I am delighted to welcome Michael Forester. His latest novel, Dragonsong, tells the story of Rebekah, a young woman bent on revenge. After her lover is murdered, Rebekah bargains with the Prince of Demons and acquires the ability to transform into a dragon. Her self-assigned mission is simple: to punish he who she holds responsible for her pain — her father.
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Hi Jessica and thanks for inviting me to join you on your blog today.
I’m a deafened author from the UK. I divide my time between the UK’s New Forest (heaven on earth as far as I’m concerned) and Tenerife where I spend my winters writing. At 60 years of age I’ve retired from a successful career in business to pursue the first love of my life, writing. Fun facts? I live with my hearing dog Matt. He’s thirteen and a half now and retired now. But you can’t tell a dog he’s retired! He still accompanies me out and about in a ‘retired’ uniform, but he’s as deaf as I am now, so he doesn’t tell me about sounds like the door bell any more. People ask if I’ll have another hearing dog. The answer is probably that I will, but not while Matt is alive as it would mean breaking the bond with him in order to establish it with the new dog. I owe my old friend far to much to do that to him.
My first creative writing book was ‘If It Wasn’t For That Dog,’ and is about my first year with him. It’s still available on Amazon.
2. When did you start writing?
My biography starts with the phrase ‘Michael Forester was born with a pen in his hand,’ so I guess you could say I started writing quite early! My first books were about business. It wasn’t until the turn of the century that I gave up writing for business and turned to creative writing. Now I write fiction, poetry, and mind body spirit.
3. Why did you start writing?
Like most writers I’d say I started because I had to. There’s an inner compulsion that drives us to put pen to paper or finger to keyboard. It’s harder to stop it coming than it is to let it flow. And of course, doing so is hugely satisfying. There’s nothing like taking on a writing project, such as your first novel, wondering if you’re up to the task then looking at the finished product, bound, published and out there being read and enjoyed by people.
4. Do you recall the moment you first conceived the idea for your novel?
I’ve written several, but let’s talk about Dragonsong first, as that’s the one I’m currently focused on. I had planned to write a short story for a friend who had helped me out of a problem. For reasons personal to the friend, it was to be called ‘Lady Attie of the Lake.’ As I settled to the keyboard, quite unexpectedly words in rhyming verse began to appear in my mind. Over the next few days the words and lines blossomed into a magnificent 3,000 word Arthurian poem about a female warrior who saved a blinded seer from a dragon. Needless to say, my friend was delighted!
But as I lay in bed thinking about it a few days later, questions began to occur to me. Where had Lady Attie come from? Who was the blind seer? What was their history? Suddenly I found myself creating the prequel, a 7,000 word poem called ‘The Seer of Albion.’
But it didn’t stop there either. I was now in full flow as the story just rant and ran into a third ‘book’ called Dragonsong, with the final resolution to the story coming in a fourth, ‘The Sleep Stone.’ The complete work, a fantasy novel in rhyming verse, was also named Dragonsong. People have been kind enough to call it ‘beautiful,’ and ‘the most unusual book they ever read.’
5. Tell us a little bit about your book’s title.
The title refers to the ‘song’ or sound of the dragon. It first comes up in the book like this:
When all was quiet in that place
a power came upon her frame
contorted now became her face
as she a dragon now became
and dragon song roared forth into the night.
She roared her agony at last
as voice she found and pain declared
for all the evil that was passed
and all the suff’ring she had shared.
Then Harmony exuded hate that hour.
Thus energised by deepest pain
she rose in strength into the night
and life would never be the same
as dragon thus did take to flight
and o’er the land it flaunted now its power.
6. Does your story have a moral?
Very much so. Dragonsong tells the story of Rebekah, who believes her father Merlin has murdered her lover, Vidar. She persuades the Prince of Demons to turn her into a dragon to enable her to take revenge. However, she has been fooled by Oberon, Captain King of Elves who is the real murderer. The story explores the consequences of her error and the power of hatred and, ultimately, love.
7. Of the characters you’ve created, which one is your favorite?
The answer has to be Rebekah, who turns at will into Harmony the Dragon and back again. She is a tragic character who gave me the opportunity to explore the fallout from negative emotions allowed to run their course.
8. Using five words or less, describe the protagonist in Dragonsong.
A manipulated woman who finally finds rest in love.
Ok that was nine words!
