Saturday, 1 October 2011

Author Interview with Delphine Pontvieux

Delphine Pontvieux, who grew up in France, has been living in Chicago, USA for the past thirteen years. A seasoned traveller, she has also lived, studied and worked in Australia, the USA, Spain and the Netherlands. Her other travels have brought her to all five continents over the years.
Before she picked up writing, she worked for ten years in the music and entertainment industry. Currently she is working on her second novel, in addition to writing several other novellas and short stories. She regularly contributes to international scuba diving publications and is a Chicago reporter for France-Amerique magazine. 
Delphine is passionate with all outdoors sports. The more extreme, the better! She loves the mountains (rock climbing, mono-skiing) and the seas (boating, waterskiing, wake-boarding, long distance swimming and triathlons). She is also a PADI scuba instructor, cave and technical diver and ocean conservation advocate.

Today it is my privilege and pleasure to welcome and introduce you all, to the author Delphine Pontvieux. I would also like to say thank-you to Delphine for taking some time out of her busy schedule to talk to us today.

Hello everyone! It is my pleasure to reply to your questions and any other you wish to ask later. I thank you for giving me the opportunity to introduce myself and my work to you all in the UK and around the world!

For the benefit of our International readers can you tell us a bit about Chicago and why you like living there?

Chicago is a fantastic city. It does not usually rank high on the list of Europeans traveling to the US who prefer to hit LA, Miami or New York, and yet it is a world class city on all levels. Amazing Architecture, phenomenal restaurants, shopping and nightlife. Plus, Chicagoans are very friendly and easy to talk to, which does not always happen in big cities, so that makes it a fantastic city to live in. The only downside to it is the frigid winter, which I am not too fond of (well, let’s say it like it is, not at all) but the great -long and hot- summers make up for it every year. Oh, and the lakefront is gorgeous and perfect for all kinds of outdoor activities (swimming, volley ball, biking, running, scuba diving, even surfing!)

Can I ask you what sort of books did you enjoy reading during your childhood?

I have always enjoyed reading ever since I was a child. I grew up loving the Grimm Brothers stories. Agatha Christie, too. Later on, I developed a passion for Emile Zola (who said school mandatory reads are always boring?) Edgar Allan Poe, Albert Camus, Antoine de Saint Exupery, Colette... and Stephen King. I read “Christine” when I was 11 or 12, and after reading that book, I bought every one of his novels and spent summer after summer engrossed in the pages of “The Stand”, “Misery”, etc. Depending on which country I lived in at the time, I bought his books in French, English and Spanish!

Other books I have always enjoyed are stories about incredible adventure and expeditions, especially those written by mountaineers (Krakauer, Cassin, Desmaisons, Grylls...)

Do you think the books that you read during your early years influenced your writing in any way?

I certainly think so. Like Emile Zola, I am descriptive. (yet, unlike him, since I write thrillers with much action, I keep my descriptions short and to the point!)
I also love suspense, horror and thrills, thus I strive to write stories that are page-turners.

Did you always want to become a writer?

No, not at all. Until I started writing ETA, I thought one had to be a genius to write a novel. Clearly I was mistaken! ;-)

However, joke aside, I have always loved writing. I wrote a series of short stories when I was a teenager (non-published, thank goodness), I always write travel diaries whenever I am abroad -I have many, many of those on my shelves!- and I also contributed articles to dive magazines before the concept of ‘ETA’ came to my head and proceeded to mess up the next two + years of my life!

Where do you do your writing best?

At home, in my office/guest room. There, I have my laptop and it’s quiet. My favourite time to write is at night, preferably with a glass of wine.

Can you tell us a bit about your novel ‘ETA - Estimated Time of Arrest’?

“ETA-Estimated Time of Arrest” is the first novel I have written and published in December 2009. (The digital version was released December 2010)

ETA takes place in the French Pyrenees and the Basque country. It is a fast-paced action thriller combining politics, romance, suspense and police drama. 

After participating in a pro-separatist march that turned violent in January of 1992, 21-year-old Lorenzo Lartaun Izcoa is wrongly charged with the fatal bombing of a police station in Irun and finds himself on the Spanish Secret Service’s “most wanted” list, branded an active member of the Basque terrorist group ETA. He has no choice but to flee his country until two years later, Lartaun’s childhood friend, Patxi, offers him the chance to return to Europe under a new identity in exchange for a “small favor.” Lartaun seizes the opportunity, yet soon realizes that the favor he owes his friend is not so “small” after all, as Patxi is secretly planning a brutal event that will shake Spanish politics.

The novel’s title is a “double” play on words. Not only it is a variation of the common abbreviation “Estimated Time of Arrival” (I used ‘Arrest’ instead of ‘Arrival’), but also because ETA is the name of the Basque terrorist group that’s been active for over 50 years in the Basque country and Spain. ETA means “Euskadi Ta Askatasuna,” which means “Basque country and freedom” in Euskara, the language of the Basque people.
While I have no roots or family originating from the Basque country, I have always been fascinated by the language, the culture and the social and political history of the Basque people, not to mention that it is a beautiful place with its mountainous landscapes, green pastures and rugged coastline. When I was a teenager in the mid-eighties, the Basque struggle for independence was in full swing. The terrorist group ETA was very active and they often made the news on national television. Looking back today, I guess these times marked me more than I thought they did, because they inspired me to write this book.

