André K. Baby talks about his novel.

Today André K Baby will be talking to us about his debut thriller, La Danse des Éveques. His is the first of three guests on this blog. Next week Cathryn Grant will be speaking, followed by Teresa Frohock.

André K. Baby is a Montreal-born lawyer and writer. After early beginnings in criminal law as a Crown prosecutor, he switched to corporate and commercial law, eventually becoming General Counsel to a Swiss multinational. He has mined the wealth of his varied legal background to forge the intrigues and characters of his first thriller, “Dead Bishops Don’t Lie.” The French version, “La Danse Des Éveques,” was published and launched in the fall of 2010 at the Salon du Livre de Montréal by Les Éditions Marcel Broquet.  André is currently writing the stand alone sequel, “The Jewish Pope”. When not writing, André enjoys reading, sailing and playing classical piano. He and his wife Louise live in Pointe Claire, Quebec.

Welcome André!

JN: You wrote your thriller, La Danse des Éveques originally in English.  Why?

AKB: Actually, it’s easier for me to write the thriller genre in English. I think it’s due to the fact that my imagination has been fueled by the likes of Graham Greene, Lawrence Durrell, Sidney Sheldon, Ken Follett and others. Although the French have great mystery and police procedural writers such as Simenon and Levy, there are less really good French authors in the thriller genre.

JN: Were you concerned that the translation might not be as good as the original?

AKB: I must admit at first I was a bit apprehensive.  But when I read the end result I was really excited.  With the help of Hélene Larue’s excellent editing, I feel La Danse Des Éveques is as good as if not better than the original.

JN: How did Dance come to be translated and published in French if it was originally written in English?

AKB: Preparation and Perseverance. When I sent out queries to agents for my English manuscript and my inevitable pile of rejections grew to unflattering heights, I became extremely frustrated. Self-confidence eventually reached an all time low. Did I really need this sort of existence? Was I becoming masochistic? Was this what writing was all about? A lot of pain and no gain? After a period of serious introspection, I decided to keep writing for myself, for the fun of seeing the end product improve as I rewrote, and rewrote and rewrote some more. Then one day at a party, I met a Quebec French publisher, who was kind enough to take a look at my English manuscript and to suggest changes. I incorporated his recommendations and kept sending out queries to agents. Still no takers. About three months later, that French publisher phoned me one fine morning and said that he wanted to publish my novel. After getting off the floor and back into my chair, I heard him continue: “There’s one condition. You’ll have to get it translated it into French.” That’s how  “La Danse des Éveques” eventually got published before the original,” Dead Bishops Don’t Lie”.

JN: Three months after the launch of La Danse des Éveques, how are sales going?

AKB: Better than expected. The first print run is almost sold out. Since publishers (including mine) don’t like to spend money on advertising, we have to rely mainly on word-of-mouth. I’m amazed at how effective that is.

JN: How is your publisher marketing?

AKB: I’ve found it to be a sensitive issue with the publisher. The margins in the publishing business are so small that publishers are unwilling to spend on advertising. Yet it’s a catch 22: don’t advertise and the author remains unknown, and sales don’t grow. Yet so far, I’ve been lucky.

JN: What are you working on now?

AKB: I’m currently reworking the ending of my second thriller,  “The Jewish Pope”. After that, I’ll be integrating my line editor’s (my wife Louise’s) many comments.

JN: When and why did you begin writing?

AKB: I began writing a few sailing related articles many years ago, for local publications. I have also written a few law related articles during my career as a corporate lawyer. I began thinking about writing “The Novel” about five years ago. Coincidentally, I broke my leg around that time, so I remained more or less immobilized for three months. I found that lying on the living room couch was a good position to enhance the creative process. I still use it now.

JN: Any advice for writers?

AKB: Having only one published book to my credit, I am loath to give advice to others.  More seasoned authors than I have written about the many, sometimes daunting issues that face writers on the road to publication. I found that these authors each had variations on a main theme, which included however two recurring ideas: preparation and perseverance. When those two qualities were present, writers usually got published.  I think each writer must find his or her way. My path was arduous, a bit circuitous but in the end, the result was and continues to be extremely fulfilling. Plus I’ve met some great people along the way and made new friends.

JN: Are there plans to publish La Danse Des Éveques in English?

AKB: I’ve recently received good news from my publisher, Marcel Broquet: a Canadian Anglophone publisher has requested the English version “Dead Bishops Don’t Lie” and will be taking a look at it. Also, I ‘m awaiting news from an agent whom Broquet met in Ottawa recently.

Thank you, André, for sharing your experience with us. We wish you continued success, and look forward to Dead Bishop’s Don’t Lie, and The Jewish Pope.

Visit André’s website to learn more about him and his novel, La Danse des Éveques.

André would love to answer any comments or questions you have for him.

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21 thoughts on “André K. Baby talks about his novel.

  1. What an interesting story about the road to publication. I never tire of reading about author journeys. My favorite is this: “Did I really need this sort of existence? Was I becoming masochistic?”

    I, too began “the Novel” when I was laid up. Something about isolation, pain, and, perhaps, some medication, that brings to surface things long buried that now need to be told. I love the cover and will look for the English version when it comes out.

  2. Thank you, Andre, for sharing your story. And thank you, Jennifer for inviting him to. I know about those “unflattering heights.” I wish you much success with your book, and I, too, will be looking for the English version.

