22 June 2013 - JACQUES CARRIE' - Guest Author




JACQUES CARRIE'

- Guest Author -

G'day guys,

Today I welcome a talented man who hails from Los Angeles, but the product of three cultures: French, Spanish and American - Jacques Carrie'. This is a very long but most interesting interview.

Welcome, Jacques ...




TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR WRITING JOURNEY.



I grew up in the south of France (Languedoc-Roussillon region), where I was born, during the raging Second World War, having my parents (father Parisian, mother Andalusian) relocated into exile a few months earlier from the Spanish Civil War, another devastating international conflict, further south across the Pyrénées Mountains.



So much for a beginning into this unwelcoming, absurd world, violently occupied by terror-inflicting Nazi troops and Fascist supporters, and at least a hundred reasons for me to become a serious short story writer and novelist...unafraid to speak my mind and reveal the truth...and, like Picasso, Borges, and Buñuel before me, mold ideas, feelings, visions, and personal experiences into explosive artistic creations, if not fabulations.



Such challenge commenced, however, not in Europe, but in the dark 1949 cragged hilltop slums of Caracas, Venezuela (strangely enough, inspired by three borrowed John Steinbeck's novels), where I landed one day, and nearby piranha/anaconda infested rivers of the rain forests—both hardly penetrable, but necessary for protection against machete swinging death squads and other tyranny secret militias working for El Dictador. Yes, you guessed right—Marcos Pérez Jiménez.



Ironically, it was an adrenaline-gushing journey of tactics, ambushes, and combats trapped in similar absurdities of war my father and mother had engaged in a generation earlier, only far less infernal and ravaging. Moreover, Monsieur Marc Carrié (my father) had in the process taken care of Ernest Hemingway during the 1936-1939 Guerra Civil Española…before he joined La Resistance in his homeland. 



Both Papa Carrié and Papa Hemingway, quartered in adjacent villas on a beach targeted by the enemy, had spent a great deal of time engaged in “weird and urgent” conversations, mostly related to the constant Nazi-Fascist bombardment they were under. The former, a lieutenant and rising figure in the International Brigades (seriously wounded twice), was then in charge of the famous Benicássim Medical Center edging the beach near Valencia, which housed up to 8,500 wounded Republican and Brigade soldiers and a huge staff of prominent doctors and nurses. The latter, an American war correspondent and illustrious novelist, happened to be his guest. Occasionally, Dos Passos, Malraux, Carpentier, or other literary (or political) personage would also be his guest. (The French Volunteer, a sprawling epic war novel due out late in 2014, precisely covers these and hundreds other poignant events that led to World War II.)



In Venezuela, I (the anti-tyranny-fugitive Carrié, now midway in his youth) gradually returned to a life of semi-normality, taking advantage of a relaxation in the laws of the machete and persecution round-ups. Sports suddenly became my new passion and soon I began to excel in competition swimming, soccer, and volleyball. Then I tried track & field and eventually became national junior champion in high jump and pole vault, popularly nicknamed "el pollito."



But the need for greater freedom and cultural growth, past the dictator's overthrow (which had required a bloody student revolution, myself a fiery participant), made me seriously consider planning my biggest jump yet--all the way north to the United States across the Caribbean Sea! Which I did, figuratively, by plane and other means.



Higher education (English, History, Literature, and Creative Writing) started at Columbia University in New York, followed by engineering classes at Texas A&M University in the big south, with an earned BSEE degree in the late 60s, while making news ("Best Article of the Year" published in The Texas A&M Engineer) on the side.

Back in New York, I drifted into "method acting" and spent seven years on the road (here and abroad) performing in theaters, occasionally taking jobs as a longshoreman, coil assembler, and restaurant cook. In time I reconnected with engineering, serving the industry as a high tech writer with major Los Angeles companies. It was the right move, which allowed me to gradually write one speculative short story after another (collectively published as Intrepid Visions) on my spare hours. Plus a satirical novel (The Bridge of Movie Producer Louis King) that got me a nomination and guest appearance to the International Festival of Humor and Satire held in Gabrovo, Bulgaria. It was also the period I applied for and obtained my U.S. citizenship.



Happily married for over two decades now to a former Philippine recording artist and rejoicing at the emerging talents and accomplishments of our university-going daughter, nothing matters more to me today than writing fiction (Octiblast, book 1 of The Octidamned Trilogy, being my third published book), karaoke singing with my family and relatives on holidays, playing with my toy poodle, and watching life roll by with my wife in this great country I proudly call the United States of America.






WERE YOU INFLUENCED OR ENCOURAGED BY YOUR PARENTS?



I was encouraged to pursue a career in engineering (the most desired one in those years) having already won a second scholarship that would push me in that direction. Venezuela had become my second country and Spanish my second language, but the incensed student revolt that would overthrow El Dictador had already started across the country…my chosen school already closed (to never reopen) by the ruling junta, every student in it blacklisted and persecuted, if not jailed and tortured…and perhaps even scheduled for execution by firing squad…my 17-year-old brother among them.



Lucky me, I had fought hard (throwing punches around) and escaped into the Amazon rain forests, uncertain about my future. In those desperate hours, then desperate days and weeks and months, being doggedly hunted down by secret agents of the regime, the idea of fleeing to the United States at the first opportunity crossed my mind with increasing force. But first I had to rescue my brother held incommunicado in the big city. Moving to the States meant learning a third language, English, one that I absolutely hated.



