As you probably know by now, we enjoy conducting author interviews and are pleased to have been able to interview so many authors thus far. However, we have to say, this one will be rather hard to top. This week’s author interview made our jaws drop, because it was no longer a simple, direct answer to our questions: it was much, much deeper. It was rewarding and thrilling!
Brazilian-born author and translator, Nicole Collet has edited and translated works from Ken Follet, Nora Roberts, and even Machiavelli. While she writes novels that explore love, and what makes people fall so hard, her novels also incorporate psychology, neuroscience, philosophy, music, and literature. Her objective is to get readers to think outside the box, by challenging common misconceptions, and unveiling smart, sexy, rational ideas behind all the emotion.
You’ve edited and translated works from some pretty talented authors, like Nora Roberts and Ken Follet. How did that come about, and what was it like?
In Brazil, I have worked most of my life for large publishing houses in a variety of titles that encompassed from philosophy and history to popular thrillers and romance. I remember when Ken Follett’s epic The Pillars of the Earth was in my hands. At first I thought it was just a regular best-seller novel, but after the first chapter I couldn’t stop reading it. I was only supposed to work on one or two chapters a day, so I would sneak additional chapters out of the office to read them at home.
I recently translated a great eco-thriller with romantic elements entitled Jabujicaba by British author Sigrid Shreeve (writing under the pen name Rosa da Silva). Her novel is particularly dear to me, as it is set in Brazil and takes you on a magical journey across the Amazon.
You tend to write about love, and the hardships that come with it. Staying in love isn’t always easy. Why do you think you enjoy writing about this topic?
Ah, that’s a good question. I used to be a romance buff, then I moved on to “serious” literature. Now I read romance mostly for reference. I think I write the stories I would like to read. I am very interested in human behavior, sexuality and spirituality.
Love is a theme that fascinates me because it’s so complex… What exactly stirs butterflies in your stomach and makes your heart leap? What makes that initial excitement fade? How can an undying love suddenly turn into hate? (The last question is actually easy: love and hate share the same neural circuits in the brain, just like pleasure and pain.)
Biologically, love follows a cycle. It starts with passion and a chain of chemical reactions aimed at ensuring the reproduction of the species. After the offsprings have been raised and a partner is no longer needed to help look after them, the biological tendency of love is to end.
Mentally, during the infatuation period, you obsess with the object of your desire, losing your appetite, concentration and sleep. The passion phase, however, doesn’t last too long for a simple reason: you couldn’t physically survive it.
What ensues is a period of tranquil marital bliss, and with it comes routine. Your mind seeks novelty, though, as it needs constant stimulation. Once you settle into routine, you may gradually get bored with your partner, and that’s the death sentence to love. Avoiding it requires effort and constant care.
In a spiritual level, love is an enigma. It can be the encounter of two souls teaching each other lessons that need to be learned by each individual. Souls seek one another for mutual growth. French philosopher André Comte-Sponville, in his wonderful A Small Treatise on the Great Virtues, says love is the greatest virtue of all because it is the deepest. That’s what I like to explore in my stories.
If you had to describe your writing style in one sentence, what would it be?
Romantic, dreamy, subtle, steamy, atmospheric, unconventional, with a touch of magical realism… It’s hard to describe!
Your new book, RED was released March 30th, you must be excited! Care to give us a juicy synopsis?
I will give you the official synopsis, as I wouldn’t be able to come up with a better one. Authors will relate and readers will probably find it hard to believe, but it’s easier to write an entire novel than a decent synopsis!
So here is my “masterpiece”:
Two lovers. One fate. One twist. It will all hang on the roll of a die.
Marco is a seductive literature teacher embracing a life of unconventional pleasures to escape his past. His student Marisa hides behind a cheerful façade while struggling with the loss of her father and the estrangement of her mother.
Their mutual fondness of literature brings Marco and Marisa closer, and the two find in each other a soulmate. When their secret relationship comes to light, they are torn apart.
An unexpected encounter amidst mayhem brings them together again – two changed beings sharing unchanged feelings for each other.
