INTERVIEW | Carolyn Moncel

INTERVIEW | Carolyn Moncel

Carolyn, describe yourself for our visitors.

I’m a bit of “Jill of all trades.” During the day, I run two companies with offices in Chicago, Paris and Geneva:  MotionTemps, LLC, a bilingual Digital Project and Web Content Management firm, and its subsidiary, Mondavé Communications, a media relations training and now, publishing company.  At night, I get to create a totally different world through my writing.  Currently, we are a family of expatriates! We moved overseas from Chicago, my hometown in 2002 and for exactly five years, I got to be “An American in Paris.”  When my husband accepted a job offer in Paris, I packed up my two daughters (ages 5 and 2 weeks at the time), my business, a dog and a cat and joined him!  I’ve been living in Lausanne, Switzerland since 2007 with my husband Philippe, two daughters Chloe and Jillian and a very, very old cat called Poeme.   I love reading and writing, obviously, but I also love music (rock alternative and old school hip-hop and soul), genealogy research, languages, computers, cooking, movies and sports – particularly baseball and tennis.  I’m a pretty serious person when it comes to work, but I can be funny and incredibly silly as well – just ask my children!

How do you find time to connect with God?

To be honest, I try to connect with God all throughout the day because I think you can have a conversation with God at anytime.  He’s always listening.  Right now, I live in Switzerland. Sometimes when I’m walking down the street, I may be having a conversation with God.  To ordinary people passing by, I must sound like a crazy lady because I am talking to myself aloud in a language they don’t always understand.

Do you have a favorite bible verse and or quote you wish to share?

Yes, it was my mother’s favorite bible verse.  Matthew 6:25-34.  I always remember verse 26 especially.  “Look at the birds in the sky:  they do not sow or reap, or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Aren’t you more valuable than they are?” …  Whenever things get tough in life, and it always does at some point, I remember these verses and I feel better. J

Who are your favorite authors? Favorite books?

James Baldwin and F. Scott Fitzgerald are two of my all-time favorites.  However, I also love Flannery O’Connor, John Updike and Toni Morrison.  I am rediscovering Philip Roth.  I adore Zadie Smith.  If I was to choose a poet it would be Nikki Giovanni.  However, I consider songwriters poets as well.  So there would be so many musicians I could add to the list as well.  Two of my favorite books are Another Country by James Baldwin and This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Tell us about your journey to publication.

My writing journey began with my family.  I come from a family of story tellers – my parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, brothers, etc.  As a child, I started reading and writing out of boredom.  In my neighborhood, there just weren’t very many girls around; and the boys didn’t want me around. Writing allowed me to create my own world and keep myself entertained.  I can’t remember when I started writing stories, but I do remember when and why I stopped.  While in college I discovered what George Orwell meant by, “writing being a horribly exhausting struggle.”  So I put it aside briefly and concentrated more on journalism and public relations. Even then, my attraction to those disciplines had to be related to storytelling.  I graduated from Loyola University Chicago with a BA in Communications; with a minor in political science in 1991 and that is when my career in public relations began.  From there I bounced around from PR and Advertising agencies, to public affairs organizations to dot.com companies, finally deciding to open my own company, MotionTemps.  It wasn’t until we moved overseas that I started writing again seriously, but I needed a huge push from family and friends because I was afraid of rejection, and also I’m really a huge procrastinator.

Tell us about your current book, Encounters in Paris.

As you know, Encounters in Paris is a collection of short stories.  There are five stories that all center around Ellery Roulet, a 35-year-old African-American who lives and works in Paris.  Ellery thinks she has everything.  She is married to handsome French guy, has twin daughters and runs a successful bilingual PR firm in one of Paris’ trendiest parts of town.  Unfortunately, Ellery soon realizes that life isn’t always so perfect.  In one story she loses her job, in another she finds out her husband is having an affair, and yet in another she deals with the death of her mother.  She realizes that life can be quite messy; some problems can be solved while others can’t and that’s okay.  There is a spiritual undertone and at times the book really shows how flawed humans can be but there is also room for forgiveness.  There are missed opportunities for redemption as well.

What influenced you to write this book?

The inspiration came from observing life in general while living and working in Paris. Expatriate life is hard, and I wanted to address some of the more common scenarios but through the eyes of this one character, Ellery.

Did you have a favorite character(s)? Who and why?

Actually, I love them all but Paris itself,  is my favorite character in the book.  I may be in the minority, but I didn’t always love living in Paris.  Over time, I got used to it and it is, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful places on earth.  We left because my husband was transferred to Geneva, Switzerland.  Always, I remind people that there is a big difference between visiting Paris and actually living there.  It can be a very harsh place to live.  Ironically, when I as a young college student, Paris was the one place that I dreamt of visiting the most. Just when I thought I would never get an opportunity to travel there, I met my husband, who happened to be French.  So, Paris can be a wonderful place to live, but it depends greatly on where you are in your life cycle and what your expectations happen to be.  Looking back, I am glad that we spent five years there.  It was truly an unforgettable experience, since it’s so close, I do return when I can.

What’s next for you?

My next writing goal is a new collection of short stories called 5 Reasons to Leave a Lover.  It will be out in fall 2011.  One day recently, I was walking down the street and heard Paul Simon’s song, “50 Ways to Leave a Lover.”  I thought, well that song is only half right.  The ways in which to leave a lover are infinite, but the reasons are pretty finite.  At the end of the day, it usually boils down to death, divorce, cheating, deception, and ambivalence. Talk about these issues in a realistic but respectful way so that readers can think about how the lessons can apply to their own lives and those around them.  So I decided to write a fresh batch of stories surrounding these themes and Ellery and Julien Roulet from Encounters in Paris return in this series, providing further explanation into their story, but there are new characters as well. After that, I have a novella that I would like to finish and then I would like to continue with the Encounters short story collection. The next one in the series will be Encounters in Geneva. The idea is to write a set of stories around a place where I have either lived of visited.

Where can visitors find you online?

Encounters in Paris is widely available at many online bookstores in a variety of different formats.  For example, the paperback version is available online directly at CarolynMoncel.com, as well as online book retailers, Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.comGoodReads.com , Google Books, and other independent book sellers. Customers can read excerpts.

Encounters in Paris is also available in all digital formats as an ebook at Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, GoodReads.com and Smashwords.com. On Amazon.com for instance, customers can even choose to download the entire eBook or purchase an individual story as flash fiction.

In February 2011, some ebook sets will contain bonus stories and previews of the next book.  Last, a shorter, three-story audio book version of Encounters in Paris is now available on Amazon.com.