There was no way I could ever master this language—so different from French and Spanish! Plus, how could I ever expect to narrate with any iota of lucidity the short stories I fondly planned to write? Interestingly, my parents had never encouraged me to consider liberal arts…specifically writing or acting…as a possible career choice, even though I had consistently excelled in those areas in school. Engineering was not exactly my cup of tea, but considering all the craziness that surrounded me, I would make the effort to please my parents and go for it. But…in the States?



Many years later, in my 50s, way past my short-lived electrical engineering stint and my rebelled phase spent in American city streets with hippies and actors and artists and my eventual transformation into a full-blown American novelist, I would learn a family secret that truly took me my surprise. By then Venezuela had also transformed from being one of America’s closest allies to one of its worse enemies.



My parents had never talked much about their participation in the Spanish Civil War and World War II, neither about the years that led to both wars. Sure, me and my brother knew about the Fascists and Nazis and Communists in very superficial ways, since we’d been recipient of their wrath from birth to post-toddler ages, not exactly mature enough to understand their pathetic philosophies and workings, but why not tell us (Mom and Dad) in greater detail the bloody truth so we could appreciate their enormous sacrifices and protective missions? Not that it would’ve made a hell of a difference eventually regarding our individual drives and concerns in life, already marked by our DNAs and personalities, namely, our passionate search for a better world, better institutions, better governments, better politicians, and better ways of living in peace and harmony among ourselves. But that it would’ve properly educated us with an informed and proud past, if nothing else, to talk and write about it to those willing to listen.



Already in his 90s, my father came to visit me twice here in California from Costa Rica, where he had relocated after my mother’s death (cancer) in her late 60s. I had not seen him in years and was surprised how strong and active he was (still a “columnist” for several leading magazines). He handed me his nicely typed memoir and asked me to tape, while touring together the local sunny beaches and bracing rocky mountains, what turned out to be a three week interview of his amazing journey—pieces of conversations covering  his (1) adventurous youth in France (winning several bicycle races, one of his passions, as the neglected son of a distinguished baritone, who once sang in duet with the great Enrico Caruso in the opera I Pagliacci), (2) dreadful military service in Algeria (often held in solitary confinement, but used and praised later as their representative in international shooting competitions for his astonishing skills), (3) employment with the press agency Havas in Paris (today Agence France-Presse or AFP, where he first met and befriended novelist and self-trained pilot André Malraux, who later in Spain would organize a daring air squadron in support of the Republic), (4) anti-fascist military campaign in the Spanish Civil War, and (5) key participation in the French Resistance (whose personal underground efforts in the south of France helped hundreds of Nazi-persecuted Jews cross the frontier to freedom). A combined written and oral history of his larger-than-life contribution to democratic causes and the fostering of social justice, equality, and human rights—all in great danger in those combative years of being wiped out by deceitful military forces of incredible size and power.



I learned for the first time he’d fought in many major battles in Spain, forming part of the XIIIth, XIVth, and XVth International Brigades during the three years this infernal war lasted. He rose to Lieutenant, commanded medical unit operations (including convoys of ambulances and trucks carrying doctors, nurses, and medical equipment), erected makeshift first-aid posts on battlefields blitzed by tank and artillery fire (falling seriously wounded twice and apprehended and condemned to die by firing squad once for punching a bullying German commandant in the face), and eventually became the administrator of the legendary beach-front Benicássim Medical Center near Valencia, which would lead to, among many unforgettable experiences, getting to know and caring for the man who would one day turn his coffee/alcohol-stained handwritten field notes and non-erasable mental observations into For Whom the Bell Tolls—one of the most riveting war novels ever to be published, according to many critics.




I learned also that my mother, the woman he ended up marrying (three times, in three different cities, to make sure because in those troubling times such ceremonies could become invalid, depending on which army won the war), had been a quite admirable and brave anti-fascist combatant, as main surgery nurse in improvised mobile hospitals in many battles, mostly different than his, but lucky to be occasionally reunited on the road by fate till their marriage and subsequent exit from Spain. Granddaughter of a Knight in King Carlos III’s Court, she had likewise been neglected by her father in her youth and forced to travel north to the capital to start afresh a new life…when the war broke up. Serving then surgery bound patients in Madrid’s largest hospital, she was immediately sent to the front with a team of highly trained doctors. It was in the city of Murcia, many months later, that she would first meet this charming French man, officially known as Lieutenant Carrié.



Not to be forgotten, it was my mother’s older brother--a poet, orator, writer, painter, engineering draftsman, concert violinist, and Ministry of Defence spokesman—who played many of the key clandestine roles that helped my parents and the Republic as a whole overcome dozens of impassable blockages during the raging civil war. My uncle had been a close friend of Andalusian poet Federico García Lorca in his youth. Life magazine once published a piece he wrote on his behalf, shocked by his cruel death inflicted by Franco’s militiamen in the hills of Granada at the break of the civil war.



“War is horrible,” my father told me, edging the Pier of Hermosa Beach (one of my former neighbourhoods) on his last visit. “I never wanted you to go through the anxieties and suffering your mom and I went through. Our hope was that you would become an engineer or scientist…something clean and safe…not a toy of politics and war. And you did. So did your brother, after his ordeal and rescue. That’s why we kept this part of our history off your mind all these years, son. Forgive us if we were too protective and selfish.”





