Since novelist Claude Bouchard introduced the crime-busting duo of Lieutenant Dave McCall and computer expert Chris Barry in Vigilante, crime has plummeted in the beautiful city of Montreal, Quebec by 42%.
But coincidence? I think not.
During the daylight hours, Claude stalks twitter as @Ceebee308 wielding his parlez-vous-ing charm, razor-blade wit, and a ready to all who encounter him in the stream. Through this steady march on the social media scene, he’s amassed a legion of followers over 250,000 strong, a number impressive to any marketing despot.
And while Claude masquerades as a friendly oil-painting, wife-gushing, cat-wearing novelist, inside beats the heart of a scary writer dude.
Through six books, McCall and Barry battle a litany of heinous villains conjured from the fertile imagination of Mr. Claude Bouchard. In his latest work, Discreet Activities, they face a terrorist group, known as the Army for Islam, bent on destruction.
Without further folderol, please welcome author and twitter-beast Claude (rhymes with strode, reload, and explode) Bouchard.
(waits for applause to die down)
Claude: Hi, Helen! Allow me start by thanking you for inviting me to do this interview. I’m very excited as it’s the first time I’m interviewed by someone while she pilots a single-prop plane and buzzes airliners as they land at an international airport. Watch that 747!
ME: I only scare 737s.
Now, on to books. As an author of seven novels, the process of completing a novel isn’t a mystery for you anymore. But writing each one is a unique experience. A chapter in your life, as it were. Which book was your favorite to write and why?
Claude: Ahh, wily you are, Helen, as others have been in the past in their attempts to have me single out my favourite child when I love them all equally. That’s the last thing I wish to do as it would create a family feud of sorts resulting in chaos and mayhem in our peaceful abode. Vigilante, The Consultant and Mind Games are the elders and therefore more seasoned so they have assumed the role of leading the clan into the literary world, a gesture which I much appreciate. The Homeless Killer, my three year old, has a particular talent I love, which is the ability of presenting dual, yet related, plot-lines simultaneously. 6 Hours 42 Minutes is a quick little bugger who’s always trying to get things wrapped up on a timely basis but is loaded with non-stop action. ASYLUM is different from the others, no doubt about that, which we’ll discuss a bit further on. Finally, we have Discreet Activities, the newest arrival in the family, who has definite multitasking talents and has shown the uncanny ability of further developing Leslie Robb, introduced in 6 Hours 42 Minutes, making her the favourite Barry/McCall character of many readers.
ME: Sorry. I wouldn’t want any of your books to feel unloved on my account. You attribute a love of books to the voracious readers in your life as a child. What was your favorite book as a kid? Who was your favorite author?
Claude: Such a question forces me to dig into memories of, uh, several years ago. It’s difficult to peg down one favourite book as a child but one thing I do distinctly remember is getting home from kindergarten one day to find the first of many books from the ‘Book of the Month’ my parents had secretly subscribed me to. After having enjoyed multiple literary classics such as The Cat in the Hat and Green Eggs and Ham, I flowed through The Bobbsey Twins series on my way to more serious reads such as Tom Swift and The Hardy Boys. This paved the way to my brother’s complete collection of Alistair MacLean novels which I fondly remember to this day. I guess I could say MacLean was my first of many favourite authors, after Dr. Seuss, of course.
ME: Dr. Seuss rocks!!
Your sixth novel chronologically is the standalone novel ASYLUM. In ASYLUM, the managing director for a hospital housing the criminally insane is forced to pare back his time at work and focus on his family. I’m almost afraid to ask: did you do anything special to research this topic?
Claude: I’ll begin by allaying your fears, Helen. No, I was never a ‘guest’ in any such institution, nor did I ever work in one. In addition, I’ve never had to deal with a situation which involved trying to balance professional versus family life. No particular asylum-related research was required to write the book as the basis of the story relates much more to Dr. Russell’s family dealings than to his professional responsibilities. Much more research was required for the vacation the family takes as, alas, I haven’t yet had the opportunity to visit all the places they visited. As mentioned earlier, ASYLUM is quite different from any of my crime novels and has received reviews ranging from “Brilliant” to “Stupid”. I found interesting to note how some of the “Stupid” reviews made mention of how the reader “didn’t get it” which in itself describes the problem
Which of your protagonists would you most trust to take care of your precious felines Krystalle and Midnight? Which villain? Which of your villains would you trust the least?
Claude: I would have no problem entrusting Chris Barry, Dave McCall or Jonathan Addley with the care of Krystalle and Midnight. To my knowledge, none have pets of their own, but all three are bright individuals in whom I have the utmost confidence. Though there may have been a villain here or there along the way who might have properly cared for our lovely cats, those folks are, uh, no longer available.
ME: I see … Your novels are certainly the stuff of Hollywood or The Bridge Studios. Who do you envision playing McCall and Barry on the big screen?
