Book Nerd Interview
Martin Fournier won the Governor General’s Award for the original French version of TheAdventures of Radisson. Historian and writer, he has taught at the Université du Québec and published books on Radisson and day-to-day life in New France. Since 2006 he has been Project Coordinator and Editor of the Encyclopedia of French Cultural Heritage in North America.
What was your first introduction to YA literature, the one that made you choose that genre to write?
It was my collaboration on a scholar book project in history. The terrible gap I felt between my passion for history and the dull picture of New France that came out of that book struck me. I decided that there MUST be another way to share the challenges, achievements and adventures of that fascinating period, where the Canada and United States of today begin. I then started to plan a novel full of action and thrills that would be fair to history. Operation Red Jericho of Joshua Mowl has been a good model.
What’s one thing that readers would be surprised to find out about you?
I can borrow the words of the famous painter Picasso: it took me a long time to become young! I'm on the verge of retiring and I never felt so young.
When did you write your first book and how old were you?
I was thirteen years old when I wrote my first short novel: a submarine story during World War II. I was part of a special class focused on reading and writing French. Our teacher was extraordinary, inspiring and innovative. He had all the young teenagers of the class write a short story. It was the beginning of my love for writing.
What was the greatest thing you learned at school?
School is the best place to get all the tools you need to live a better life. If you're aware and studious, it's full of fascinating experiences and you can benefit a lot from all the people who are there to teach and help you find your way. But the best of life is outside schools, where you learn how to use these tools. (Except if you're bound to be a teacher!)
How would you describe yourself in three words?
Passionate, loving life, hard working.
Did you learn anything from writing The Adventures of Radisson: Hell Never Burns and what was it?
A major project like writing this novel based on the historical character I studied “scientifically” for five years as a postgraduate student in history, was a great experience. I guess the most important thing I learned was to get in touch again with the young man full of energy, feelings, hopes and dreams that really lived this incredible life. I also rediscovered my love for fiction writing.
For those who are unfamiliar with Pierre, how would you introduce him?
Although Pierre Radisson lived in 17th Century, he's a man of our time. He traveled around the world and lived in many different cultures, always adapting to the customs of the people he dealt with, trying to get the best out of it for himself and for those he was associated with. In this first novel, Pierre is about 15 years old (a young adult at the time). He becomes a good Mohawk and contributes to the goals and well being of his community.
If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
I'd have Radisson meet Robinson Crusoe, because they share the same determination, wisdom, and capacity to look forward positively. Plus both were businessmen. Radisson became a successful fur trader and Robinson Crusoe came back to his island after his rescue to start a colony there.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
I love to read and I frequently discover new authors who inspire me. To choose a few of the most important ones for me, I would go for the French writer Albert Camus for his classic, strong and simple style, the American Jack Kerouac for his unique dynamic way of writing (his family was from Quebec and he spoke only French until he was six), the British writer Joseph Conrad for his efficient mix of adventures and important human themes and, more recently, the Chinese writer Jiang Rong for his successful adaptation of a life experience into a novel appreciated world wide.
What part of Pierre did you enjoy writing the most?
When Pierre overcomes obstacles and thrives forward. That's what he did in real life on many occasions. In Hell Never Burns, he especially does it when he goes through the hard test of torture (a tough episode to write!), when he learns how to become a Mohawk warrior and when he decides that he has to escape his Mohawk community, whatever success he had achieved there. As a writer, it's inspiring to feel the same courage he had and a great motivation to try to share it with readers who could use the same drive to pursue their own goals.
How many books have you written?
I published four history books on different aspects of New France history, two scholarly history books, and several articles or book chapters. This is the first novel I wrote to the end and published. But it's not the last one! Volume 2 of The Adventures of Radisson is coming.
You have the chance to give one piece of advice to your readers. What would it be?
Reading a good book, a book that pleases you, is like meeting a new friend. Especially when you are young, it's always enriching to meet new friends and read new books. It makes you grow. You don't only discover someone else, a new vision, another point of view or another world, but you also discover another part of yourself.
When asked, what’s the one question you always answer with a lie?
I hate lying, integrity being a core value for me. But if I'm sure the answer will cause unnecessary pain or sorrow, I will probably choose to lie, whatever is the question.
What's the most memorable summer job you've ever had?
My first summer job was in a fine rural restaurant owned by two artists called L'Âtre. It was in an ancestral stone house built at the beginning of 18th Century, located on Orleans Island, near Quebec City. There was no electricity in the dining room, most of the food was kept warm in the fireplace and we lighted candles and oil burners at twilight. Tables had nicknames instead of numbers, like the Lover table, or the Wonderful table, or the Dusk table from where you could watch sunsets. There were always plenty of wild flowers everywhere, the food was good, and you came to this isolated house on a horse carriage, away from all modern noises. I worked in this magic place for three summers in a row and never saw any other restaurant that had such a special environment to offer. No wonder I became a professional historian!
What scares you the most and why?
Probably getting very poor. It's irrational and comes from my young age, when money caused quarrels and cries in my family. I also experienced a period when I was in a very bad financial situation. It made me realize that poverty is like being paralyzed. I don't want to be trapped in that situation again.
Which would you choose, true love with a guarantee of a heart break or have never loved before?
I choose love, whatever is the cost! To me, living without love seems impossible, even if heartbreak is like the other side of the coin if it turns out bad. I experienced heartbreaks and I know it's hard but I kept looking for love and for many years now, I have the chance to live a deep and long lasting love that brings me happiness. It's worth it.
Who is the first person you call when you have a bad day?
My beloved wife.
When was the last time you cried?
Last week. I cry with joy instead of sorrow quite often. Music especially touches me.
Where can readers stalk you?
On Facebook, in French or English, and through my publisher's web site.
This is a piece of literary that brings story-telling to new heights. Author Fournier’s love for this period of time is evident by his well-written descriptive texts that many of us have no extended knowledge about. He pours out all the details to deliver a world that is much bigger that what most read about in history books. The interactions between two unknown entities have always produced great stories and this one was no exception. Although Radisson is taken in as a prisoner, readers realize the true intentions of his captors as it builds an amazing story about the bravery and heroism most of the people of this time went through. As the title suggests, there are plenty of adventures that Radisson partakes in. A fantastic read about the unknown “New World” that will captivate readers from start to finish.