Direct from Wales, UK
Interview given to Crystal
Serenades Publications, a publisher in Wales with
a very interesting website mainly about poetry
8th March 2004
a DOC version of this interview
First off, I'd like to thank you for taking the time to answer
a few questions for us. Just to enlighten our members, could you
tell us briefly about your background and how you got into writing
I was born in Québec City in Canada in 1972 and I have
been living in London since 1995. I was born different: gay, filled
with questions about the universe and the role of humans in it,
and an insatiable hunger for writing. When I was 10 years old,
after my parents divorced, my father bought me a computer and
this is when I started to write. First it was short stories about
life and the social values (Towards the Green Fields), then it
was a philosophical essay about the universe we live in (The Revolution),
then novels, essays, plays, etc. I have written 17 books in all
so far mostly in French and many reports and articles in English
available on my website The Marginal Literature.
In time I worked for television and cinema and
I am now a scriptwriter for these mediums. I worked on the development
of the science fiction series Black Hole High for NBC that was
broadcast on ITV and now is on Fox Kids. I also worked on Prometheus
Rising, a big budget sci-fi film that will come out soon in Hollywood.
I even researched and developed a documentary about Einstein with
Kevin MacDonald, the Academy Award Winner and director of Touching
the Void, the top 10 movie in the UK.
How I got into poetry? I was desperate. Living
in New York, Toronto, Brussels and London alone, without any money
to live, I developed a bitter taste for reality and the world
we live in. I had to write it all down. I discovered in time that
I was not alone feeling this emptiness, many wrote to me to tell
me how they suffer and struggle as I do. The
Anarchist is my big collection of poems and it is an ongoing
project. I have three tomes of the Anarchist in French from which
the best poems were translated and became The Anarchist I in English.
I am now writing The
Anarchist II in the English language.
2. You have released five books (in French)
so far, "The Anarchist" seems to be the most controversial
of the lot. Does the book live up to its title? And do you feel
that the title has helped with its success in France?
Anarchist is definitely my most controversial book, sometimes
I cannot believe what I wrote when I read it again. Some people
have thrown the book in the fire and told me exactly what they
thought of it. It is not easy to be scandalous these days and
I am pleased that I have succeeded. This said, the book has undeniable
qualities as most readers found it new and refreshing. The Anarchist
is the most successful book so far of my publisher in Paris. This
is no small achievement as publishers are very reluctant to publish
poetry because of low sales.
I would say the title has done a lot to bring
readers to this book and I realise now how bold my publisher was
to have accepted it as I find it hard to get it published in English.
Publishers are afraid of the controversy. I think my second attempt
with the publishers will see a new title less intimidating, like
the “London Blues” or something. I believe it will
be less successful with the public with a revised title but this
is a sacrifice I might have to accept.
I have five books published in French in Paris
by two different publishers. Two novels (Denfert-Rochereau
de Paris), an essay (The
Eclecticism), a personal journal (Un
Québécois à Paris / A French-Canadian
in Paris) and my poetry (The
A French-Canadian in Paris has been published
last December and is already showing good signs that it will be
my most successful book to date. FNAC and Virgin Megastores keep
ordering copies and many positive articles have already been written
in some magazines in France. I am pleased to be recognized as
a writer both in the French and English languages. I feel comfortable
enough that my last sci-fi novel and all my scripts are now being
written in English.
3. Did you send any of your material to publishers
before you achieved a contract, who turned you down? If so, how
did you keep up the moral? Many of our writers have been faced
with knocked backs and some become very disheartened, did this
happen to you?
The whole publishing world has turned me down, many times! This
is not unusual, you need a miracle to get a publishing contract
and most writers know that, even the well known ones find it hard.
The industry has changed, in America for example there are now
only 5 big players and they only publish what they know will be
When I started to write seriously at 17, I thought
I would be published the next month and be successful overnight.
Of course it took 10 years to finally find a publisher, and getting
published is just the first part. You need a second miracle to
get the book known by the public and succeed in having reviews
written about you. Yes, it is very disheartening. So much so that
now that it is all happening for me, I have moved beyond this
recognition, having convinced myself that it was not that important
now that we have the Internet to get it all there in the open.
