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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

Download a DOC version of this interview

1. 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 poetry?

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?

The 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 and L’Attente de Paris), an essay (The Eclecticism), a personal journal (Un Québécois à Paris / A French-Canadian in Paris) and my poetry (The Anarchist).

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 best-sellers.

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?

I 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 fascinating.

7. If I am correct, you are working on 'The Anarchist II', can you tell us anything about this?

At 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 until now.

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 words?

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 me.

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 magazines.

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 version.

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 Sheila MacLeod.

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 version.


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.

The Anarchist II

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 or DOC or PDF

Main Contact: Roland Michel Tremblay

Tel. : +44 (0)20 8847 5586 (London, UK)
E-mail :
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Old The Marginal Website (same content no longer updated)

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.

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