Blakely’s Friday Interview with Peter B Forster

Please give a warm welcome to Peter B Forster, author of Mr Charalambus and The One SoulWhen A Tear Falls, Volume 2: The One Soul.

PeterBForsterTell us a bit about yourself and what you’re currently working on or promoting.
For close to Eighteen years I have practiced as a consulting Counselling Psychologist in a busy East London community health setting. Although I have previously been published in academic works and provided chapters in books for counsellors, psychologists, and psychotherapists, I have always nurtured a love of and talent (hopefully) for creative writing.

Over many years I attended writer’s workshops, wrote and performed poetry as well as provided lyrics for jobbing musicians. However the simple truth is I always harboured the ambition to write full length fiction.

I enjoy writing. I always have. Sometimes it feels like the flow of hungry words is never ending and I will be swept away, whipped right off my feet, carried along on an imaginative stream of unconscious process. But just like everybody else I have a life. To some it may seem narrowly defined. Focused as it is on work, family, writing and music but to others without the opportunity to learn, make relationships build a future and have the freedom to choose it may seem like it is a world of riches.

The second book in the One Soul series has just been released in paperback through Amazon and on kindle. The One Soul: When A Tear Falls.

Do you have an agent and/or publisher or are you self-published? If self-published, do you use a professional editor? If traditionally published, who is your publisher?
I finally completed my first novel in late 2011 and as many writers do I wondered what would happen next. I thought I would try to land an agent and sent out a letter along with the first three chapters as requested. I only approached half a dozen but was rejected by each and every one. Sometimes the letters were personalized but most of the time they were just standard templates and I was immediately discouraged.

That was it for a while and the manuscript sat around for much of the rest of 2012 until an inspirational, spur of the moment decision by my daughter. She decided to publish independently through Amazon and my first book was released in the November of that year. This first book is called Mister Charalambus and the One Soul

What genre is your book? Do you write in other genres as well?
As I said the first book was called Mister Charalambus and the One Soul
The idea of the book came from the name. It was inspired by the name of a friend. She married a Mr Charalambous. I thought this name was fantastic. It rolled around my tongue with the taste of smoke and bone. It was a name to excite the imagination and frighten the children. For a while I had been carrying an idea of a story about the nature of enduring love and once I decided on the name the narrative formed around him.

To be truthful I still see what has now developed into a series of three books as stories about enduring love. But included in the story arc is an on-going spiritual quest and redemptive journey. For ease of classification I guess the books fit into the fantasy stable by way of romance and adventure.

What project are you currently working on?
At the moment I am still working on the final story in the series, although it may not be the last time we will hear about some of the characters. It is complete all but a final edit and will be published next year. This book is tentatively called: ‘The One Soul: Into the Grey.’

I also write poetry and the good news is for those who follow my daily poetry postings on facebook and twitter under the general heading of ‘Daily missives’ I have been persuaded to put an anthology together. A writing friend Debbie McEwan volunteered to proof read. She has done this and now all we need to do is finalize the cover which is likely to be one of my wife’s paintings ‘The 2nd Wave’ and I will have a book of poetry released hopefully before Christmas but more likely in January. The title of this work is penciled in to be
‘The First Wave: A collection of Missives.’

Who or what inspires you?
I think I am inspired by many things. My poetry is inspired by my love for my wife and family and continually also rather sadly fueled by the on-going grief over the loss of my son in 2009.

I believe everybody has the capacity to tell a story. We all have a head full of fantastical ideas- internal dialogue and otherworldly invention is at the heart of all day dreaming. However not everybody wants to capture them and write them down. But I do.
I have always lived a rich fantasy of a life, or so my wife tells me, so quite naturally the ideas I carry with me about the nature of storytelling seemed to carry me in a fantastical direction. Like most I enjoyed Tolkien, CS Lewis and the like but I was especially impressed by a book I read years ago. Mikhail Bulgakov’s ‘Master and Margarita.’
It was the idea of a supernatural presence in the real world that stuck and I guess he was an underlying inspiration. Especially for the idea of the character Mr Charalambus.