WHEN AND HOW DID YOU BECOME A WRITER?



Consider this first…

Years ago, before the collapse of the Soviet Union, I enjoyed a two-week stay at the International Festival of Humor and Satire in the city of Gabrovo, Bulgaria, invited by the Union of Bulgarian Writers, the Committee for Culture, and the House of Humor and Satire. To the crowds and the TV cameras, whenever interviewed, I bravely spoke of social justice, friendship, and peacekey ingredients found in my works. I told them, through my interpreter, that I wrote cross-genre, cutting-edge, multi-cultural, groundbreaking novels and short stories...socio-political in nature, spiced with international intrigue, pop culture resonance, and universal concerns...with my own brand of satirical humor and artistic exuberance. Seeking true realism, I told them, my stories tackle the human condition from unheard of angles and perspectives (often leaning toward the surreal, offbeat, and absurd) using both my wild imagination and my personal experience.

In retrospect…



Beyond the little romantic poems I wrote in French to the pretty school girls I met in the big city of Toulouse, France, between the ages of eight and ten, and the ones I wrote in Spanish to a similar crowd of muchachas in the tiny village of Punta Cardón, Venezuela, between the ages of ten and twelve, the bug of serious writing began to bite me at age thirteen, I think. It ran parallel to the bug of “immense curiosity” for psychology, strange phenomena, and occult sciences—all of which forced me to read deeply and take lots of notes. 




Biographies of famous people and literature interested me more than mathematics in school. So did geography and history. Having lived in misery under Nazi occupying troops in France during my childhood, before immigrating to South America (unfortunately also ruled by tyrannical secret police), the seeds of revolutionary ideas for creating a better life for myself, my family, my friends, and my country (then Venezuela) not only began to percolate in earnest, but transform my whole being.



Socio-political events across the nation shook the population, spearheaded by angry students who demanded changes, first and foremost the overthrow of El Dictador. The streets of Caracas and other major cities became upturned cars serving as barricades, instant cemeteries for murdered youngsters, in some places bloody rivers. Buses on fire exploded everywhere, snipers (mostly Casto, Cienfuegos, and Che Guevara sympathising Cubans) fired from building roofs in support of the revolution…to the point where swinging machetes and gunshots from junta secret militias could no longer contain the mobs of enraged students fierily advancing into the Casa Blanca and other government buildings. Hundreds of students were arrested and dumped into filthy cells, slated for hurried firing squad executions, my brother among them. Suddenly, they were after me too—a 16-year-old kid. I had no choice but escape to the rain forests, avoiding as much as I could wild animals, deadly snakes, and cannibal fish as well as malaria-causing mosquitoes, hiding in primitive huts often built/occupied by very unfriendly naked indigenous tribes, featuring painted faces and noses pierced by bones.



Fortunately, two days before leaving the metropolitan area and becoming a fugitive, so to speak, I had been treated by a maverick math professor, originally from Spain, who loved literature and democracy. My uncle had introduced me to him in his usual graceful ways and I knew from the start I would be in good hands. He gave me three novels by John Steinbeck and urged me to read them while away from civilization. Such generous act and my subsequent devotion to Steinbeck’s powerful stories not only enlightened my mind and soul in ways I had never experienced before, but they made an instant aspiring novelist out of me. A novelist-to-be craving for writing about freedom, equality, social justice, human rights, and all the things that make people human and life worth living. I was on my way!



     

WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT BEING A WRITER?



Dealing with the human condition. Exploring its mysteries. Finding ways to express its importance to the world through groundbreaking novels and short stories...that will stand the test of time and leave my legacy behind (a must according to Ray Bradbury, Shakespeare, Hemingway, Victor Hugo, George Orwell, and others).



Groundbreaking? Yes! This is big for me. My greatest passion. Journeying through new techniques and new terrains. Playing with new tools. Shaping stories in different ways. Meeting the impossible head-on. In fact, I keep telling the world, “I take more risks than a wild teenager would in Paradise.” So true! It pretty much sums up where my head is at when developing a story. The back cover of Octiblast (paperback), my latest novel, goes into that a little.



I once told Harlan Ellison (the renowned science fiction and mystery writer, winner of countless awards) at a Los Angeles Poets & Writers gathering many years ago, that regarding fiction writing I was “a little crazier than he was.”



A few years later he called me up at home to thank me for sending him a signed copy of my just published Intrepid Visions (collection of imaginative short stories). If I had made him smile the first time, now he was cheerfully intrigued. Of course, Harlan is also famous for editing Dangerous Visions and Again, Dangerous Visions (perhaps the two greatest science fiction anthologies ever published). 





WHAT IS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT BEING A WRITER?



Writing a novel, for example, is like running a marathon with recurrent night-long breaks. That’s the easy part.



Marketing a novel is very hard, but having major newspapers, magazines, radio, TV, and other news media outlets (all basically parasites of the big Park Avenue publishing conglomerates) take a chance on you—reviewing your stuff, interviewing you, etc.—is next to impossible, unless you are George R. R. Martin or J. K. Rowling. Occasionally, it happens. It happened to them early on in their careers. Poor Martin, it took him forever. But look where his Game of Thrones novel (first of his Ice and Fire series) and TV adaptation have gone!





