Interview with HJ Gaudreau

What do you read for pleasure?
Right now I'm reading a David Baldacci book, "The First Family". Normally I really like Baldacci's books. But this is a perfect example of how an author's reputation, not quality, drives book publishers. For example, in Chapter Six a character is flying a Cessna. As the character is developed we learn he flew F-4s in Viet Nam, then we learn he didn't graduate from college. This is impossible. In the U.S. Air Force one needs to be an officer before going to flight school. To be an officer a college degree is required. A book editor should have picked that up. I couldn't get away with that kind of basic mistake. Another basic mistake follows a few pages later. He ruins the description of a Cessna. I flew a Cessna as a tow plane at a glider club for a year. And, I've rented and flown several Cessnas. The break levers on top of the rudder petals are called toe breaks, not heel breaks. I've never, not once ever seen heel breaks on a Cessna. And, the nose wheel on a Cessna, my Grumman Tiger, and just about any other private plane less than a jet, does not have a break. But the Cessna does in this book. Again, I couldn't get away with that. Now I'm suspect of every thing in the book.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I use a first generation iPad. Its great. I've downloaded every Tarzan book and read them all. My wife, Eve, thought I was nuts but I really got into them. I guess because it took me back to when I was about 13 or 14. I spent a weekend at my Aunt Margret's house. She gave me a Tarzan book to read and I loved it, Lord Greystoke was captured by some half ape, half man guys and there was treasure and jungle and fighting. What more could you ask for in an adventure book when you're that age?
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up on a small, fallow farm in mid-Michigan. My father died when I was something like 14 months old so I was sort of an only child, but only sort of. He was older than my mother by a lot and I had two half-sisters that lived in the city, about twenty miles away. I still got to see my niece and nephews every week or so. My grandmother lived at the end of one of our fields and my Aunt and Uncle across the road of another. I had a ton of cousins around and they were all great. We had huge family get-togethers for holidays, birthdays and just because. But, my mother wanted me to go to college so I eventually ended up at the University of Michigan, then I pressed on to a successful Air Force career. The whole thing, the farm, Michigan, U of M, the Air Force - that's my main character's back story and why he and Eve live on a farm in mid-Michigan now.
When did you first start writing?
I was lucky. My high school had some great English teachers. They insisted we all write a lot, so did the history, government and other teachers. In the Air Force you have to write well. And I do occasional consulting work and write proposals for aerospace companies. So, basically I've written all my life, just different forms. The fiction part, the actual stories come from being a story teller most of my life. I've always tried to tell the biggest, grandest story with the funniest punchline just to make someone laugh.
What's the story behind your latest book?
The last book "The Collingwood Legacy" was inspired by a visit to a bakery in Clare Michigan called "Cops and Donuts". On the wall they have pictures of the Purple Gang. The Purples used to use the old hotel in downtown Clare as a meeting place and there's a house used by one of the leaders of the gang just outside of town. Eve and I were home in MI and stopped by and I just started day dreaming the opening scene. The book I'm working on now is actually a true story about how we were able to adopt our son. He was a Christmas baby and we were very lucky.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
This may sound a bit silly but the whole goal was just to have a published book to give to my mother. I knew it would make her happy, she's a bibliophile - has been all her life. She just loves to read and now that she's older she can't get out and about as much so it's a main source of entertainment. I tried to get a agent and go the traditional route but no one would even answer my letters. I did have one that seemed interested but dropped out after a while. Then I began to read more and do a bit more research. I finally came to the conclusion that while the agents talk a good game, they really don't want to take a chance on a complete unknown. The risk/reward ratio is against them. Lets face it, most authors don't sell. Look at JK Rowling, when she anonymously published A CASUAL VACANCY only 1500 copies sold. When she (or the publisher) let it slip that it was her book the sales rocketed. Did the book suddenly get better? No, but the name was already known.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
I recently joined GOODREADS. Their set up generates a fair list of interesting stuff. In the last year I've tried to spend more time on indie authors. Since I've published two books myself I know the process and I've become very forgiving of a misspelling or a sentence with a little grammar error. I know how easy it is to read over that in the proofing phase.
What is your writing process?
I tend to get an idea and then spend a lot of time thinking about the opening scene. Usually while I'm driving. Normally when we go for a long drive Eve falls asleep, that's my time to draw the picture in my head of the very first scene. After that the characters pretty much tell me whats going to happen. That sounds weird but its true, after the first fifty pages I know them and what they would or wouldn't do. And, with Jim, Eve, Sherrie and Gerry it's second nature by this time..
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote professionally, and the impact it had on you?
Yes, I wrote a story about taking your baby flying. It was published in an aviation rag based at Hanscom field in Bedford MA called the Atlantic Seacoast Flyer. I got paid twenty bucks or so. I cut the story out, made a copy of the check and have it in a picture album. (Which is now in a storage shed in Michigan, I think???) The twenty was nice but it was really fun to see something I wrote published.
How do you approach cover design?
Normally I get the idea as I'm writing and it kind of floats around in my head. I then present that to the designer. I've found a very talented designer in Ireland that did the Collingwood cover. She has an amazing portfolio and some serious talent. We bounced alot of ideas off each other. She's great, and funny. It would be nice to meet her face-to-face someday, we worked together only via internet.. She's from Minnesota but lives with her husband over there. I'll use her in the future without question. Her website is in the front matter of Collingwood. Check Lacy out, you can't go wrong.
Published 2013-09-27.
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