Interview by Janet Skeslien Charles, author of the award-winning Moonlight in Odessa.
Marie Houzelle's acclaimed debut novel Tita tells the story of a precocious seven-year-old schoolgirl struggling to find her way amid the traditions of southern France in the 1950s. Tita will be released September 15 in paperback and December 15 in ebook.
"a strange, utterly original child" .- Katharine Weber, author of Triangle and True Confections
When did you begin writing fiction?
Like Tita, as a child I used to write musical plays for my friends. In my teens, nothing but political songs and leaflets. My first narrative fiction was destined for my younger daughter, Mathilde, who liked comic strips (and the bedtime stories I improvised) but refused to read actual books. She was pretty critical of my efforts. So was I.
I kept scribbling, especially in public transport, about what was going on around me. Usually not in French, because people tend to glance at your notebook.
Ten years ago, I was in Alice Notley’s magnificent weekly workshop, trying to write non-fiction stories; I was so obsessed with truth I ended up with nothing but questions, for which I couldn’t find the right shape. Unwillingly, as a last resort, I defected to fiction. What a relief!
Why do you write in English?
I’m not sure why I write in English. Or why I mostly sing in German and Latin. Last week, I felt like writing in Dutch, I had such a good time trying to pronounce it. French? I’m not fond of the word écrivain, not to mention écrivaine. While I feel quite comfortable with writer.
I teach creative writing to French university students. What advice do you have for them concerning writing in English?
Feel free. In a new language, you can be a new person. Don’t try to write either correctly or “like a native speaker”. English is a welcoming language. Many countries, no Academy. Enjoy it.
Marie Houzelle grew up in the south of France. Her work has appeared in the collection Best Paris Stories, in Narrative Magazine, Pharos, Orbis, Serre-Feuilles, Van Gogh's Ear, and in the chapbook No Sex Last Noon. "Hortense on Tuesday Night" was chosen by Narrative Magazine as one of the five top stories of 2011. Marie Houzelle was the only author to have two stories selected for inclusion in Best Paris Stories. Tita will be published on September 15, 2015 in paperback. Available in Paris at Shakespeare and Company bookstore. Available worldwide on Amazon and in your local bookstore. For more information on Tita and Marie Houzelle.
Forced to abandon his library when fleeing Nazi Europe, author Léopold Stern arrived in Rio De Janeiro in 1940 on the famous Serpa Pinto ship with 420 other refugees. Over the next two years, he would jot down his impressions of his new home in what was to become the book, Rio De Janiero et Moi.
In one of the essays, entitled "My Book" (Mon Livre) he reflects on what he misses about having his own books with him.
"My" book is not the same as the one you will find in the front window of any bookstore, from the same author and with the same title; far from it!
"My book," he explains, is the one full of my own margin notes, of places that I underlined, and of earmarked paged that I bend myself, even though I hate, as an act of brutality, to see the pages of a book bent. It isthe one that I read for the first time when I was sixteen, listening to a Nocturne of Chopin floating down from the floor above.
And in explaining what is special about "my book", Stern gives us perhaps the most convincing reason - 70 years before the creation of the ebook - why the electronic book will never replace the printed book in our hearts.
Bookclubs please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for group orders
For some, Paris is home, for others, merely a dream. For Gaston, it
is a bench, the anchor of his life. For Sue, a romantic city filled with
scandalous, dark-eyed men, for Frank an all-consuming fire, for Mme Santinelli
a ghost she'd hoped to forget. By turns humorous, bittersweet, historical or
surreal, each of these carefully selected stories invites us to explore a
different facet of Paris.
BEST PARIS STORIES brings together the winning short
stories of the 2011 Paris Short Story Contest with works by Jeannine Alter, Bob
Levy, Lisa Burkitt, Nafkote Tamirat, Marie Houzelle, Jo Nguyen, Julia Mary
Lichtblau, Mary Byrne, Marie Houzelle, Jane M. Handel, and Jim Archibald.
"Exciting new voices from the winners of the 2011 Paris Short
Story Contest" - Paris Writers News
Mary Byrne's short story "Frank stands his ground, in Belleville" was a finalist in the Paris Short Story Contest and selected for inclusion in BEST PARIS STORIES.
Born in Ireland and living in France, Mary's short fiction and
poetry have appeared in numerous anthologies including Faber Book of Best New Irish Short
Stories (2008) and Queens Noir (2008). Winner Fiction International
short fiction contest 2011.
We are delighted to report on her most recent publications. Congratulations Mary!