WHAT WERE YOU IN A PAST LIFE, BEFORE YOU BECAME A WRITER?



Life explorer. Chronologically: rebel student, athlete, competition swimmer, electrical engineer, peace marcher, teacher, stage actor, taxi driver, car washer, longshoreman, restaurant cook, factory assembler, drifter/hitchhiker, technical writer/editor.





WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST WRITING ACHIEVEMENT?



Writing and publishing Octiblast (made up of 5 books and a must-read out-of-this-planet prologue).



Octiblast, over 800 pages (counting the prologue) a cross-genre, multi-cultural, socio-political epic novel—finally brings to justice those greedy capitalistic speculators who dared collapse our entire civilization (circa 3081) and accuses those who got away from annihilating a “special kind of civilization” within the one they brainwashed and tyrannized for so many centuries…before Hitler was even born.



It contains a revealing chapter on the bombing of Guernica by Nazi Condor Legion war planes, based on military facts, and many disturbing references to Generalísimo Franco during his destructive campaign in the 1936-1939 Spanish Civil War. It covers many mysterious, mostly unheard of or censured, events rooted in atrocious religious crusades, torture (Carcassonne), and wars (the Cévennes) created by succeeding Popes and Kings of France through the centuries…a new take on Mary Magdalene’s journey to Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, a huge unprecedented event drawing millions to Alice Springs, Australia…and much more ever so close to our present days…in its groundbreaking universal appeal and urgent relevancy.



Driven by the shifting sounds and rhythms of history and the far-future (where it begins in Zundo, our new world, conquered by the Zongdrolls), Octiblast made its entry into the literary scene in 2012 as a scathing, darkly humorous, thought-provoking, and highly creative dystopian satire on Western culture—from politically correct fiction writing to politically correct capitalism to politically correct time travel and more. Octiblast, Book 1 of The Octidamned Trilogy, also a standalone novel by all measures, happens to be, thematically, in many ways, a precursor to “Occupy Wall Street” and other social protest movements we often see on CNN and other major channels.



The novel competed for the latest Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Awards, the American Book Awards, and is still in competition for other major book awards this year, with the disadvantageous reality of entering these events without proper representation, namely, the mega-million-dollar machinery (worldwide publicity, advertising, and promotion) of the Big-6, Park Avenue-based, publishing houses that always grossly influences the finalists and winners. Money speaks—even in literature and arts! Put in a different way, judges will not even read competing books that do not fall under this vicious capitalistic umbrella. A similar comment was recently made by a well-known Latin American novelist and former big prize finalist who served as judge and saw, to his dismay, what was happening. 





WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON AT THE MOMENT?



Two enormous novels: Octispin (Book 2 of The Octidamned Trilogy) and The French Volunteer. Often a break from working on one novel, becomes the catalyst to work on the other.



n  Octispin continues the Octiblast story in 1957 Venezuela (shaken by an anti-dictatorship student revolution) and 3081 Zundo (our future world…after the conquering Zongdrolls led by Zundo the Conspirator changed everything), alternating from one society to the other, connected by the winds of punishment (whatever is happening to Richard Zilch’s damned journey through the Unknown). Zilch (formerly Flynn before his trial in Zundo) had amassed 13 octillion dollars while owning most of the planet’s assets doing virtually nothing. Nothing useful to the planet, for sure. Now, as a reincarnated bright French kid (part of his punishment, already started in Octiblast), he must immediately leave his sweet Venezuelan girlfriend and death-row-jailed cousin behind in the capital and outsmart the squads of machete swinging militias hunting him down the Amazon rainforests…to either make a triumphant come back to the big city or flee empty-handed all the way back to 31st-century-Zundo.  It’s a thriller—from beginning to end!



n  The French Volunteer—a sprawling historical romance based on my father’s mind-blowing military campaign in the raging Spanish Civil War—the place where the evil forces of Communism, Fascism, and Nazism first obliterated one another, if nothing else to prepare for the biggest and most absurd collision yet—World War II.



WHAT INSPIRES YOU?



Social injustice, human absurdities, anti-heroes, downtrodden people, outcasts with bizarre personalities, unusual social events, Mother Nature, fantasy, impossible situations, complex journeys, controversy.  





WHAT GENRE DO YOU WRITE?





None in particular. Like most fiction writers, I dislike fiction classifications, invented by publishers and booksellers to benefit themselves, but frustrate writers. If we have to continue living with it, they should at least create one classification that’s been missing all along: “Cross-genre.” So people surfing Amazon or stepping into a bookstore searching for my books, for example, could simply look for the label “Cross-genre” and find them.



The way things are now, I’m forced to promote Octiblast, my latest book, as a “Science Fiction/Fantasy novel” —the closest available classification, but misleading. Octiblast is a blend of science fiction, fantasy, horror, literary fiction (mostly), adventure, suspense, mystery, romance, historical fiction, adult fiction, young adult fiction, satire, black humour, experimental fiction, and a few more genres.    





DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR NEW WRITERS?



The consensus is right. “Never give up, no matter what they tell you! You’re born to create whatever you want…to please yourself.



Imagine what Picasso would’ve said if anyone—a promoter, sponsor, street sweeper, agent, ballerina, publisher, or politician—would’ve asked him to change something on his “Guernica” painting. Agreed—too colourful a word to print it here. Use Picasso as your model. I do.



