Our Young Authors Contest winner for this issue is Teresa Lucia Vetrone, a grade 6 student at Souvenir Elementary School. Teresa had the opportunity to sit down with author Isabelle Laflèche for a one-on-one interview.

Q: Where is your favorite inspirational place to write?
A: My favourite inspirational place to write is in the Eastern Townships, where I live. I love it because I’m close to nature. There are trees and there are woods where I take long walks, and that for me is very inspirational. That’s where I get my best ideas, where I have that peace of mind, where all my ideas come to me easily.

Q: As a well-known author with a blog, do readers’ expectations stress you out?
A: Well, they do, and they don’t. To write a book, you have to be very passionate, so I choose a story that I am very passionate about. In that respect, I don’t think so much about who’s going to read it or who’s not going to read it, because in order to write a very good, crafted story, you have to start with passion, that’s very important, so I pick a topic that I’m very passionate about, in order to finish a 400-page book, and then, I figure that if I’m very passionate about the story and I’ve written this with a lot of love and attention, I’m going to attract readers as passionate as I am, so to answer your question, the true answer… not so much. Whether you’re writing a blog, a book, an article for a newspaper, it’s important to show passion for what you’re doing because it’s going to always transpose itself on the page, no matter what you’re writing. That is something I firmly believe in, with all my heart.

Q: So, speaking of the books that you have written, is there anything in your past books that you would like to change? For instance, the plot, character personality, character traits, etc.
A: Well, this is unbelievable that you’re asking me this question. My first book, called J’adore New York, that I wrote back in 2006, after I came back from living in New York City, did very well but it’s dated now, so I’ve decided to rewrite it, and that’s what I’m doing right now, that’s what I was doing this morning, so it’s incredible that you are asking me this question. I want to modernize it and add some new elements, that are relevant to what’s happening today, so you are very perceptive. Very good question.

Q: You are a lawyer who loves the world of fashion. Are any of your books based on personal experiences?
A: Yes. Particularly the first one. My first book was very autobiographical. It’s basically my story, and it’s the story of a woman, in her 30s, who goes to work in New York City, in a big law firm, and she realizes that she’s not too happy doing this, anymore.

Q: Did you develop your love of fashion in New York?
A: Not so specifically. It enhanced my love of fashion, but I have always loved fashion, even as a very young girl. When I was a young girl in school, even grade school, my mother would take me shopping at these little shops and I would always be able to find that little treasure in there, even if it was a store that was not very fancy or expensive. I was always able to pick up that one little thing that would make my friends say, “Wow, where did you find that?”, because I had the eye, very young, for those things. I could go into a vintage store or a thrift shop and I would pick out of the “junk” …I would pick the treasure.

I have that in me, I love doing that and I talk a lot about that in my books. My characters are not necessarily wearing the trendiest fashions, they are wearing things that are unique, and that are original, because that’s how I like to dress. I don’t like to follow trends or what’s in magazines. I like to go with what I like, things that are colourful. I believe you don’t have to be very wealthy to be well dressed, to hold up your own style, your individual style, and that’s something I talk about in my books and my young adult book that’s coming out in Summer/Fall, is about a young girl who has an original style, who stands out from the crowd because she’s so unique; she doesn’t follow trends, she doesn’t want to follow trends. That is why she has a blog, called Bonjour Girl, and it’s all about following your individuality, because again, whether it’s for your writing or your style, when you are truly yourself – you dress the way you like or you write the way you like – people are going to connect with that.

Q: So, you would say the fashion on the outside reflects the uniqueness of the person inside?
A: Exactly. It should, people should be able to dress for themselves, showing things that they love, and not to try to impress people with brands or clothes that are expensive and don’t represent their personality, so I think people should really follow their insights.

Q: What inspired you to target a younger audience with your upcoming book series Bonjour Girl?
A: That’s a very good question. There are two things. One is I am a huge follower of young women on social media, like Instagram. I like to see what’s going on, in the fashion world, and young girls are very active there. They’re very outgoing, showing their personalities and their styles on social media. I’m very interested in that and I follow a large number of them. Also, I have a close friend, who’s from Quebec, who teaches at a fashion school in New York, called Parsons, and I went to visit her, and I visited the college. I was very interested to see what she was doing. She participated in the television show Project Runway Canada – she was a finalist there with her own collection – and now she teaches fashion design at Parsons. I was walking around the school of fashion thinking wow, this is great, I love this ambiance, because this is something I’m very passionate about, and I attended two conferences while I was there. So, that was one of the things that gave me the idea. And then, something else happened, and this is something you might be interested in.

When I first published the series of books J’adore, there was a young woman, she was fourteen at the time, living in Toronto (she still is), and she wrote me a message on Facebook, asking if I were going to Toronto. She had read my book and it had really spoken to her, so she wanted to meet me. I immediately responded to her since I was going to Toronto to meet with my publisher, so we met at Indigo, the book store. Before we met, she had posted on Facebook that she was going to meet with an author, named Isabelle, and that she loved my books and that she was so excited. Since she had tagged me, I saw all her responses, and some of those responses were not very nice. She got ridiculed by some of her friends, they were saying who cares, not interested, so silly, so stupid, etc. I was the first time I saw this, and that really affected me, because I had never witnessed cyberbullying. As you get older, if people bug you, you just ignore them. It was the first time I saw the issue of cyberbullying within a teen context, and it had something to do with me, because she had talked about meeting me. It didn’t affect me for me, I don’t really care what people think, but it affected me for her, how she was being treated, which I thought was very nasty.