  3. Thank you for telling us a bit about your road to publication, André. Like Tricia, I smiled when I read the line, “Did I really need this sort of existence? Was I becoming masochistic?”

    I love your cover and it’s good to know there’s interest in an English version.

    What do you think you learned in the process of writing “Dead Bishops Don’t Lie” that has influenced the writing of “The Jewish Pope”? (A very intriguing title, by the way.)

    • Thanks Tricia,Linda, Jen and Cathryn for your support. I’m getting more and more optimistic about ‘Dead Bishops’ seeing the light of day. (Pardon the easy pun.)
      I find however that thrillers in the English market are a tougher sell in general, and that the competition is fierce. (The whole world is writing thrillers, it seems.) We’ll see.
      To answer your question, Cathryn, I think I learned a few things since I wrote Dead Bishops : Use flashbacks more sparingly. As we all know, they slow the story down, especially at the beginning when you want to get things going and grab your reader’s unwavering attention. When introducing my characters and describing their physical traits ,habits, quirks etc. I now try to be less linear. I sprinkle their traits, habits etc within the story line and the action. It’ s more fun for the reader. Also, in The Jewish Pope, my editor (wife) says she feels an increased level of confidence in my writing : the dialogues are sharper, the bits of humour are well timed, etc.
      That being said, I find writing requires the same amount of effort and concentration as before. Hopefully though,I’ve shed some bad habits. For example I had “colonitis”, ie an overdose of the use of colons. Too many of my paragraphs started with “As”. (No comment.)

      Best,

      André

      • I believe, Andre, that this concentration you reffer to is not something that will ever vary, no matter how long we’ve been writing. I think we can probably write better stuff with less concentration, but that does mean we will not devote our entire force it. We grow with our writing, writing better, and quicker, but in order to fully enter our story and understand our characters we need to give it all (and often undived) attention. I think this is part of the grace of writing – that it can never become easy.

  4. I enjoyed this interview, Jennifer. I’m always amazed by the varied ways at which authors come to be published. There are so many interesting stories out there. Thanks for sharing this one with us.

  5. vanyieck says:

    That was a great interview. I’m amazed at how much perseverance is part of the writing process. Thanks for sharing his story.

  6. What an interesting interview – thank you both. And congrats to you on your book – I wish you continued success -however you want to define success (we all have our own ways of doing that I suppose :-D).

    Over here from Teresa Frohock’s place…

  7. Hello Kathryn. You raise an interesting point about success and how to define it. When I began thinking about writing a novel in 2005, the task loomed ahead, like Everest: insurmountable but for the fittest. I had a pretty good story in my head, but knew nothing about writing a novel. So I then I read as many how-to books on the craft as I could lay my hands on. Some offered encouragement, most didn’t : “90,000 words minimum to qualify as a decent novel.” ( I’d written a few three- page articles in a local sailing publication, and a few articles in a law journal)” Or”The first million words don’t count.” Or my favourite, “don’t try it unless they’ve turned down your grave-digger application.” Undaunted, I forged ahead anyway.
    So when I was able to say ‘ Voila !” after about 16months of on -and -off writing, I was amazed. I’d actually done it, went and finished the damn thing.
    But that feeling of elation lasted perhaps a week. No actually, it lasted as long as I could say to my friends , who kept pestering me with “how’s the book?”, “well , glad you asked. I finished it last week.”
    But then what? Keep it in my drawer as a souvenir, to be discovered by the purchaser of my desk 50 years from now at an auction, and sold for zillions to Knopf ?Unlikely. (might make a good novel)
    I digress. As most of us would at this point, I wanted more. I had to try and beat the odds against being published. So that became my goal. I don’t consider myself particularly gifted ,although I have , my wife tells me., a fertile imagination. So I knew It would be a struggle. After five long years on the roller coaster ride of hope, rejection, minor breakthough,rewrite, more rejection,more rewrite and finally those majic words ” we want to publish your novel”, I can say in retrospect that it was all worth it.
    But then, the goal changed again.Here’s an interesting statistical tidbit for you: did you know that out of the 1,500 or so books presented this year at Le Salon du Livre de Montréal, only half will sell over 200 copies ? No that’s not a typo, two hundred. ( That’s why publishers can’t survive without grants.) So my goal became :” get into the 200-plus category, even if you have to buy all the books yourself, André.”
    Luckily, sales are going rather well, and I don’t have to spend next month’s grocery money on a heap of books that will gather dust in our already cluttered basement.
    At this point in the writing game,I consider myself extremely lucky and that everything else is gravy as they say. My next goal is to finish the second novel. In parallel, it would be nice to get the original of the first novel published in English.
    On my tortuous road to publication, who knows what new twist awaits ? That’s part of the fun.

    Regards,

    André

  8. Janine Ranger says:

    J’ai bien aimé votre livre et suis curieuse de lire le second, est-ce la suite du premier ?

    Quand paraitra-t-il ?

    Janine (Beaconsfield)

    • Bonjour, Janine. Je ne suis pas en d’habitude pour repondre a la place d’Andre, mais il n’est pas dans Montreal a ce moment.

      Ca c’est son premiere livre dans la serie. Je pense qu’un autre arrivera bientot!!
      C’est a lui de donner les detailes lorsqu’il peut.

      Merci pour ton message.

      Jennifer

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