Good if your creation sells a lot, but still good if it doesn’t. If you’re serious about fiction writing, avoid trashy novels, formula novels, sex-loaded novels…like idiotic vampire novels…meant to make lots of money only. They might backfire and leave you very disappointed later in life. Your reputation counts.



Don’t be vague when you write. Be specific, true to your feelings, and fearless.







DO YOU SUFFER FROM WRITER’S BLOCK?





No. There’s always too much in my mind to entertain myself with, massage my intellect, laugh away the pressures, or prevent any blocking.





DO YOU HAVE A PREFERRED WRITING SCHEDULE?





No. I write when I feel like, which is most of the time. My desk lamp may be on at 3 in the morning…at 5…at 10…or at 7 in the evening…I don’t schedule writing time, I continuously use it.





DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE WRITING PLACE?


Yes, my car. That where all my novels and short stories originate. Even my essays.



I love driving and drive a lot. California is ideal for that---the beautiful sea coast, the breathtaking mountains, the challenging freeways and awesome back roads.



I think a lot, too, when I’m driving. At any moment, something pops up in my head, usually a simple dialogue between two or more persons…revealing something bad in our government, society, church, school, police force, home, you name it, that needs fixing…or at least addressing to the masses in a big way.



Most likely it’s a social issue…human rights, injustice, greed, inequality, unfairness…racial discrimination, crime, corruption, child abuse, drug addiction, human trafficking, elderly neglect, domestic violence…indifference, hypocrisy, bigotry, bullying, etc. Political issues also pop up. So do economic and arm race issues. Somehow this mental dialogue in my head holds the key to solving the problem or starting the process of solving it.



Whatever, I immediately slow down the car, pull off the road (if on the countryside), wait for a traffic red light to stop or park anywhere (if in the city)…and jot down a few notes, which I might continue expanding during my driving (more stops and quick notes) or later on another driving occasion. This is usually very intense and exciting. I, of course, always carry two or more pens and notebooks. Sometimes I’m in the car, parked somewhere, engine off or idling…waiting for someone (my wife, daughter, or a friend). That’s terrific! It gives me an opportunity to beef up my story-in-progress or work on a nagging part of an already developed or almost finished story. If lucky, it will help me nail my difficult or stubborn spot in the story. I’m always looking for those exquisite driving moments!   

  

Eventually, I’ll transfer those bits and pieces of literature to my PC and expand even further, dealing with whatever story structure I’ve chosen and ongoing plots. I’m talking about the first draft. Other drafts will follow. It’s a long, complex process, especially if I’m challenging myself with multiple layers of narration and plots and subplots and a minefield of symbols…like I chose to do with Octiblast, Octispin, and Octifate (Book 1, 2, and 3 of The Octidamned Trilogy).



Between the car experience and my PC there’s a special journey, which can be very short or dramatically long and exhaustive.



Octiblast’s special journey, for example, covered countless hours spent this past decade at McDonald’s booths and tables in countless places across greater Los Angeles and nearby towns, as far as Paso Robles and San Luis Obispo going north along the coast and Escondido and Oceanside going south, all populated with my in-laws, friends, teachers, coaches, and business contacts…sharing my napkin-written thoughts with veggie salads, coffee refills, and drifting faces…while waiting for my young daughter’s return from her usual social school events, shopping rendezvous, tournament tennis matches, birthday parties, or film auditions. Here, in this fertile broad-based writing zone, the raw Octiblast manuscript grew to the point where it needed a permanent home. Such place was my PC.



Properly housed, finally, Octiblast expanded further into what it turned out to be, for better or worse, the daringly provocative product of my imagination.





WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST JOY IN WRITING?



Like Vonnegut and Grass, getting the artistry and social message across.



I work with form as much as I do with substance, without neglecting the flow of words and sentences, although, unlike Updike and Flaubert, I won’t break my back trying to create the most beautiful sentences in the world. I save my energy for other aspects of my stories. More like Steinbeck, Conrad, and Hardy did in their generation, or Pynchon and DeLillo are doing now. Although I miss the poetic qualities of Durrell’s and Calvino’s enchanting offerings.

 

WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE AUTHOR AND WHY?



Kurt Vonnegut. Sirens of Titan’s first 20 pages made the difference. His wisdom, humour, imagination, and clarity in dealing with anything (the human condition, time travel, social issues, war, book banning, politics, the opposite sex, you name it) outshine by far anybody’s on this planet. Sorry he left us…





WHAT’S THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT YOU EVER RECEIVED FROM A READER?