To be reunited, however, Marco and Marisa must take a risk that can jeopardize their love forever.
RED is a tale of forbidden love that has received over two million hits on Wattpad. It was endorsed by journalist Debra Picket, a former columnist of The Chicago Sun-Times and contributor to CNN, as “an intriguing first novel – a thinking woman’s 50 Shades of Grey. Set in Brazil and the US, it is an unusual contemporary romance featuring references to philosophy, psychology, music and literature. If you enjoy the works of Sylvain Reynard, you’ll love Red.
You describe the novel as having an empowered heroine. How would you describe this heroine, and what led you to create her?
Marisa is an eighteen-year-old who has just lost her father in an accident and is struggling to come to terms with her narcissistic mother. Her family is broken and she’s about to start a new chapter in her life at college. Her old life is gone. The future is uncertain and scary to her. She finds love and solace with her teacher Marco, but once the relationship ends, she can’t face one more loss and breaks down. She will then go on a journey of self-discovery, picking up the pieces to find out she’s stronger than she had thought. One day she finally lets go the hurtful memory of Marco. Here’s what happens in the novel:
Marisa no longer needed to conjure a prince charming to complete her.
The prince was inside her.
The prince was her.
That’s the message in RED. A strong heroine doesn’t have to be overly assertive or self-assured. What’s important is that she finds her own path and that her life doesn’t revolve around the hero. Strength comes from within and doesn’t need showing off. Strength is a human trait with many nuances, as opposed to a stereotype. Prince Charming is not the answer. The answer is you. Follow your own self and the rest will follow.
Last year I read an excellent novel by Barbara Comyns entitled The Juniper Tree. Her heroine can be meek and weak, insecure and shy at times. She struggles with her lack of self-confidence yet is very strong: she survives adversities, fends for herself and possesses an incredible ability to remain rational when faced with romantic dilemmas.
Now I will tell you something that doesn’t sit well with me: heroines that go blind with love and are overcome with lust, allowing the hero to do whatever he wants to them. Enduring abuse from a man is not a synonym for strength, no matter how sexually liberated, successful or “sassy” a woman is.
Even writers do more than just write all day (sometimes). What do you enjoy doing when you’re not writing?
I enjoy trekking, swimming, biking, cooking, and I love being around animals. I’m crazy about the beach, and a few years ago I discovered a fondness for waterfalls after I visited the most wonderful place in Brazil named Alto Paraíso de Goiás. The name says it all and translates as: High Paradise of Goiás.
Everyone has that defining moment when they think to themselves “I want to write. I want to be a writer, that’s my calling.” What was your defining moment?
The moment I learned how to write when I was a child. I had dreamed my whole life of becoming a writer, but I’d always thought I was incapable of creating stories. Today creating stories is what I love the most. It’s like a drug: I get obsessed when I’m writing them, I’m over the moon when I write something I like, and seriously, I get depressed if I write a passage that I find weak.
We have quite the amateur writer following. Would you like to share some advice with our readers?
Ernest Hemingway once said that “a first draft is sh*t” and he’s right. When you first write a story, you’re merely laying a foundation to work on later. Your rational brain is in charge and plots the story from an outsider perspective. You need that rational focus in order to create everything out of thin air. Once the first draft is completed, you can indulge in immersing yourself in the story and experience it as an insider. Don’t be surprised if the mood or direction of a given scene changes completely.
When you write from an insider point of view, you allow yourself to feel real emotions as opposed to merely plotting them, and unique truths will then surface. In the process, you may come across your own demons. Don’t be afraid of them—facing those demons benefits your own human growth and, therefore, enriches your story, which is nothing more than an expression of your inner world.
We’d like to take a moment to send out a giant thank you to Nicole Collet, for taking the time out of her busy schedule to talk to us. We loved the interview and are excited to share it with the world, especially since the answers merit the attention. She’s been busy these days, with the release of RED, so make sure to check that out! If you’d like to know more about her, follow her on Twitter, or purchase her books, please check out the following links!