AURÉLIE VALOGNES: I HAVE NEVER IMAGINED THE SUCCESS OF OUT OF SORTS
Posted by Ognian Georgiev
Out of Sorts by Aurélie Valognes was one of the hottest titles in Amazon during the last month of 2015. The official English language premiere of the novel was set for January 1, but the book was selected to be part of Kindle First program and received huge positive feedback. With 230 plus reviews the fresh and funny story gathered an average evaluation of 4.2 Amazon stars. Out of Sorts finished on the third spot at our Top 10 Amazon bestsellers for December.
Our next guest was born in Paris, but now is living in Milan with her husband and 3-year-old son. Chapeau for her and for the success of her debuting novel. It’s a great pleasure to welcome at Land of Books the French bestselling author Aurélie Valognes.
– Aurélie, what is your book Out of Sorts about?
– First of all, I would like to thank you Ognian for your invitation in your blog! A real honor for me to be one of your guests.
I love to read books which are all about beautiful unexpected encounters, such as we would like to see happen a bit more in our daily life. This is what I tried to convey in Out of sorts, putting lights on a neighborhood (all protagonists live in the same building) in which extraordinary friendships between three ordinary life people would occur. Ferdinand, the protagonist, cantankerous old man, represents the man we could all become, alone and bitter, if we are not making today the needed efforts to demonstrate better our love to the people around us. Beatrice, 93, his door neighbor, is his complete opposite. She enjoys everyday as the last one and can’t help herself from learning new things and meeting new people every day. These two neighbors would never have a chance to talk to each other unless an expected encounter would revolutionize their life. New neighbor, Juliette, 10, fresh, positive and cheeky, literally invites herself at Ferdinand’s and establishes new relationships between the three of them, making the old man to open up not only his door but his heart too. Obviously, this generational shock brings lots of humoristic incongruous situations.
– How did you decide to write the story?
– I am lucky and still have my grand-parents. I love spending Sunday lunches with them. The story of Out of sorts is born while observing the oldest people of my family. I realized that there are two mindsets regarding people getting older: or you believe age is a number on your ID card and you forbid yourself from enjoying it as your are considered yourself now too old for these activities; or you believe age is all about experience and there is no limit as long as you are curious, positive and open to life. I was wondering if the first type of people could change mindset to enjoy life and people fully, and the idea came to make 2 opposite old people live next doors and see if they could influence positively one on each other.
– What was the biggest challenge during the write up process?
– Out of sorts is my first novel and I had to reinvent my daily routine. I used to have a regular office job but writing is really different: this is a 100% lonely activity, for which no one expects anything from you. You have no boss, no deadlines. Only a commitment towards your characters that you are responsible to make as lively as possible.
– Tell us something more about your main character Ferdinand? Is he close to someone from your real life?
– Ferdinand does not exist but is a collection of old people I met, all touching even if grumpy, narrow minded and entertaining by their lack of self-awareness in a changing world.
Ferdinand is a 82yo man, living alone with his dog, and does not enjoy his life anymore. His only pleasure is to invent small tricks that will piece his female neighbors off. But the day he loses his dog and is threatened to live in retirement pension, he has to reconsider completely the way he lives.
– How much time did you need to finish the story and to publish it?
– Writing Out of sorts took four months to reach the first version. Since I was not satisfied, it took me two additional months to finalize it. In total six months for this first novel.
– How came the proposition from AmazonCrossing for releasing an English edition?
– Out of sorts has been a huge success in France (#1 Amazon ebooks for months, #1 ebook sales for 2014), and Gabriella from AmazonCrossing has been one of my first readers. She loved the plot with its unexpected ending, the aroused emotions from sadness to real laugh and the French touch. She wanted straight away to offer the story to Americans, British and Australians. The full AmazonCrossing team was excited about publishing this novel and even named a dog Ferdinand, as Out of sorts protagonist.
– Translated literary work often is losing part of its native language’s charm. What do you think about it and do you have some tough moments with the translation process?
– Translation was a challenge since the French edit’s success was all about sounding true with grand-ma antiquated idioms and many dialogs using spoken language. Wendy, my translator, really took the time to understand the original meaning and pull from her own personal experience to propose back all granny idioms she has ever heard when being a child. It had to be as dusty, nostalgic while being 100% positive, as in the French version. And based on the great comment the novel got so far, she made it !I can only thank her deeply for that!
– Who are you (Would you describe yourself with few sentences)?
– Even if I am 32, I feel I am a very good mix of the 3 protagonists of Out of sorts: outgoing, direct and grumpy (as French can be). I am really looking forwards to enjoying the life of a retired person, to spend time on writing, reading, eating great food, listening to the radio and music, but also to dedicate every minute of each day to what matters most, my family, my husband, Olivier, and son, Jules, 3yo,.
– What are your writing habits?
– Writing is a passion. I am not productive when writing at home alone at my desk. I need a comfy noisy environment to be able to get inspired and be highly effective with my laptop. I have a notebook with me and I note down all the ideas, real-life quotes which can be useful for current or future characters: café discussions and family moments are perfect to design real life characters. Then I work a lot on my plan and plot: I need to have a scene by scene scheme before plunging into writing, to make sure every chapter is needed and thought like a short story with its unexpected ending. The actual writing part is only few weeks but I am highly dedicated working from 9.00am to 5.00pm all week long, following strictly my plan but authorizing myself to many improvisations, as I need to get fun myself when writing!
– Are you satisfied by the sales of your book?
– I have never imagined the success that the novel is meeting. My first goal was to challenge myself and write a story. Then I published the book in France and it became a success. Now the American adventure is bringing me close to the moon and I thank all the readers for these wonderful experience!
– What are you doing to promote your book by the best possible way?
– To promote the book, I mainly used my family first (asking them for rating the novel), then leveraged the social networks and I have then been contacted by bloggers and journalists to talk about the book.
– When we will see your next novel and would you unveil something more about it?
– I have been very busy in the past weeks finishing my second novel. Now it is done and I am impatient to present it to readers! It will be published in France in May 2016 and for the end of the year in the English version. I am really excited and I hope that the story will touch as many readers as for Out of sorts. It will be a brand new story, this time centered around family relationships and more specifically with parents-in-law. As humoristic and emotional as Out of sorts.
– Italy or France, where you prefer to live and why?
– It is like choosing which parent you prefer to me I sometimes miss France and Paris for his culture and particular food, but I enjoy so much my Dolce Vita (amazing food, sunnier days, more smiling people) in Milan that I do not plan to move back to France shortly!
– If you may ask yourself one question in the interview what it will be? (Don’t forget to answer)
– Q: To which writers do you feel your novel could be compared to? A: For the positive spirit and the human humoristic tone, readers have compared Out of sorts with Lori Nelsen Spielman’s novels or Jonas Jonasson.
Check out Aurélie Valognes’s book
Out of Sorts