Wednesday, October 17, 2012

10 Questions: Claude Bouchard

Thrillers, Killers, and Pizza: Claude Bouchard, Author


I was born in Montreal, Canada, where I still reside with my spouse, Joanne. I completed my studies in human resources, accounting and management at McGill University and worked in various management capacities in the fields of HR and finance for a handful of firms for what seemed like decades, because it was. I should also mention I love pizza, but who doesn't and, in my opinion, nothing rocks more than cooking on the grill.

My first stab at writing was in 1995, the result being my first novel, Vigilante. This was subsequently followed by The Consultant (1996) and Mind Games (1997), all of the same series. Professional obligations and other creative interests led me away from writing for a number of years but I found myself busy at the keyboard in 2009 with The Homeless Killer after having finally published my first three novels. I then followed up with 6 Hours 42 Minutes in 2011, also part of the Barry/McCall Series born from Vigilante. In July 2011, I released ASYLUM, my first stand-alone novel and Discreet Activities, my sixth Barry/McCall crime thriller was published in January 2012. I think I'm really starting to like this writing thing.

Besides writing, editing and promoting my work, I also spend some artistic energy with my five guitars, oil paints and watercolours. Other passions include cooking (big time with fine wine to go with it, of course), reading, traveling and working out just enough to stay fit. It should also be noted that following several years of practice, I now excel at being cat furniture for Krystalle and Midnight, or so they tell me.
 

The Interview

#1:  With seven novels under your belt, does it get easier or harder to write that next one?

I’d have to say a little bit of both. Actual writing gets easier due to practice and experience. However, coming up with stories or, more specifically, story elements and scenes which are not repetitious from past novels can sometimes get more difficult. Vigilantism, even though it became more formalized as of the second novel of my series, remains the underlying theme throughout. Determining what crimes have been committed such that punishment must be administered can be a challenge at times with further novels. It can’t always be the drug dealer or the gang banger.
#2:  We share a common regard for Ken Follett's  Pillars Of The Earth. Think back for a moment. Can you remember the title of the first novel you ever read?

Hmmm… You might have made it easier and asked me if I remembered what the first solid food I ever ate was. I’m venturing a guess and saying it was something from The Bobbsey Twins series though I couldn’t tell which book in particular. Either that or Tolstoy’s War and Peace … The original version in Russian, «Война и миръ», of course.
#3:  We all dream of the day when we can leave our day jobs behind and make writing our full-time profession. Describe, if you will, that transition for you. Was it a gradual realization, or something that just clicked one day?

The transition was gradual, without a doubt. My employer had decided to transfer the bulk of Montreal-based positions to Mumbai which made daily commuting somewhat unrealistic. I began searching for my next corporate challenge at a sedate pace while undertaking major renovation projects on the home we had purchased a couple of years prior. Once the reno-work was done, including carpal tunnel syndrome in both wrists, I got busy on my three manuscripts from 1995-97, my initial goal being to simply see my books in print. It’s only when a few complete strangers bought and enjoyed my novels that I realized writing could become my next full-time profession. That was in 2009. It became a full-time truly paying profession in 2012.
#4:  Where do your stories come from? Is there anything in particular that drives you to write thrillers?

They all come from imagination though imagination is fueled by reality. As for writing thrillers, genres which have always attracted me as a reader are mystery, suspense, espionage, crime and the like. I would say it boils down to doing what one enjoys.
#5:  You took a 12-year break after your third novel. During that period a lot changed in the publishing world. How much, if any, effect did the rise in popularity of indie publishing have on your decision to write that fourth novel?

The changes which occurred in the publishing world during those twelve years, particularly the appearance of easy-to-use self-pub platforms, are what led me to decide to publish my first three novels. Reviewing and re-editing those three novels was the catalyst for writing the fourth. Doing so brought my characters back to life and once they had reappeared, I had to keep them busy.
#6:  Build your favorite pizza. What toppings will you pile on?

I won’t say it’s my favourite pizza because that all depends on what I have a hankering for at a given time. However, I have made pizza with the following toppings which was delicious: Dijon mustard (instead of tomato sauce), garlic/ginger/soy marinated grilled chicken breast, sautéed onion, mushrooms and broccoli, mozzarella.
#7:  You do a tremendous amount of marketing. Do you do it all on your own or do you have help?

