This week, Coffee with David is honored to bring its readers a tale of deceit and desperation. A story that is shadowy, slapstick, and surreal as it follows one man's "ordeal from the opulence of his Central West End parlor to the dark, grim graveyard in this fantasy novel by award-winning author Marcel Toussaint. This interview and giveaway was originally posted on The Writers' Lens. The winner never claimed their prize.
Marcel Toussaint published his first book in the 90’s, Remember Me Young, a collection of poems written over his many years. His poems are also featured in fourteen anthologies, including America at the Millennium. He has read on various radio and TV stations including National Public Radio and the Education channel. In early 2009, Toussaint entered the National Veterans Poetry Awards competition and won gold medals in the categories of Patriotic, Personal Humorous. His poem in the Patriotic category is featured in the National Veterans Poetry Anthology. Toussaint won an award for his two poems entries at the St. Louis Writers Guild Poetry Throwdown at the Focal Point in St. Louis in 2010. He has been a featured poet at the Observable Readings, at the Missouri of Modern Arts Museum, Poetry Per Chance at Washington University to name a few events. A selection of his poems have been published in Korean, in Wilderness January 2011. Toussaint writes in English, French and Spanish and has been translated to Dutch, German, Catalan, Korean. He has read his poetry in Paris at the Club des Poetes and in Valencia, Spain 2008. The poet reads his poetry at various open mikes in the Metropolitan area.
His new novel Terms of Interment, came out October 2011.
Poetry of a Lifetime, was published in 2009.
Marcel Toussaint represented The Saint Louis VA at The National Veterans Creative Arts Nationals in Fayetteville, Arkansas October 2011 and brought back a National Gold Medal Poetry. He was selected to perform his entry in costume on stage and the show was videotaped to be run on PBS in November 2012.
An interview with Marcel Toussaint:
David Alan Lucas: When you are starting to work on a novel, what do you find brings the story into focus for you? A Character? A setting? Something else?
Marcel Toussaint: A human interest will be most motivating. I do observe all that surrounds me at all times. I try to be very discreet about it. The smallest spark can become a novel. I often write a novel within a month and a half. Preparing for eventual publication takes more time than that. So I read and re-read the manuscript, inventing more scenes and embellishing as I go. There comes the time when the novel has to be assumed completed, and there it goes to the editor. I do not follow what I have been taught! I write in scenes and this allows for the placing of them where I find them to be best suited. I do not follow an outline from A to Z. I may have the ending before even writing the beginning. Many scenes in between are written as they come up to my mind. Fresh ideas move me immediately.
DL: What brings your poetry into focus?
MT: Oddly enough, I often write a title for a poem and then write the poem. Since I write poetic portraits, anyone who strikes my curiosity by his deportment or conversation is a very motivating subject for writing. In some instances just an interesting nature scene or event will wake up my muse and influence me.
DL: What themes in your fiction writing seem to drive you the most? Are they the same with your poetry?
MT: I get all wrapped up in unusual characters and I build a story around them. The characters could develop into a mini story for a poem, a short story, or a novel. It depends on the strength of events that develop in my mind as the writing progresses. If I see that there are many meandering possibilities in the process, it becomes a novel.
DL: Do you work on multiple projects at once? If so, how many?
MT: Definitively. I wrote three novels at the same time when the three ideas came to mind at about the same time. One of the novels typically will take up most of my time while the other two give me a change of pace for my thoughts, away from the primary novel. Ideas cannot be wasted; they must be used immediately.
DL: How easy was it to take the leap of faith to become a serious writer and chase this career? What did you find that you had to do to take the step?
MT: Having written and drawn from the age of twelve, it has been an ongoing passion. I did it at first for pleasure and curiosity. Then I graduated to get attention and see how creative my writing could be. Eventually I wanted to collect my poetry and novels to hopefully display a substantial accomplishment. This progressive passion took me into many courses in writing to see if I was up with the changing times. Looking back, my first publication was at the age of twelve with a series of cards in a fourfold featuring a small drawing on the front page. U.S. soldiers began to notice my cards as they came to our house for a family dinner. They initiated me on the mimeograph processes and facilitated my budding business in buying my cards. The cards were done on a waxed paper and put into one of those marvelous print repeaters. Business was good at twelve in Morocco. Many years later, I took a course about being published at Meramec Junior College here in Saint Louis. The course was so grand that I presented my poetry to various anthologies. After an initial rejection, I ended up in fourteen publications within a year or so, following the steps I had been taught in the course.
DL: When you plot your novels, from whose point of view do you plot from? The protagonist’s? The antagonist’s? The narrator’s? Someone else?
MT: I have written five novels. I would say I have covered all those bases. It depends on the individual story.
DL: What was your biggest fear when you decided to first be published as a novelist or a poet? Do you still have those fears with each new book or are there other fears that come up?
MT: I have been very fortunate. Editors of university journals, book editors and publishers have all shown interest in my poetry. I have more fears presenting my work to contests. Judges have likes and dislikes and are very set in their ways. Many of them feel grandiose at deciding if a poem will make it to the finish line or not. They favor the style they approve irrespective of the quality of the poems. Some of them have so many excuses for eliminating an entry for some ridiculous detail whether the title is in bold or you used the “old” accepted way of capitalizing the major letters of the title. One judge just did not accept poems centered on the page! So eliminating those poems and again keeping the fee! No contest I have looked into has ever mentioned such rules! The interesting thing is they keep your entry fee but trash your poem without reading it! Some contest like obscured poetry! I wonder what is the use to write something that no one will want to read past a few verses? My French professors insisted on clear well written verses that, in those days rhymed, that made sense and were part of a well constructed poem.
DL: What is your writing schedule like?
MT: I write when I feel like it. This means continuously. Any idea is immediately put to paper, even while driving. I just make quick notes at stoplights and during traffic stops, using my steering wheel as a writing desk. This later helps me recall what is important for a story or a character. I get up in the middle of the night when an idea dawns and write for hours, before going back to sleep in the early morning hours.
DL: If you could have coffee (or drink of your choice) with four other authors from any time period, who would you choose and why?
MT: Verlaine and Baudelaire, because some of my verses, I am told, trigger their works in the minds of my readers. Moliere for his comedy and De la Fontaine for his fables that are mini stories, much like my poems.
DL: How could our readers learn more about you?
MT: To know a writer is to read his works. Poetry of a Lifetime is an autobiography that my editor, Linda Dahlheimer, commissioned me to assemble under her watchful eye. She was most interested to find that my life’s time line was parallel with my poetry time line. She found the poems that were most conducive to be included in the publication. Her creative insight is superb. She insisted that a photo album be included along with some of my quotations. Terms of Internment, also edited by Linda, I wrote with the collaboration of Cyrus Pars. Both can be found at www.nacgpress.com. My business card, which I regularly hand out, includes a QR code that can be scanned to reach the publisher’s site.
Thank you Marcel for your interview.
How do you win a free copy of this book? To enter the contest, simply leave a comment or question on Coffee with David blog between now (July 21st) and midnight July 27th, 2012. Please include your email so we can reach you if you win. The more comments you leave, the greater your chance of winning the contest. If you refer others to Coffee with David who mention your name in their comments, I'll enter your name again in our random number generator along with theirs, also increasing your chances at winning! The winner will be chosen after midnight on Friday, July 27th and the announcement made on Saturday, July 28th. Good luck and comment often.