Collette Yvonne, the author of The Perils of Pauline, was kind enough to agree to an interview. I’m glad that I was able to get to know her a little better. I hope that you enjoy it too. Don’t forget to go to the bottom of the post. There is an excerpt from her book. This will allow you to get a feel for her writing. Thanks again, Collette.
What is your typical writing day like?
Usually I try to carve out a full day for writing. If I have something pressing to do—work, a kid’s dentist appointment, a weedy garden, a sick friend who needs soup— I find it tough to concentrate knowing I will have to break my focus too soon. I find it painful, disorienting and tiring to transition in and out of my creative flow, so I am reluctant to work for short spurts of time. I try to clear my schedule first.
On a writing day, the coffee is poured first thing. Since I tend to be easily distracted I prefer to have the house all to myself. I am lucky enough to have a dedicated writing space of my own so that is where I go to write: in front of my desktop, steaming coffee mug at my elbow. I usually begin with answering email to focus my brain a little before I open my work in progress in Scrivener.
When I’m on a roll, I will work for hours without a break. At some point my dog usually demands a walk. Sometimes I stop to do some yoga stretches or grab a quick bite. I quit for the day when my family rolls in from school and work. My process is unremarkable: no charming boulevard cafés for me. Just butt in chair. All day.
Authors project parts of themselves into their main characters. Does your heroine have any of your qualities?
Yes and no. I always tell my friends and family not to think of The Perils of Pauline as an autobiography but usually people confess that they see me as the main character when they read the book. This is actually a little horrifying as Pauline is a bit wild and out of control. She is impulsive and bold and fearless, which can be a good thing unless you tend to act first and think later, which is what my character tends to do. As the author, I can safely explore impulsive choices and bad behavior when I write Pauline’s story. I can let her take all the risks and face the consequences while I remain safe in my writing chair, laughing at her—or crying with her—when everything falls to pieces and begins to circle the drain.
If you had three words to describe your main character, what would they be?
Impulsive. Irrepressible. Bravehearted.
Would you call your protagonist a truth-seeker or a thrill-seeker?
Contrary to popular impressions, Pauline is a truth-seeker. She is trying to figure things out. She likes a thrill as well as the next girl, but she is in it to win answers.
What themes did you visit in your book?
Relationships. Parenting. Family. Marriage. Adultery. Adult ADHD. Conflict. Love and romance. Separation. Career. Civilian life after active service. Single parenting. Post traumatic stress disorder. Forgiveness. Humor.
How do you find/make time to write?
I have to be disciplined about it. Since I work part time as a yoga instructor and have many outside interests such as volunteering, gardening, photography, reading, visual arts, and gadding about, I need to find ways to keep writing squarely on the agenda. Membership in a writing group helps as the members will chew me up and spit me out if I don’t produce new writing regularly.
How did you come up with the title?
The original The Perils of Pauline was a 1914 American melodrama film serial. The main character, Pauline, is the original damsel in distress who often finds herself hanging from a cliff or tied to a set of train tracks. The 1914 Pauline was smart and resourceful, rather than helpless and needing to be rescued by a man (but there’s a dashing lover on scene willing to lend a hand). I loved the idea of recreating the plucky Pauline and placing her in a modern context. Like many woman today, who find themselves juggling work, marriage and children, the modern Pauline still feels as if she’s hanging by a thread. She faces her challenges with intelligence, courage and sheer force of will plus a large dash of eccentricity. She has to figure out how to save herself. She needs to be smart and fearless. And then of course there’s a dashing lover.
What’s the hardest part about writing? The easiest?
The hardest part is to ignore that mean little voice that says, “You have nothing to offer. You suck.” The easiest part is the comfy chair.
How do you keep your written world from encroaching on your life?
Why would I want to do that?
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I hope that readers will pick up on the theme of forgiveness. In this age of high divorce rates, it is considered to be normal and acceptable to cut loose from a marriage when everything goes off the rails. Of course, in some cases, filing for a divorce is absolutely necessary but, in other cases, a marriage may be saved with hard work and a very large reset button. Very few novels explore the situation of a couple who make huge mistakes and manage to patch things up, although in real life this happens, probably more often than we realize, given how tough staying in a relationship can be.
