Denis’ debut novel – Blindshot - published by Linda Leith Publishing, is receiving a lot of attention, as well it should. A thriller that promises suspense, twists and an enthralling read. Accolades pour in from other authors and reviewers. It’s the next novel on my list and I’m anxious to discover what Denis Coupal has to say. He has graciously accepted an invitation to the Scribbler. A 4Q and an excerpt from his thriller.
Denis Coupal is a Montreal writer and business strategist. By day, he works as Director of Business Development for BDO Canada, a global accounting and business advisory firm. By night, and on weekends, he writes fiction. His feature-length screenplays were funded by the Foundation to Underwrite New Drama for Pay Television, Roger’s Pay Television and SODEC. His short story, Brand Loyalty, won Honourable Mention in the 2011 Quebec Writing Competition and was published in the anthology Minority Reports, New English Writing from Quebec. Denis is also Chairman of the Board of Dawson College Foundation, is an active in the Mergers and Acquisitions Club of Canada and of the Montreal Board of Trade’s major partners program.
Blindshot is his first thriller.
4Q: After visiting your website (deniscoupal.ca) and reading a recent interview from The Miramichi Reader, your novel is a must read. Please tell the Scribbler’s readers what to expect.
DC: I love hearing that Blindshot is a ‘must read’. So cool! Great thanks Allan and South Branch Scribbler for this invitation. It’s an honour and I look forward to your thoughts on Blindshot. I hope it lives up to all the hype. Writing the book, then publishing it, and now selling it and talking about it, has been such great fun. The reaction of readers, and other authors as well, has been even better than I expected. In fact, I’m not sure I had expectations. I just tried to do the very best work I could, with the support, of course, of the team at Linda Leith Publishing. Needless to say, publishing is a hard, rather quirky, business. It isn’t an easy ride for anyone involved in the process. What makes it work, though, or perhaps the oil in the machine, is the passion that everyone puts into it. People love books and stories and that’s what makes it all work. I hope all the passion poured into Blindshot, my first novel, comes through to readers as they turn the pages. And I hear the pages are turning fast!
Blindshot originated as a movie idea, many years ago. The story had about thirty-two working titles before becoming Blindshot. That’s just part of the process. But at first it was a movie idea about a stray bullet, or perhaps a purposefully shot bullet, that kills a financier and family man. When the police don’t, or won’t, solve what could be a murder, his two teenage sons take on community, demanding a proper investigation, and then demanding the truth from those they feel are responsible. The two boys take matters into their own hands, putting in motion a plan that leads to events they could not have predicted. Their mother is one of the main characters and she faces a difficult decision when she finds herself caught between the law, the community, and her well-meaning, vigilante sons. She has to choose. Not easy.
Important to me was the idea that Blindshot be both entertaining and have literary muscle. I aimed to write a book that I would want to read. That meant creating a merge of genres. Dangerous to do in a first book. One of my inspirations for the concept of Blindshot was Lord of the Flies (Did I really dare to put both of those titles in the same sentence?). I love that book, as many do, and I hoped to create a fable, of sorts, that had social relevance. Slaughterhouse Five, was an important book to me as well. Vonnegut’s “The Children’s Crusade” helped propel Blindshot, whether anyone would know it by the final work or not. That’s how inspiration works, in my view. It’s like choosing to sit by a creek, in a far-off forest, as you work, with water flowing, making that delicate, trickling sound in your ears that is constant and soothing. The world, the life, around you drops ideas in your head. Ideas like that propel your work. But no one needs to know exactly where this creek in the forest might be that pushed forward your creativity. That’s your secret.
**Read the Miramichi Review here
4Q: An interesting note on your background is the writing of screenplays which I find fascinating. How does the writing of a screenplay and a novel differ, if they do?
DC: They are disciplines that to me are indivisible from one another. I matured as a writer by opening my creative spirit to film many years ago and the rigorous methodology behind good, tightly edited, screenwriting. So books and music were always equally important. In interest of full disclosure, music was just as important. Music is the binding element in my ideas, as if there’s always a humming in the back of my head, whether writing for film or prose. Ennio Morricone was as much an inspiration as the great Sergio Leone himself. I’ve read a great deal of books and watched a great deal of movies. No surprise that Blindshot is very visual. It’s how I write, I am discovering. Since I’ve written only one book, I won’t pretend to claim a developed voice or way of writing. I’m learning and hopefully learning enough to keep moving forward. I’m like an actor with one play under his belt. That doesn’t make me a veteran of the stage, and certainly not a star. Hopefully, I’ve told a story that brings readers on a meaningful, entertaining journey. The books are selling fast, and reader comments are amazing, so maybe I’ve achieved at least that.
