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Thursday, July 21, 2011

TAKE TEN: Author T. R. Foster


by Cyrus Webb

Author Tom "T. R." Foster knows how to tell a great story. I had the opportunity of interviewing the New York native on Conversations LIVE and he was able to share the events of his life that led him to his new path as a published author. You wouldn't know it unless he told you, but ANGELS OF VENICE is his first published novel--even thought it doesn't read like it. With an active imagination and characters that pop right off the page Foster shows himself to be someone skilled at drawing in his audience and holding them until the last page.

In this interview for Take Ten and Conversations Magazine he talks about how he got to this point, what message he hopes we take about from ANGELS and what's next for the man who has a lot to say.

Tom, your journey to being a published author is an interesting one. Before we get into your debut novel ANGELS OF VENICE, I want to talk about your love of creating. Can you share when you first became aware of your love of how things worked?

This is almost embarrassing, but my earliest memory of trying to figure out how something worked was probably when I was 4 or 5 years old.  I was curious about electric motors.  I imagined them as a collection of gears and wires.  Somehow sparks would spring from the end of a wire, hit the gear teeth and make them turn.  You know, like a transfer of momentum.  I've always had crazy ideas.  Not so good for science and engineering—but great for writing.

I think growing up to question things going on around us is almost a normal process. As a writer you do it more as you construct the storyline and the characters. Do you remember when you first started to write your thoughts down and how those around you percieved it?

Questioning things that are going around us maybe normal but too often we're satisfied with the superficial answer, the one that doesn't require much in the way of critical thinking.  If you're honest, writing will drive you to that critical level.  I first started to question my entire life when I was in college in the late '60s.  A lot going on then.  But it wasn't until I started writing—maybe twenty years ago—that the questioning became organized and focused.  Then my friends found out I wasn't as quiet and mild mannered as I appeared.  My early storylines and characters were dark and violent and have generally remained so, even in my most recent writing.  Why is this?  Or more to the point, why are we, as individuals and as a society, so fascinated by violence—even as we are repelled by it?  This is a question I keep going back to over and over.  I still don't have a good answer answer.

At the heart of ANGELS OF VENICE is the seen and unseen battle going on in the world between Good and Evil. For many this is not just a physical fight but a spirtiual one as well. What role would you say your view and personal ideals, when it comes to the issue of faith and the future, played in the writing of the book?

My personal view of the future (at the moment) is somewhat bleak, yet I don't doubt our survival.  Angels of Venice is certainly about good and evil, but it's also about choice.  Without giving away too much, the "Angels" give certain individuals tokens of friendship. With these tokens, people can accomplish anything they liked.  Do evil or do good.  And of course there's Eliza's choice at the end.  The balance between good and evil depends on our individual choices—on our free will.  It's my faith in the existence of free will in a world where choice does not always appear to be an option that really drove this book to completion.

For me one of the biggest reminders in your book is that all is not lost. There is good still around us. Is that something that developed organically in the story or was it one of the main lessons you hoped readers would glean from it?

I'd like to say it was an intended lesson but that would mean I know how my stories are going to turnout as I write them—which is never the case.  The key thing is to start with an honest problem and characters with real desires and emotions, then turn them loose.  So it's very much an organic thing.  In Angels of Venice most people are allowed choices based on their feeling and perceived needs, just as in real life.  Many of the choices turn out to be bad, but others are good or at least mixed.  So at the end of the story some good remains, as it must.  There is a continual dynamic and balance between good and evil in the real world because the whole process is driven by a multitude of personal choices.  I think this was of the main points to come out of Angels of Venice.

Writing can sometimes be a rather personal and lonely profession, Tom. What has it been like for you to get feedback about the book and how does that make you feel as you move forward in your literary career?

It's really cool to get compliments from readers.  I'm a big compliment junky—truth be told.  And while it shouldn't be the case, it is also a validation.  Almost anyone can write a set of good sentences.  Sentences that are grammatically correct with just the right number of nouns, adjectives and verbs.  But telling a story is an entirely different matter.  And very few can do it well.  So when you get it in your head that you can be a writer and create powerful visions from mere words, you're taking a big risk.  So that one positive review re-enforces the belief that you weren't deluding yourself.  You are a writer.   Now you're justified in writing another one—even though you were going to do it anyway.

Can you tell us what we can expect next from you?

The novel I'm finishing now is called Kool Blood.  Though it takes place twenty or thirty years in the future, I don't consider it science fiction.  It's more of a dark satirical commentary on the greed and violence that's so prevalent in our culture right now.  See?  There's violence question again!  I'm still trying to get an agent for it.  If that doesn't pan out, I will self publish it, hopefully by early fall.

Shifting gears just a bit, Tom, I want to ask you about the internet and how it has helped you in your writing career. How have you used it to promote yourself and your work?

The main thing has been setting up a website. In fact I have 2.  My ideas are that big!  It's a great way to get my face out there and to let everyone in on my latest projects and crazy ideas.  I also use Facebook, particularly if there is an event coming up that I want everyone to know about.

Do you find yourself having to promote and market more than you actually write these days?

Recently that seems to be the case.  Even if I'm actually not promoting the book, I find myself wondering what other things I should be doing to get T. R. Foster out there.  What's even worse, I'm already thinking about how to market Kool Blood.  Even as I finish word-smithing it, I find myself wondering how a few scenes might be changed so more people will like the novel.  If you have these kinds of thoughts, creatively speaking, you might as well put a gun to your head.

Using your own experiences as a marker, do you have any advice for those individuals out there wondering if the effort is worth it when it comes to pursuing their own dreams?

Not to sound cold, but I think if you have to ask about the effort, you shouldn't even start. There isn't anything rational about acting on your dreams or creative desires.  You won't make much money, most people won't want to look at your stuff, read your writing or even care much about you one way or the other.  The good news is that a few people will care.  And they will care very deeply.  So you need to work extremely hard on your craft and push on your dreams—always be honest about this.  That way when those few people arrive, you're ready to give them something that enriches their lives as well as your own.

Thanks again, Tom, for taking out this time with us. How can our readers keep in touch with you online?

Come visit me at www.trfoster.com.

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