Here’s my “my golden bunch,” if you don’t mind.



n  Recently, from a top New York publishing house’s editor:



Thank you again for letting me consider Octiblast. It’s wildly original and smart and fast and unlike anything I’ve ever read before.”



n  Years ago, from a major US literary critic:



The Bridge of Movie Producer Louis King out-Kosinski’s even Jerzy Kosinski. Carrié knows the signs and symbols of our culture as only a master satirist can. If you liked Passion Play, you’ll love The Bridge.”

n  Years ago, from the book editor of Venezuela’s second largest national newspaper:

“A triumph. Truly innovative and funny. Without any doubt The Bridge of Movie Producer Louis King should become here in Venezuela both a literary and bookstore success for its phenomenal stylistic and conceptual projections. It must be read!” 

n  Years ago, regarding Intrepid Visions, from a leading US book reviewer:

“These are startling fictions! Wacky, off-base, yet appealing in an almost narcotic way—Carrié makes a whole new world which is very inviting and—here's the miracle—which is contextually convincing at the very same time the reader knows it is all made up.”

n  Years ago, regarding Intrepid Visions, from a national US book/film critic:

“Unusual, iconoclastic, challenging and off-beat. Thank goodness there are individual thinkers like Jacques Carrié still alive and working in this hackneyed world of pablum-spiked mediocrity.”

n  Years ago, regarding Intrepid Visions, from a leading east coast US book reviewer:

“I suspect it will be a very necessary book, for the very reason of its title: in an age when we suspect the farthest reaches of imagination have been exhausted, or –even worse—when people would rather not imagine (preferring to sink back into a more comfortable quotidian), Carrié’s fiction proves that there is still something fresh and new to think about. These are amazing fictions!”


WHAT WAS THE WORST COMMENT FROM A READER?



Recently, regarding Octiblast, from a major book editor:



“Many thanks for your interest in the LA Review of Books. We're currently working with limited staff and unlimited submissions, which presents the difficult challenge of deciding what books we can endeavor to review. Regretfully, we can't review your book, but we wish you great success and congratulations on its release.”



Not the worse comment, but one that strikes right in the heart of the problem of not being yet a household name or not being published by the Big 6 octopuses of New York’s Park Avenue.





WRITERS ARE SOMETIMES INFLUENCED BY THINGS THAT HAPPEN IN THEIR OWN LIVES. ARE YOU?



Yes, totally.



Past a long and harsh exile in Nazi-occupied France, where I was born, from the Spanish Civil War, I arrived in Venezuela, with my war-torn parents and brother, at age 10, a short time after a series of coups d’état and political assassinations produced a new junta and tyrant…meant to rule this volatile South American country for the next 10 years.



Little did I know I would years later join the angry student revolution that would kick him out of office after a year-long bloody fight in the streets of Caracas, not before learning firsthand about the horrible things done to hundreds of these young freedom fighters by the armed secret junta police. Poor souls--they were arrested, incarcerated, tortured, beaten, and left unconscious on the filthy floors of the dreaded Seguridad National. Some were declared dangerous and unworthy of continuing their existence.



Sentenced to die by firing squad, my brother had unintentionally repeated in this violent Latin American country a similar sentence our father had received in Spain a generation earlier fighting for freedom and democracy.



So was I supposed to waste my time writing just fiction the rest of my life considering where I came from and what I had experienced? No. I chose journalistic fiction…journalistic international literature (often masqueraded as fantasy or science fiction or absurd fiction)…somewhere between non-fiction and fiction…as you know, very often more effective than non-fiction in revealing the truth. And I did this with my own brand of satirical humor and artistic exuberance, always exposing in non-traditional, genre-bending ways some of the most troubling social injustices of our time.



OTHER THAN WRITING, WHAT ELSE DO YOU LOVE?



Growing up, I joined the boy scouts and played soccer, volleyball, and basketball. I excelled in swimming, diving, and track & field competitions, namely, high jump and pole vault, winning medals for my school and state (Estado Falcón, Venezuela) in national junior games.



In high jump (junior category), I became national champion, personally coached by Teófilo Davis Bell (then ranked 2ndth in South America). In pole vault, junior champion too, I went farther, competing with the adults in regional games. I was the youngest ever to challenge Brígido Iriarte (about twice my age, ranked 1st in South America). That day, in Punta Cardón, it was too windy, I remember, and I failed to do my best.



I joined the prestigious swimming team of the Casablanca Swimming & Tennis Club in Caracas, winning a few free-style races, the most important one celebrating the opening of the gigantic and opulent Club Mampote in the outskirts of East Caracas.



Soon afterward I changed gears and envisioned becoming an engineer (safe and lucrative career, encouraged by my parents) and a novelist (more like a secret ambition, never encouraged by anybody).



In America, my third country, I accomplished both. I also added acting to my repertoire, trained by legendary teachers Lee Strasberg and Peggy Feury. Then I performed seven years on the road.



Today, limited by my writing time, I occasionally drive to the beach with my wife to join our large family and close friends in Mindanao-styled food eating, karaoke singing, and dancing. We also jog daily, walk our toy poodle twice a day, play tennis on weekends, and hike our beautiful mountains whenever possible. We’re vegetarians and fans of CNN and MSNBC news channels, always eager to watch important people who make a difference in this world, like American filmmaker and political activist Michael Moore.



Other TV channels we watch take us to: Olympic Games, tennis grand slams, world gymnastics, figure skating, the Lakers (pro basketball), Las Vegas boxing, American Idol (pop singing contest), and Sundance movies. Dining out and going to the theatre is also one of our favourite indulgences. We also video-chat (via Skype) a lot with our Paris-based young daughter, who’s making her marks at a prominent university up there.  





DID YOU HAVE YOUR BOOK / BOOKS PROFESSIONALLY EDITED BEFORE PUBLICATION?


No. I trust my editing skills, which I have mastered after many years of writing/editing user manuals and technical documents for major Los Angeles companies. Besides, my novels and short stories are non-traditional, post-modern, ground-breaking, highly inventive, and controversial.