I wrote my first screenplay at sixteen. It was the story of a group of high school friends that borrowed a car and went on an expedition to a small airport in the country in order to parachute for the first time. It was a light, juvenile comedy. However lacking in structure, it was my first script. I learned from writing it, and my friends enjoyed reading it and figuring out which characters they had inspired. Inside me though, I was bitten by the writing bug as much as by the movie bug. The bite though, was like that of a shark, with three rows of teeth. It never let go.
Over the years, I’ve written over a dozen feature-length screenplays. One or two of them good. There were a few occasions when serious deals were on the table. It got very exciting once or twice. But wow, what a fickle industry and things did not materialize as I would have liked… or you would have heard about it already. With the publishing of Blindshot, the fire is lit again. The concept would lend itself wonderfully to the movies. Personally, the creativity is pouring out and projects are in the works.
For example, in collaboration with my wife Josée-Lisa LeFrançois, I’ve written a French language feel-good movie that we are shopping around. I’m actively writing a new screenplay, in English. It’s an urban thriller about a special crimes unit facing off with an extraordinarily smart serial killer. It’s great fun to write. See you at the movies.
Technically, books and screenplays are very different. The script is not geared to a wide audience, but specifically aimed at an audience of producers, directors, cinematographers, and the creative crew that it takes to make a film. Writing a screenplay does not really require the application of a love of language. Books, of course, need that. Scripts are technical documents, within which all sorts of language might be contained and supported, but not all elements within a screenplay (like technical direction) is part of its lyrical expression. Where books and screenplays come together, is that they both require an expression of a story and, fundamentally, a vision or a dream. Without vision, the story is just a list of occurrences no more special than a grocery list. Vision raises a work of fiction, film or prose, up past the clouds and into the wide, blue yonder where great stories float and are remembered by the people and their communities down here on the ground. Writers are alchemists. Freaky.
4Q: Please share a childhood anecdote or memory.
|Photo credit: Jamie Beck|
DC: Well, this will be the first time I share this. When I was in first year of high school, a young boy in my grade began missing classes. He was liked by everyone. He had a gentle demeanor and laughed easily. It became very apparent that he was very sick and battling something serious. He then stopped coming to school entirely. Being a friend, his family invited me to visit him at his house. Perhaps I could distract him and raise his spirits, they proposed? When I got there, he was so sick he could barely hold up his head to talk to anyone. He didn’t even look like himself. There wasn’t a hair left on his head. I tried talking with him, but it was too difficult for him. He was moved to his room where he could lie down to sleep. He passed away a few weeks later. He was missed by all at school. The following semester, I wrote a short story about him and how bravely he fought, right to the end, against leukemia. When came time to name characters in my first novel, I named the father in the family, the victim of a tragic incident, after my late friend. His name was Paul, just like the name of the main character in one of my favourite books, Dune, that I was reading at the time.
4Q: Every creative person has that niche they escape to when they want to write or paint. What’s your favorite spot and writing habits?
DC: I have none. I write anywhere, anytime. I don’t have the luxury of routine in my life, so I’m ready to right anytime the opportunity comes. I always carry notebooks for ideas. I love writing by hand as much as with computers. On weekends I pop open a laptop and begin writing. Where? Anywhere. I love cafés and restaurants, filled with people and buzzing with talk and music. I’m lucky that I can concentrate and get in my ‘niche’ or zone absolutely anyplace. My usual ‘niche’ at home, usually early morning, is somewhere not too far from my wife, Josée-Lisa, each of us with a coffee in hand. I wrote Blindshot with my youngest son Luca sitting right next to me, almost for every sentence, himself writing or drawing his own projects. No surprise he inspired the character of Noah in Blindshot.
4Q: What’s next for Denis Coupal, the author?
DC: My next novel will be a thriller set mainly in Montreal, more urban than Blindshot, but which will also have strong international elements. It’s a bigger, more ambitious story than I’ve done before. I dare to say that it’s a blend of James Michener, John Le Carré, John Irving and Michael Crichton. I had a really great time reading Dan Brown’s Origin last month, so that might have an impact. I also admire Blake Crouch, who’s really someone to watch as he tackles cutting edge technological ideas. Crazy mix, but that’s how I think. Again, it will be a book that just has to become a great, big movie that everyone has to see. As you can tell, I’m having a lot of fun with this.
4Q: Anything else you’d like to share?
