An enjoyable conversation with J-F Dubeau
Most, if not all, adults are searching for jobs that make them happy. To find the job that makes a person the happiest requires change and development over time. Some find their dream job right away while others may start down one career path and then, years later, will want to switch to a new path. J-F. Dubeau is a professionally trained graphic designer and brand specialist; however, he is now curious as to where a new path will lead him. “I like what I do; I just don’t like the environment and the industry I’m doing it in. Because of that and because I’ve always been the kind of guy who has a ton of hobbies, one of the things I noticed that was a common thread in what I do is that everything I do is always working towards narratives,” Dubeau said. “Everything that I do, art wise and professional wise, has always been about stories.” By following this new path, Dubeau is now a writer and is publishing the first of many more books to come.
His first book, The Life Engineered, will be released on the first of March and what a journey it has been so far. Dubeau wrote the first draft for The Life Engineered in the fall of 2013. This draft was sent to various beta readers and these readers were the first to tell him to send it to publishers or to do something, anything with it. After rewriting the manuscript a few times, he self-published his book a year later in November 2014. “My whole goal wasn’t to make money, but to get the story into as many hands as possible. At the beginning of 2015, when Inkshares had their Sword & Laser Contest, that’s when I saw this opportunity to get [my book] professional treatment and to do good by it,” Dubeau said.
The main characters within Dubeau’s story are robots who were created by humans called Capeks. This name refers to the Czechoslovakian playwright Karel Capek who coined the term robot in his 1921 play “Rossum’s Universal Robots” or “R.U.R.” Along with this fun historical fact, Dubeau also included mythology from various cultures, using names from mythological characters for his Capeks. Futuristic these robots may be, they embrace, what would be considered to them in the year 3594, ancient history. “The original story and characters were for a web comic I was trying to do years ago and I kind of recycled some of these ideas, some of the world building behind it, and the mythological aspects were supposed to be a lot heavier, but the only thing I really kept for The Life Engineered is the genealogy, separating the various families of robots by using the names from various mythologies,” Dubeau said.
Dubeau said there are supposed to essentially be twelve mythologies within his book series. Some of these include Aztec, Greek, Roman, Norse, Etruscan, Japanese, Polynesian, Celtic, and Mesopotamian. Dubeau mixed Greek and Roman mythologies together since they have a tendency to overlap. He admitted Eastern mythology was tricky since they don’t essentially have gods, rather more spirits and entities. Some of his favorite gods come from Hawaiian or Polynesian mythology and the characters with more of an aggressive surface appearance, but who possess a deeper meaning are based on the Hawaiian gods because that is something reflected in that mythology. For Mesopotamian, Dubeau used those names for the first generation of Capeks since they are the forerunners of the Capek race just like how Mesopotamian mythology is very much like the foundation which many mythologies are based, such as the Capek Marduk from the prologue.
Dubeau has always been fascinated by mythology, but admitted that he has a bad memory when it comes to remembering the gods and all of the names. “This allows me to read and research a lot on really obscure gods which is fun,” Dubeau said. For each character, there is a very fine thread that connects the Capek to its namesake. Originally, Dubeau had modeled the personalities of his characters on the various gods and their roles in mythology, but it felt forced and clunky for his book. Instead, each character housed a trait and Dubeau would use that trait to find the mythology that would have the god that would fit that trait. “That is why a lot of the more aggressive characters come from more Mesoamerican religion where they have a lot of sun gods and blood gods and where Aztec had human sacrifices, so there is a bit more aggression there,” Dubeau said. “And some of the more ‘complex’ gods or ‘civilized’ gods would come from Greek mythology or Norse mythology because they had a more understood mythology for Westerners, but also more specific roles for each mythological character.”
As far as writing the characters, Dubeau had a favorite and a least favorite character to write. He loved writing his main Capek, Dagir, because he spent so much time writing about her and was able to get the chance to know her. His least favorite is actually the Capek he said many readers tend to gravitate towards: Koalemos. Dubeau said he is a fun character; however, he hated writing Koalemos because of his speech pattern for he talks in double negatives. “I’m so glad I didn’t have to write any long speeches for him. I had to take breaks just to write one line for him,” Dubeau said. Looks like Koalemos will not be receiving any Shakespearean monologues anytime soon.