Since I know the rules, I break them quite often to fit the peculiarities of my stories. No editor could possibly figure out what I’m up to regarding grammar, punctuation, structure, style, plots, metaphors, symbols, unusual expressions, and other aspects of creative writing.



I made an exception with Octiblast, inviting my cool young daughter to give it a shot…and predictably she nailed a few problems. To my surprise, she’d like to adapt the novel into a movie, write the screenplay (one of her specialties), and even consider casting some key roles. Kudos if she makes it happen!





DESCRIBE YOUR PERFECT DAY.



Felt my wife’s soft kiss on my forehead before she left for work. Got up from bed finally an hour or so later and had a hot cup of coffee. Reviewed yesterday’s work to warm up on my latest points and seize the moment.



Wrote a few pages that seemed to work well—both in creativity and passion. Surfed the Web to research some items, which I ended up incorporating into my story, reworking two or three of my sentences. One was too long and complex, containing two clauses, so I broke it up. That could be enjoyable or a pain in the neck. Often I’m stubborn about retaining my long sentences (there’s still some Victor Hugo, Thomas Hardy, and James Joyce in me—my early roots).



Returned to several crucial paragraphs as often as needed to nail the intended points and humour, if any, or add simplicity or clarity. There was humour, dark humour, and, of course, I laughed and re-read to laugh again. I wished Mark Twain and Kurt Vonnegut could share this moment with me!



Took a pause to call Eva, my wife, at work— a routine. We talked a little. She’s doing fine.



Responded to my daughter’s latest email from the City of Lights. “I’m finishing my essay on Proust’s Á la recherche du temps perdu,” she wrote, among other things. Snow’s covering my ears and nose. Love you, Manon.” Years ago Pam Austin (Tracy Austin’s older sister, a veteran pro tennis coach) helped her develop that amazing one-handed backhand she would later mercilessly use on national junior tennis tournaments. She and her doubles partner—both only 6 years old—had once charmed the big crowds playing an exhibition match against hard-court rising star Bob Bryant and his father, during a pro tournament. Bob and twin-brother Mike would eventually make world’s doubles history.



Rather than turning pro, Manon had surprised me already by pursuing a Hollywood acting career. Eight indie short films later, playing exciting leading roles, she would surprise me again by packing and moving to Paris. Soon she was majoring in Comparative Literature with a minor in Film Production at a top university and making the Dean’s honour list. Last time we skyped, she proudly mentioned “graduation day” three times.



Grabbed something to eat and watched the evening news for a while.



Reviewed the dialogue. Did it sound convincing? Realistic? Creative? Boring? Whatever didn’t work, I fixed it.



Was a plot or subplot part giving me trouble? Anything wrong with my structure at this stage? If problematic and too hard to fix now, I’ll tackle it tomorrow. This might require more time, more thinking.



Read the pages aloud to myself a couple of times and changed a few words here and there. Was I creative enough narrating this or that? Or too creative? Will go over it tomorrow. Looked at the time 2:15 a.m. Went to bed.





IF YOU WERE STUCK ON A DESERT ISLAND WITH ONE PERSON, WHO WOULD IT BE? WHY?



My beautiful and loving wife. A former recording artist and songwriter from the Philippines, she always enchants me with her romantic ballads. No difference here. After exploring the island and strolling down the white sanded beach, she would waste no time in thrilling me with her renditions of Streisand’s Evergreen and Dion’s The Power of Love. I would respond in kind with my versions of Sinatra’s All the Way and either Perry Como’s And I Love You So or Andrea Boccelli’s Besame Mucho. Who knows what would come next.





WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IF YOU HAD THE CHANCE TO SPEAK TO WORLD LEADERS?



Stop behaving like spoiled brats! Your toys could end our entire civilization!



Try something different for a change…like forging amazing and lasting global friendships. Make your enemies your best friends and celebrate with French red wine!







WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE?



Continue what I’m doing. Publish the following:



n  Octispin and Octifate -- Book 2 and 3 of The Octidamned Trilogy (epic literary fantasy)



n  The French Volunteer (historical/military romance covering the Spanish Civil War)



n  Visha (international intrigue)



n  Violette’s Legacy (psychological thriller)



Note: Not necessarily in this order. I’ve already done considerable

 work on each book.





WHAT FIVE BOOKS WOULD YOU TAKE TO HEAVEN?





n  The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald



n  All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque or Catch 22 by Joseph Heller



n  Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov



n  Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon



n  Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut (actually, all his novels and collected essays, if I could)



n  Underworld by Don DeLillo (to replace Gravity’s Rainbow, if banned)





DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN ANY OF YOUR CHARACTERS?



Constantly, but parts of me only.





DOES THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY FRUSTRATE YOU?



Not anymore. But it used to--a lot!



I'm a compulsive groundbreaking novelist, not a puppet of traditional writing, agenting, and publishing (slavery is what it boils down to)…and take more risks than a wild teenager would in Paradise (my favorite line).


It took a mighty writers' revolution to get to where we are today (publish-on-demand or POD, and e-publishing). We no longer have to give publishers what they want, be politically correct, follow market trends, fit content into specific categories, genres, sizes, etc. etc. The first-line or first-paragraph or first-chapter of our novels doesn’t necessarily have to determine its ultimate literary merit or selling potential, nor do we necessarily have to continue writing linear stories. Gone are the sins of not following pre-established story structures, narrative methods, flashbacks, and other overused and overdone ways of presenting a piece of writing or piece of art. Now we’re free to invent our works, experiment with our own tools and minds—whether fiction or non-fiction or in-between—and see what happens.