DC: Sure. Here’s my pitch for why you should buy and read my book. You have bought many books from, from many writers, in your life. You have likely bought books from Stephen King, David Baldacci, Michael Connelly, John Steinbeck, Margaret Atwood and so many other writers known across the world. But you don’t know them. They don’t know you. They are strangers, and you might never know them. And they may never know you. They are unreachable. So why not read my book? I’m here in Montreal, reachable by social media and I will love to hear from you and learn what you thought of my book. And Blindshot is great fun to read! LOL. I’m a shameless promoter of my book, yes absolutely. But I mean it, please read my book and let me know your thoughts. You will be helping me make it a better movie! LOL. Cheers to all.
An Excerpt from Blindshot.
(Copyright is held by the Author. Used with permission)
The night air was fresh, filled with the rich scents of the forest that wrapped the Carignan family property, Valhalla, in the Eastern Townships of Quebec.
Paul Carignan, family man, father of two, successful corporate financier, walked to the woodpile near the west wall of his cherished Valhalla, went down on one knee and sorted through logs to find just the right ones for this evening’s fire.
A rifle shot sounded from far off in the woods. A flock of crows scattered up and away.
Paul’s vision blurred. He tried to shake it off, dropping the logs. The biggest one fell hard on his ankle but a sudden sensation in his abdomen preoccupied him more, burning to his lower back, intensifying. He lost his breath as he looked down at himself. He slid his hands into his clothes to his mid-section, pain spreading, throbbing through his veins like a freight train. He felt the warm wetness creeping to his legs, confirming the incredible.
He had been shot.
He fell over. With a gasp, he could feel his spirit struggling to leave him, wanting to fly up, chase the frightened crows and disappear beyond the valley and over the dark woods.
The wound burned like nothing ever had.
Thoughts assailed him. What if he were to die right now, on this evening, by this bullet? What would his boys, Jack and Noah, do? They were still so young, with much to learn. What would Catherine do? She was barely getting through their pending divorce. Deep down, he still loved her. They had lost their way, their passion fading, as with so many couples they knew who had children and demanding careers. He had sought passion from another woman and had surprised even himself with his unfaithfulness. He would never have the chance to redeem himself now, not to Catherine, not to himself. All seemed to be over, here and now, by this bullet that had pierced him in the dark.
Maybe he was getting what he deserved? But who had shot him? Why? The possibilities swirled in his panicked, weakening mind. He had been a tough business adversary to many over the years. His penchant for taking over flailing manufacturing companies, restructuring and reselling them, or sometimes liquidating their parts, had pushed many good people aside, destroyed careers of veteran entrepreneurs, broken partnerships, and set industry veterans adrift. He had taken no prisoners. That was just his way and he had made it work for his benefit. It was easy for Paul to imagine a great number of enemies who might want him gone.
Blood poured from his gut.
“Catherine!” he shouted, but it came out a whisper. She was nowhere near, and no matter how much he yearned for her to be right there, ready to help, from however deep in him this came, it wouldn’t matter. Catherine wasn’t there, and she would never know how often he thought of her. She would never know and might scarcely believe that he had always thought of her and not his girlfriend, Anne, as his soulmate. Anne was young and striking, but hadn’t Catherine been his muse, his guide, with him through the lean years and the greater part of his life? Together, Paul and Catherine had overcome myriad obstacles and produced, in their view, two of the greatest people on the planet. Jack and Noah were amazing boys. He wondered now, as he bled, if he had done all he could for them. Had he even told them often enough how much he cared? His mind raced to remember precisely, but his energy dropped.
Paul tried to rise, but instead spun weakly sideways and crashed into the grassy slope, sliding downward. Once still, he couldn’t stop his eyes from closing. He reached out, or at least tried to tell his arm to reach out, for anything, for anyone, for the darkness above to lower and provide a soft blanket to comfort him, to warm him. He was so cold.
Footsteps. He heard something like footsteps. He wasn’t sure. Was it only the mad beating of his heart? His imagination was on overdrive. Was someone coming to save him? Or was it his killer, closing in to finish him off, getting closer and closer?
Silence. Nothing stirred. Paul heard only his own wheezing. Had his killer turned away, convinced Paul was taken care of, bleeding to his inevitable death?
Or was his killer standing over him, quietly watching?
Was this all there would ever be?
Paul’s world went dark.
Merci Denis. Thank you for being our guest. Wishing you much success with your writing journey and especially with Blindshot!
For you readers wanting to discover more about Denis and his writing, please follow these links.
I’m very active and present on social media, so there are multiple ways readers can follow me. And I like to add that I’m very interested in hearing back from readers. There is nothing, for me right now, as fun as discussing my book. It’s been a long road to get it out there and when someone reactions to it, well, wow, what a thrill. The other day, I got an email from a reader. She told her Facebook followers that she had been reading Blindshot, finished the last page while riding the bus, and when she read the ending, she jumped out of her seat and gasped. Too funny.