Thursday, April 16, 2020

Q&A with Serge Joncour

Serge Joncour, photo by Jean-Luc Bertini
Serge Joncour is the author of the novel Wild Dog, now available in an English translation by Jane Aitken and Polly Mackintosh. His other books include the novel Repose-toi sur moi. He lives in Paris. 

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Wild Dog?

A: When you write a novel you need to start with one idea, then add another and another… My first idea was an isolated house on a hill, with an access road that was impossible to get up. The second idea was a dog who had become wild again, and who adopts a human. And the third was the idea of finding yourself somewhere where there is no signal and your smartphone is useless: a “dead zone” as they say.

Q: The novel is set in the World War I period and also in the present, with chapters alternating between the two. Did you write the novel in the order in which it appears, or did you focus more on one time period before turning to the second?

A: I wrote the novel as it is published, going from one period to another. So it felt like I was writing two (very different) books at the same time!

Q: Did you need to do any research to write the novel, and if so, did you learn anything that particularly surprised you?

A: I did a lot of research, including what the weather was like during both periods and on the particular dates in 1914. I am always preoccupied with weather, even in a novel. When I start reading a book, I like to establish what the weather is like from the outset. I started one this morning, where it is very hot. I really like it.

I also researched the key role animals played in the First World War. I had a vague idea but had never imagined the extent to which we used, harmed and killed horses, cows, dogs, and pigeons.

Q: As this is the first of your novels to be published in English, what do you think English-speaking readers should know about your work?

A: That I try to get into the minds of my characters so that the reader knows what they are thinking. The way people think is always a great mystery.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: A novel with a timespan from the ’70s to the noughties. It’s crazy how much the world has changed and how much has been transformed in such a short space of time. A very short time compared to the age of the planet.

Q: Anything else we should know?

A: I try to ensure that the act of reading my novels is an immersion, and that’s why I want readers to feel everything the characters feel.

And I would like readers to know that the house on the hill really exists. The dog too. I wouldn’t have had the idea for the novel if it hadn’t been for them. I explained it to the dog when I saw him again, after the book had been published, because I really felt indebted to him.

--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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