After my first attempts at getting published I
stopped sending my books to publishers, most of my books have
never been read by the editors. I kept the moral by putting everything
online on my website and with 1 million visitors a year I can
sleep at night knowing that at least I am being read. This is
via my website that both my publishers found me. It is hard work
though maintaining a website and attracting visitors, it is a
full time job.
I remember walking in Paris with 20 manuscripts
in my backpack, going from one publisher to the other, stopping
sometimes for a café when I could not get through the doors
of the publisher’s house. The thing that kept me going was
that I knew my books were worth publishing and I never doubted
that one day I would be recognised as a writer. However to say
that sometimes I did not feel like chucking in the towel would
be a lie.
4. Did you have any formal writing training?
It is funny that you should ask that because my background is
interesting on that topic. I was born to write and I have never
stopped. When I realised that I hated Law at the University of
Ottawa and that my books were becoming more serious, to my parents
dismay I decided to sacrifice my career and to study French Literature
and Philosophy instead.
The interesting part is that before I studied
literature I had written many books already and now that I have
my Masters Degree in French Literature from the University of
London, you would have expected my last books to be much more
complex and well written. This is not the case. I believe my first
books to be much better than my last ones, even though they are
too weird for the publishing world just yet. Only through experience
did I decide to write for the mainstream and forget my great ideas
of writing something really different.
Did my studies helped me? I would love to think
that they did not but I will never know for sure. I would say
that you don’t need any formal literary training to write
and you don’t need to have read what every other known author
has written to write a good piece of work. I don’t believe
the purists on that subject. Then again, you cannot afford any
mistakes in your book when submitting it to a publisher, it might
be wise to get a professional corrector to look into it first.
What took me so long to start writing in English
was that I have high standards in French and I have never studied
English. In fact, I did not speak English very well when I arrived
in England in 1995. I cannot even tell you if my English is good
enough now, but it is easier for me to write in English as I think
in English. Learning to write correctly and knowing the main authors
on the market cannot hurt but it is not a prerequisite to writing.
Anyone telling you otherwise must belong to some sort of institution
well past date and should be ignored. As those letters the publishers
will send you to explain everything you did wrong and why what
you wrote is not publishable. I am the master of writing books
that do not enter in any known literature category and I got published.
One thing is for sure the publishers don’t always know what
the readers want, sometimes there can be a little gem hiding out
there somewhere waiting to be found.
5. I understand that you are trying to break
into the British market with 'The Anarchist' already been translated,
is this proving more difficult than the French market?
don’t believe it would be difficult to reach the readers
in the British market, in fact I would like to believe that potentially
the Anarchist in English could be much more successful than in
French. What is difficult is to find the right publisher willing
to take the risk and that is not easy. I have only been trying
for six months, I am in no hurry. Many poetry publishers in the
UK consider form above all else. I have studied everything there
is to know about poetry and how to write it perfectly and I have
rejected the whole lot. I believe in freedom in poetry, where
what comes from the hearth comes out naturally, not carefully
thought to make everything fit nicely together. This is my opinion
and I hope it will be respected as I respect the poets who write
according to the usual laws of poetry. Eventually The Anarchist
will be published, even if it has to be under another title and
that most of the extreme poems are taken out. I just have to be
patient, and in the meantime I keep myself busy writing other
books and scripts.
6. You have released poetry and novels, is
there any particular style you prefer?
I don’t prefer a particular style. In fact, when you look
at everything I have written, you will find that I have always
tried to write something very different every time. I started
with short stories, as most writers do. Then I went to an extreme
of writing something completely out of this world (The Revolution).
Then plays, novels, essays, cinema scripts, poetry, diaries, etc.
I think that when you are living certain things,
everything you experience could be better said in certain styles.
If you have a whole philosophy to transmit, an essay is perhaps
best suited, or a novel where you can tell it all in a story.
