TEN QUESTIONS TO ANDRÉ K. BABY
In this month’s blog, I have tried to convey a few personal aspects of my work as author in the form on an interview. Here are ten questions from André Baby the interviewer, to André Baby the author.
1. You are a francophone yet you write in English. How come?
As a kid, I spent a lot of my leisure time reading thrillers, and in French, the authors in this genre were not legion. Apart from George Simenon and a few others, there was no francophone thriller tradition yet. But in the Anglo –Saxon world, Erskine Childers, Graham Greene, Ian Fleming, Somerset Maugham, Lawrence Durrell and later Grisham, Brown, Berry , Le Carré, Ludlum and others filled my imagination and enhanced my vocabulary, hence the ease for me to write in English.
2. How did you come up with the character of your protagonist Thierry Dulac?
Inspector Thierry Dulac grew out of my first story’s plot in Dead Bishops Don’t Lie, which involves a series of crimes committed in different countries. I needed a policeman with cross-border authority and investigative powers in many jurisdictions, unimpeded by the geographical limitations of local police. Enter Interpol’s Dulac, with his baggage of faults, bad habits and sometimes questionable methods, but who gets results. It followed naturally that Dulac found himself in the heat of the action in The Chimera Sanction, another multi-locale story, and later in Jaws of the Tiger, where his services are needed to aid Scotland Yard’s Harry Wade.
3. What are some of the technical aspects of your research for your latest thriller Jaws of the Tiger?
One of the challenges was simultaneously coordinating the different time zones of England, the hijacked ship and the US Coast guard, and making sure that the events happening on the ship, in England and in the US were being reported accurately in each time zone.
Another aspect of my research centered on the inner workings of Scotland Yard, with whom Dulac has to work with during his investigation. It was fascinating to learn how the Yard has improved investigative techniques with the use of super- computers such as HOLMES 3.
4. Has your career as a lawyer helped you in your writing?
At ThrillerFest a couple of summers ago in New York City, I happened to attend a conference given by Steve Berry, best-selling author and “reformed lawyer”, as he calls himself. As an introductory remark, he asked: "all right, how many lawyers out there?" A forest of hands shot up in the air, to the amusement of all. I was surprised to see the large number of lawyers- turned-crime writers. Natural affinity? Perhaps, but I think a lawyer has advantages and disadvantages when it comes to writing a good thriller. Training in logical thinking, especially when piecing together the various aspects of the story, is certainly a plus. Also we lawyers are taught to be concise, and that every word counts. Authors should emulate this. On the negative side, the conveying of emotions to the characters is rendered more difficult, as lawyers tend to suppress their emotions. It took me awhile to think about and put down on paper what my novel’s characters actually felt.
5. How is Jaws of the Tiger different from other thrillers in the genre?
I think the main difference is that Jaws of the Tiger starts off as an action thriller, then morphs into a police procedural. In an earlier version, the full story was all action, but I felt the reader was left in the cold as to an important aspect of the plot, ie, finding out who was actually behind the meticulously- planned hijacking. After that, I came to believe writers should follow the story, and not try to fit it into the constraints of a specific genre.
6. Why do you write?
For the intellectual challenge. Also, writing crime novels for me is a form of escapism from some of the brutal realities of our time.
7. Care to you share with us your writing habits?
I’d like to think my writing habits are slowly improving with experience and time. I used to write sporadically but now I try to fix a weekly schedule yet invariably life manages to get in the way. Still, I try to organize my time more or less evenly between writing and extracurricular activities.
8. How do you go from the idea of the book to the finished manuscript? Do you draft outlines?
When undertaking a new project, at first I try to take a synoptic view of what I’ll be writing about: choice of protagonist, type of crime, locations, and primary antagonist. At this moment, I have nothing more than a vague idea of the ending. Initially, I tried making outlines, but they changed so much during the course of writing that finally I gave up. At best, I’ll draft a few lines and bits of dialogue to give direction to the next few chapters.
My first draft is invariably a skeleton, usually in the form of dialogue. My only goal at this time is to get the story down on paper: a bare minimum of setting and description holds the skeleton together. During the next five or six revisions, I’ll have fleshed out my characters, added narration, descriptions of settings, made my dialogues more vivid, punchy and credible. I’ll have cut out extraneous bits, rendered the story more fluid, and connected the scenes. With any luck, my manuscript can then be submitted to the publisher.
9. What are your thoughts on the latest publishing industry developments, mainly the rise of self-publishing?
I am both traditionally published and self- published. I self- pubbed “Dead Bishops Don’t Lie” with CreateSpace, and The Chimera Sanction was published by Robert Hale Books. The French versions of both those thrillers are traditionally published.
Also, I was delighted when BWL Publishing accepted to publish “Jaws of the Tiger”.
Although I enjoyed the process of self-publishing with Amazon's CreateSpace, I rapidly found myself facing the biggest hurdle of all self -publishers, namely a limited scope of distribution to bookstores. Due to the problem of returns, one can only hope to place one’s novel within a small geographical circle from one’s home. To market the book outside that circle quickly becomes economically unjustifiable. Another disadvantage of self pubbing is that one must rely entirely on oneself to edit, market and promote the book. In contrast, a traditional publisher has a country-wide distribution network, offers the support of an editing team and a marketing team.
Although I believe there is room for both traditional and self-publishing, as far as I’m concerned the advantages of the former far outweigh the ones of the latter.
10. What is your greatest disappointment as a writer? What is your greatest satisfaction ?
What I found most disappointing in the publishing world is the rejection process, to be more precise sometimes the lack of basic civility in the form of an acknowledgement on the part of the recipient, following an author’s query. Even a form letter is better than a total lack of response. As to satisfaction, there is no greater gratification for a writer, I think, that to open one's computer and to find an e-mail from a reader saying how much she/ he enjoyed my book. That invariably makes my day.