Thursday, August 23, 2012

❤author: Carolyn Moncel Interview and Giveaway!

❤ I'm thrilled to welcome the fabulous Carolyn Moncel to the blog today. Welcome to ¡Miraculous!, Carolyn! Will you please share a short bio with us?

Hiya, Stephanie! I’m so happy to be with you today! I guess my Twitter profile says it all: I’m a wife, mom, business owner and a writer. During the day, I run two companies: a bilingual Digital Project and Web Content Management firm called MotionTemps, LLC, and its subsidiary, Mondavé Communications, a media relations training and publishing company. At night I write. Currently, we are a family of expatriates! We moved overseas from Chicago, my hometown in 2002 and for exactly five years, I got to be “An American in Paris.” Now, I live in Lausanne, Switzerland with my husband and two daughters. I love music (indie rock and old school hip-hop and soul), cooking (as long as I’m not forced to do it), and movies. I’m a pretty serious person when it comes to my work, but I can be incredibly silly as well — just ask my children, who regularly pretend not to know me on the street!

You could be my best friend LOL! Tell us a bit about your books.

Encounters in Paris is a collection of short stories, and it’s my first book. There are five stories that all center around Ellery Roulet, a 35-year-old American who lives and works in Paris. Ellery thinks she has everything. She is married to handsome French guy, has twin daughters and runs a successful PR firm in one of Paris’ trendiest parts of town. Unfortunately, Ellery soon realizes that life isn’t always so perfect. In one story she loses her job, in another she finds out her husband is having an affair, and yet in another she deals with the death of her mother. She realizes that life can be quite messy; some problems can be solved while others can’t and that’s okay. The book really shows how flawed humans can be. There is room for forgiveness, but also missed opportunities for redemption.

5 Reasons to Leave a Lover is my second book. It’s a collection containing a novella and two short stories focusing on love and lost. Ellery and Julien Roulet from Encounters in Paris, return — this time involved in an emotionally-charged love triangle, and along with two other couples, explore how different types of love relationships splinter due to cheating, deception, ambivalence, abandonment, and even death. In the first story, “Set Yourself Free, Ellery,” Julien Roulet has been unfaithful and all involved in the love-triangle must deal with three of the reasons (cheating, deception and ambivalence). Abandonment is represented in the second story, “Or Maybe Just Leave, Steve,” as a best friend must decide where her loyalties lie. Finally, death appears in the last story, “Or Maybe in Death, Beth.” When a man’s wife dies suddenly after a 70 year marriage, he must decide how to go on with his life. Actually, all five themes can be found in each story, depending on how the reader interprets the story and that’s part of the fun. 

Railway Confessions is my current book and it’s a bit edgier than previous works. It follows three couples traveling on a high-speed TGV train from Paris to Geneva, Switzerland, a four-hour trip. It has been my experience while traveling that strangers sometimes will reveal very intimate thoughts. Maybe they do this because they never expect to see the other person again. I wanted to explore how revealing these secrets transform the characters.

In the story, "My Brother's Keeper," a couple must come to terms with the murders that each of them had a hand in committing and their aftermaths; In "A Choice in the Matter," two mothers discuss their love of baby girls and one’s desire to have a daughter at any cost, and in "Pretty Prisons," the last couple must deal with love, infidelity and all of its complexities.

How did you first get published? Tell us your call story.

I hope to find a home for my work at a traditional publishing house but in the mean time, I’ve decided to self-publish. I made this decision because I’d been procrastinating for so long. At the nudging of family and friends, I decided to complete a collection of short stories first in order to get my feet wet. Then, I discovered that I really loved short stories as a medium so I’ve decided to continue.

How much of your actual life gets written into your fictional stories?

Bits of my personal life do inspire some of my stories, but not always. For example, there are two stories in Encounters in Paris, “A Haunting in Courbevoie” and “Some Birds of a Feather,” that are partially based on my own life but all the others are completely fiction. There are a lot of similarities between the character Ellery Roulet and myself. We are both American business owners living overseas. We’re both married to French men and have two daughters. However, that’s where the similarities end thankfully. Ellery makes her own decisions and some of them I’d never make!

❤ What do you consider your biggest strengths and weaknesses as an author?

Personally, I’m still learning what my strengths are as a writer. I think it’s a lifelong pursuit. All that I know for now is I like getting inside the heads of my characters and generating pure and truthful emotions. I like focusing on narrow moments in time and exploring what that means for my characters.

This takes me to what I think is a weakness. I have difficulty in providing overall descriptions of interior or exterior settings (the color of a leaf, the sky, or living room furnishings, etc.), because honestly, I’m don’t pay too much attention to these sorts of things in real life. If I were to put myself in the situations in which my characters find themselves, I can promise you that remembering those types of details in general, would be the last thing that I’d be focusing on. LOL

For me, the most obvious physical descriptions of something or someone are often incidental because what I’m looking for is the universality of a situation. For example, Ellery Roulet lives in Paris but what happens to her could have occurred anywhere. I always want to create circumstances for which readers can relate on a deeply personally level.