For ex-army vet Pauline Parril, life marches along in an orderly formation now that she is happily married, raising three kids, and ascending a promising career ladder. But the handles of her safe and comfortable world soon turn upside-down when a termination letter lands on her lap and her husband, it turns out, isn’t the person she thought she knew. Things get even more complicated when Pauline returns to school and meets Michael Fortune—a handsome and exciting poetry professor who threatens to get out of hand. Pauline once endured a long deployment to a war-torn country, but can she survive the front lines of her fraying household?
About the Author
Collette Yvonne was born in Portage La Prairie, Manitoba, Canada where her father served as a fighter pilot in the Royal Canadian Air Force. She has many fond memories of growing up as a military brat. Now married with three children, she lives in Ontario where she is a part-time yoga instructor, as well as writing. She also enjoys volunteering in the community. She graduated from Toronto’s York University, majoring in Creative Writing with a minor in the Humanities. In her first year, she toyed with the idea of becoming an anthropologist and also considered being a computer scientist! However, following the opportunity to study under well-known Canadian authors such as Don Coles, Susan Swan, Elisabeth Harvor and Bruce Powe, she decided to stick with writing. Collette’s first novel, ‘The Queen of Cups’, was published in August 2006 and was a finalist within its genre in ForeWord Magazine’s Book of the Year. Other publication credits include many articles, stories, reviews and interviews in various Ontario local newspapers, and national Canadian publications including ‘The Toronto Star’, ‘The National Post’, ‘The Globe and Mail’ and ‘Canadian Woman Studies’. Her subjects tend to be personal journalism with pieces on a wide range of topics and she also likes to write in her blog, along with writing guest posts for other bloggers. She is a member of the Writer’s Community of Durham Region (WCDR), and has developed skills as a photographer, speaker, website designer, editor, and writing workshop facilitator. Editorial contributions have been made to several published works, along with short non-fiction pieces. Indeed, she is equally at home writing both fiction and non-fiction. One of her short stories was made into a short film ‘Snapshots for Henry’, which was screened in numerous film festivals around the world. The film received a nomination for a Genie Award in 2007.
Here is an excerpt from The Perils of Pauline
I step out my front door to find my next-door neighbor standing at the edge of his lawn, staring across at our yard, his lips compressed into a frown.
“Is everything okay, Lewis?”
“Your water sprinkler is too close to my property line.”
“How so? It’s on my lawn.”
“When you water your lawn, my driveway is getting sprinkled.”
I know better than to argue with Lewis. “Okay, no problem, I’ll position the sprinkler further away.”
I better not mention the sprinkler issue to Donald or he might freak out. Over the years, Lewis has complained about the height of our grass (too long), the color of our grass (yellow) and the condition of our grass (weedy). He also demands that we cut down our shady maple and repaint our porch.
The mature maples lining our street are the best feature of this old sprawling suburb with big front porches and quiet cul-de-sacs. Lewis chopped down all his trees last year, citing the aggravation of leaves choking his gutters.
Our grass is admittedly scruffy but that’s because last month Donald spot-sprayed it with a home-brew of salt and vinegar to kill the crabgrass and clover, and ended up pickling the grass instead. He dug out the worst scorched areas and laid pieces of new sod, so now the lawn has bright green patches interspersed with the weedy yellow parts and the dead brown bits. Now all the neighborhood kids like to come over to play The Floor is Lava on our front lawn. The green bits are safe. Step outside them, you die.
I hurry down the sidewalk to Bibienne’s where boring lawns go to die and reincarnate as boisterous perennial gardens full of day lilies, climbing honeysuckle and chrysanthemums. Hummingbirds chase butterflies through pink and purple peonies as I go around the side to her garden doors only to find an abandoned wheelbarrow. Odd. Usually Bibienne is outside pruning her roses on a day like this.
