I met Gisele online as a result of our shared love for writing and reading. I was immediately captivated by her debut novel – True Identity – and wanted to add it to my list. I’m now well into her terrific story and captivated. She has graciously agreed to a 4Q Interview and sharing an excerpt from her novel.
Gisèle Bourgeois was born in 1952 in Moncton, New Brunswick where she lived until she was seventeen years of age. She studied languages and social sciences at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton and went on to achieve a Master's Degree in Spanish Literature from New York University. She has lived in Montreal, New York and London but has spent most of her adult life in Madrid Spain where she married and had a daughter. She has worked mostly as a teacher and a translator. Although she loves Spain, her adopted country, she still feels very attached to Canada and has recently built a small house in Shediac Bridge New Brunswick where she spent all the summers of her childhood.
4Q: As I mentioned above, I’m enjoying your story Gisele. Tell our readers a bit about the book and how it came about.
GB: It took a long time for True Identity to become a reality. I always told myself I would write a book someday. Friends encouraged me, always complimenting my story telling. The day came, (I recall it was a significant birthday), when I thought I ought to get started.... And if I was going to write only one book in my lifetime, I wanted to write about things I care about. Partly to share them with others and partly to make them clear to myself. I love my family, my language, the place I grew up, my history in fact. I am probably intense about these things because I have lived far away from them most of my life. I will admit too, that being an avid reader, and a literature major, I felt like writing an entertaining novel; something interesting, fun to read and not boring! So, I invented what I hope is an attractive, curious and moving story to illustrate the power of these things; the power of a childhood song, the power of the sound of a language, the power of our cultural identity through three brave and interesting young people whose lives take them far away from their homes and their families. I hope my readers will feel the sand between their toes on a beach on the rugged New Brunswick coast as well as the exuberance of a festive family meal in Northern Spain. From different backgrounds and circumstances, Adrienne, Michel and Xavier's lives will intertwine around a mysterious and unfortunate death.
4Q: Your website tells us about your extensive travelling and working experience which cleverly shows up in your writing. How did a young Acadian lady end up in Spain?
GB: It's simple really. At 19, unsure of what I really wanted to do but hoping and planning for something "international", I studied languages and social sciences at UNB. I signed up for the Junior Year Abroad program and studied for two semesters at the University of Madrid. That was the start of my love affair with Spain. I eventually met my future husband who had an international career in banking which took us to New York, London, Madrid, and many places in Latin America. I am friendly, adaptable, curious, and love big cities so I was fine and happy. An important part of True Identity takes place in Amsterdam as well where my daughter studied for a year. I visited her often at about the time I was "baking" True Identity and my story emerged as I wandered around that great city. I must add that we lived in New York City from 1984 to 1989 where I witnessed the electricity and excitement of Eighties Wall Street so probably that is why you can tell I am familiar with the lifestyles and attitudes of that society in those days. This was also the height of the AIDS epidemic, and alongside the spiral of wealth and growth, the utter despair of its gay citizens. My sweet character Ander is caught up in that nightmare. I will never forget that shadow over the city.
4Q: Please share a childhood memory or anecdote.
GB: This is a true story that might have triggered True Identity when I was only six or seven years old. My father was a doctor in Moncton and had a contract at the penitentiary in Dorchester. I recall him going there about once a week. He liked it. He was a nice man; fully bilingual, gregarious, told good jokes and got along well with the inmates. Every once in a while, the doorbell would ring: an ex-convict hoping to see my father for a medical problem or just asking for a couple of dollars. It was quite rare really. However, at one point, one of these men came several days in a row. He came through the back yard and knocked at the kitchen door. He smelled of alcohol and poor hygiene. My frightened mother would make him a sandwich and shoo my little brother and me out of the kitchen. She asked my father to do something about it. He came home early the following day, made the sandwich himself and talked with the guy for a while on the back porch, then put his hat on and left with him in the car. He was gone for three or four hours. My mother was very nervous. We finally heard the rumble of the car in the driveway and the door slamming. We rushed to the door to greet him and my father explained. "He won't be back. All he ever wanted in his life was to live in the United States. So, we picked up his stuff at the boarding house, got him a haircut, I bought him a bus ticket for Boston and gave him fifty bucks. " ........ And so, in True Identity, my Michel (with a doctor's help) boards a bus to Boston deep in the night.
4Q: Where’s your favorite spot to write? What are your writing habits, Gisele?
