Mama’s Boy by David Goudreault, translated by JC Sutcliffe, is written with gritty humour in the form of a confession. It recounts the family drama of a young man who sets out in search of his mother after a childhood spent shuffling from one foster home to another. A bizarre character with a skewed view of the world, he leads the reader on a quest that is both tender and violent. Award-winning author Kim Thuy writes that “David Goudreault will captivate you from the first line!” She’s absolutely right.
The Globe and Mail recently included Mama’s Boy in a round-up of the biggest and most anticipated summer book releases. Originally published in French as La Bête à sa mère, it is the first title in a bestselling trilogy that has taken Quebec by storm. It won the 2016 Grand Prix littéraire Archambault and has sold more than twenty thousand copies. Now, thanks to JC Sutcliffe, English readers will have the opportunity to absorb this darkly funny and disturbing novel from one of Quebec’s shining literary stars.
Book*hug intern Mary Ann Matias recently sat down with David and JC to discuss this exciting book.
Mary Ann Matias: Tell us a little bit about your book and how it came to be.
David Goudreault: It’s a trashy-realistic novel inspired by my career as a social worker. Even in the most tragic moments, there’s some light, something to laugh at.
MM: Can you speak to the editorial process? Did the manuscript undergo substantial changes over the course of its development? Is the finished book drastically different from what it was at the start of your project?
DG: I had that story in my mind for years, so it came quite easily.
MM: What are some of your favorite books or genres? Did any of them influence this new book?
DG: I love Romain Gary, Dan Fante and Réjean Ducharme. I guess there’s some influence, writers are so suggestible.
MM: What are some other influences for your work, besides writing? Music, visual culture, science, etc.?
DG: Poetry, slam poetry, and movies.
MM: If there was one thing readers should know about your book, what would it be?
DG: It’s funny, really rough but funny!
JC: It’s funny and disturbing. The funniest (and most poignant) parts of the book are the juxtaposition of the character’s perception of events and the reader’s perception of them.
MM: Can you describe your writing process? What motivates you, and how do you deal with the challenges of this process?
DG: I’m an early bird writer, and a dad, so I have to steal some time in the morning. Or in the middle of the night. I never write when I want, I always write when I can!
JC: This is something I’m refining with each book I translate. I used to like to get a first draft out very quickly, but it turns out I’m terrible at editing myself (even though I do it for my main job), so it’s better to make it as good as possible on the first attempt. Even if it feels like I’ll never meet the deadline.
MM: With this book completed, how do you imagine your writing will go moving forward? Are there certain influences or lessons you’ll be taking from this project into the next?
DG: I want to explore something else in the novel’s universe. I will publish some poetry again, too. I just can’t stop writing. And reading.
JC: I’ll be translating the next two volumes in the series. I can’t wait.
MM: What inspired you to write this book and tell this particular story?
DG: My career as a social worker and the will to make something really funny, violent, but still literary.
MM: What are you currently working on?
DG: New book of poetry (secret) and a new novel (top secret).
JC: I’m back in Mama’s boy’s head. Right now he’s in prison.
MM: If you had to describe your book in one word, what would it be and why?
DG: Tasty! Because it is.
MM: What are you reading now, and what’s next on your reading list?
DG: I’m reading all of Fante’s family work. Poetry and novels from John and Dan. They’re crazy and wonderful.
JC: So many things. Up next (ish): A Secret Sisterhood by Emily Midorikawa and Emma Claire Sweeney. And I really want to read all the books from Book*hug’s spring launch.
MM: What type of readers do you think will be drawn to your work?
JC: Readers who can handle unlikeable characters with opinions very different from their own.
MM: Have you ever had to let a writing project go? How do you know when it just isn’t working, and how do you move forward?
DG: Often, it’s a love affair. When there’s no more love to give, you must let it go.
MM: How does the work you’ve done recently compare to some of your earlier writing? What has changed?
DG: More confident, more straight to the point. Still excellent.
Order your copy of Mama’s Boy here.
David Goudreault is a novelist, poet and songwriter. He was the first Quebecer to win the World Cup of Slam Poetry in Paris, France. David leads creative workshops in schools and detention centres across Quebec—including the northern communities of Nunavik—and in France. He has received a number of prizes, including Quebec’s Medal of the National Assembly for his artistic achievements and social involvement and the Grand Prix littéraire Archambault for his first novel, La Bête à sa mère (Mama’s Boy). He is also the author of Le bête a sa cage and Abattre la bête, both of which will appear in English translation from Book*hug. He lives in Sherbrooke, Quebec.
JC Sutcliffe is a writer, translator, book reviewer, and editor who has lived in England, France, and Canada. She has reviewed for the Times Literary Supplement, The Globe and Mail and the National Post, among others.