The French novel focuses on a quest for identity and contemplates existentialism
Hétérochrome is the story of a CEGEP student who, in addition to being fascinated by literature, cinema and existentialism, is deeply curious about what comes after death.
“He decides to commit suicide to get that answer. But by doing so, he realizes it wasn’t the actual reason why he committed suicide,” explained author and Concordia student Léandre Larouche. “There’s something not quite right in his life […] something deeper, psychologically, that really troubled him.” In his third year of English literature, Larouche will be self-publishing this French novel in October.
According to Larouche, Hétérochrome was a product of his boredom. “When I was in high school, I was really bored. I didn’t know what to do with my time so I started writing.” He said he wrote the first draft as a short story in Grade 10 while he and his classmates were learning how to write short stories. “I wrote it about four to five times, and at some point it really got where I wanted,” Larouche said. The full-length version of the novel was written mostly during his CEGEP years. When he began his degree at Concordia, Larouche said he continued to revisit the story until it felt perfect. “The whole thing took over four years,” he said.
Larouche said he can relate to many writers who feel discouraged about their work and don’t believe they can complete it. “I told myself that if I didn’t finish one thing, I was never going to finish anything else. I just kicked my butt,” he said. “It was a feeling of necessity.” After many attempts at contacting publishing companies, Larouche decided to self-publish his novel. “Over the last year, I’ve been knocking at every publisher’s house and nothing good came out of it,” he said. “I felt that it was necessary to make it available now.”
Yet Larouche urges aspiring writers not to use self-publishing as a way to skirt the hard work of producing a novel. “Don’t see [self-publishing] as the easy way. Ultimately, you want to publish [your work], but you also want to make sure it’s publishable. Make sure it’s high-quality. Be organized.”
Larouche said his goal is to sell about 50 copies of Hétérochrome. “You have to be wise and good at self-promoting,” he added. “And learn to accept that it’s going to be small.” Larouche also recommended that writers who choose to self-publish still ask someone to look over their work and give feedback. One thing he said he should have done was ask strangers (often referred to as ghost readers) to read his book so that they could offer comments without a bias. “Make sure it’s read by many different people, and see where their feedback intersects,” he said.
According to Larouche, the first step towards self-publishing is to have a “polished result that you know is ready for publication.” The second step is to shop around for ways of publishing. The third step involves “taking ownership of all responsibilities,” which is taking the initiative in hiring a copy editor and a graphic designer, according to Larouche. The final step is the marketing phase, said Larouche, “you have to brand and sell your book. When it’s printed, you launch it and try to distribute it to bookshops.”
Larouche also advises writers to read their own work out loud to make sure the ideas flow. “You have to do it, otherwise you’ll never hear the rhythm,” he said. “You have these ideas, but it’s hard to put them into words. […] Make sure that every sentence goes well with each other.”
According to Larouche, one of the biggest challenges he faced during the writing process was his own impatience. You want to see the final result, he said, but it can’t get there without time and hard work. Although writing a French book while studying English literature might sound challenging, Larouche said it didn’t affect his work. “If it did, it would be in a positive way,” he said. “I’ve been educated for more than 20 years in French. I can write more complex sentences [in French] and have it perfectly right.”
The novel draws on themes of identity, coming of age, self-exploration and existentialism, among others that many readers, particularly young adults, will find relatable. Larouche said he believes a major theme in Hétérochrome that his readers will connect with is the idea that “everybody feels different.”
“It’s a lot about who you want to be, who you think you want to be, [who] your parents would like you to be, [who] everybody else wants you to be,” he said. “It’s that struggle. It’s definitely something that everybody thinks about.”
Larouche said he hopes his book will encourage university students to reflect on their pasts and the events that made them who they are today. “It’s written from a CEGEP student’s perspective, and in that sense, [university students] will think about themselves when they were in CEGEP,” he said.
For more information or to purchase the book, visit www.leandrelarouche.com.
Photo by Kirubel Mehari