Saturday, January 28, 2012

Mathieu Gallant - Outage

Please welcome our featured author Mathieu Gallant and his novel

Mathieu is 32 years old and currently lives in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada.

When did you first start writing?

I’ve always enjoyed writing. In elementary I was a master at spelling tests. I think it’s because, from a young age, I enjoyed reading for pleasure. Then, later on, when most of my classmates struggled to get to the minimum word count in composition class, I’d give the teachers fits with multiples of it. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t always gold, but I understood I had an aptitude with words almost right away.

What was your very first story about?

Around thirteen years old I saw the movie “Die Hard” and it changed my life. I wanted to be like John McClane (but I was a “good boy” at heart, so I never went as far as to start smoking or get a handgun. The best I could manage was a wise-cracking, sarcastic a-hole routine. Then again, I was a teenager, so who knows if that was just my natural state?) Anyway, shortly thereafter I wrote a short story (I remember it totally filled a 32-page Hilroy notebook) modeled on Die Hard that took place in my school. It got me into some hot water when someone from the administration got their hands on it (can you say ‘meet the parents’?)It’s a good thing it was pre-Columbine or else I probably would’ve been expelled.

Have you written anything that you were too afraid to let anyone read?
Actually, no. But I’ve definitely been nervous about it. When I presented the first draft of my first completed novel, Outage, to my editor – a Governor-General Award winning poet who works as a professor at the local university – I was almost sick to my stomach. That led to a two-year collaboration that transformed my novel into what it is today. It never would have happened if I was too afraid to show it. The moral of the story is to never be afraid of having your work critiqued. It’s rare that someone will get it exactly right the first time and you need criticism to get better. Does that mean it’s fun to get bad reviews? No, of course not. But I’ll take constructive criticism over smoke up the arse any day.

Where is the one place you’ve traveled, where you’ve felt most like you fit in?

At the risk of sounding like a shut-in over here, I’ll admit that travelling isn’t really something I’ve done a lot of. It’s a mix of financial concerns (I don’t have a couple grand to blow on a trip) and the fact that my idea of an interesting destination doesn’t intersect with the usual places of interest (i.e. a sunny tropical paradise.) I’m a hearty French Canadian type. I’m most comfortable at sub-zero temperatures. I don’t deal well with the heat. I’ve always wanted to go to Iceland. But I think the very name of the place turns most people off. Not exactly bathing suit, lay on the beach material, you know?

What activity or hobby, besides writing, do you find most enjoyable?
I’ll be honest. I’m a vidiot. My name is Mathieu Gallant and I’m addicted to videogames. Whenever I get some spare time I’ll turn on the X-box and get some gaming time in. A few comments about this to people who have just rolled their eyes: 1) it sure beats just staring dumbly at the TV. At least I’m doing SOMETHING. 2) Within the game I’m master of the universe 3) If you pick the right game, $75 bucks will entertain you for less than a dollar an hour. Let’s see you do that at the local bar. Hell you can’t even go bowling for that price. I can go bowling any time I want (Wii Sports, baby!) My favourite game of all time is Fallout 3.

What was your favorite childhood toy?
I was big into biking as a child, so my favourite possession was my BMX. Oh the jumps we took! Then, about the time I hit puberty, I started to fear more for my personal safety. Since then I’ve kept my wheels on the ground. I’m far from X-games material, but put me on a road bike and I’ll go forever.

What is your most valued personal possession in life? Who gave it to you?
Right now it’s my 80 GB iPod Classic. I love music and every song I own is on that thing. I got it from a pawn shop for $50. I’m trendy on a budget.

If you lost the ability to see every color but one, which one would it be?
Green is my favourite colour.

How do you treat people you’re not fond of?
I still have a great deal of that sarcastic, smart-ass teenager in me. Believe me, it’s not pretty.

What is hiding in your closet as we speak?
I’m the owner of the world’s hardest shooting pellet gun. It’s something one of my uncles used to own that I found at my grandmother’s house. Every now and then I’ll haul it out and do some target shooting. But mostly it’s the backbone of my home defence system.

What do you see as your greatest achievement?
Without a doubt, finishing Outage is my greatest achievement so far. Even if it never gets published, I can say I wrote a book from start to finish. How many people can say that?

What, to you, is absolutely wrong?

Two words: JERSEY SHORE!

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Less is more. (That’s my editor explaining why it’s important to avoid over-telling the story)

If you had to explain the concept of “love” to someone who’s never heard of it before, how would you?
Not to be contrarian, but I don’t think it’s possible to explain the concept of love to someone. If they have the capacity for emotion they’ll get it naturally. If they don’t they won’t and no amount of explanations will suffice. I was discussing this the other day, actually. I think emotions are universal. I think even extra-terrestrials would feel love. What they’d call it is anybody’s guess... but a rose by any other name smells just as sweet, right? 

