I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Gwynne Forster many years ago and I am delighted and still proud to call her my dear friend. She is always there with sage advice and a good laugh. Truly, the grand dame of romance and women's fiction. And to those close to her she is affectionately called "Miss Gwynne." Welcome to Intimate Monday's with Gwynne Forster.
THE WRITING LIFE
1. What is a typical writing day like for you?
Hurried. I write about four hours in the morning, during which time I drink cups of green tea. Around noon, I read internet mail. I eat lunch around one o'clock, and that takes about forty minutes, unless I get an idea and rush back to the computer to write it down…a common occurrence. I write until four, go to the post office and grocery store. More green tea when I get back home around five or five thirty. I read snail mail and the newspaper, work until six-thirty, cook dinner, eat, and return to work around eight-forty-five, write until ten pm, and call it a day. If I have appointments during the day, my work day is far from satisfactory, and I get nothing done.
2. Do you need anything special to write? Quiet, music, a special place?
I need peace and quiet for high level writing, but I can force myself to shut out every sound and write. If I'm distracted by someone or some unwelcome thing, I will definitely have to rewrite whatever I wrote. When I'm writing, the only welcome sound is the music of Mozart.
3. What is the one thing about you that people would be surprised to know?
Probably that I can't begin my day until after I've said my prayers, but I'm sure there are others.
4. What is your writing process? How does a novel begin for you?
My novels always begin with an idea, which is usually a situation in which a specific character finds himself or herself. I figure out what the story would be about. Then, I spend a few days or weeks wondering if I can build an entire story around that idea, figuring out whether I'll get tired of the characters that keep hopping into my mind and into my mind's eye. (I have to see the characters.)Then I need at title. When I get that far, I'm good to go.
GETTING TO KNOW HER
5. Where did you grow up and do you think it has impacted/influenced your writing?
I grew up in Washington, D.C., but it hasn't had a distinctive influence on my writing. My parents were southerners, and their relatives lived in the south. In visiting them, I developed an appreciation for certain southern manners and behaviors. Most of my novels are set in the south.
6.Do you have siblings? And if so where do you fit into the mix?
I grew up the middle of three children with an older brother and a younger sister. I'm told that I have the 'middle child" syndrome, i.e., independent, comfortable being alone, competitive and an achiever. A lot of that is true.
7. If you could choose a profession other than writing, what would it be?
I've had a profession other than writing. Fiction writing is my second profession. I had an extremely successful career as a demographer, which involves research into the determinants and consequences of population conditions and trends. For seventeen years, I headed a research department on determinants of fertility levels and change at United Nations, New York. I've always had a secret yearning to be a jazz singer, but although I have the voice for it, I don't have the personality for it.
8. What is your definition of success?
I feel that I am successful when I accomplish what I set out to do and accomplish it to my personal satisfaction, and that isn't a simple matter. I set high standards for myself, and if I reach them, I'm satisfied. I don't let other people tell me who or what I am.
9. Who did you share your first kiss with and when?
This question brought a huge laugh from me, because after musing over it for about twenty minutes, I still don't remember. Must not have been a very tantalizing kiss.
10. If you could have dinner with someone living or dead, who would it be with and what would you want to know?
What a question! If I had only one choice, I'd ask to meet with Jesus Christ. I have no idea what I'd ask him. It would be enough if he just touched me with his little finger. Given two choices, I'd dine with my mother and ask her if she's pleased with what I've done with my life.
11. Your favorite past time?
Of the many pleasures that are my life, I don't know which I could do without; hence, I don't know which is my favorite. I love listening to music (opera, jazz, blues, symphonic, country, chamber music)… as long as it's top quality. But I also have to read. What can I say?
12. What is your greatest fear?
Extremely violent electric storms. Also, I wouldn't like to outlive my husband.