Do you use test readers and if so how many?
I have in fact used only two readers for all three books. And strangely I am still good friends with both of them. Lol. However one of them is my wife. The other is a work colleague. Both have been invaluable. I did have a lot of help from my secretary with formatting the first book and my daughter has been an absolute diamond.

Sadly although I have had a little bit of support with proof reading I have only ever edited myself. It is not what I would have chosen to do and I would not recommend it.

What advice do you have for writer’s just starting out?
I think it is best to answer that question by referring back to my publishing story and my advice would be to be better at it than me. I didn’t try to use a publisher at all. I sent a couple of chapters to a few agents over a six month period with no luck. I became disheartened even though everybody who read the whole manuscript liked it, the fact a professional wouldn’t back it was tough to take. I could have given up on trying, although I was still writing and that was the easy enjoyable part. I could have tried publishers direct but I didn’t instead my wonderful daughter just went ahead and did it for me as a Xmas present. What a thing to do. Things have taken off a bit in the past few months. With thanks to her, not me. So my advice is to have a good daughter, no seriously, don’t be put off by a few rejections keep going believe in your writing take criticism, publish and be damned.

What are your three favorite books including the authors?
As I said earlier the answer to the favourite book question at this moment might be Mikhail Bulgakov’s Master and Margarita but in truth it is hard to name one book as a favourite.

It might even be Tolstoy’s War and Peace as I did read it twice. But more recently I have been impressed by Jonathon Franzen especially his recent novel ‘Corrections’. He is a wonderfully literate and humorously crazy writer of dark Americana. I guess people may argue with that description but it seems to fit. He writes about real people in real situations and pulls it into a richly dark and fantastic place. I would like to think I can do a little bit of that.

However, my first book was likened to an intellectual version of Scrooge and whilst I don’t necessarily agree with that comparison, to be mentioned in the same breath as Dickens was wonderful. I have tried to capture some of the feel of Dickens industrial poverty especially Nicholas Nickelby, in my writing and characters. ‘Do the Boys Hall’ even gets a mention in the third book. For somebody to pick that up was unbelievably flattering.

Question: Is there a message in your book(s) that you want readers to grasp?
My books follow the lives of a number of inter-connected characters. The stories trace the belief in true love and how- in very different ways- we all strive to find it. Sometimes we seem to gravitate toward it almost by accident. Or do we? This is complimented by the enduring notion of a soul.

The one-soul of the series title refers to two children born of earthly manifestations of God: Referred to as The Father in the stories. One child is born out of love and the other hate. These souls are carried throughout history and across worlds and trace an eternal struggle between the powers of light and dark, good and evil. The souls endure as does their love. It is cataclysmic and inspiring, capturing the twin notions of reincarnation and spiritual growth.

The narrative is founded in the capacity for ordinary people to prevail when all seems lost. I was inspired by all the instances, documented throughout history, when people going about their everyday business are suddenly thrust into mighty confrontations, without preparation or expertise. Amazing things happen. Somehow people find the capacity not only to survive terrible misfortune but they often find a way to become something more than they thought they were. I hope this leads to a powerful narrative and gives the characters a depth, balance and humanity. Hopefully it is something most readers will recognize and identify with.

Do you see yourself in any of your characters?
It would be foolish to pretend we are not influenced by our own experience and the lives of those we know. One of the writing maxims is to write what you know and it is good advice. Nobody in my stories is based on any one person but on aspects of the many people I have met. Sometimes this has been a conscious decision other times I figure it out later.

In the first book particularly I draw on many of my experiences for the two main characters: Karina/Kiera (the main female character) and also Josep/Joseph the One-soul of the title.

If truth be told Karina, like my wife is a red head and when we kissed for the first time a spark of static electricity ran right through us both. I used this as a central plank of the two main characters first meeting and on-going attraction. But the characters are aspects of many people, for good or ill and if I could give any advice it would be to observe other people, but to do it with affection.

You can find Peter on his website, Facebook & Twitter.

To buy Peter’s books, click on the links or covers:

MrCharalambusAndTheOneSoulCoverBookCoverImage

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