What about “hate?”
Everything in the universe has its counterpoint. Hate is the counterpoint of love. Everything I just discussed about love can just as easily apply to hate.

You’ve decided to buy an exotic pet, what do you go for?
If this is like a genie with 3 wishes thing, I’d love to have a huge aquarium with a Great White Shark. But I’ll settle for a snake if I’m paying the bill.

What do you classify as an “Adventure?”
Put on a good pair of boots. Load a backpack. Pick a direction. Go!

Who is your most favorite literary character?
Winston Smith from George Orwell’s 1984.

Who is your favorite character of your own creation?
I’m partial to the main character in Outage, Robert Hendricks. But I also enjoyed writing the role of his dealer, Malcolm.

If you could learn one new thing instantly, what would it be?
I want to be one of those guys who knows everything about cars.

Finish this sentence. “I sometimes find it hard to…”
Get up and go to my job when there’s so much more I’d rather be doing.

What kind of education have you received, and how has that affected your writing?
I have two college diplomas (electronics engineering and journalism). The latter has helped me establish that yes, I can actually write and the former means I’m comfortable with the latest technology (and it often shows up in my writing as well.)

If you were ever to write an autobiography, what would its title be?
Mathieu Gallant: Musings from a Sheltered Life.

What if it was a biography of your favorite person?
I’ll use this opportunity to give a shout out to my good friend Paul. If I was going to write a biography about him it would be entitled: The Bucket Stander: how I do crazy things without killing myself.

If you ever saw the guy paint a ceiling while standing on an overturned 25 gallon bucket on top of a rickety old chair while holding a full can of paint in one hand, you’d understand.

Name three things about that person that influenced or inspired you.
- He’s comfortable working at heights that make my hands sweat just thinking about

- He’s an inventor at heart and is always thinking about improving things

- On numerous occasions he’s pushed me to do things I never would have done otherwise (like jump from one rock outcropping to another over a 150 foot chasm over the churning waters of the Atlantic ocean, for one.)

Did you experience anything you’ve written yourself?

Near the beginning of Outage I write a scene about a drunkard who is reduced to chugging “Listerine” to get a buzz on. That was an actual early morning encounter I had when I worked as a driving instructor.

Who are several of your greatest literary inspirations?
Douglas Adams. Stephen King. Tom Clancy. 

How much research time customarily goes into your projects? 
As far as dedicated research, not that much. I have a full time job to worry about. I’d do more if writing was my actual job. But I’m constantly on the lookout for new and interesting ideas I can incorporate into my stories.

Tell us about your featured book.
Outage is 150,000 word novel of a genre I’d call peri-apocalyptic. It’s not post-apocalyptic because it doesn’t take place after the “end of the world,” but during. It’s also what I’d call a frame novel, a story within a story. The outer frame takes place around the year 2170 when the main character, Robert Hendricks, is returning to Earth after 153 years away. In that time he’s been a guest of the Gulran, the galaxy’s most advanced race. But his carefree time of roving from one star system to the next is coming to an end. The next mission has him returning to Earth, a place he’d nearly forgotten. It isn’t something that’s sitting well with him. So his best friend, High Arbitor Gorak (the mission commander) decides to help by hypnotizing Hendricks to learn more about the story that his friend doesn’t want tell (and is outright suppressing.) In Hendricks’ recollections, we move to the “core” of the book in the year 2026 and get a taste of the life he mostly avoids living in Saint John, New Brunswick before the excrement hits the air moving device. Due to some dirty dealing in the Oval Office, the lights go off across North America. They don’t come back on. Then we get to experience life unplugged as Hendricks discovers that the line between order and chaos is only as wide as a stream of electrons flowing in a copper wire.

Why did you write that?
I’ve always had a morbid fascination about the “end of the world.” I’ve spent a lot of time considering how it might happen. In my opinion, we’re deluding ourselves if we think it’ll be an act of God. We need to realize there’s no greater threat to human kind that humanity itself.

Is there anything special you would like your potential readers to know?
If you read Outage the whole way through, you’ll realize that it’s set up for a sequel. I’m working on that now and it’s tentatively entitled “Earthship Phoenix.”

To be or not to be?

Be. To quote one of my favourite musical acts – The Tragically Hip: “Twenty years for nothing, well that’s nothing new. And no one’s interested in something you didn’t do.”

A very special thanks to Mathieu for letting us pester him with incessant questions. Check out his novel today, because you might be stuck on a deserted island with nothing to read tomorrow.

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