Q&A with E. A. Fournier
QUESTION: What is your name, where were you born and where do you live now?
My name is Gene Fournier. My actual first name is Eugene, after my father's dad, but I don’t remember anyone ever calling me that unless they were an uncle or angry. When I write, I go by E. A. Fournier – I’ve always liked my initials better than my names.
I was born in St. Paul, MN but grew up in Minneapolis. After I was married, I spent way too many years in LA going to grad school and later struggling as a writer in the TV and movie industries. Those were my roller-coaster years – brief instants at the top followed by long, scary drops. I finally escaped from California and returned to the Midwest where I now live in a quiet, tree filled suburb of Minneapolis.
QUESTION: Did you always want to be a writer? If not, what did you want to be?
I guess I never really knew what I wanted to be, and to tell the truth, I still don’t know. I always knew what I wanted to do, I wanted to make people cry and laugh and be moved by what I created. Poetry was my first love, but who can make a living at that? So, I turned to filmmaking and screenplay writing and TV – but despite the years of effort and the schemes and the silly meetings and agents and producers, etc., etc., when all was said and done, it didn’t pay much better than poetry did. So, inevitably, I got a “real” job (you know the kind, paychecks, health coverage, retirement - that kind of job) and wrote on the side. The experience has not been nearly as fulfilling but the pay has vastly improved.
I'm embarrassed to admit that it has taken me this long to grasp that with the rise of the internet I can finally do what I had set out to do so many years ago. I can actually write what I want to, a sci-fi novel, for instance, and instantly get it in front of a real audience without all those pesky middle people: the self-important ones in LA who mess up movies; the snooty ones in NY who mess up books. So, a few years’ work writing in the evenings and weekends and here we are! - a sci-fi novel called “Now & Again,” for sale on Amazon. But, just for the record, so far I’m keeping my day job.
QUESTION: Did it take a long time to get your first book published?
I suppose there’s a number of answers to this question. Since many people do not consider that self-publishing or eBooks count as “being published,” I guess my answer is that I’m still waiting. On the other hand, the startling arrival of the digital age has forced a re-definition of what a book is and what it means to be published. Like it or not, the traditional book industry is facing a renaissance (or a Poseidon adventure, depending upon your vantage point). It is, potentially, just as fundamental and far-reaching as the one that overturned the music industry.
In that context, therefore, I would answer the question this way. It either took me a lifetime up to this point to get published, or two years (the time it took me to actually write this book), or about a week (the time it took to format my final file, proof read it and upload it). Take your pick.
QUESTION: What is the name of your latest book, and if you had to summarize it in less than 20 words, what would you say?
My first novel is called “Now & Again.” You can find a story synopsis at Amazon or Goodreads but, instead of a 20 word summary, let me give you a behind-the-scenes answer. The book is the result of a nightmare. I dreamed one of my sons and myself were caught in a horrifying, chain-reaction traffic accident. You know how they say you can’t be killed in your dreams? How you always wake up just before the end? Not this dream. We were both killed but the dream continued and the accident restarted over again – except, now that I knew how it ended, I tried to change things. I kept changing my driving and lasting longer but still dying in the end. Finally, my son and I managed to alter enough parts of the dream accident to survive. And only then did I wake up. The novel is my attempt to explain what happened in that nightmare.
QUESTION: Do you have plans for a new book?
Yes, I already have a new book started and it will be quite different from this one. The main character is an older woman from the Midwest, newly widowed, and overweight, who is determined to go on a solo trip to Kampala, Uganda to help a native school there because she feels she should. Undeterred by her horrified family, her disapproving church and her baffled friends, she stubbornly sets out anyway. What happens to her is beyond the worst of anything that she was warned about and beyond the best that anyone could have predicted.
The new book has been selected by Acorn Publishing as one of their titles for later this year. The manuscript is finished and being edited as we speak. I'm supposed to meet with a cover designer soon. It's an exciting time.