GB: I'm afraid I don't give my writing the space it deserves. I wrote True Identity at night, when the day was over, at my desk in the spare bedroom of my apartment. Then early in the morning, before getting on my way, I would reread and correct. I like to read what I have written out loud. I am also very critical with myself and rewrite and edit A LOT. I became quite ruthless with my novel, and actually threw out my first draft after one year and started again. I am planning a second novel right now. I am researching and attempting to be more organized but to no avail. Maybe that is just my way. I admire those people who take their writing as a job. Most, if not all good writers, encourage a good writing discipline.
4Q: You mentioned on your website that you wish you had started writing sooner (We’re glad you started when you did). What advice do you offer someone wishing to write their first story?
GB: Just do it. I am so happy that I did. I persevered. It took me almost 5 years from the day I sat at my computer and started to write to the day I considered it finished which was the day I held the published book in my hands. That feeling was so great. It's such a personal achievement. Concrete advice: I wasn't too keen on doing a creative writing course because of the time it took but if you don't have a literary background it's a very good idea. I miss not having a more technical background. I did roam around Google, looking for advice from famous authors and I found Kurt Vonnegut's tips for writers, helpful, concrete, useful and wise. I printed them up and pinned them on my wall where I could see them. But in the end, you sit at your computer, open Word, click on New File and write in "MY BOOK". See what happens.
4Q: What’s next for Gisele Bourgeois, the author?
GB: True Identity is coming out in Spanish this fall and I will be launching it here in Madrid hopefully in November or December. Through Amazon etc. it will be available in Spain and all over Latin America which is very exciting. I'll continue to market True Identity for a while because I feel it still has a way to go. Technology and social media can be challenging when you haven't grown up with them and being self-published only you are responsible for all the marketing and distribution. You have no presence in bookselling venues (Thank you Chapter's Moncton for keeping me on consignment). It's very difficult to get visibility.
So, thanks Allan and the South Branch Scribbler for giving me the opportunity to put my book out there. Your support of local authors is commendable and greatly appreciated.
***You're very welcome Gisele. It's wonderful and interesting guests like yourself, that makes all this so much Fun.
An Excerpt from True Identity.
(Copyright is held by the author. Used with permission)
The Boston police had no photograph of the suspect wanted for questioning in a small-town murder case up in Canada. Male, eighteen years of age, five feet eight inches tall, light brown hair and eyes. Who were they kidding? There were twenty thousand of them in town for the concert and every drug dealer in the northeastern United States as well. They had no time for this. No one was assigned the case.
Michel found his way to the concert at Fenway Park. Stoned, in the darkness, the music reverberating in his chest, he was okay.
Somehow he made his way back to the boarding house and fell asleep for eighteen hours. He woke suddenly with a pounding heart and drenched in perspiration. He didn't remember who, what or where he was. He was drowning in an undertow grasping for clues to his existence. He struggled to come to the surface and finally his name emerged from the fog.
Michel. Michel Bourgeois. The bus. Boston. Yvette.
When he came to himself, he was on his hands and knees on the bed. Stark naked. The facts of his life crept back. He put his hand on his heart and laid back on the small, narrow bed. The exhaustion and stress had come to a head. He calmed down slowly and remembered that he had a choice. He could end this now, take the bus home, and surrender to the police.
"You can come back at any time. Remember that." Those were the Doctor's last words to him.
Philippe Blanchard had told him that no matter what, he always had a choice. It was small consolation but at least it was a measure of freedom. He still had his return ticket. This was day five since he had gone to hide in the Blanchards' garage.
He looked around. It was a small ugly room but the soft afternoon light came through the window and made it bright. He heard the comforting noise of city traffic in the distance. His things were in order just as he had left them. He was surviving. Strangely enough, the terrible nightmare had cleared his mind.
He took a moment to take inventory of what René had stuffed into the bag. No underwear or socks. He made sure his money and papers were safe and opened the door of his room to get a better look at the house. Brian was coming to life.
He checked out the communal bathroom and showers and realized he would have to buy a towel and some toilet paper. He put his head under the tap in the sink, and with a sliver of soap someone had left there, washed his hair and rubbed it dry on the dingy towel roll. The cold water on his head felt good. His new life would start by acquiring articles of basic hygiene. This gave him an objective. He was going forward.
***Afternote: I’ve finished reading Gisele’s novel. Magnificent! 5 Stars
Thanks so much for being our guest this week Gisele. Thank you for your story. All the best in your writing journey.
For you dear readers wanting to discover more about Gisele and her work, please follow these links;
facebook: Gisele Bourgeois/True Identity