To clarify, if by marketing you’re referring to my regular blabbing on Twitter, yes, that’s all me excluding one auto-tweet daily per novel sent by Bookbuzzr during the evening/night. Marketing is all about exposure but exposure doesn’t mean continuously telling people to buy whatever one is trying to sell. In fact, over time, I’ve been sending less and less tweets about my books and more about the work of others while others do the same for me. As I’ve done since starting on Twitter over three years ago, I also simply chat with anyone who drops by which people appreciate more than the “buy my books” ranting. Past that, marketing has consisted of occasional but limited paid advertising on a few select sites and interview opportunities offered by some extremely wonderful folks *wink, wink*. :)
#8:  Giving back is important. Tell us about your T-shirt sales and the charity you help support with the proceeds.

The t-shirt idea actually started by chance a few weeks ago when I posted a photo on Facebook of a t-shirt I was wearing featuring the cover of Discreet Activities, the sixth novel of my series. Someone asked where they could buy one so I made it publicly available on Zazzle where I’d had it made. I then decided to take things one step further and created a t-shirt for each of my seven novels, any sales proceeds to be destined to the Montreal Children’s Hospital Foundation. I’ve always strongly supported charities for kids as it’s a tough world out there and they deserve every chance to succeed. I hope all your readers will take a moment to go check out the t-shirts at http://www.claudebouchardbooks.com/tshirts.htm and for anyone who would prefer to make a donation directly to the MCHF instead, there’s a link on my t-shirt page.
#9:  Describe your typical day.

I’m usually up around 5:00-5:30 and get busy with checking book sales, emails, managing my Twitter account, all my back office stuff. The coffee maker fires up at 6:30 and shortly after, I’m downstairs to feed the cats and grab a couple of cups of brew for Joanne and me. I hang out with Jo until 7:30 when she leaves for work, I get more coffee and head off to work myself, back upstairs. What then follows until 5:00 is a multitasking mish-mash which involves Twitter, Facebook, emails, website updating, blogging, interview responding and of course, writing. Evenings are reserved for leisure time where guitars, television (though rarely) and reading are primary activities. Then it’s off to bed for a few hours before commencing the cycle anew.
#10:  Let's do something different. There has to be a question you were hoping I would or wouldn't ask. Ask yourself that question (please let us see the question), then answer it.

Oh, I like this. Here’s my question:

What are some of the elements which really annoy you about bad book reviews?

Like all art forms, writing is subjective, people are entitled to their opinions and all writers should understand and accept not everyone will enjoy their work. One would hope that when people choose to indicate their dislike of a book, they would present a substantive critique to support their opinion. However, the vast majority of bad reviews I’ve seen, be they regarding my work or that of others, didn’t convey anything close to constructive criticism and even the few which did, were just plain nasty. What drives people to try to hurt or insult others they don’t know is beyond me.

I’ve seen bad reviews start with, “This book was so bad that I couldn’t read past the third page,” or “the second chapter,” or “10% on my Kindle”. Some such people then go on about undeveloped characters, a stupid story line, lacking depth… How can one render these judgments if one hasn’t read the book?

I have to laugh when someone criticizes an author’s writing and the review contains grammatical errors, typos, incorrect words and spelling mistakes.
Also good for a chuckle are short, two sentence reviews with no substance where words such as, “stupid”, “terrible” or “awful” are used a handful of times.

However, the real winners are people who state that any good reviews for a book must have been written by friends, family, paid reviewers and the like… Stated otherwise, dozens, even hundreds of others are fakes or liars because their opinions were the polar opposites of one person’s thinking. Rather sad to see someone publicly admit that he or she is a self-centered cretin without even realizing it. 

7 comments:

  1. Great interview! So nice to hear from someone who is living successfully from his writing! :D

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    1. Thanks, Liesel. Getting there after countless hours of effort. :)

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  2. This is a first rate interview - and I think Claude is an excellent example for all of us self-published writers ... a star, I think!

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  3. Thanks, Phil. Very nice of you to say and, as promised, I'll be mailing the cheque tomorrow. :)

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  4. OMG ... how could one ever have such thoughts?! And as for those awful rumours about one of my favourite multi million selling twitter persons JL - well, all I can say is that scandalous media hacks (including myself for a year or two) will go to the most unbelievable lengths to concoct ridiculous stories that may have passing attractions for readers ... but I still think you're top of my tweeting tree just now, Claude - and we gotta watch out for the Islamic baddies - whether it's in London or New York!!

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  5. What a great interview! Claude is one of the best things about Twitter. From his witty Tweets to his generous ReTweets, he never fails to brighten my day. There are a lot of authors who can learn much from Mr. Bouchard.

    (Claude, I've recently moved, so I'll DM you my new address via Twitter for the cheque)

    (^~^)

    Jonathan Winn

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    1. Hi, Jonathan, A comment if I may. I keep re-issuing cheques because you keep on moving and never receive them yet, someone is cashing them... I'll issue three more after which I'll start getting suspicious... :)

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