While a work of fiction, the action of my novel is intimately set within the current political situation in Euskal Herria. I strived to keep the story in check and weave it within the actual historical context to give it more substance and credibility. What happens to the characters could indeed have happened in the real world, even though their particular adventures are entirely a product of my imagination. None of the characters were based on one particular person (public figure or not) I have ever known or read about in my life. They are rather the result of an interesting patchwork of bits and pieces of people’s minds, lives, struggles and beliefs I weaved together inside my head to create each one of these characters. I find there is part of me in all of them, even though their personalities are very different one from another. My intentions were to not express my own opinion about the situation, but rather to let the characters expose all sides to the conflict, and to give us a better understanding of their beliefs and actions by being who they are. Each character thus plays an important part by letting the reader know why the Basque conflict is such a complex situation, with no ready answer to end it anytime soon. I tried to put myself in their respective shoes, and to talk their talk and walk their walk the way they would according to their respective beliefs and the events that shaped their lives to become either police officers, secret agents, fascists, non-violent activists, disabused militants or even terrorists. And yes, I feel particularly close to Lartaun, the protagonist, because I can relate to his complex personality which causes him to get often misunderstood by his peers.

Is it difficult bringing a novel to the stage of publication?

Every writer will tell you that as far as the publishing process goes, writing the actual book IS the easy part! I can’t really tell you too much about the traditional quest of finding a publisher because I did not query my book to agents or publishers.

I have worked for 10+ years for very successful, 100% independently-owned record labels in the past. As a result, the independent model of doing business has always been very much engrained in me, especially when working for an industry largely dominated by ‘major’ companies. I always took it upon myself to get the work done. It can be risky at times but also very rewarding. Thus, when my novel was nearing completion, I never really thought about shopping my manuscript to agents and so forth. My editor, who used to work for a big publishing company in New York, advised me to try the ‘traditional route’ first, because she thought I had a good chance of finding an agent. So she presented my book to four of her prominent agent friends in LA, which is seldom heard of. I got a reply the very next day from one of them. She liked my writing, but thought the story was too political for her audience. I did not hear back from the other three. I told myself, ‘OK, so we tried that. Now it’s time to really get to work.’

While I was putting the finishing touches on my novel, I contacted a lawyer and laid the foundations for Miss Nyet Publishing, LLC. It made all the sense in the world to me. I WANTED to create my company, just as much as I wanted my book to be read.

My motto is don’t wait around for someone to discover your worth. It may take years, or it may never even happen. Be proactive about the goals you set out to achieve!

Do you have a set routine when you are working on a novel?

I wish I did! That way I’d be already done with the second one. I am not much of a planner and I never want to feel “forced” to write.

Usually, my typical writing day starts at night. I will sometimes try to write during the day but I seldom get anything accomplished because I find there are too many distractions (phone calls, emails, appointments, etc) in the daytime. I prefer writing when I am alone in the house, especially if I know I can pull an all-nighter if I so feel inclined without fear of disturbing anyone. Otherwise, I usually write in my office, where I do not get disturbed. Sometimes however, if I feel like being social, I will set up shop at the kitchen counter.

I wish I were stricter with my writing routine, but since I don’t live by any deadlines to finish my novels, I tend to take my sweet old time.

What is your favourite book and why?

It’s tough because the answer tends to change with my moods, but one that always stands out is ‘Shantaram’ by Gregory David Roberts. Not only it is a great adventure that is very well written, but it made me want to go to India and now the dream is about to become reality! I really recommend it to you.

Are you currently reading a book at the moment, and if so what is it?

I am about to go to India for the first time so I am reading many books on the subject, in addition to tourist guides, etc. The last books I read (and no, it is not a shameless promo plug-in, it is the truth!) are two anthologies that just came out on CCLAP publishing in which I have two short stories. I wanted to read the other authors’ stories in them. You can download them from the CCLAP site in a multitude of formats, on a ‘name-your-price’ basis, including for free, which is nice, here:  "Amsterdamned if you do - An anthology about setting'

"American Wasteland: bleak tales of the future on the tenth anniversary of 9/11"

Have you any another books in the making at the moment?

Yes, I have a short story I am going to put on Amazon shortly, titled “Vertical Horizons” and I am working on a novella that takes place in Mexico that I am hoping to get done by year’s end. Next could be a sequel to ETA, since everyone is clamouring for one...but don’t hold your breath, folks. Once I get the right idea for a full novel, I will run with it. All I can say is it‘ll most certainly remain in the thriller-action/adventure category.

Delphine, I would like to thank-you again for taking the time to visit and speak to us today.  I wish you every success with your writing career!   

I thank you very much for your support and I hope many of you in the UK will be interested in checking out my novel. Also, do not hesitate to contact me afterwards to share your comments with me as I very much value direct feedback!

You can check out to read more about the novel and to download the beginning of the book for free
How to connect:
And/or by adding your review/star rating on Delphine's  book page on Amazon.

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