JACQUES VANDROUX: MY WIFE IS HALF THE HEART OF OUR WRITING ADVENTURE
Posted by Ognian Georgiev
The French author Jacques Vandroux’s book Heart Collector (Au Coeur de Solstice) is in Amazon’s Top 4 bestselling books for the last two weeks. His novel has better rating (av. 41 stars from 70 reviews) than the other three novels in front of him.
The first two releases of our next guest, Les Pierres Couchées and Multiplication, became bestsellers in France.
It’s a great pleasure to say welcome to Mr. Jacques Vandroux in the following interview. I am sure you will enjoy it and will find a new European style quality wave in the genre crime thriller.
– What is your book Heart Collector (Au Coeur de Solstice) about?
– First I want to thank you for your invitation and the opportunity you give me to present my book and the way I wrote it. As you know, I am French (and you will have a perfect confirmation of this point when you read my answers). So, please be indulgent with my English. I try to do my best.
Heart Collector is the story of a several characters, trying to stop a guy who has a very bad habit: killing women and extracting their hearts. Nadia, a police officer, is in charge of the case but has no clue. She is supported by surprising people like a young engineer, a professor of history or a priest. The main characters have to face their past to try to save the last kidnapped woman. The novel is actually a manhunt, balancing between events that happened thirty years ago and now.
– How did you decide to write the story?
– Once a year, in France, there is a “day of the cultural heritage”, where many museums or palaces or even public historical buildings are accessible and can be visited for free. I had a tour in an antique church of the fourth century, in Grenoble. This site was definitely mysterious, and I decided to write a book with a scene taking place in this old building. I had no idea about the scenario, except that a corpse would be discovered in the middle of the church.
– What was the biggest challenge during the write up process?
– I wrote the first half of the book without knowing how it would end. I must admit that when you read a guide “how to write a thriller”, the first advice is to have a solid skeleton before writing the first chapter. But it is not my way to create.
So, the biggest challenge was to keep the consistency of the story. But I have been helped by my wife, who was scrutinizing the text and detecting any mistake.
– Tell us something more about your main characters Nadia Barka and Julien Lombard? Are they close to someone from your real life?
– Nadia Barka is a police officer, pretty but single, very efficient but quite pessimistic at the beginning of the story. She has been hurt by life. The people she meets during the investigation help her to gain confidence in life. I had nobody in mind when I created this character, but I liked the idea of a kind of redemption.
Julien Lombard is a young software specialist, easy-going and spending his time to prepare his ski or hiking weekends (the story takes place in the middle of the French Alps). When I was a young engineer, there were many people like him among my friends. My goal was to imagine the reaction of someone absolutely not prepared to face a horrific situation.
– How much time did you need to finish the story and to publish it?
– It took me around one year to write the book. Then, my wife started the correction process: actually, she read it chapter after chapter, and made her comments during the book writing process. Then, at least ten people reviewed it. I would say that this second phase lasted about three months.
– Would you share some details about the proposition by Amazon Crossing for publishing Heart Collector in English?
– It has been a huge and excellent surprise. Au Coeur du Solstice, the French version, has been quite successful on the Amazon platform in France. It reached quickly the first rank and stayed in the top ten during several weeks. We were contacted by French Amazon KDP managers, who read the novel and appreciated it.
Later, we asked them for advices to publish in the US. Nothing happened, till we were directly contacted by Amazon Crossing. They liked the book and proposed us a contract for non-French versions. Kind of miracle!
– “Les Pierres Couchees” (The Lying Stones) is your most popular book. What the readers would find inside?
– “Les Pierres Couchees” is a kind of fantastic adventure and mystery book. A man searches for his two kidnapped children. He ignores who the kidnapper is and why he abducted his children.
In parallel with his investigation, the reader also faces fantastic situations, based on Celtic legends. He meets cops with limited respect of the law, an old and educated aristocrat, a strange and charming Russian doctor with paranormal skills…
The reader also travels from Paris to French Brittany, with a tour in the French Caribbean islands and a stop near Napoli.
There is a lot of action and some tough situations. Actually, it was my first novel and it took me three years to write it.
I must admit that I am still in love with some of my characters. Guess which of them! More than 15 000 French readers know the answer today.
– Projet Anastasis (The Anastasis project) received huge positive feedback. Give us some insight about the novel?
– “Projet Anastasis” is, up to now, the most successful of my books. The ebook has been number 1 or 2 in the French Amazon ranking for more than 7 weeks. The novel is based on a worldwide conspiracy that a private detective discovers piece after piece. This story has its roots during WW2 and partly takes place near Strasbourg. I really addressed the historical part, which has a particular echo at the beginning of our 21st century. Being an indie allows to have a good feedback from the readers. Most of them considered this new book as a “thrilling page-turner”. I am really proud of it.