❤ How would you describe your writing style and tone?

It’s definitely realistic. I like looking at real situations unflinchingly. I’m an observer, and I’ve learned to write in a detached way. No doubt my time spent in Europe, particularly in France, has had a major impact on my style. Just like French movies, I don’t necessarily believe that stories should have happy endings but rather realistic ones. I like to give readers some space to think. 

What’s the greatest thing you ever learned in school?

My English professor in college pulled me aside one day and said, “Never stick around waiting for someone else to validate your worth or talent. You already know what you can do and you don’t need anyone else’s permission.”

❤ Give aspiring writers a piece of advice you wish you had known before getting published.

I knew this before I started writing, but I think it’s still an important piece of advice: Find your truth in your stories and tell it. Truth is a subjective thing and finding it is risky because it requires deep introspection. Not everyone will agree with your interpretation but tell it anyway.

❤ Now give us your best personal advice — something you wish you had known when you were younger and would offer to your own kids.
I always try to give me daughters the same advice that my own mother gave to me. You shouldn’t be afraid to venture outside of your comfort zone because it’s how you grow. It’s okay to change your mind and failure is inevitable so try again.

I used to be so afraid of everything but as I get older, I find that I purposely run toward challenging opportunities, not away from them. I embrace some opportunities which carry a high threshold of risk. Starting a business, moving overseas, writing books, etc., were all risky opportunities but I’ve learned something new about myself in every instance.

❤ Give aspiring writers a piece of advice you wish you had known before getting published. 

I knew this before I started writing, but I think it’s still an important piece of advice: Find your truth in your stories and tell it. Truth is a subjective thing and finding it is risky because it requires deep introspection. Not everyone will agree with your interpretation but tell it anyway. 

❤ Share with us, your all-time favorite quote, whether it be one you live by or one you just find beautiful.

“Isn't it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?” Author Lucy Maude Montgomery, author of Anne of Green Gables.

❤ Are there any occupational hazards to being a writer?

Yes! Sometimes I forget to do the things that make me a wife and mother, like cook and clean! However, my husband now understands and says, “Hmmm... you’re writing so I’ll make lunch if you make dinner!” Totally the correct answer, right?” LOL

❤ What’s the most interesting comment you have ever received about your books?

I can’t cite a specific comment, but it does blow my mind when readers find themes or symbolism within the work for which I haven’t considered on a conscious level!

❤ That's always mind-blowing! What’s something you love to see your readers do or say?

I love it when readers tell me that they can personally identify with my characters and that Ellery, in particular, feels like a real person. Once, I received an email from a reader and it simply stated: “I hope you know that you just made me cry!”

 What's next for you?

I have three projects in the hopper right now and bunch more swirling around in my head! I’m having so much fun writing a young adult novel called Nearly Lost You. Since I am collaborating with my teenage daughter, Chloe, we are writing under the pen name, Ella Swinton. The story follows the adventures (or rather misadventures) of Isobel Ballou, a sassy yet snarky teen from Evanston, Illinois. It’s the Parent Trap turned upside down in that Izzy wants to do everything in her power to ensure that her parents get divorced because they need to. However, fate has other ideas. We hope that teens and adult women in particular will find it an equally enjoyable read.

Additionally, I am finishing up the last book in the Ellery Roulet series called Geneva Nights, which will be a novel and will tie together all the characters introduced in previous works like Encounters in Paris and 5 Reasons to Leave a Lover. New characters also emerge including a very sexy new man who definitely has his eye on Ellery Roulet.

Last, I have another working novel tentatively called That House on the Hill. For 40 years a family has been divided due to an on-going feud. When the family’s patriarch dies in Chicago, the surviving relatives gather to settle the estate and also return him to his final resting place within the family crypt in Eastern France. A lost diary and a tree located in a small town hold the keys as to why the feud occurred in the first place. This story is still in the research phase but so far one character has already emerged and she’s from where else? Chicago! LOL Danielle Deschamps is married to one of the French-American sons. She’s all about family and finds it difficult to understand how other families can remain estranged for so long. As for their predicament, she calls it as she sees it and at times, makes the in-laws around her quite uncomfortable. However, it’s her outspoken nature and keen and truthful observations that propel the family forward so the feud can end and healing can occur.

You have such exciting endeavors ahead, Carolyn! Before we conclude this interview, I want to thank you so much for being here with us. Where can you be found on the web?

I adore hearing from readers! Please come and be my friend! LOL
Website | Facebook | Pinterest | Twitter
I want to thank you, Stephanie and your readers for allowing me to spend some time with you. Readers, stay tuned for the giveaway details!

Carolyn has been generous enough to offer one print copy and one eBook copy of her newest book, Railway Confessions. That's two winners! To enter, fill out the Rafflecopter form below. 
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Giveaway runs through September 7th, 2012 at 11.59 pm (your time).
Open to ALL readers — international included!
As a reminder, you do not have to follow my blog to enter, though it is always very much appreciated ❤
Good luck!