An Interview with Dominique Demers
Dominique Demers is a hugely successful children’s author in her native Montreal, with almost 80 books to her name. Her Mademoiselle Charlotte series, which recounts the misadventures of the eccentric Mademoiselle in a variety of professions, is one of her greatest successes. We are delighted to be bringing the first instalment of the series, The New Teacher, to the UK with illustrations by Tony Ross. We spoke to Dominique about The New Teacher and the rest of her stellar career as a children’s writer.
1) What led you into writing?
My mother read poetry to me and my grand-mother told me stories: Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast… My mom and grandma taught me that words are magical and mighty.
2) What was your earliest career aspiration?
I wanted to be a reporter for a big magazine. And it happened! I even won prizes for some feature stories. But when I started to write books, I fell in love with the fact that suddenly, everything became possible.
3) Can you describe your book The New Teacher and its inspiration in thirty words?
I taught in a school where the head teacher was a real villain (as happens once in a million times). He made me quit for the wrong reasons but was sent to jail two years after. I miss being a teacher.
4) Do you have any plans for your next book?
I will soon be writing my 80th book. It might be another book with Mademoiselle Charlotte. I suffered a serious illness a few years ago and I would have loved to have a nurse like her.
5) What has been the most exciting moment in your career?
The opening of the last film based on one of my books. There was a real red carpet and I wore a nice dress and some beautiful fake jewellery, and I felt like a big Hollywood star but only for a few minutes which is perfect.
6) What are you reading right now?
A book for adults about the life of real artists from my country called La femme qui fuit. My daughter, who is also a writer, lent it to me.
7) If you could have dinner with any three people, past or present, who would they be?
My mother who died when I was young. The Beast from La Belle et la Bête, as described by Madame Leprince de Beaumont in the 18th century. And Jesus, son of God or not, because he was a particularly good and influential man.
8) Which period in history would you most like to have lived through?
Now. I do not think life was better before. And I can travel anywhere when I want, even in the past and the future since I am a writer. (I was a cave woman a few years ago as I wrote a book called Maïna. I was impressed by the smell of a polar bear’s breath.)
9) If your house was on fire, which three books would you save from the flames?
Solitary Blue by Cynthia Voigt, Lettres d’amour 0 à 10 by Marie-Aude Murail and Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand.
10) What do you do to relax?
I have fun in nature. Some people call it training. I have a bike called Gaston and we go for long rides. I cross-country ski and swim across lakes. I also run up and down the 250 stairs going up Mount Royal, the hill at the heart of Montreal. (I think I could still do a short triathlon and perhaps even win since very few people compete in my age category).
11) Did you have any teachers who were the inspiration for Mademoiselle Charlotte?
Not really. But I was a fan of Mary Poppins and Pippi Longstocking. And when I was in high school, I used to talk to a rock out loud. I found it funny and so did my friends. Some of my teachers did not.
Mademoiselle Charlotte, the new teacher, is not like the others: she wears a large hat and a crumpled dress that make her look like a scarecrow, and she talks to a rock. The children think she is crazy at first, but soon realize she makes school more fun than ever, getting them to measure the room with cooked spaghetti in maths class, telling fascinating stories about a gorilla and even taking the pupils on at football.
The first book in Dominique Demers’s popular series, The New Teacher, brilliantly illustrated by Tony Ross, is an entertaining, imaginative and inspiring book that will make you wish you had a teacher just like Mademoiselle Charlotte.
RRP £6.99, NOW £5.59, 20% Off