– Who are you?
– I am a story teller. When my children were young, I had to invent a story every night before going to bed, and it had to last minimum twenty minutes. Consider twenty minutes a day for a period of three years. It makes… a very good time for my kids and me. Then, they grew up (as kids do), and I started to write novels. I like to read thrillers, and that is why I took this direction. So I wrote for me, and potentially for some friends and members of my family.
When I do not write, I work as an engineer in industry. When I do not write or work, I enjoy skiing in winter (I moved from Paris to the French Alpes, were I live with my family)…or reading good books when we stay home.
– What are your writing habits?
– I don’t have…which is maybe kind of a habit. I started my first novel les Pierres Couchees in a shuttle between an airport and my home. One of my favorite places to write is the TGV, the French high speed train: a soft drink, a chocolate bar, music in the ears and two or three hours dedicated to create a story: isn’t it wonderful?
– Are you satisfied by the sales of the book?
– Whatever the results are, I will be satisfied. One year ago, it was just impossible to imagine that I would reach the 4th rank in the US Top100 of Amazon.
One of my biggest expectations is to understand how a French thriller will be welcomed by the American public. I hope as well as possible, even if I am aware that I am a rookie on Amazon US.
– What are you doing to promote your book by the best possible way?
– Our possibilities to promote a book from France for the US public are quite limited. Amazon made a great job in proposing us the “Kindle First” opportunity, and thanks to bloggers like you, we can have access to readers. We also let an email address at the end of the book, and several people already wrote to us: it is a great opportunity to create a dialogue, and we really appreciate this part of “the job”.
My wife also created an English section in our blog, and the articles propose pictures of Grenoble and of the different spots where the action takes place. It can also help to discover a new French region, surrounded by mountains.
– When we will see your next novel?
– My last novel “Projet Anastasis” has been edited in French in November 2014. I am now giving birth to a new scenario and I even wrote the first chapters (considering that my novels are generally composed of a hundred of chapters).
– What about the translation of a new book?
– It will depend on the success of this one.
– Your wife had very important role in your self-publishing adventure. Would you tell us more about it? Do you think that without her it will be possible to take the way of an indie writer?
– I love this question, because my wife is really half the heart of this adventure…considering I am the other half. If you want to survive long enough to see the result of your work, you need a full heart. I will try to be a bit more precise.
I write the books, and my wife comments them: she tells me what she likes and what should be modified… Most of the time, I take her remarks into account. Then, she manages the correction steps, the book editing and she finally takes the responsibility of the marketing, financial and administrative parts. She is really doing the job of an editor. As you can see, the books would still be in my computer memory without her fantastic work.
Besides, this adventure has really been a superb opportunity to share ideas, enthusiasm and to discover together a new world (both of us are working in industry and innovation).
– The translation process of foreign language book is something very risky – to find a good translator, to make a good team with him and to invest some money. Would you share your experience with it?
– It is a good point, Ognian. We had our first experience with a short story: “Take-off”, or “Decollage imminent” in French. Two years ago, we tried to reach the Graal: the US readers. We found a good English translator, but we had to review the text, and my wife spent more time than expected in correcting the text layout. The guy was not used to book pagination. As the book was small, the investment was not too significant, but the result was quite good. Besides, the book was downloaded by very few English readers.
Translating Heart Collector would have cost us around twenty times this sum, and we were not willing to invest such an amount of money for more than uncertain result. In parallel, marketing on the American market from France is similar to one of the “Herculean labours”.
When Amazon Crossing contacted us, we were sure that it was the perfect solution. They translated the book and are in charge of the marketing. We supported Wendy (the translator) when there were some typical French expressions that could lead to misunderstandings, but we did not have the opportunity to review the text. Besides, we are not American, and we would not have the capabilities to add subtle corrections.
– If you may ask yourself one question in the interview what it will be? (Don’t forget to answer)
– My question is: why did you accept to participate to this interview? My first answer is: because you made me this kind proposal and that it is a way to promote my book and explain the process of creation to the readers.
The second answer is: because this dialogue is a great opportunity to share ideas with you and your readers.
This week, in France, 17 journalists and anonymous people around them have been killed. It is terrible and unbelievable for the French people. These journalists were drawing caricatures to criticize extremist behaviors, whatever they were. They have been murdered because of their cartoons. Others have been killed because of their religion.
I believe that the best way to fight intolerance is to be in a position to open dialogues with our neighbors. It definitely does not mean accept everything, but it means be informed enough of what happens around us.
Writing books, reading books or articles and holding a blog are part of the weapons we have in our hands to reach this goal.
Take a look at his books: