Sunday, July 26, 2015

Interview with Author Gerry Fostaty

Q ~ Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I was an actor for twenty years. That was a wonderful way to make a living—except it wasn’t much of a living. Actors work hard, and they hardly work. I spent a lot of time lining up the next job while working on a project. It is like being a hamster in a wheel. Sometimes you feel like you are sprinting and not getting anywhere. Then, a fantastic project comes along and all the nervousness and running become all worthwhile. I spent a long time on the road when I was working, but when we decided to have a family, I knew that I would need to be in town more, or I wouldn’t see my children grow. So, now I have made a transition to writing. Now, I can portray all the characters within the story. With the new book Stage Business, I have taken my own experience in the theatre as a foundation for the story, and taken it in directions I never imagined before.

Q ~ How do you think people perceive authors? How do you think Canadian authors hold up in the mix?
I think people look on authors as separate from themselves. People I have spoken to have remarked that authors are strange because they perceive the world differently than they do themselves. I don’t think this is necessarily so. I think we all see the world, but some are immune to the sensual noise around them, whether that is audio, visual or emotional. They are too busy focusing on their goals to perceive the environment that surrounds them, in the same way that sometimes we are too focused on the destination to enjoy the ride. Authors, and indeed actors too, are also tuned to the small things that make up the music and the painting of everyday life. A good writer will be able to use those items not to introduce the reader to them, but to remind the reader of them, and create a world that is new for the reader while also familiar. Authors are just like everyone else, only they have not forgotten to look out of the car window and notice the scenery on the way to the destination. Canadian authors seem to be my favourites. I read authors from around the world, but the familiarity of the subject matter in Canadian books, as well as the rhythm of the dialogue is very comforting.

Q ~ What is your favourite genre to read? To write?
I don’t really have a genre preference, but I have noticed, recently, that I read genres in waves. One book will spark interest in another and I will read it right away. For instance, I will read historical fiction and it may spark interest in the period, so I will read non-fiction accounts of the period depicted in the book I just finished. Then I may find myself drawn to read a stack of fiction books set in that period. My own writing is only a few years old. My first book was non-fiction. I quickly became interested in the writing process, and my agent suggested I try writing something like a mystery. I had no experience with that but I dove in. Although Stage Business is not strictly a mystery or thriller, it has elements of both. I did enjoy writing it. I have already had numerous requests for a sequel, and a few suggestions for screenplay adaptations.

Q ~ Do you have a favourite author? Do they influence your writing?I have a number of authors whom I find I return to for inspiration. Their ability to use the language to great effect is nothing short of marvelous. Robertson Davies, Margaret Atwood, and Timothy Findlay create a spell when you read them.

Q ~ How did you begin writing? Was there a single catalyst or a series of events?I have always been a storyteller. My family has a long history of sitting around a table at the holidays and telling stories. These were just accounts of what was going on in their lives, but they would take even the most mundane events, and turn them into entertaining stories. I was an actor for twenty years, too. That’s a form of storytelling as well. You get to work in a co-operative setting and work together to tell a grand story. But, those are someone else’s stories, and I wanted to tell my own. I began with a non-fiction account of a horrible accident that occurred in 1974. I felt I was compelled to tell this story, so that was my introduction to writing a book. Once I experienced the writing process with non-fiction, I found I really enjoyed the discipline. I moved on to Stage Business and found that I became embedded in the story. I really enjoyed the ability to get lost in a world that was my own making.

Q ~ When you write, do you lay out a solid outline before beginning, or start writing and iron out the kinks later?I know where I want the story to go, and how it may resolve, but as the characters develop, some things change.

Q ~ Can you tell us a little bit about Stage Business and what inspired you to write it?My literary agent wondered, after I had written my first book, if I had ever considered writing a mystery. I hadn’t, but I thought maybe she was giving me a nudge in that direction. I am not experienced in police procedure, or detective work, but I thought I could use my experience in the theatre to create an environment where an actor reluctantly becomes involved in a bad situation where he has to use his theatre craft to free himself. Because I have no experience as a detective, I thought that would be the best way to create the story, to have the protagonist bumble his way through the situation as I would have. This poor actor has just landed a great job in a prominent theatre company in Toronto. He can’t believe his luck. And then he is infatuated with the lead actress, but to no effect. She doesn’t even notice him, until she needs his help finding a friend’s son who has gone missing. Of course he will help! Anything to get closer to the object of his desire. It all goes terribly wrong though, and the actor gets in way over his head with petty criminals, raves and drugs. He then has to rely on the others in the theatre company to come to his rescue.

Q ~ What is your favourite part or scene in the novel?I loved writing about the theatre, about actors, rehearsals, and about how actors are a bit different from the rest of the world. I also liked to show the magic of how creating a perception of reality can sometimes be more convincing than the real thing.

Q ~ What is your process for choosing character names?I wanted to choose names that reflected the character, of course, but I wanted to make them current, so that the reader would not be jarred by names that wouldn’t fit in the time they were being read. It is much more difficult than I imagined at first. I also tried not to name the characters anything close to the names of people I worked with in the theatre. I didn’t want them to think that a character was based on them.

Q ~ What characters did you find yourself especially drawn to and why?I really like all the characters . . . no, really. But, the standouts have to be Bid and Tamara. They really embody the best qualities of the technical people I worked with on stage. There is no question that will go unanswered, and no request for the seemingly impossible will be unfulfilled.

Q ~ Can you tell us a bit about the process that went behind the cover artwork for this novel?The broken lightbulb on the cover has a few significances. There is a bulb in the novel that becomes broken, of course, and it is the signal that there is imminent danger. Lightbulbs are also used as a convention to signify a new idea. The fact that the bulb is broken lets us know that perhaps the idea wasn’t particularly a good one. In a theatre, too, there is a lamp that is lit and stands in the middle of the stage when there is no work going on, and when there is no one about. It is there so that if someone does walk on the stage, they can see enough so they will not fall off the edge. This is called the ghost lamp. The last thing is the very faint blue shading in the bottom right corner of the cover. That is to suggest the blue light that is used backstage during a performance.

Q ~ Do you have anything in the works at the moment? Care to give us a hint about it?I am working on a few ideas right now. I have a few outlines in the works, and whichever one reaches out and drags me in will be the next project. One is an idea for a sequel. The reaction from Stage Business will be a big determinant as to whether I go forward with it. So, you’ll have to let me know what you think of Stage Business.

Q ~ If you could give aspiring authors one piece of advice, what would it be?Read—and read from every genre. Fill your head and imagination with ideas and words from well-written books. Books feed your mind.

About the author
Gerry Fostaty was an actor working in Canada for more than twenty years, and was seen on stage, in film and television. For his first novel, STAGE BUSINESS, published by Deux Voiliers Publishing in 2014, he drew on his experience in the theatre to create a soft mystery/thriller based in Toronto, and involves a group of actors. Gerry’s first book was AS YOU WERE: The Tragedy at Valcartier, a non-fiction account of a grenade accident on a Canadian Forces Base in 1974, published by Goose Lane Editions in 2011.

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