Author Interview: Jean Cerfontaine

‘Besides fine caviar, I do not think they have made such a contribution to the rest of the world that we need to get nostalgic about the country. The squalor of some of those not in power did not bode well for the concept of perfect equality in society. And they only shared when they wanted something from us. It would have been more convenient to just buy our own, or go without, and not have to cater to their whims in return.’ She was decidedly bitter, the origin of which would surely have to be rooted deeper than the presence of a mere dollop of fine fish eggs on a cracker.- Jean Cerfontaine

Meet the Author

Jean Cerfontaine is a consultant with research interests. He has published various non-fiction pieces on healthcare policy under a pseudonym in the South African press, including the Business Day newspaper. This led to various press conferences and television interviews.

After proving his expertise in the non-fiction world, Cerfontaine decided to take on fiction.

I have always been skilled at writing academic and policy related work and decided to branch out into fiction.

Author Pic - Jean Cerfontaine

Where Do You Go To is his debut fiction work.

My recently published book is called “Where do you go to”. It explores the life of Marie-Claire, who we meet as an 8 year old in the cold morning hours in Rome. She does not know who she is or how she got there. Marie-Claire is adopted by a French diplomat in 1950 and travels through Europe, learning to appreciate art and blossoming into a skilled ballerina. Her life takes an interesting turn in Moscow and she end up studying art at the Sorbonne while living in Paris. She mingles with Parisian high society and becomes a well-known socialite. At the end of an embassy party she attends in 1965, she discovers her surprising origins.

Besides his life as an author, Jean Cerfontaine is married and has three dogs.

What Inspired You to Write?

Cerfontaine started his writing career in academics and policy pieces.

My serious writing started in academics, with a Masters’ Degree dissertation in 2006. This was followed by a PhD thesis between 2007 and 2009 and an MBA dissertation in 2014. My current employment involves a lot of response submissions on Healthcare Policy and I have subsequently started submitting opinion pieces to the press, which has been widely picked up.

He didn’t get the fiction bug until September 2017. His inspiration for fiction writing came from a song.

My current book was inspired by the Peter Sarstedt song “Where do you go to (my lovely)?”. I listened to it on a long road trip and started wondering about the life of the woman in the song. Then it occurred to me that I could write her life.

What are Your Goals as an Author?

The big dream for Cerfontaine is to retire from his day job and write as he travels.

It’s probably not unique, but I would like to retire from my day job on literary earnings and move to Paris to write full time. Alternative settings would be Barcelona or the Island of Gozo.

His academic beginnings make him practical though. He’s happy settling with knowing he’s a published author.

The publishing industry is a tough one and with the way bookselling works, this dream is unlikely to be fulfilled and I will have to be happy just being a published author.

What Genres do You Write?

Cerfontaine’s current published work is historical fiction, set in the mid 20th century as are the other books he’s working on now. He has plans for other historical fictions set in the 80s too.

My two follow up books in this series will be fairly similar, but I have plans for a series of books set in the 1980s. I probably feel a bit nostalgic about the 80’s, it was a simpler time before the internet and cell phones.

He’s not set on historical fiction though. He’s considering taking a stab at writing a crime mystery at some point.

Traditional vs. Self-Publishing

Jean Cerfontaine took the self-publishing route for his first book. With the struggles of getting people excited about historical fiction this seemed his best option.

With my book stretching over 20 years, it was difficult to get an agent excited in the first 10 pages, as it moves at a gradual pace.

He does recommend trying the traditional route if you can though.

I am sure everyone should try traditional publication first. It is, however, a tough business to catch a break in.

The choice for Cerfontaine came down to generating interest.

My beta readers enjoyed the book, as they read the whole thing. I could not get an agent as far to request a full copy. My goal was to get published and failing to get representation meant I had to follow the much tougher marketing avenue of self-publication. Historical fiction is also not the most widely read genre, so self-publication has its challenges on that front.

 What Publishing Advice do You Have for Newbies?

If you want to go the traditional publishing route, Cerfontaine recommends you do your research. You need to find the right agent for your writing style.

The traditional publishing sphere is very much an industry of word-of-mouth and agents are flooded with submissions. The Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook was a very handy resource to use to find agents.

It helps to use all the resources you have available to seek representation. This includes social media.

Twitter is also a handy tool to see what Agents are looking for.

What Does it Take to Succeed as a Writer?

Cerfontaine lists imagination and perseverance as the best character traits for writers. You need both to get your work published.

I think imagination and perseverance are probably the two biggest requirements. If you lack in one, you will struggle to succeed.

What is the Most Rewarding Aspect of Writing?

As in most things in life, Cerfontaine says the most rewarding part of writing for him, is seeing the completed project.

I think completing a project is very rewarding and finally having your work see the world and the world see your work.

Finishing means you’re one step closer to sharing your work with your audience.

What is the Most Challenging Aspect of Writing?

The biggest challenge for Cerfontaine is keeping his momentum. So many things in life require our attention, and this can sap our energy so we don’t have time for our creative work.

As I write after hours, it is often difficult to keep going. It takes a lot of perseverance to finish what you started. It can be devastating to give up on a project and therefore proper planning and a strong will is required to push through.

What Advice Would You Share with Aspiring Writers?

If you want to become a writer, Cerfontaine recommends you sit down and do the work. To call yourself a writer, you must write.

Start writing. The biggest step is the first one. And then don’t stop.

Which Authors do You Enjoy Reading?

Cerfontaine’s favorite author is Lee Child. It looks like the researcher enjoys a little thrill when he reads.

His work is very readable and enjoyable. It helps one escape the drudgery of real life.

He generally avoids drama though. I guess real life has enough already?

I tend to avoid drama, as one can simply pick up a newspaper for that. I do, however, think that franchises are always in danger of becoming stale and predictable.

What Writing Projects Can We Expect from You?

For now, you can check out Cerfontaine’s premier book, Where Do You Go To. He’s still working on his second book, but he hopes to complete it before the end of 2019.

Jean Cerofntaine Cover Low Res

To keep up with his progress and watch for other books, you can follow his journey on his website.

Famous Last Words

Cerfontaine understands the struggles of becoming a published author.

My attempts at traditional publication have left me bit bitter towards the publishing world. I am sure experiences vary. While one can understand the amount of reading good agents do and the need to time manage very effectively, it can be crushing for debut writers to get repeatedly rejected.

To make it past these struggles, you need determination.

The resilient ones will push through, but I think it can be quite devastating for those that are sensitive to failure.

Most importantly, believe in yourself. Don’t let the struggles take the joy out of your work.

Believe in yourself and your work. You can’t convince someone else to believe in it if you do not do so yourself.

Do you want to learn more about the writing lifestyle? Check out more author interviews.

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