Finally, we’re in complete command of our creations! Without CreateSpace and Amazon, I would still be knocking on doors. Of course, there are similar writer-friendly outlets all over the world now…helping new, emerging, and seasoned novelists get their stuff published and marketed exactly the way they want. Awesome!





DID YOU EVER THINK OF QUITTING?



No. Never. Impossible.





WHAT WAS YOUR FAVOURITE MANUSCRIPT TO WRITE? WHY?



My latest, Octiblast. For me, it’s always the latest. Should I mention that it took me about 8 years to research and write? Thanks to the Internet. Half of it is about France, which I left 63 years ago. It could also be used as a travel guide to many parts of modern and medieval southern France, ancient Egypt, and 31st century Bermuda Triangle and Alice Springs (the heart of the Australian Outback). Mostly, it’s about American culture and politics and the consequences of being too greedy with money and freedom.  







HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE ‘SUCCESS’ AS A WRITER.



Saying “Wow!” to myself after finishing a fiction piece, a chapter, a short story, or a novel.







WHAT SHOULD READERS WALK AWAY FROM YOUR BOOKS KNOWING? HOW SHOULD THEY FEEL?



There’s a completely new way of seeing the world…affecting the mind, heart, and soul. Readers will compare their thoughts and feelings with previous ones and begin to consider alternatives. Suddenly the human condition—who we are and what we do to ourselves and others—opens up to new interpretation.   







HOW MUCH THOUGHT GOES INTO DESIGNING A BOOK COVER?



A lot. I often contribute with my own sketches (the bizarre creature on Intrepid Vision’s cover is mine, so are ten more sketches featuring each short story inside the book). Soon I’ll have a new front cover for the Kindle edition of The Bridge of Movie Producer Louis King. I’ll keep the same front cover, which I love, for the Kindle edition of Intrepid Vision.



Regarding Octiblast, the cover designer used my concepts only, not the sketches I submitted. At my first opportunity, I’ll request to have my name magnified on the front cover (both Kindle and paperback editions) so it’s more visible to the quick eye staring at the book’s thumbnail image.   





WHAT’S YOUR ULTIMATE DREAM?



Reach a world-wide audience. I’d rather be remembered for having published 10 memorable groundbreaking novels than 100 ordinary ones.



For me, fiction writing is an art, not a business. But, like Picasso, I won’t mind being rewarded with money too. I use Picasso symbolically—we’re both passionate artists, he was a painter, I write fiction like a painter…one creative stroke after another.



I refuse to be indoctrinated—say, wear ugly, low-hanging, shapeless, pants, like the gangs do in run-down urban areas, that show the top part of your filthy-looking underwear and bouncing chains sticking out of the side pockets—matched by rings piercing your lips and nose and umbilical cord and who knows what else—just because everyone does? Or, say, write the type of novels everyone writes today—just because if you don’t, you won’t get published?





WRITING IS ONE THING. WHAT ABOUT MARKETING YOU, YOUR BOOKS AND YOUR BRAND? ANY THOUGHTS?



I’m not bad at marketing myself, my books, and my brand (as you’ve noticed by now…reading my interview). I wish writers or artists didn’t have to do that. Our jobs should be creating our masterpieces only.



Unfortunately, big publishers—the Big 6 (lately, the Big 4) — spend massive amounts of money promoting, publicizing, advertising, and marketing their published writers/artists (extremely hyped this way)…to make sure they are massively reviewed, interviewed, shelved in major bookstores/libraries, and sold to millions of (brainwashed this way) readers. Big money, not great books or great pieces of art, drives the industry. It’s a farce!



But it’s real. This unfair process exists. Faced with this monstrous dilemma, what can an independent writer or artist do?



Grouchily, I’ve learned to adjust, to dedicate a chunk of my precious writing time to social media marketing (the newest tool). But other writers/artists might not adjust easily, especially the timid ones. It was never a part of our profession….



It used to be—for university professors, anyway—publish or perish. Now—for novelists (whose names are not Stephen King, Nora Roberts, or John Grisham)—social-media-market your book or perish.



Fortunately, we’re emerging from this gigantic writers’ and artists’ revolution that’s beginning to open up new ways of publishing and marketing our creative works…outlets such as Amazon, Smashwords, Lulu, and others. It’s big time for us all now!



 


ANYTHING YOU’D LIKE TO ADD?






http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0080TFTWW             US

http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B0080TFTWW           UK 

http://www.amazon.de/dp/B0080TFTWW                 Germany

http://www.amazon.fr/dp/B0080TFTWW                   France

http://www.amazon.it/dp/B0080TFTWW                   Italy

http://www.amazon.es/dp/B0080TFTWW                 Spain

http://www.amazon.ca/dp/B0080TFTWW                 Canada


http://www.amazon.co.jp/dp/B0080TFTWW           Japan 

http://www.amazon.in/dp/B0080TFTWW                 India


Clancy's comment: It's been a pleasure. Thanks for taking the time, Jacques. A very compelling and informative interview. Love ya work!

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