Wednesday, April 04, 2007

M.D. Benoit on M. D. Benoit

M.D. Benoit on Virtual Tour to University of Lethbridge, via this blog

Robert: So, let me ask you about your heritage. Are you primarily a francophone or an anglophone? How does your francophone heritage influence your work? I hadn’t thought of it until you mentioned it again just now, but now that I think of it, I believe I can detect a francophone literary undercurrent, though it’s hard to put my finger on exactly. Maybe a slightly more literary edge? Or am I imaging that?

Dominique: I am a francophone writing in English. I didn't learn English (enough to be functional) until I was 21, so I read only in French until then. I come from a small town in the Hautes Laurentides where to this day it is still 100% francophone, mainly white, and Catholic. Fortunately, we had a great library, and I've always been a reader, so by the age of 15 I'd read at least one book from most of the Nobel Prize winners from 1930 to 1960. I'd also read the classics –Hugo, Stendhal, Verlaine, Apollinaire, Camus, Balzac, for instance-- by the time I was 21, and of course read our own Quebec writers, Marie-Claire Blais, Yves Beauchemin, Rock Carrier, Francois Xavier-Garneau, Anne Hébert. I was also a fan of Jules Verne, Arthur Conan Doyle (I read most of his work), and Henri Vernes, whose character was a French version of James Bond. So yes, you could say that my early reading has influenced my writing. Francophones also have a different way of addressing issues; it’s a cultural thing, so maybe that also translates into my writing.

The first novel I read in English (with a dictionary beside me) was Lord Foul's Bane, from the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, by Stephen R. Donaldson. It had a huge impact on me.

Robert: Do you read a lot of French/Quebec SF? Any?

Dominique: I'm starting to, now. I haven't before, mainly because of the accessibility of French material. It's changing, though, so I've started reading in French again, but I find written French language often ponderous and static. My problem is that I live in an Anglophone environment, so it’s difficult to get recommendations. It’s the same for music. A year ago, I started listening to Radio Canada’s Espace Musique, and, after 20 years, I find I’m slowly reconnecting with my heritage. It’s very rewarding.

Robert:Then let me ask another obvious interview question — who are the big influences on your writing? ( I’m thinking here particularly of your latest novel, Synergy, rather than the Meter books which I assume owe a lot to Sam Spade detective genre etc.) Who are the SF writers who’ve had the greatest impact on you / your writing?

Dominique: Certainly, Donaldson’s anti-hero, Thomas Covenant, influenced me a lot. The thought of engaging your reader with someone who’s totally unsympathetic fascinates me. For storytelling, Orson Scott Card, Anne Tyler, Guy Gavriel Kay. For setting, China Miéville, Gordon R. Dickson, Roger Zelazny, Arthur C. Clarke. For characterization, Alice Munro, Kurt Vonnegut. Two authors have had a huge impact on my way of thinking through a story, and they’re not SF writers: Isabel Allende, and José Saramago. I’m fortunate that I can read both in the original language they write in.

Robert: Do you read a lot of SF, or do you read a range of genres? If I were to ask you what you read in an average month, what would I find on your bookshelf? Any genre you don’t like/read?

Dominique: I read SF, but I’m also an extremely eclectic reader. The only books I won’t read are erotica and horror. Last month I read Elizabeth Lowell (romantic suspense), Joshua Palmatier (Fantasy), C. C. Benison (Mystery), Tanya Huff (Fantasy). Reading right now Jed Rudenfeld (Historical Mystery) and the Idiot’s Guide to Learning Italian. On my shelf is Nalo Hopkinson (Fantasy), Christopher Moore (Humour/Fantasy), Salman Rushdie (Literary), M. K. Fisher (Non-fiction), and Mark Twain (Satire). I’ve also on reserve at the library Dave Duncan, David Baldacci, Elizabeth Moon, Nicholas Sparks, R. J. Harlick, Sherilynn Kenyon, C. S. Friedman, Dan Simmons, Sandy Ault.

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