INFLUENCES THEN AND NOW
13. What writers have influenced you and in what way?
I suppose I've been most influenced as a writer by Langston Hughes, whose writings taught me that serious messages may be best communicated through humor and wit; by Barbara Taylor Bradford, whose first book brought it home to me that great drama occurs within the context of the family; Kathleen Woodiwiss, whose book, Shana, demonstrated that romance can be good literature; and by W. Somerset Maugham, whose fiction covers a variety of topics but whose fast paced stories are always unpredictable from scene to scene. In The Alexandria
Quartet, Lawrence Durrell gave me excellent examples of how to write a fictional account of a culture one didn't necessarily admire and of a teeming political situation with not particularly admirable heroes and heroines and make the work not only palatable but admirable.
14. What is one book that you would insist that everyone read? (other than your own) And why?
John Hope Franklin's book, From Slavery To Freedom. It may be the finest account yet written of this country's behavior, official and unofficial, in respect to its African American citizens, and The Bible, of course.
15. Your favorite fictional character from someone else's book.
Maddie in Linda Howard's book, Duncan's Bride.
16. Who is your favorite character from one of your novels?
To say which is my favorite among the characters that I have created, is like a parent forced to say which child she loves best. I'll put it this way. The only one of my thirty-some stories that I've read from cover to cover in back to back readings after the book was printed is GETTING SOME OF HER OWN. That's because I fell in love with Lucas Hamilton. He's everything a woman wants and needs in a man.
17. What do you want readers to take away from your work--other than being entertained?
There is a message in every book and every novella that I've written, and it is never the same. Nor, is it presented as a sermon. It's there somewhere if the reader is interested in getting it. Otherwise, it can swish right over one's head. I do want my readers to know that I respect and attempt writing of high quality that both entertains and enlightens.
DID YOU KNOW
18. Your favorite saying?
"I can do that".
19. Your favorite curse word?
20 What is the best advice you've ever received?
Don't start it if you're not going to finish it to your best ability.
21. One thing that always pisses you off?
ON THE HORIZON
22. What are you currently working on and when can readers expect to see it?
I'm just finishing revisions on a mainstream novel for Kensington Publishing Corp. It's due out in October 2008.
23. Where do you see yourself in five years and how do you plan to get there?
Considering the precarious nature of the publishing business, I'm reluctant to stick my neck out on this one.
24. If there was only one thing in the world that you could change what would it be?
This one is easy. I'd get rid of the differences among people that cause us so much pain. We would all see each other as equals and treat each other that way. And if you gave me a second go at it, I would get the armed forces of the United States of America out of Iraq, Afghanistan and every place where there is fighting, and we would work for world peace.
25. If you had the chance to go back and do something over in your life, what would it be?
I can think of a few, but I suppose the most obvious has to do with education. I stopped with a second master's degree. In another year, I would have had the doctorate, but with a nice job at United Nations dangling in front of me, as Woody Allen might say, I took the masters and ran.
Now, tell us a bit about your current book on the shelves and why should readers buy it?
My current book is GETTING SOME OF HER OWN, mainstream women's fiction. In it, Susan Pettiford has just learned that she has a condition that will make it impossible for her to have children. And although the doctors assure her that her sexuality will not be affected, she doesn't believe them. Moreover, in her limited experience, the earth had never moved for her. Vowing that she will experience what is every woman's right, she invites Lucas Hamilton--who she has seen only once for five minutes--to her home for the express purpose of seducing him and achieving fulfillment with him
A true alpha male, Lucas knows what lovemaking is all about and leaves nothing to be desired. However, he is not a man with whom people play, and Susan soon discovers this. She intends for their tryst to be a one-night stand, but he wants more. He also wants to know why she did it, and she doesn't intend to tell. But she learns that he is as tenacious as a bull.
Lucas Hamilton has problems of his own. An award winning architect, his one goal has been to exceed the achievements of the father he has never seen and who did not marry his mother. But Fate takes a hand, and his father falls ill and needs Lucas. Should he go to the aid of the wealthy father who has never so much as telephoned him? Lucas begins a journey during which he learns what love is. He learns it from the father who he
thought cared nothing from him, from his mother who denied his father paternal rights, and from the woman who took him into her body for selfish reasons and couldn't forget the experience.
Both Susan and Lucas learn lessons about the true meaning of parental love, for it is brought home to Lucas and, through him, to Susan that parental love is boundless.
Thanks so much for the interview.