Friday, March 13, 2015

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Leo Dufresne


The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Hi, Leo.  Welcome to The Gal!!  Let's start with an easy question: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Leo Dufresne:
I spend my weeks earning a living as an electrical engineer, in a world that is foreign to the average person.  We are the guys who actually understood those word problems in your math classes.  The ones who see beauty in science when it's applied for humanity's benefit.  If you've ever wondered what happens to us math fanatics after we hit puberty, this is where they put us.
            But I don't really fit squarely in the geek world.  I'm the odd duck who likes being around other people, interacting, talking about non-science stuff.  Thursdays have become important for my balance.  I spend the workday in a left-brained environment and the evening with my right-brained writer friends.  It's funny, but my book, Touched Up, actually was spawned as an attempt to bridge this gap - to help wives, family members, and other normal people better understand us social deviates.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What are 5 things about you that most people don't know?

Leo Dufresne:
  1. I'm color blind.
  2. I hate to fly despite being an Air Force brat, having worked at Boeing and flown 100's of thousands of miles.
  3. I went to high school in Italy (see Air Force brat above).
  4. The CIA once tried to recruit me, but I turned them down.
  5. I have driven my car under a semi-trailer (not intentional).
The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What is the first book you remember reading?

Leo Dufresne:
The first adult novel that impacted me was Yankee Pasha by Edison Marshall.  It's a classic hero's tale where a young American man chases the girl of his dreams into a strange land.  My father, who was an avid reader, gave it to me as an introduction to his passion.  I think moving so often as a c hold and having to adapt to new places allowed me to instantly identify with the protagonist.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What made you decide to begin writing?

Leo Dufresne:
When I was a junior in high school, our English teacher gave us one of this lame writing assignments - Why do you think it's important that the alphabet was created?  Really, who thinks up this stuff?  Like everyone else, I waited until the night before it was due to begin.  Something strange happened that night.  It was the first time I remember ideas just pouring into my head.  I could barely write fast enough to stay ahead of my thoughts.  I think it took me around thirty minutes to produce two hand-written pages explaining why the world would be a sorrowful place if it was deprived from hearing what Leo Dufresne  had to say.  I'm not sure but I think there was mention of mass suicide as a potential result.  The pages dripped of sarcasm and teen angst.
            I had too much fun creating this work to keep it to myself.  So I turned it in, even though I knew I was looking at another phone call to my parents - the semi-regular attempt to help me to control my self-destructive humor.  Sure enough, two days later my English teacher began her class by discussing the assignment and pointing out that one paper really caught her attention.  At that point I must have been watching the classroom door waiting for my personal invitation to spend some quality time with the vice principal.  I was then completely stunned when the teacher spent the next five minutes praising my writing.  She actually read sections to the class.  I think she even mentioned similarities to Henry David Thoreau.  Trust me, it wasn't even close to that good.  But it did teach me that if I exposed my humor to the right audience good things might happen.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you have any quirks or processes that you go through when you write?

Leo Dufresne:
It's not anything specific I do, but I have noticed that I enjoy hearing small planes flying overhead when I write.  That's pretty strange when you consider how I feel about flying.  For some reason it seems to soothe me and I feel like my creative juices flow better.  Maybe it brings back memories of all the years growing up on air bases.  I just know that I've written some of my best stuff as these little planes soared overhead.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you have a specific place you like to write?

Leo Dufresne:
I used to write at the dining room table, but now I slog away in my ultra-messy office.  I know I should clean it, but that would take away even more time from my writing.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?

Leo Dufresne:
Like most authors who have to work, it's finding enough time to spend doing what I love.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What do you think makes a good story?

Leo Dufresne:
For me it's all about the characters and their voice.  If it's done well the character stays with you long after you've finished reading the book.  I get a kick out of people referring to Mitch, the main character in Touched Up, as if he's real.  What I didn't expect was how I'd feel when they say disparaging things about him - it bothers me a bit.  I know he's fiction, I made him up, but the guy's been through a lot and you readers should cut him some slack.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What book(s) have most influenced you?

