dimanche 2 octobre 2011

Sofia Essen interviews Jean-François Vernay

A couple of weeks ago, Sofia Essen approached me to reply to a series of quick questions over the weekend. Here's the result of this wonderful and original initiative:

Who is Jean-François Vernay?

Born in New Caledonia, Jean-François Vernay holds a PhD from the UniversitéToulouse-Le Mirail. As Founding Editor of Correspondances Océaniennes, a Nouméa-based postcolonial journal focussing on Oceanic cultures, Dr. Vernay has been editing articles on postcolonial societies for five years, while regularly publishing articles in refereed journals and collections.

He is the author of two acclaimed monographs on Australian fiction: Water From the Moon: Illusion and Reality in the Works of Australian Novelist Christopher Koch (New York: Cambria Press, 2007) and The Great Australian Novel – A Panorama (Melbourne: Brolga, 2010) which first appeared in French under the title of Panorama du roman australien des origines à nos jours (Paris : Hermann, 2009). In 2009, Vernay received an Excellence Award from the THESE PAC jury in the South Pacific-Australasia category for his work on Koch.

Thanks to modern social media, I connected with Mr. Vernay several weeks ago. When I told him about my insatiable curiosity about people and what makes them tick, which led to me posting interviews on my blog, he said he would be happy to let me ask him some questions. A few days later, I found his answers in my inbox.

What or who inspires you?

Passion. No wonder Georg Hegel said that nothing great in the World has been accomplished without passion. Passion is a strong incentive for action.

When did you first know you wanted to write more than postcards and letters?

The writing itch came when I felt I had something to pass on. At first it was my knowledge and understanding of the works of Christopher Koch which I thought could benefit students and teachers alike. Then the itch became more something of an urge to condense all the years I have spent reading Australian novels into one book: a kind of potted literary history, if you like. I had to write this one in French to show that I could also express myself in that language. Fortunately, as soon as it came out it was translated by Dr. Marie Ramsland and got published in Australia under the intriguing title of The Great Australian Novel – A Panorama (Melbourne: Brolga, 2010). And while this translation was being done, I thought I might try my hand at fiction, so I wrote a postcolonial fable on the themes of exclusion and isolation. The manuscript has recently been accepted for publication, so this new book will probably come out in 2012.

Who, living or dead, fictional or real, would you like to meet and pick their brains for ideas?

I have ideas of my own, so I am not inclined to pick anyone’s brains but I enjoy tremendously meeting beautiful and inquisitive minds, visionaries, people with dreams and ideals, who try to shape the world into something better. You probably expect big names like Martin Luther King, Henry Dunant, Louis Pasteur, Gandhi, if not writers such as Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Jean-Paul Sartre, Salman Rushdie, Patrick White, and the likes… But I have met individuals whom I find exceptional and some of them are my friends, some being more famous than others: painter Charles Billich, scholar Nicholas Birns, writer Antoni Jach, architect Jean-Pierre Kerdoncuff, to name a few. And it is always sheer pleasure to exchange with them. I love the confrontation of ideas, the swapping of knowledge, the mind-expanding conversations and the food for thought lingering in your mind until it shapes up into a dazzling and innovative project.

The rest of the interview is to be found here:

It was a pleasure to participate in
Sofia Essen's project. I thought it might be courteous to reciprocate this initiative by asking Sofia to answer her own questions for my blog. And she readily accepted, so here are her questions and answers:

Who is Sofia Essen?
Sofia Essen’s passport claims that she’s Swedish but she left Sweden when she was nine years old and never went back. Thanks to having spent close to twenty years as an expatriate, Sofia speaks English, Swedish with a funny accent, passable Thai, and she can order a cup of sweet Nescafe without milk in Greek.

Sofia and her Yorkshire Terrier, Taxi Driver, are currently residents of Chania’s charmingly crumbling Old Town on the island of Crete in Greece. Her first novel “Change of Pace” will be released in late 2011.

What or who inspires you?

Conversations with my family inspire me and sow the seeds of new ideas in my head.

When did you first know you wanted to write more than postcards and letters?

After years of reading everything I could get my hands on, it was my mother who encouraged me to pick up a pen. And it was my mother who put the pen back in my hand every time I threw it across the room in frustration and cried, “I don’t know what I’m doing with this!”

Who, living or dead, fictional or real, would you like to meet and pick their brains for ideas?

I would love to meet my great grandmother again now that I’m a grown up. She was a woman of great ideals and strong opinions. It would be very interesting to sit down with her and discuss her views on today’s society.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

Stop reading “how-to” books and start writing. After that, keep writing. When the time comes for you to submit your work to agents or publishers, be patient, develop thick skin because not all rejection letters are standard form notices or polite, and, most importantly, persevere. Don’t give up!

What are you working on now?

I’m working on the first draft of my second novel. I’m calling it “Another Year” for now. It’s about a woman who realizes that her life isn’t her own and it’s time for her to figure out what she wants.

Link to Sofia Essen:

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