Louise Tremblay-D’Essiambre | Behind the numbers, the letters

A fiftieth novel, nine children, more than two million books sold, hundreds of thousands of readers: Louise Tremblay-D’Essiambre blows up the counters. And yet, although known and recognized for its successful historical sagas, it does not always have its rightful place in the spotlight – at least those held up by the literary and media world. Who is behind these figures that few writers can boast in Quebec? A woman of letters for whom public support remains all that matters.

Like clockwork, she writes daily. But contrary to the direction of needles, it goes back in time, carrying its innumerable readers within the families of a Quebec of yesteryear. For a 50e time, at 67, she signs a new novel, Evangeline’s memories. Camped in the first half of the XXe century, he stages one of the favorite characters of his audience, more addicted to his writings than to a Netflix series. On the cover, his name is so massive that it almost flattens the title of the book; similar to his success, allowing him to live from his pen since 1994.

“It’s impressive, I’m proud of myself. It is a pleasure to write and I am aware of this privilege to be able to live from it. I don’t know if I will double that number, maybe the age will catch up with me! », She confides by videoconference to Press. Those around her even wonder why she always acquiesces to invitations from libraries, bookstores or homes for the elderly: does she still really need them? “It’s not a question of need, but of respect for those who read me,” she says. Because, beware, if it tolerates the titillations of criticism, it hardly appreciates that its readership is targeted, dented by the “popular” label which its pages are often obliterated. In fact, the media and the literary world seem to lift their noses at its success. What to upset her?

“No, because I have the audience with me. Surely there aren’t 200,000 fools on Earth. But I don’t like people criticizing my readership, saying that they are ignorant people who are content with little, ”says the one who considers herself cataloged in Quebec – more than in France, where she is also followed . A feeling of injustice, then? ” Yes and no. One day, perhaps some will wake up and say to themselves that she perhaps deserved… ”, she begins, before cutting it short:“ And then no! I don’t care now, at the age that I am… ”In her eyes, her major trophy is not a particular title, but rather those admitting to her that she inspired them to read. “It is the most beautiful literary prize that I can receive”, philosopher the author.

Listen to his characters

So what is the daily life of a woman who, after raising nine children, can produce up to three novels a year? Well, she considers herself… retired! After being up at 4 am for years to get down to her family and literary tasks, Louise Tremblay-D’Essiambre today allows herself a few “sleepovers”, usually getting up around 6 or 7 am. A black coffee later, and the keyboard sweetens his morning.

“I do not calculate my time, I calculate my words”, specifies the one which aims from 1200 to 1300 terms per day (ie the equivalent of this article). She interrupts the interview: “Wait, I’m taking off my glasses, I only need them when I’m working. “And what else do you need to write?” », We ask him immediately. A commodity that has become gold in these months of confinement: silence. Jokingly, she sometimes enjoins her partner, occupying the same room, to stop breathing! For a simple reason; this prevents him from “listening” to his characters.

I really feel like they’re telling me their story. I sound crazy, but I don’t care. I have a cinema in my head.

Louise Tremblay-D’Essiambre, about her characters

And despite decades of experience, the fear that they will shun her one of these mornings still hangs over her. Then goes his way.

Once the daily quota of words is reached and the characters have stopped cackling, how does she deal with it? There remains Alexie, his youngest daughter still at home, but nothing very restrictive compared to the past agitation of nine children at home. After having ruminated on his brain, it is the turn of his hands to activate, “to compensate”: cooking, crafts, card making and easel painting. “I used to say that painting has in relaxation what the writing has of painful”, suggests the one who has already illustrated the covers of her own novels, her admirers even demanding a return to this practice, when a disaster has ruined his workshop and interrupted the ritual. Hands and feet, hands and feet: long walks also punctuate her days, leading her on the paths of inspiration.

Women ? Yes, but not only

His stories adored by a large audience have of course something to teach us about Quebec. “It tells where we come from, it’s often the story of unknown women, a little discreet. But if they had not been there, Quebec would not be what it is, ”explains the author (she loathes the word author,“ too close to ostrich! ”) Who does not claim to be a feminist. But when you talk to her about her mostly female audience, as the press release announcing Evangeline’s memories, Louise Tremblay-D’Essiambre puts the stop. “This is not true! », She protests against this other label, specifying that a quarter of the messages that she receives come from male readers. “Often, they are followed by their wives, but ultimately, they also feel challenged: it reminds them of their grandmother, their mother, family situations they have already experienced. ”

At 67, the writer, even though she considers herself retired, will persist in writing, as she has since the age of 5. And to read, of course; lately it was John Grisham and John Irving who fed it. She says she admires Stephen King, whose work ethic outlined in Writing, memories of a trade is similar to his. But there again, do not try to confine it to the “popular works” section: it also drinks philosophy and Goncourt prices. However, her major influence will forever be her father, a skillful storyteller who kept her spellbound with adventures spanning months. “He always stopped his story on a point of suspense, and I had 24 hours to imagine the rest,” she recalls.

Today, it is she who keeps part of the Francophonie in suspense. Louise Tremblay-D’Essiambre is no longer the mother of nine children, but of hundreds of thousands of readers who tirelessly ask for more every evening.

Evangeline’s memories
Louise Tremblay-D’Essiambre
Guy Saint-Jean Editor
432 pages


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