If you are deeply depressed about life then poetry is perfect
because it can come directly from the heart without getting into
the details. A diary is also a great style, it can easily be turned
into a novel like I did with Waiting for Paris that is the novel
version of my latest book and diary A French-Canadian in Paris.
I found myself over the years to be writing two
books at the same time at any given time. One that is deep into
reality, my journal, the other very imaginative and abstract.
Both books always have the same source: my life, everything I
have experienced. The destiny of a writer is very particular,
you write what you should be writing at that time. It comes very
naturally, you can only write what you feel is right, what comes
easy to you, whatever the style or the form. If you have to force
yourself to write, then think again and write something else.
That is my advice.
Now about reading back what I have written is
a different matter. There are books that I have read more than
a hundred times and will never get tired of reading them. These
are not my novels, they are my essays, my weird unclassified books
and my poetry. The books that have more than one meaning, the
ones that can be interpreted in many different ways. These books
are still teaching me things about life, even though I read them
very differently from when I was writing them.
If I ever get to the point that I can live comfortably
from my writing, I believe that most of what I will write then
will be completely out of this world and hard to reach. This is
my idea of great literature, like the French author Antonin Artaud
from which the title of my website comes from: Heliogabalus or
The Marginal. He is one of three French authors that
people still don’t understand to this day. And I find that
7. If I am correct, you are working on 'The
Anarchist II', can you tell us anything about this?
the moment I am deep into my black poetry The
Anarchist II available on my website as I write it. Every
other night I am updating it, which is some sort of a scandal
for my French followers as they cannot understand English. They
are taking measures right now, I believe, to oblige me to write
in French. It is the first time that I dare writing poetry directly
in English and I have to say that I am proud of it. I think it
is better than the earlier Anarchists, perhaps because I am in
trouble right now so my vision of the world is somewhat very dark.
In England similar to Canada, people don’t hold writers
in such high esteem as they do in France where a published writer
is considered some sort of phenomenon.
The Anarchist II is really bitter about the world
we live in. This capitalist society and the recent events in Afghanistan
and Iraq are quite an eye opener about who we are as a civilised
society. I am almost pleased that we have here something we can
denounce as recent years before that did not hold much for us
to be scandalised about. Even gay people are finally getting many
rights I never thought they would get, the reason why I can still
be in England instead of being shipped back to Canada on the first
flight as an illegal immigrant. Being able to stay in England
with my lover is the biggest life achievement I have ever reached
Putting things into perspective, I am more concerned
about the human race and the universe we live in. I am fascinated
with science, weird and paranormal phenomena and this transpires
in the Anarchist II. Anything that can help me understand the
world in more depth is welcomed and investigated. So right now
I concentrate on The Anarchist II and my films and TV script ideas.
This is where I am now and I think it is an exciting time as I
am getting recognised on the English market. I am still expecting
some sort of miracle to help me continue to write instead of finding
a 9 to 5 job, but miracles are really hard to come by.
8. Can you describe your work to us in five
Long existential crisis without answers.
I am trying to answer it via philosophy, theoretical
physics, poetry, writing and paranormal readings. That is my destiny.
9. When did you decide that your work was
good enough to publish and what spurred you on to contact publishers?
The first book I ever wrote was called The Vortex. I was 15 years
old and it was a book where You are the Hero. It had paragraphs
numbered and you had to go to the number you decided was the right
course of action. I have lost this book now as it was on my first
ever computer TRS-80 and god knows where it is now. At 16 I wrote
another book called The Song of Roland Michel based on the famous
and first ever known French book called The Song of Roland. I
recently found a copy of this book when I was cleaning my stuff
in Ottawa, but there is nothing there that I would like to put
on my website.
My next book was a collection of short stories
of 3 pages each maximum called Towards the Green Fields. At the
time this was serious stuff to me. When I had 30 pages I thought
it was almost finished, so I continued writing it. When I had
60 pages, it was even closer to the end. After 120 pages I was
ready to send it to Quebec’s publishers. I received back
the worst letters an aspiring writer can hope for but it did not
stop me. I went on to write The Revolution and my plays The Legend
of Val-Jalbert and Antoine/Antonia. I did not send my plays to
publishers, but the Revolution was just un-publishable. Again
I got many negative letters from publishers but it did not deter
The rest is history, I wrote many more books and
put them on my website. Publishers got interested and published
me. I think that if you have written something of more that 120
pages and you could read it 20 times in a row without getting
tired, then it is worth sending to publishers.
