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Saturday, March 5, 2011
Author Interview: Etienne
Whipped Cream is pleased to welcome Etienne, whose latest book Body of Work was released in February. He is also the author of The Path to Forever and its sequel, Prognosis Forever, which is scheduled to be released the end of this month.
He's at work on the third book in the Forever trilogy, Children of Forever, as well as other projects.
I asked him to tell us a little about his latest release.
Bodies of Work is about a thirty-year-old man who happens to be the youngest Lieutenant ever in the Jacksonville Sheriff’s office. His friend since childhood, Mike Foster, has just moved in with him after he kicked out a boyfriend for infidelity. In the midst of an investigation into multiple murders, George is being stalked by a nerdy sort of guy who flashes him and performs sexually in the steam room of the local YMCA, all the while focused on George. The stalking escalates until the stalker is cornered sitting in a car outside George’s residence, and in the final encounter, Mike steps in front of a bullet meant for George. In the hospital emergency room, George realizes that he loves Mike—we have already learned that Mike has secretly loved George for years—and they embark on life as a couple. The book ultimately ends when George confronts the killer-for-hire, who has tracked George down, intending to kill him—and kills the killer, putting what one writer calls ‘an Indian beauty mark’ between his eyes.
"What got you interested in writing?" I asked.
"If memory serves, reading a few really poorly written stories made me think, 'I can do better than that.' I had the urge for a very long time before I succumbed to it. When a publisher actually sent me a check as an advance against royalties, I finally considered myself an author."
When I questioned him about how long he'd been writing, he responded, "If you had asked me that question six months ago, I would have said 'ten years.' However, that would have been incorrect. I recently uncovered a manuscript consisting of 100 typewritten pages. The fact that the pages were typewritten dates them to before 1984 when I first acquired Word Perfect 4.1 for my computer and stopped using my typewriter. I have been posting stories on-line for four and a half years, and have heard from hundreds of readers. Happily, all but three of those e-mails were positive, some almost embarrassingly so. People seem to get so wrapped up in particular characters that they can get a tad cranky when you write the words The End."
Etienne told me that his favorite author is the late Robert B. Parker. "His spare but elegant prose is beyond compare."
When Etienne has suffered from writer's block, he said he simply rides it out by doing other things until his muse comes back to life and the words begin to flow again.
"When she's in full flower, I write from can til can’t. When she is being elusive, I edit things already written, or find other things to do."
I asked Etienne which came first in his writing: the plot or the characters.
"Sometimes one, sometimes the other. I may come up with what I deem to be a terrific plot idea and develop characters to fit; or I sometimes come up with very specific characters and have to find something (a plot?) for them to do. More often than not, once the characters have taken on a personality, they dictate where the story will go."
Etienne does his writing in a small room in his house that has been turned into a den. It contains two recliners—one for him and one for the dog, along with his stereo and his collection of classical music. He sits with his laptop in his lap and writes until he cannot write any more—at least in that session.
Once he's finished with a manuscript, the easy part is over. He told me that the hardest part about writing is the polishing of the finished manuscript.
"No matter how many times I worked my way through the chapters, checking everything, it was hard to resist the urge to do it ‘one more time’," he explained.
On a more personal note, Etienne's favorite animal is a dog, and in fact told me that he couldn't imagine life without a dog.
When he prints, he prints in all capital letters.
"For some reason, as a kid I steadfastly refused to learn to print lower case letters," he said.
He told me that to find out his strangest habit, I would have to ask his partner. They've been together fifteen years, so he can recite all of them. He also sometimes helps Etienne with choosing the titles for his books.
A saying he uses a lot: “There’s a lot to be said for silence.”
The strangest thing he's ever eaten is pig's feet in a little mom-and-pop Cuban restaurant in Tampa.
Etienne shared with me that four of his sixteen great-great-grandparents came to the US from England as teenagers before 1850.
"By my calculations, that makes me 25% Brit. Most of the rest of my heritage is Scotch-Irish, with a few other nationalities thrown in."
"Can you taste the difference between Pepsi and Coke?" I wondered.
"There is a profound difference between Coke and the swill which comes in that other can. I’m from the South, and if I can’t have the 'real' thing, I will do without," he assured me.
You can keep up with Etienne on his blog, http://etiennestories.blogspot.com