Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The In Character Interview with Marianne Dubuc

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Marianne Dubuc

Marianne Dubuc's Mr. Postmouse's Rounds (Kids Can Press) is a charming story packed to the brim with memorable characters and illustrations that offer more to discover on each reading. Mr. Postmouse's Rounds was named a Best Picture Book of 2015 by Kirkus Reviews, where it was praised as being "like a mailbox overstuffed with gifts".

Today we're talking to Marianne as part of our In Character interview series. She tells us about creating the interiors of each animal's house, what she and Mr. Postmouse have in common and her all time favourite book characters.

Open Book:

Tell us about the main character in your new book.

Marianne Dubuc:

Mr. Postmouse is a loving husband, father of three, and a professional postman who delivers letters and packages to the residents of his village. When he was just a little mouse, Mr. Postmouse loved delivering presents to his mother and father. It was no surprise to anyone when he announced he was going to Postman School for Young Mice. He graduated with honours and returned to his village to open his own post office.


Some writers feel characters take on a "life of their own" during the writing process. Do you agree with this, or is a writer always in control?


When my editor at Casterman (the original, French publisher of Mr. Postmouse’s Rounds) proposed that I create a story based on very detailed interiors of animals’ houses, the idea of a postman came up. I drew a sketch of a little postman mouse and Mr. Postmouse was born. The animal houses are the main focus of the book and “drive” the story, while Mr. Postmouse is the narrative thread that links them from beginning to end.


How do you choose names for your characters?


The names of characters in my books are usually pretty straightforward. Mr. Postmouse is a mouse and postman. In The Lion and the Bird, the lion is called Lion, and the bird is called Bird. Characters either have their animal name (I almost exclusively use animals in my books), or names of people I know. I prefer to give my characters their animal name because it is neutral. If I give a certain name to a character, this name might have a connotation for someone — an old aunt they don’t like; a boy they had a crush on; the name of their goldfish — which I’d like to avoid.


What is your approach to crafting dialogue, particularly for your main character? Do you have any tips about writing dialogue for aspiring and emerging writers?


When I write a story, it comes to me in images first. I will draw the whole book to set the story, and go back and add the text afterward. The written dialogue is decided upon once the images are all sketched, so a lot is already said in the illustrations, which is ideal for my young audience, who often can’t yet read words. I do not want to repeat myself, so I try to complete the image with the text. That is why there are so few words in my books — most of the story is told through the illustrations.

I guess the main tip would be to know your characters. When you see them clearly in your mind, when you feel like they can exist on their own, it is easier to let them express themselves.


Do you have anything in common with your main character? What parts of yourself do you see in him or her, and what is particularly different?


Mr. Postmouse and I have a lot in common. I have very round ears, a pointy nose, and love to deliver letters. I had a stamp collection as a kid. And I would love to have a dragon for a friend. But I do not have whiskers, and as much as I love cheese, I don’t want the roof of my house to be made out of holey Emmental, like Mr. Postmouse’s.


Who are some of the most memorable characters you've come across as a reader?


Astrid Lindgren’s Pippi Longstocking is one of my all-time favourite book characters. In French she is called Fifi Brindacier. I love everything about her: her quirkiness, her style, the fact that she does not care what other people think and lives life to its fullest. And she is nice, and kind and generous. And very strong. I love that my children can see a strong female role model in a children’s story.

Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne in Anne of Green Gables was also an important character in my life, during my teenage years in particular. I was a very romantic child, and as a teenager I loved reading all of Anne’s stories. I could read for hours straight in my room. Anne was different and strong and had a lot of imagination. Too much imagination.

Finally, Jo from Little Women (Louisa May Alcott). I used to watch the 1949 movie every year at Christmas time as a kid, and I loved Jo. A strong, independent woman, protective of her sisters and her family. And she wanted to become a writer. I remember being charmed by her handwritten manuscripts.


What are you working on now?


I just finished a second book featuring Mr. Postmouse. This time the Postmouse family goes away for a few days’ adventure, but Mr. Postmouse can’t resist delivering a few packages along the way. Another book with tons of detail!

Marianne Dubuc wrote and illustrated In Front of My House, which was nominated for the 2011 Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award and La Mer, which received a 2008 Prix LUX/Grafika prize. She lives in Montreal, Quebec.

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