I know this blog is about creative nonfiction and memoir, but as I’ve said…there’s always some good fiction, no – make that brilliant fiction – thrown in. This is one of those times. I’ve fallen in love with the Witness series by Rebecca Forster. I posted my first review about the first book in the series, Hostile Witness, here.
I’m excited to present an interview with fiction writer Rebecca Forster, author of the bestseller legal thriller, Hostile Witness, book #1 of the Witness series, and USA Today’s top seller, Keeping Counsel!
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I am one of six children. I was born in Missouri, lived for a while in Fairbanks, Alaska, and then my family settled in Southern California. I pursued a career in marketing after earning my BA at Loyola University, Chicago and my MBA at Loyola/Marmount University, Los Angeles. In between book number one and book number 26, I got married (36 year anniversary coming up). My husband is a Superior Court judge. We have two fabulous kids – one of whom is a playwright, but is currently serving in the Peace Corps and the other is in the film industry. I love to teach, sew, play tennis, read, and travel.
What’s your latest news?
My latest news is pretty exciting! Hostile Witness is now an audio book and you can listen to a sample for free, (http://tinyurl.com/7n6uweu). I’m working on the fifth book in the series (Eyewitness) and I am in talks to make these books into a television series. I also have two feature film scripts in development.
When and why did you begin writing?
I was working in San Francisco as an advertising executive and my client was married to a famous author (sadly, I had never heard of her). When my secretary told me the lady was Danielle Steel, I offhandedly said, “I bet I could write a book” and the dare was on! To save face (never thinking I would actually get published), I submitted a partial manuscript to a publisher and eventually sold my first book. I always say, walk through an open door. Good things might be on the other side.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
It took a long time for me to believe I was a real author. I think it was when I received my first letter saying something I wrote had made a different to that reader.
How did you develop your specific writing style/genre? How would you describe it?
I really found my voice when I switched from women’s fiction to thrillers. I especially like legal thrillers and police procedures. I suppose my style is in the genre of imperfect! I like to explore the imperfections of human nature and write about a situation where the human spirit or intellect overcomes those imperfect qualities.
What is your writing process? Do you follow a particular routine?
Writing is both pleasure and a job. I’m a creature of habit so I go to my favorite coffee shop in our little village, stake out my favorite table, and write for four or five hours. At home, I edit, answer emails, write guest blogs for a few sites. I work 7 days a week in one way or another.
How does your writing process look? Consistent with regular amounts of word counts daily/weekly… or more sporadic with a gush of words all at once and then a dry bed for a while?
LOL, all of the above. You don’t want to be around my house during either the dry spells or the gush of words. I start with the gush and continue on to a regular word count each day. Then, at about 60,000 words, here comes the dry spell. I hate that. I am a pain to live with until it’s over. The trick is to keep plugging every day.
What are the most important elements of good writing? According to you, what are must have tools for writers?
The most important element of good writing is excellent editing. Nobody’s first draft is ever good and a true writer knows that the real work comes during editing: plug plot holes, keep voice consistent, etc. That means the most precious tools a writer possesses are patience and objectivity. The third part of that toolbox is curiosity about real people. Listening and observing real people translates into vibrant characters in your books.
What motivates you to write?
My family and my readers. I have been blessed with people who are encouraging and honest. They are lavish with their praise and gentle with criticism. Both are needed for any creative person. I am truly in awe of the number of wonderful people I have met since the ‘digital’ revolution. I’m not sure readers know how inspirational it is for an author just to get a short note or to find someone has left a nice review. I’ll take a minute here and say, “Thank you.”
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
I find the process a challenge. Writing a book is like putting together that giant puzzle with lots of sky; it is painstaking and you can’t force a character or situation into a place it isn’t supposed to be in. The goal is to make a book seamless, as if you were simply sitting with a friend and telling a story. It takes a lot of pieces put together properly to make that happen. I always hold my breath when I push that ‘upload’ button. You never know if you got it right until readers start to respond.
Which character speaks the loudest to you? Do any of them clamor to be heard over the others?
I love all my characters – even the most minor – but there a few who have stood out. Hannah in the Witness series – I love her honor and courage. Tessa Bradley in Before Her Eyes; she haunts me because her life was so tragic and yet she found peace. She is courageous in her physical fight to survive, but I think even more courageous in her ability to see herself clearly. Amanda in Beyond Malice – the world tells her she’s third rate and she won’t buy it.
Do your characters try to make like bunnies and create ever more convoluted plots for you? Or do you have to coax them out of your characters?
How did you know that I have bunny characters? Yes, the plots seem to get more convoluted with each book and the challenge is to keep the reader guessing but also allow them to see there is a method to the madness. Book five and six of the Witness series are going to be especially tough because the planned plots mean huge changes for Hannah and Josie. I’m going to have to be skillful and compassionate enough so that the reader will accept what happens to them.
What sort of coffee would your characters order? Simple coffee, complicated soy-non-fat-extra-espresso-half-caff-nightmare?
In the Witness series, Archer and Josie would order black coffee, Hannah would have unsweetened green tea.
What books/authors have influenced your life and writing?
Stephen King – amazing with characterization. Wilkie Collins – wrote Woman in White – considered the first legal thriller. David Wisehart who wrote The Devil’s Lair, the first indie book I ever read and it was stunning.
E-reader or print book?
Five years ago I would have said print only. Then I received a Kindle for Christmas. I took it on a long trip and was hooked. During that journey, I carried a library with me inside that Kindle. When I’m home, I still love print, but I read more when I have an e-reader. I think digital and audio are the future. All my books are available in digital. Six of my thrillers are also available in print (the four Witness books, Keeping Counsel, and Before Her Eyes), and Hostile Witness is now in audio.
What is the best writing advice you can give?
The best writing I advice I can give is to simply do it. Sit down. Write. Rewrite. I know this isn’t the most glamorous advice, but it will result in a book. The more you rewrite and edit, the better that book will be.