Claude: The question was asked to me about Chris Barry several years ago and the almost immediate answer was Matthew McConaughey at the time. Since then, I’ve always had difficulty picturing someone else though Thomas Jane and Paul Walker are plausible candidates. Denzel Washington would be great in McCall’s role though age becomes a factor so possibly Isaiah Washington or Terrence Howard instead. Christian Bale would also be a consideration.
ME: You’re quite good at that game.
I’m aware that the O.J. Simpson case was the impetus for your first novel, Vigilante. Given Mr. Simpson’s actions since his acquittal, those who thought him innocent may have reconsidered. What was your reaction to the decision? Did you follow the case closely?
Claude: I did, in fact, follow the case very closely and saw much of the court proceedings. I believed Simpson was guilty and was therefore appalled by the not-guilty verdict. The case was indeed what spurred me to write Vigilante although the novel has nothing to do with Simpson nor are there any similarities to the murders in question. The catalyst was in the sense of violent criminals literally getting away with murder and not paying their debt to society. From this, my Vigilante was born.
ME: Hear! Hear!
For those unfamiliar with writing, making a living at it is uncommon even if traditionally published. You are one of the few, and for that I applaud both your success and tenacity. What do you think moved you over that invisible goal line?
Claude: I’m wondering if you know something that I don’t but, what the heck, I’ll play along. To start, I must highlight that past savings from the corporate gigs, accumulated equity and investments and a spouse with full-time employment are definite assets to a writer’s career.
Next, though this doesn’t seem obvious to some, one’s work needs to be good, meaning, a solid story accompanied by wacky stuff like proper grammar, punctuation, spelling, that kind of thing. I realize it sucks but a crappy product just doesn’t cut it.
A key word you mentioned is tenacity which is an absolute must for anyone who hopes for any kind of success. I published my first three novels just under three years ago and followed up with my fourth shortly after. From then until January 2011, I averaged a dozen sales per month overall. Frustrated, I remember telling my wife at the time, “If I could sell a book a day, I’d be happy.” Lo and behold, I sold 31 in February 2011, beating my target by three whole sales! Over the next year, I wrote and released two more installments of my crime series plus ASYLUM all while shamelessly pushing, pimping and promoting my work. As a result, sales slowly continued to progress though still nothing sufficient to ‘make a living’.
Things started picking up exponentially around November 2011, as I became more involved in cross-promoting but the real kicker was participation in the KDP Select programme (suggested to me by our mutual friend, Robert Bidinotto) which resulted in the quadrupling of my sales from February to March. I’m not one to divulge specific results so here is where I don’t tell you how many books I’ve now sold. All I will say is, if sales continue at the level they’re at now, I WILL be ‘making a living’ as a writer. That concept is awesome, barring the fact I’ll also be paying taxes once again.
ME: Hmmm. Makes me want to rethink KDP Select. You’re the “the next best-selling author” for a reason.
Many writers like you and I are former corporate goons. Can you tell us a good story from your HR days?
Claude: I could tell you several but the best one is about the time I became involved in an actual police investigation. I was HR Manager for a manufacturing firm and one day, an employee came to my office to inform me that one of our production supervisors and his wife (also in our employ) were selling vast quantities of stolen goods (clothing) back in the plant. As reflected in my thrillers, I don’t condone crime and I quickly got to investigating which included sorting through trash receptacles to retrieve ‘orders’ placed and interviewing a few key people (mainly other supervisors who understood they’d best keep quiet about my investigation).
Once I’d gathered my evidence, I contacted the local police (we were located in a small town near Montreal) and within the hour, I received a call from a Montreal major crimes detective asking if he and his partner could visit with me. Upon their arrival, I was informed that what I’d come across was their first solid lead in cracking a $600K heist from a major fashion retailer. I gave them what I had and what I’d learned (including the fact the couple had transformed the basement of their home into a clandestine clothing boutique) and was jokingly asked if I wanted to join the force as what I’d supplied them with would be sufficient to obtain required search and arrest warrants.
The following morning, the cops executed the search warrant and visited the ‘boutique’ before dropping in to see me. Following a brief update, I was asked to summon the culprits to my office where they were placed under arrest then taken in for questioning. Needless to say, both were also subsequently fired.
I was later informed both had pleaded guilty and spilled their guts which led to the apprehension of those actually responsible for the theft (trailer-truck hijackings). Just another day at the office…
ME: How cool is that? So what are you scheming next for your readers? Will McCall and Barry take out more Montreal trash?
Claude: I’ve started working on The Last Party, another standalone, which will deal with earthquakes, tsunamis, destruction, greed, ego and death. No, it isn’t a romantic comedy as you might assume. I’m also letting the gears spin in the background in view of the next Barry/McCall thriller which readers of my last two will be pleased to know will showcase the sexy, brilliant and charming Leslie Robb.
Once again, thanks for a great interview and thrilling plane ride. Uh, where can I go to uh, change my pants?
ME: Hey! The FAA loves me. They even let me keep my license. I wish they’d let me investigate something because then I might have a cool caught-the-bad-guys story like yours. . .
But I wouldn’t stalk him. He might not like it . . .