This gave me the idea to talk about this issue in my book. I was very concerned to see that people talk to each other like that in front of everybody; it’s very rude, and it has an impact on how you feel, on your self-esteem. This girl has now grown into a beautiful young independent woman of about nineteen, so she grew out of that teenage phase, and has no need for revenge (her own revenge was blossoming into the beautiful woman she is), but it’s an issue that I really want to tackle in my book. The main character has a blog, and people make fun of her blog on social media. How she reacts to that, the steps that she takes to overcome that, and to come out on top, that’s the story. That’s something I really want to talk about.

Q: Do you plan to do a book tour to promote Bonjour Girl?
A: Probably yes, in Quebec and Ontario. I don’t have the specific dates yet, but I’m going to be visiting schools, which I’m very excited about. I have been doing some conferences in high schools, to talk about my other series. I’m very much looking forward to going to schools to talk about the issue of cyberbullying, because I think it is very serious, it has consequences on people’s morale, on people’s well-being and their self-esteem. There will be some book shops, and a lot of schools I think.

Q: How did you decide what your target audience would be for this book?
A: I don’t really pick an audience when I’m writing a book. I let the publisher take care of that. I’m just interested in writing the best story possible, the most relevant. I’m lucky because I have a lot of readers, a lot of women read my books, and I know young adult women are going to read this book, with a lot of interest, because they have kids, younger sisters, or nieces. I don’t write with a target audience in mind. Adults are going to read it, I read young adults books, I love them. I got to read them while doing research. I read across the board, all kinds of books. I think it’s going to be popular with young people starting at age 10, and up, with no limit.

Q: Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
A: To be honest, when I wrote my first book, I asked my publisher whether I should, because I was being a bit sarcastic in it about my previous career, and they said “No, no, you shouldn’t”, and that was the last sort of idea that I had about that. Maybe one day, if I write in a completely different genre, like a mystery or a suspense, with gory details, but I doubt that I’m ever going to do that, it’s not what I write. I like pink; pinky, fluffy things, but you never know…Never say never.

Q: Do you write with pen and paper, a computer, or a typewriter?
A: I write with my computer. I have a laptop, and I like to write on paper as well. I take breaks from my computer and sometimes I just follow my intuition, my gut feeling, so it can happen. I invest a lot of money on notebooks. I have tons and tons of notebooks, colourful notebooks. I collect them. What I do is, if I’m feeling inspired, I’ll start a chapter by writing it down on my notebook, then I’ll see what comes out. Writing can not be forced. Creative writing has to come from your inspiration, from your inside, from your soul, so if I go out for a nice walk in the forest and I have ideas that come up, I’ll write them down in my notebook and eventually I’ll go back to the computer, so I can save a document that I can share with my publisher eventually. It’s a mix; a mix of paper and pen and a computer. I don’t write on a typewriter, although I love vintage typewriters. If I had a bigger house, I would have a room full of them. I love them, I think they’re beautiful, but I don’t think they’re practical for my work.

Q: Do you have any unpublished books?
A: Yes, I do. I have the fourth edition of J’adore, which takes place in India, in Mumbai, the largest city in India, so that’s the fourth novel that hasn’t been published yet. I’m also working on the second installment of Bonjour Girl, which I’m two-thirds of the way done with, and in that story, she will be going to Shanghai, a city in China, so there’s two more stories coming.

Q: Tell me a little about your plans for the future. Where do you see yourself as an author and as an individual in five years?
A: Wow. I wish I knew! I sincerely hope that I will have finished two other books, from the Bonjour Girl series, because I have a contract for three books, and I would love to work on an adaptation of these books, for television. I would be thrilled if one of these series, or both series see the light of day on the small screen. I would be excited to participate as a writer, on the screenwriting, not as the head screenwriter but to be involved in the creative process, that’s something I would love to do.

I would also like to work on a self-help book, to help people reach their dreams. My feeling is that a lot of people are not so happy in their jobs, and they decided to take a path that they’re not passionate about, for the wrong reasons. I did that, many years ago, this is my story, here, in this book (J’adore New York). I would like to write a practical book to help people to go from being unhappy in their work, in their lives, to give them practical tips on how to get there, because I didn’t, when I transitioned from that place.

And finally, I would love to give more conferences. I’m very passionate about sharing these messages, whether it’s with teenagers or young people, talking about bullying or finding your path; whether it is about spirituality, yoga, those are things that I’m very passionate about. I already do speaking engagements, but I would like to take my message on a broader scale, to a wider audience. I’d like to go to schools, high schools, colleges, young women’s organizations. There’s a lot of clubs or associations to promote “girl power”; that’s something I’m very interested in. I think women, or girls, are stepping into their power right now, with this beautiful movement that’s going on in the world – which is nice to see – and I want to be part of that. I want to help girls take control of their lives, feel that they can do whatever they set their minds to. There’s no limit to what a woman can accomplish today, and that’s a message I want to take on road to a greater group of people.