Readers will notice when reading The Life Engineered that it is a fast-paced story for both Dagir and the readers. “At first, it was kind of a limitation to the fact that it was a quick book to write,” Dubeau said. “The original version was 50,000 words. As I rewrote it, I did expand on it and there was a moment before I did my final draft to release as a self-published book that I sat down to talk with some of my beta readers. I said, ‘Okay, do I expand this to, say, 100,000 words, make it a huge thing and slow down the pace to explain the world a bit more?’ There was a lot of deliberation and we settled on keeping the pace fast; because it’s an introduction to a world, make it a book easy to digest. A first book from a first time author, the first book in a series, make it something easy, make it kind of an appetizer for the longer series. I’m happy with it, but I’m also very glad to dig deeper into the world on the sequel.”
With The Life Engineered being the first in a new series of books and complete, Dubeau is currently working on the first draft of its sequel and is having fun working on it. He even has an idea for a third book. “There I an overarching story that I’m trying to tell in several installments in the book. There is a story that is hinted in the entire book, but mostly in the prologue and I want to tell that entire tale over several books,” Dubeau said. “Each book is its own story, but with elements to tell the full overarching tale. I’m definitely going to need at least three books to do that and I have an idea for a third book. The universe is open-ended. I could tell stories in that universe for a long time and, as long as I have ideas, I’ll do so.”
Dubeau dropped a couple of hints as to what readers can expect in future books along with the new mythological references. One is the glossary that is found at the end of The Life Engineered. Dubeau admitted the glossary was a last minute suggestion from his editor, Clete Smith, and readers have been taking very well to it. “That’s probably going to be a staple for following books, especially having maybe an even better visual description of the different lineages: which characters still exist, which characters are in which family, who’s dead, etc. These lists are going to be a lot longer in the second book, too, because the cast of characters is significantly expanded,” Dubeau said. Another hint is a question many readers may have upon finishing The Life Engineered: will humans be making an appearance in future books? “Humans definitely make an appearance in future books, but I don’t want to spoil why,” Dubeau said. “Once you’ve read the entirety of the first book, you realize humans are back. As to how back and what they’re doing, that’s complex and a lot more fun to discover as you read the second book. At least, I think so. I’m having a good time writing it.”
Life has been crazy for Dubeau with his publication date drawing ever nearer. “Honestly, if it wasn’t for an IPhone calendar and a bunch of notepads, I’d be completely lost right now,” Dubeau said. “The good news is I’m too busy to get nervous. Whenever I have a big piece of news, I know I have a million things that are going to keep me too busy to focus too much on it and get anxiety attacks, which is great. I’m used to having a lot of things going on at once, but this is a lot more than I am accustomed to, so there’s definitely a learning curve.” He also wishes to engage with his audience and for those who have been supportive of him since the beginning of his campaign. “These people were nice enough to support me so, for me, it’s the least I can do to reach out to them and thank them,” Dubeau said. “It’s fun to engage with people and the more people are reading the book, the cooler it gets because then, I get to have that discussion that I wanted to start having two years ago when the book was first finished: being able to talk about the characters, answer questions about the world, and hear people’s theories about the world. A lot of writers are waiting to sell their movie rights; I’m waiting to have someone tell me who their favorite characters are.”
Dubeau does have plans for working on the sequel to The Life Engineered; however, he also plans on promoting his other book on Inkshares, A God in the Shed. If he can reach up to 750 preorders, that will be his next book. The Life Engineered and A God in the Shed are two different books with two different genres and Dubeau admitted it is not a great idea to promote two things at once. As a first time writer, one learns as they go down the writing career path and Dubeau has amazing advice and encouraging words to give new and old writers alike. “Show no shame. Be proud of your work, even if you have to fake it, even if you feel like you sound cocky. Forget shame. If you want people to love your book, you need to sound like you love your book. No one’s going to read or support something that you describe as, ‘Oh, it’s an okay book.’ No. Your book is awesome. Describe it as awesome. Be passionate about how awesome it is. That way, people will essentially adopt your mood towards your book and they will help you out. If you’re lukewarm or boring or you sound like your bored or unsure of your own work, if you don’t show confidence in your work, no one’s going to have confidence in your work and you’re not going to get any support. So forget shame. When you’re promoting your book, show pride and confidence, no matter how weird it sounds coming from your own voice,” Dubeau said.
Originally published at www.examiner.com on February 28, 2016.