Today, in the Forum, I’m really pleased to introduce my friend C.E. Lemieux, author of the amazing novels “Whispers in the Wind” and “Loving Deacon.” I’m especially looking forward to finding out what new projects he’s got brewing for us, so let’s dive right in.
Tim Greaton: You and I have a lot in common regarding family, C.E.. I know you are also still on your first marriage (our poor, poor wives J) and you have several children. Actually, you’re one ahead of me with four. What’s your home life like?
C.E. Lemieux Jr.: I know you’re looking for interesting here, Tim, but honestly I’m a pretty average guy. I’m a twenty-seven year veteran of retail management, the father of four kids, married to the same sweet gal for twenty-five years and live in the same small town I in which I grew up. I lived in Dallas for several years while in college and even imagined I would stay there, but once I returned home I realized how much I preferred the pace of a small town. I live in a very supportive community and it has provided much of the inspiration for my novels.
Much like a lot of other people out there, things in our household seem to be moving all the time. With sports and school activities it is hard to find time to relax and enjoy ourselves. Our family enjoys fishing and a getaway now and then. My whole family enjoys baseball; it is something we can be involved in together. We’ve been Texas Rangers fans for a long time.
Tim Greaton: I’ve lived on or near the east coast my whole life, but for you that’s been an on and off experience. I’ll bet our readers would love to hear how that impacts some people’s eating habits.
C.E. Lemieux Jr.: As you know, my dad was in the Navy for twenty years. We lived along the coast most of the time—California, Florida, and Virginia. I do maintain a great love for the coast and especially for seafood even though I’ve been landlocked for years. Probably one of my favorite memories was going to Fass Brothers Fish House in Virginia with our extended family. It had an open dining area, a large aquarium at the front, and extra-long wooden tables where you could seat an army. They also had some of the best all-you-can-eat nights. I can remember putting away an embarrassingly outrageous amount of popcorn shrimp and fried clams even at the age of eight or nine.
Tim Greaton: I know your passion for writing goes way back. Do you remember the event that started the journey for you?
C.E. Lemieux Jr.: There was a teacher in high school who was a significant influence on me when it comes to writing. We had been given a list of assignments for the year…I believe a total of twenty different writing assignments. One of the first was to write a short children’s story. After she read my story, she made a deal with me that if I would expand it to book length and at least attempt to offer it to a publisher, I wouldn’t have to do any of the other assignments. I took her up on the offer and I wrote a children’s book and even created illustrations. I did submit the book to a publisher, but it wasn’t accepted. However, she had tapped into something and I just continued to write from there on. I have always enjoyed writing, even as far back as grade school, but that was the first time I really thought about the possibility of being published.
Tim Greaton: Is there a place from your past that still echoes in your writing today?
C.E. Lemieux Jr.: Though my small hometown has been the setting for several of my stories, the place which probably influenced me most was my grandparents’ home in Kentucky. I can remember as a child sitting out on the front porch with my grandfather and his friends. It was a community of coal miners; hard, rugged men coming home from working deep in the earth and darkness each day to find comfort among each other. They were storytellers and I could sit and listen to tales of squirrel hunting or life in the hills and hollows for hours. In those stories one could find humor, tragedy and harsh reality. Little pieces of those nights on the front porch make their way into my writing even when I don’t really notice it.
Tim Greaton: You and I have known each other for quite some time, and I’m pleased to be a fan and one of your reviewers. One of the first things I noticed about your stories is how real the people are. Is that intentional?
C.E. Lemieux Jr.: One of the things I strive for is connecting the reader to the story and to the characters. For me, a good story is one in which I really miss the characters when it is over. I’ve spent time with them and become familiar with them. When they become almost real to me or I can relate to their conflicts, I think the author has done a terrific job.
My most humbling experience is hearing from readers; when they tell me how they became attached to the characters or how they could find things in my stories with which they could relate it makes it all worthwhile. I recently received a letter from a reader who wanted to let me know how much “Loving Deacon” had served as a reminder of life with her late husband. Reading my novel brought lost memories to the surface for her. She told me there were parts which caused her to laugh and others which caused her to cry, but being able to reconnect with those memories had been a moving experience for her. It was touching to know something I’d written had impacted someone else so much.