9. What does a typical writing session look like for you?
People say you should write a little every day. That doesn’t work for me. When I’m in full flow I write from morning until night, perhaps 12-15 hours, taking meals at my desk. I become oblivious to my surroundings and become totally absorbed in the story.
10. How do you feel about outlines? Are you for or against them?
I write an outline only when I have a strong sense of where the story is going. In the early stages I prefer to let my unconscious have a completely free reign.
11. What is your favorite book genre?
Literary fiction. My heroes are the greats of literature, historical and current. The likes of John Steinbeck, Salman Rushdie, Kazuo Ishiguro
12. What is currently on your to-be-read shelf?
My to read shelf seems to get bigger and bigger! Currently I’m reading Shark Alley by Stephen Carver. Dr. Carver is my editor. The book is a literary delight and I’d recommend it to anyone who likes 19th century literature of has an interest in the 19th century.
13. What is your favorite book?
There are several I could choose. To me the most beautiful book ever written is But Beautiful by Geoff Dyer. If I had written that book I could die happy. When I started writing there were two authors I said I wanted to emulate. For intellectual ability, Robert Pirsig in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and for emotional content Isobel Allende in Paula. I have yet to approach either.
14. Any project in the works?
My next release will be a short story collection, The Goblin Child and other stories that will appear this Autumn. After that I’m expecting to release Forest Rain, my first collection of inspirational Learnings for the spiritually awakened. Then next year I’m looking to release a dystopian novella, A Home For Other gods and probably Vicious as well. Details of all of these will appear on my web site.
15. How long does it usually take you to write a book?
It various enormously. Dragonsong took three months with virtually no changes from the first draft. Vicious took six years.
16. In your opinion, what makes a story ‘good’?
Without question credibility and characters that the reader can identify with, combined with a readable writing style.
17. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
If you want to write, you have already proved you have the base material to do so. But 90% of success lies in tenacity – keeping at it. I don’t mean just stubbornly believing you’re already a master author though. You must serve the apprenticeship as with all trades and professions. Take courses. Show your work to sympathetic friends. Read, read and read again. Read books you like from genres you like. Read books you don’t like and ask yourself why. Read popular books and ask yourself how you would have written them. Read great literature and ask yourself why it’s regarded as great. Then be prepared to spend time and, if possible, money, on learning how to get better. Get edited. Submit to magazines. Post on line – there are many sites where you can do so for free. Read the stories of how the literary greats achieved their prominence. Virtually all had to go through the mill of rejection time after time after time. So grow a thick skin, but learn from your mistakes and from feedback others of experience are prepared to give you.
Most important of all, never, never give up.
And now for a game of “Which Do/Would You Prefer?”
1. Books or movies?
I find it impossible to answer! Both are fundamental parts of my life.
2. Ebook or physical book?
Physical without question. Part of the pleasure of books comes from owning them, seeing them on the shelf.
3. Travelling by car or travelling by airplane?
I love international travel! The further the better, so aircraft.
4. Working in a group or working alone?
Could a writer work in a group?
5. Being Spiderman for a day or being Batman for a day?
How about Solomon? Could I be Solomon please?
6. Reading or writing?
If you made me choose it would be writing. I’d find it hard to live without.
7. To find the love of your life (only to find out that you’re not the love of their life) or to have someone declare you the love of their life (note, however, that this someone is not a person whom you are romantically interested in)?
Oh brother. What a choice… Are you always this cruel?
8. To speak using ONLY rap lyrics (from songs released in the 21st century) or to speak using ONLY quotes from Austen’s books?
Either would be purgatory.
9. Bungee jumping or going on the slingshot ride?
Ask me afterwards…
10. Being drawn into a tornado or being drawn into a whirlpool?
I already live in a tornado. It’s called writing.
11. Having your car break down on an extremely busy expressway or along an abandoned road in the middle of nowhere?
The abandoned road sounds fun. Is there a flying saucer coming down on me?
12. Staying awake for forty-eight hours (continuous) or walking for twenty-four hours (also continuous)?
I’d find more to write about in the latter.
13. Drinking a glass of expired, curdled milk or eating a bowl of cold, slimy worms? (Note: the worms would be dead, though not cooked.)
Let’s see, that a choice between yoghurt and noodles isn’t it?
14. Being two inches tall or being two stories tall?
Aren’t all writers two stories tall?
15. Finding yourself trapped in the universe of The Walking Dead or finding yourself trapped in a slasher film?
What a horrific choice.