Leo Dufresne:
  • From a voice perspective - How to Talk to a Widower by Jonathan Tropper
  • From a willingness to take on controversial topics - Change of Heart by Jodi Piccoult
  • My love of twists in plots - A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What inspires you most?

Leo Dufresne:
Thirty-one years ago I found myself in college in Montana where I stole away the beautiful creature who became my wife.  Throughout our journey she has believed in me when any sane person would have had serious doubts and continued to love me when I didn't deserve it.
            Along the way we survived the process of raising two children and now we're getting to enjoy our two grandchildren.  We were blessed that one of our granddaughters is special needs.  Yes I said blessed.  Whenever I hears parents say such a thing in the past, I always thought they were just putting a positive spin on a tragic turn of events.  Now I see how naive I was.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Where do the ideas for your book come from?

Leo Dufresne:
I think we all have things inside us that we want the world to hear.  As a writer I can't tell you how many times I've been told, "I need to write a book someday."  Deep within us all is a pool of ideas, emotions, personal truths that slosh around as we waddle through this life.  If you listen close to the people around you, sometimes I think you can almost hear the sloshing.  Poor guy needs to let some of that stuff out.  I found the spigot when I was in high school English class and I can't possibly turn it off now.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Which of your characters do you think is the most like you?

Leo Dufresne:
My writing group refers to me as Mitch.  I've gotten tired of saying he's not me.  One of us is in denial.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What have you learned creating this book?

Leo Dufresne:
Writing a novel is painful.  If you're going to write something of substance, you're going to have to open up and delve into areas that are personally uncomfortable.  Thoughts you might not even share with your spouse or closest friend.  There was one scene in Touched Up where I drove Mitch into doing something I knew he would regret for the rest of his life.  I think we all have those moments - the kind where some people look away and others capture it for YouTube.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What do you think your readers will take away from this book?

Leo Dufresne:
The email I use for my writing correspondence has this signature block: "I write contemporary novels about people whose beliefs are stressed to the breaking point, offering readers a pause in their hectic lives to think about what they believe and why."  As individuals we can sometimes be pretty harsh judges of one another's behavior.  My aim was to pull the reader inside a person that they might normally find distasteful and then feel what it would be like to walk in his shoes.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What makes your book different than others that fall under this genre?

Leo Dufresne:
My book has an element of faith in it.  I was more than a little nervous to tread in this area since it can be a polarizing topic, and it sure wasn't in my outline when I began the book, but the story took me there.  Once I decided to open that box, I wanted the handling of it to be real, not like some of the trite attempts that you can find out there.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What's in your "trunk"?

Leo Dufresne:
During my father's last years I helped him transcribe stories from his youth.  One of his recollections sparked my creative juices.  My next book is very loosely based on some of what he shared with me.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What can we expect from you in the future?

Leo Dufresne:
I've noticed how some authors write their books with the same setting (e.g. New York City, North Carolina port town, etc).  I think the settings for my books will move around - amongst the many towns where I've lived.  The one constant, hopefully, being stressed-out characters with unique voices.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Thanks for stopping by, Leo.  It's been great having you here and finding out more about the man behind this great book.  
            Before you go, where can we find you?

Leo Dufresne:

About the book:
No one should smile before the sun rises.  On the happiness scale, content is about as good as you can get to in these dark hours.  I wake early most every morning because content works for me.  Since becoming the father of two, this tiny portion of the day is all the me-time I have left.  If people were honest, which they mostly aren't, I think they would admit to wanting more time alone.  It's 5:47am and I'm sitting quietly in the kitchen, where there are no responsibilities, no guilt, and no unmet expectations.  Simply silence.

Mitch Pederson, a forty-something executive in the high-tech world, made no allowance for blackmail in his comprehensive plans to ascend to the top of an electronics company.  His carefully ordered world quickly unravels into a chaos that threatens everything he cares about.  As he puts the pieces of his life back together he discovers something about himself that is much more than the sum of the parts.


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