10. Is there any advice you can offer to
aspiring writers who read this?
Oh dear! Poor you! It will take at least 10 years for people to
hear about you unless you are very lucky. You can write the most
extraordinary and insightful piece of work and it will still be
ignored by the publishers. Don’t be discouraged, this is
quite normal. I only realised that myself when I planned to start
my own publishing company. If you can only publish ten books per
year and that many of these authors have to be the ones you published
previously, there is not much space for new writers. That is why
I believe that if you can you should build your own website and
put your work on it. Then you have to make this website popular
in any way you can. If you do not have the time or courage, then
you might want to try to get published on other websites and in
Also, as getting published by contact is very
popular, you might want to go to any book launch in your area
and become friends with the authors and publishers. In an ideal
world, you could start your own publishing company, helping not
only yourself but other aspiring young writers. You will need
a lot of skills to get there. You will have to build your own
literary pantheon with fierce determination. Like the Oasis’
song says: You have to make it happen!
Many famous authors struggled all of their life
with very meagre recognition, often having to self-published their
work to bring it to a larger audience. Although this is a harsh
fact of life, try to keep this in mind when you find yourself
being knocked back time after time. It happens to all of us and
will continue to. Hoping to get published by Penguin tomorrow
morning is very unlikely. You need to be realistic and hope for
the best. And also, never stop writing!
This book was initially written and published in French in Paris
by the publisher
iDLivre. Exerts from this book have appeared in a variety
of magazines, notably in Quebec's Poets of Today. Due
to its success the book has already been translated and I am now
looking for an English publisher. The Anarchist is my most successful
book to date and I have retained all the rights for the English
So far The Anarchist is my only book that has been translated
in English by the New York Times Book of the Year Award Winner
Click here to download a DOC version of
The Anarchist. Or here to read the HTML
page. And if you have Acrobat Reader on your machine,
you can download the PDF
Black poetry, if we can define The Anarchist like
that. Scandalous book, comic in certain parts, that resumes the
traditional speech of the No Future without sinking nevertheless
in the dullness. Can we still move masses? Can we again motivate
a generation to accomplish some concrete things? Can we still
scandalize people and create a legend? If it is necessary to describe
a generation, we should not go there through several different
paths, it is necessary to aim at the target. What is anarchic
in fact is perhaps only the common reality to all. Otherwise,
it is where the anarchy begins.
The Anarchist came from my heart, I really felt the need to write
it. In all it is a big denunciation of many things, mostly of
a way of life even if it is not necessarily about capitalism.
I did get a lot of insults via emails though, more about The Eclecticism
than the Anarchist because it was said it was inspiring people
to commit suicide. It is true that death and existential crisis
are very central to my work. Some people were disgusted by the
Anarchist and have thrown it in the bin. So it is still possible
to command a reaction from the reader. To get them to act out
of rage and spontaneity. Most truly appreciated The Anarchist
and saw in it something new, something that has never been done
before. The question is: is it poetry? I called it black poetry
with a question mark at the end.
I was not certain if I wanted to put The Anarchist II online (there
are only a few texts written now) as these are my latest poems
written directly in English. Not only that, it would be a mistake
to read this before reading my other poems translated by Sheila
MacLeod that you can find here: The
Anarchist. They are much better and up to my usual standard
as a writer. So here they are but don't expect too much. I am
not certain if any of them will make it to the final version:
The Anarchist II: HTML
Contact: Roland Michel Tremblay
Tel. : +44 (0)20 8847 5586 (London, UK)
Copyrights: Everything here is copyrithed
but you can still reproduce anywhere and in any format for free
anything that I have written as long as my name still remains has
the author and you link it to my website.
E-mail : email@example.com
Sites : www.themarginal.com
The Marginal Website (same content no longer updated)
Back to the top