Tim Greaton: You have two novels available now. What else can readers expect from you in the near future?
C.E. Lemieux Jr.: My first novel “Whispers in the Wind” was released in 2010. “Loving Deacon” came out in 2011. I have several other novels in progress and one proof I’ve been working on. At this point, I simply haven’t decided which novel will be next. Of course, I’d like to get more out there, but I’m a bit of a pipe-smoker when it comes to making decisions like that. I take my readers’ expectations to mind and want to make sure I am following up with something they are going to enjoy.
Tim Greaton: I love your writing system though I’m certain I could never keep up with anything quite like it. Could you tell our readers how many projects you have going at any given time?
C.E. Lemieux Jr.: I would guess my writing habits are a little different than many authors who pound out one story at a time. I actually like having several going at once. I work on one until I feel empty, then I switch gears and head in another direction. It may be a little undisciplined, but it keeps me from worrying about writer’s block. I just move on to something else and come back to that one when I’m ready. I have two novels nearly ready to publish and at least five others in various stages. I didn’t start this way, but my odd method just kind of developed over time. I don’t write series novels so don’t have to worry about finishing one before moving onto the next. I liken it to letting the well fill back up before dipping the bucket again.
Tim Greaton: How do you know when one of your novels is ready for release?
C.E. Lemieux Jr.: I’ve got a nice blend of early readers who will tell me what I want to hear and who will tell me the truth. Isn’t that what we all need? You’ve got to have some of those people who tell you that even your “shopping list” is a wonderful read, just to maintain some self-esteem and then of course, you need those people who will keep you grounded and let you know when you’ve gone off track.
Tim Greaton: I personally LOVED your novel “Whispers in the Wind.” A wonderful story about heartland living and relationships. Truly a beautiful novel. I’m hoping you can tell our readers what your most recent book is about?
C.E. Lemieux Jr.: “Loving Deacon” is about Andrew ‘Deacon’ Jordan, an average man. His life is less than what he would consider as significant. He’s spent seventy years in love with the one woman who could give him a reason to get up each morning and he’s spent every day marveling at the fact that she’s offered her love to him. Emily is his soul mate, his reason for living, and the only real treasure he’s ever known. “Loving Deacon” is a love story and chronicles a seventy year romance.
The story is largely focused on personal value. What makes a man’s life significant? Does a man have to do great things in order to be considered valuable to society? Is it wrong to base your value on someone else’s happiness? Deacon’s journey leads to self-discovery and the lessons he learns may help us all.
Tim Greaton: What led you to tell this particular story?
C.E. Lemieux Jr.: Although “Loving Deacon” is a work of fiction, the dedication page clearly explains the inspiration for the story. My wife and I live in a one hundred year old house which was once home to a well-respected couple in our community. They had the kind of relationship everyone wants. Though my characters have flaws which are meant to propel the story and face events of my creation or of historical importance, those folks were in the back of my mind when I was trying to determine the type of values and standards I wanted my characters to possess. When I was looking for a story to follow “Whispers in the Wind,” I decided to design characters who embodied the same spirit. I also wanted characters who would challenge me. Deacon is considerably older than me and capturing his essence was just another experience for me as a writer. This is similar to the decision I made to write “Whispers in the Wind,” from a female point of view.
Tim Greaton: Will there be a sequel?
C.E. Lemieux Jr.: I’ve never written a story with a sequel or follow up in mind and I can’t foresee any way in which my “Loving Deacon” characters would return in another story. That said, I didn’t intend to write a sequel to “Whispers in the Wind,” but I have. After questions from readers, I determined there was more to the story of “Whispers in the Wind” and have almost completed the first draft of the sequel, “There’s Something About Henry.”
Tim Greaton: Which author do you model your work after, or do you not see any parallels with past works you’ve read?
C.E. Lemieux Jr.: I don’t think I try to model after any one particular writer. I read a wide variety of authors and genres. I’m sure what I read influences my writing, just as my experiences influence my writing, but I write what I’m comfortable with in the way I am most comfortable. I suppose one could find some parallels in my writing with Nicholas Sparks, Richard Paul Evans, Robert James Waller or even Jodi Piccoult. I don’t try to emulate them and I certainly wouldn’t compare myself to them, but wouldn’t mind it if others found similarities. Of course, I wouldn’t be disappointed if my sales paralleled them either.