QUESTION: How did you come up with the title and cover design for your first book?
When I start work on a book (or a screenplay for that matter) I don’t have a final title in mind, I just have a working title – some short verbal way to reference what I’m working on. It just makes things easier. Most of the time, in the process of writing the piece, a title will declare itself. At least, that’s been my experience. In a metaphorical way, the piece takes on a life of its own and it will tell you what its name is. The same is true of the cover art. At some point in the creative process an image, or images, begin to dominate. In the case of “Now & Again” the cover is my design. One of the drawbacks of the online marketplace is that so many things are reduced to thumbnails. So, it's challenging to create a cover that is compelling and yet still works when reduced to a tiny size. No step forward is without surprising drawbacks.
QUESTION: Do you layout a basic plot/plan for your book before you actually write it out? Or do you let the writing flow and see where it takes the story?
I tend to be an overly planned out and detail oriented person. I’m the guy who actually looks through the manuals of the things I buy before I use them. Really. It drives my kids crazy. For me, a story isn’t much different. I want to know where I’m going before I start – not everything, but most of the key things. My background in film directing and film editing probably has had an impact on me. The more organized I can be before the shooting starts the quicker and smoother things will go and the less money it will cost to produce a good result.
What is counter-intuitive in all this for me is that if I feel organized I'm much more likely to let a spontaneous bit of creativity free since I can see where it could fit into the whole. In the case of book writing, the clearer the goals of the chapters are the more freedom I have within those boundaries to be creative and still not destroy the flow. Without a plan, a story can get away from you and the characters may escape, die early, or just not make a bit of sense. I’ve found that an ounce of story planning is worth about ten pounds (relatively speaking) of writing.
Now, all that being said, I find that at some point my characters themselves determine where the book goes and what happens in it. I know that sounds odd and it surprised me as well the first time it happened.
QUESTION: Do you think children at schools these days are encouraged enough to read? And/or do imaginative writing?
Schools are a hot topic these days, especially in the US, where we spend massively more money on public education than any other country and yet secure utterly dismal results. Reading is just one of many areas where our children are being short changed. For me, though, the primary cause is not in the schools, and the solution is not in the school. Children don’t read well today because their parents and guardians don’t read to them. Read to your children! Start early and never stop. There is no substitute for that and no better solution than that. Show children a love of books while you raise them and no school on earth will be able to take that urge to read away from them. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t demand better reading curricula in our schools, we should, but the school is not the first place to look for either the problem or the solution: it’s the home.
QUESTION: Do you have a favorite genre of book?
I read all types of books from non-fiction to fiction, from philosophy to humor, from politics to adventure but I always come back to science fiction when I read for pleasure. It isn’t surprising that my first novel is in that genre. For me, good science fiction can have all the dramatic elements of fiction and all the big ideas of philosophy and science but the story is played out in a new place or time that I’d never known before. There’s no other genre that can carry me away from my own life so completely as a well crafted science fiction novel. And the pleasure I most appreciate is that the best of them leave you thinking about their story long after the pages are closed or the eBook reader is shut down.
QUESTION: If you could invite three favorite writers to dinner, who would you invite and enjoy chatting with?
Only three? Okay, let’s see, the first is easy. I have always admired and wished to spend time with the poet, Emily Dickinson. She was truly someone who understood the power of words. Next would have to be J.R.R. Tolkien, writer, of course, of the Trilogy of the Rings, but also an old-English scholar and teacher and one of the translators of the first Jerusalem Bible. He and Emily would have much to talk about and I would love to listen. Finally, I would invite William R. Forstchen, my favorite science fiction series writer, who wrote the eight-part civil war based Lost Regiment books.
That would be a fabulous evening. Without a doubt, though, we would all have to travel to Amherst, Massachusetts and have the meal at Emily Dickinson’s house since she was a recluse for most of her life. Believe me, I would be more than pleased to pick up the tab for the food and beverage catering.