It’s my pleasure to interview Helene Boudreau for this week’s Toronto Tuesday. Helene is a terrific author and friend who is extremely witty and has a flair for slanting many a tête-à-tête towards the humorous side of things. (How’s that for throwing in a smidge of Francaise? Uh, or is it Francais? Anyway…) Helene is also a dedicated mom who loves sharing cute little snippets of life at home with her “chicklets”.
Meet Helene Boudreau.
Please introduce yourself to us.
Hi! I grew up on an island surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and now I write fiction and non-fiction for kids from my land-locked home in Ontario, Canada.
My debut middle grade time-travel novel, ACADIAN STAR, was nominated for the 2009-2010 Hackmatack Children’s Choice Book Award. My eco-adventure chapter book KEEP OUT! was released this past spring (sequel is WATER HAZARD, out spring 2011) and my tween book REAL MERMAIDS DON’T WEAR TOE RINGS was released December 1st.
I have never time-travelled or saved an endangered bird, nor have I ever spotted a mermaid in the wild, but I believe mermaids are just as plausible as sea horses, flying fish, or electric eels.
Tell us a bit about your latest book.REAL MERMAINDS DON’T WEAR TOE RINGS is a tween coming-of-age novel about a plus-sized aquaphobic mer-girl who is trying to balance the two-legged angst of zits, friendships and boys with a quest to save her memaid mother from very scary mer-dudes.
Back-of-the book blurbity-blurb:
“First zit. First crush. First…mermaid’s tail?
If she hadn’t been so clueless, she might have seen it coming. But really, who expects to get into a relaxing bathtub after a stressful day of shopping for tankinis and come out with scales and a tail?
Most. Embarassing. Moment. Ever.
Jade soon discovers she inherited her mermaid tendencies from her mom. But this revelation raises a serious question: if Mom was a mermaid, how did she drown?
Jade is determined to find out. But how does a plus-sized, aqua-phobic, mer-girl go about doing that, exactly? And how will Jade ever be able to explain her secret to her best friend Cori, and her crush, Luke?
This summer is about to get a lot more interesting…”
How much has your background played a role in your writing?
Well, so far I’ve written a middle grade novel about a time-traveling Acadian girl from a small fishing village in Cape Breton, a chapter book series about twin boys solving eco-adventure mysteries about shore birds and lobsters in Prince Edward Island and a tween book about a mermaid. I grew up near the ocean. Can you tell? J
Why did you choose to write children’s books?
There is no better audience than a kid losing him/herself in a book on a quiet afternoon or while walking through the playground, nose buried in the pages, or sneaking in an extra chapter by the light of the hallway after his/her parents have hollered ‘lights out!’.
What do you find to be most challenging about being a writer?
The hardest thing for me to come to terms with is that progress doesn’t always equal output. I often get caught up in thinking I need to be constantly producing words on the page but writing a book takes a LOT of rumination for me. Some might call it procrastination (and trust me, there’s plenty of THAT going on, too) but I need a lot of ‘thinking time’ before and during the writing process. I need to remember to allow myself that time, without guilt.
Is there anything specific you want to achieve through your book? Was it written with a specific purpose in mind?
Jade’s not so different from other girls her age. She’s wondering about boys, trying to figure out friendships, and seeing changes in her body. Though, in Jade’s case, make that BIG changes!
My own daughter is almost ten and is just at the precipice of entering those uncertain years of raging hormones and topsy-turvy emotions. I really wanted to write a fun story for her (and girls like her) to ease her into the land of zits, training bras and smelly armpits. The upside being that—no matter how hard puberty might get—at least she doesn’t have a TAIL!
And, in fact, that same almost-ten-year-old chicklet of mine stole my Advance Review Copy as soon as it arrived in the mail, and hid it from me until she could finish reading it. Can raiding my closet be very far behind?
Do you have any other interests? What are they?
I am a big-time long distance walker and have participated in several half-marathons and longer walks. Walking is a big part of my writing life since it’s a time for me to catch up on audio books and also a chance to let ideas stew. I’m a huge believer in fresh air and sun on your face. It does wonders for a person’s frame of mind. I also love cheese and cheap chocolate so walking balances that out. Kinda.
Are there any helpful books on writing that you’d like to recommend?
I love the book HOW TO WRITE A DAMN GOOD NOVEL by James N. Frey. That book was an eye-opener for me, early on, and it taught me a lot about pacing and the mechanics of developing identifiable/ sympathetic characters.
Can you share a favorite quote with us?
“I tried to follow along as Cori went on about Luke’s sun-bleached hair and cute surfer shorts, but the only thing occupying my mind at that moment was the fact that—even through all the miracles of modern science—they still hadn’t invented a bathing suit that didn’t creep up your butt. Maybe my brilliant engineer dad could get to work on that instead of trying to unify the theories of the universe.” (REAL MERMAIDS DON’T WEAR TOE RINGS)
Thanks so much, Helene! C’est interview est tres bon! ( )
To find out more about Helene and her books, you can visit her website.