Tim Greaton: C.E., if you had to put a sign on the bookstore shelves, how would you describe your work?
C.E. Lemieux Jr.: Honestly, I see myself as a writer of bittersweet love stories. This doesn’t translate to genre well, but I feel it is the best description of what I do. I blend a little happiness with a little heartache. My goal is to tap into those emotions which cause an old bird like me to get a lump in his throat. I’m a pretty emotionally level person. I don’t have a lot of extremes, but I like writing which has the ability to influence my feelings as I read the story. As a writer, if I can use words to tweak someone’s emotions, then I’ve succeeded in what I set out to do.
I also like descriptive writing, which is one of the things I like most about your writing, Tim. As a writer, I want to paint a picture in the reader’s mind. If these things keep me from fitting into the right box, well I guess that’s the price I pay, but I simply can’t write just for a genre. I know that’s not popular. I know I could work at writing something which appeals better on a commercial level, but I have to be happy with what I’m writing or it is simply a process; something to do, not something I feel. I’d love for writing to support my family, but if that was all it was about it would be no different than going to a regular job.
Tim Greaton: What was the most difficult part of writing “Loving Deacon”?
C.E. Lemieux Jr.: Research. I simply despise research. Not because of the discovery, but because it means I have to comprehend the subject enough to translate it into my own words. If I was reading it for my own appreciation, I’d be fine with it. I actually like history and strolling through museums. However, I’ve always been a little rebellious about reading. When everyone else was reading a required story in English Literature, I was reading something else. I had trouble reading because I had to, but I love to read for myself. I’m sure I frustrated a few teachers with my distractions.
“Loving Deacon” has so much history in it; it spans such a large amount of time. I had to consult historical calendars, research two wars, and the dustbowl. I had to verify events to make sure they were historically accurate. It just takes away from the creativity and gives me a brain cramp. I’m more excited when I can just write what comes to mind.
Tim Greaton: You chose a unique presentation for “Loving Deacon.” Could you tell us what that was and why you decided on that particular tone?
C.E. Lemieux Jr.: “Loving Deacon” has a bit of a memoir feel to it in that much of the book comes from letters and journal entries. I considered doing it different, but I wanted both Deacon and Emily to be able to say what they feel and this seemed to be the best way for them to do that.
As I said before, “Loving Deacon” is much about finding personal value. I think it is a question a lot of people ask. “Why am I here?” “What is the purpose of my life and am I fulfilling it?” I think Deacon’s journey resonates with people. In addition, Emily and Deacon have the kind of loving relationship which many of us hoped to have the moment we said “I do.” Deacon doesn’t struggle with happiness or contentment; he’s found that. His struggle is with whether or not “he” has lived a life of value and importance.
Tim Greaton: If one of your characters could step out of the page, which one would you like to meet and why?
C.E. Lemieux Jr.: That’s tough. I’d like to meet Deacon. He’s such a kind and gentle person. I think he’d be the type of man you could sit and talk to for hours. Abby, from “Whispers in the Wind,” is a beautiful and caring individual. However, if I had to choose one character to meet in real life it would probably be J.B., who is also from “Whispers in the Wind.” J.B. is ornery and fun. He’s a no nonsense type of guy. He’s not boisterous or arrogant. He’s a person who takes life one day at a time and finds value in everything. He’s kind of quiet until you get to know him, but once he starts talking he is the life of the party. And he’s the kind of guy who’s got your back.
Tim Greaton: By now, my interviewees have come to expect a few “just for fun” questions. Why don’t we start with one of my favorite setups: Hollywood. What if one of your novels were accepted for a big-budget film but after all the horse-trading it had to become a monster movie. What would that be like?
C.E. Lemieux Jr.: Hmm…monsters in a bittersweet love story. How’s that translate? What if a giant alien which shares a strange resemblance to a lemon descends down upon a lovely Norman Rockwell-ish town, threatening to swallow it up; its sickly sour slime working like acid to dissolve everything in its path. The only thing standing between utter heartache and destruction is Daniel Craig. He uses the remote drone Q had hidden within the lapel of his jacket to deliver an utterly impossible concentration of sodium bicarbonate into the clouds above the city thereby neutralizing our monster and its slime with a salty, tear-like rain. As the citizens realize just how close they were to Armageddon they are compelled to open their hearts and pronounce their deepest sentiments to one another before they face the day when it is too late. Of course, Craig’s Bond character uses the opportunity to disappear into the night on a train which slowly climbs the picturesque mountains above the city. With the widowed wife of the city’s mayor (who was killed before the monster was neutralized) by his side, he sips a lemon drop martini he’d made from the remains of the beast.