One of the doors is ajar so I rap on the frame and step inside. I love Bibienne’s roomy kitchen: an inspired mix of antique cabinets fitted with granite countertops. A cook’s dream but nothing’s cooking here. Beyond the kitchen, in the family room, I spy Bibienne reclined on the couch watching TV, legs stretched out and crossed at the ankles on the oversized ottoman in front of her. Without taking her eyes from the screen, she frowns at me while laying her palm on top of her head, as if to hold down her thick auburn hair, which is gathered away from her face in a hasty French twist. She raises a warning finger to her lips. Camilo Villegas and Adam Scott are playing so I know enough to remain silent until the next commercial break, when she turns her cool green eyes on me. I’ve interrupted men’s tennis so this better be good.
“I’ve been fired. My assistant, Daria, stole my job.”
“Oh. Okay.” She gets up from the couch and pats my shoulder. “I’ll make you a drink.”
I nod and follow her to the kitchen. I’m safe. I can stick around and watch tennis with her as long as I don’t make too much noise.
“I have ChocoLee chocolates too.” She drops ice cubes into tall glasses and fills them with red wine and lime soda. What luck. Bibienne always drinks Spanish wine cocktails and breaks out the chocolate when Villegas is winning.
Bibienne watches the end of the match with her lips parted and her hand across her heart. After the final point, she turns off the TV, fans her cheeks and sighs. “Él está bueno. Oh well, come see my new laptop. You can try it out while I top us off.”
The connection is lightning fast. I wish I had ripped-speed access to the Internet. Bibienne sets my glass at my elbow and peers over my shoulder. “Career Search Australia?”
“Yeah. Look. They need a snake wrangler in Canberra. Wait a minute, there’s an opening at the Bikini Car Wash.”
I click around. There are a zillion postings for jobs all around the world, from San Francisco to Shanghai. Even Kalamazoo has a raft of listings. Here, in the greater suburbs of the Boston Commonwealth, not so much. Unless I want to commute all the way into the city, like Donald does when he isn’t at the branch office here in town. Since Doubles got so busy, he has to go into the city more often than not these days.
Forget job searching for now. Bibi has a collection of fun apps on her desktop. I click on a Tarot icon. “Is this site any good?”
“Yes, it’s one of the best,” she says. “If you want a quick reading, try the Celtic Cross spread.”
Bibienne knows a lot about tarot. She’s so sharp and perceptive, her massage therapy clients are always asking her to read their cards for them.
I type in my question: What does the future hold for me?
The results show the Queen of Cups, seated in the auspicious Position One, which represents the “Questioner in Her Present Situation.”
“The Queen of Cups is the good woman card,” says Bibienne. “She’s loving and kind. A bit of a dreamer, distracted. But see? She sits on a throne, which means she wields power and makes the rules. The suit of cups represents emotions. Overflowing emotions, hidden emotions, secrets maybe. Who knows what’s in her cup?”
“Bra cups, cups of laundry detergent, cups of wine.”
Bibienne points to my glass. “Your cup of wine is empty.”
Position Two shows the Three of Swords: a lowly card suggestive of trickery and betrayal. “That would be Daria and WiFi-Robes,” I say as Bibienne refills my glass and sits beside me.
“Could be.” She examines the spread. “The Three of Swords usually represents sudden heartbreak or betrayal. But look over here. Your Three is countered by the Two of Swords, which is about the difficulty of making decisions. That’s a double whammy. See the blindfold on the woman in the picture? She can’t see her way. She may not want to see, in fact, she may be in denial.”
It all makes sense. I’ve been betrayed, lost my job, and now I have to make choices about what to do next, right? More curious though is the appearance of the powerful and authoritative Emperor standing in opposition to my Queen. Donald perhaps? But, if the Emperor is my husband, who is the Knight of Cups occupying the near future position? The Knight of Cups is a man of high romance, poetry and passion. Here, Donald doesn’t spring to mind. How intriguing: the card drawn for the position representing Final Outcomes turns out to be The Lovers. As I wander back home I can’t help but note that two cups makes a couple.