of Ireland; the truth about the sinking of the Lusitania; and the truth about who really shot down the Red Baron. For both books, it’s been learning Gaeilge (Irish).
35. What is the most difficult thing you have ever researched for one your books and why?
“Difficult” I take to mean “yucky.” There are many. For Irish Firebrands, it was the child abuse by clergy and religious orders, and in industrial schools; and the Irish government’s persecution of Irishmen who had served in the British Army (and of their children). For The Passions of Patriots, it’s been everything to do with the Easter Rising, the Anglo-Irish War, and the Irish Civil War; trench warfare in general, and the Battle of the Somme in particular; wartime facial wounds and the development of plastic surgery; the diagnosis and treatment of “shell shock;” and reading Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” and other stuff about him, in order to depict his character and write his dialogue.
Thank you, Rachel, for interviewing me! And best wishes for your novels.
~ Christine Plouvier / Irish Firebrands
Thank you, Christine, for allowing me to interview you. I hope everyone else has enjoyed learning about you and your work as much as I have. Happy St. Patrick’s Day, and may you have the Luck O’ the Irish!