Tim Greaton: That would be one heck of a movie (and a much better one than the last Craig movie I saw). Okay, let’s say the movie falls through but your publisher gives you an unlimited advertising budget for your next release. What kind of a fun promotion would you design?
C.E. Lemieux Jr.: Well, I could try forty million pieces of confetti with the title of my book on them floating down over Time’s Square on New Year’s Eve, but I’m not sure anyone would be paying much attention to what was written on the confetti at the time. I could put it on the side of the blimp over the stadium during the Super Bowl, but everyone would probably be watching the commercials when the blimp flew over. I’d take out an ad on Yahoo, but who really looks at those ads anyway. I could make a YouTube video and hope it goes viral. I could hire a publicist who would know more about advertising and marketing than I do, but if the book doesn’t catch on, no amount of publicity is going to sell it.
You know now that I’m thinking about it, I’d probably just take the advertising budget and use it to buy a cabin in the Rocky Mountains where I could sit and write some more books. It seems to me the best advertising is the response of your readers. There are plenty of examples of books that came out of nowhere to take the country and even the world by storm. Word of mouth is the best kind of advertising an author can get and the best way to get word of mouth advertising is to write something which impacts the reader enough for them to talk about it. Ultimately, what I’ve written has to stand on its own. I can write it, but it’s really up to the readers to decide what is going to happen to it after that.
Tim Greaton: Though we have every expectation that you will live a long, long time, when you finally do take a rest, what would you like your tombstone to say?
C.E. Lemieux Jr.: Uh, well…I hadn’t really thought of it. I kind of prefer not to think about my untimely demise. Your question does bring to mind a tombstone I read back when I was in high school which stuck in my mind. It goes like this:
“Remember me as you pass by.
As you are now, so once was I.
As I am now, you soon shall be.
Prepare for death and follow me.”
I always kind of liked that, but to be more specific As a writer, I guess I’d just like to be remembered as someone who tried to leave a little something behind--maybe a story which could touch your heart or bring a tear to your eye; perhaps a passage which makes you smile, or causes a chuckle to slip out unsuspectingly. I’d probably like to feel a little like Deacon, that one man’s ripples helped move the waters of life to keep them from growing stagnant.
Above all, I hope I’ve been a good Dad and husband for my family. We don’t get a do-over with things like that, so I just have to hope I’ve done enough right the first time. As much as I’d like to be remembered for what I’ve written, it is much more important to me that I have had the right kind of impact upon my family and friends. I can hit the delete button and start over on my writing. I can do it as many times as I want to get it where it needs to be, but I only get one shot at life and spending time with the people I love.
Tim Greaton: It would be great if you could share your website/blogsite and links to where our audience could directly communicate with you and purchase your stories.
C.E. Lemieux Jr.: My blog is “Words Written by C. E. Lemieux, Jr.” The title is probably a little less imaginative than some might expect from an author trying to stand out, but it’s me. My blog generally focuses on things I feel might be of interest to my readers. I try to offer some glimpse into my style of writing and pick subjects which may connect. I’m not a daily or even an every week blogger. I try to pick one or two subjects/stories per month. Anyone who follows won’t be getting updates every week, but I’ll try to offer something of interest. It can be found at http://lemieuxbooks.com/blog1
My books are available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or just about any online bookseller. The ebooks are available on Amazon and BN. “Whispers in the Wind” is also available on Smashwords.
I love to hear from readers and other authors, so feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Tim Greaton: C.E., I’d really like to thank you for spending so much time with us today. It’s always great to spend time with friends and share with our readers.
C.E. Lemieux Jr.: Tim, it is an honor to be with you and your readers today. I am such an admirer of your work and to be featured here with you is beyond my expectations. Your forum is a great way for readers to meet the people behind the stories and I just hope I have offered something of significance. I appreciate this opportunity and hope we can get together again sometime in the future.