Thursday, September 5, 2013

Author Interview with Larry Forcey


The monk sitting by the window, watching the children playing outside, caught my attention. That’s how The Crèche opens and I first heard the hauntingly beautiful lines one spring friday evening. It was two years ago and I was at the Orange County Christian Writers Conference. Earlier this year, the author Larry Forcey came into my life again. I got myself a kindle copy ($3.99!) of the book and could not put it down! Fantasy and the ordinary came together mystically. Mysticism is not magic or mystery but a living reality to those who live under God’s reign. Still, it never fails to enthrall. It also provokes ongoing conversations about God, the meaning of life, and the richness and significance of an inner life. I'm pleased to share an interview with Larry below and encourage you to read his book, if not right away, certainly for Advent reading this year.

1) What made you decide to write The Crèche?
Several things contributed to the development of the story/plot, but it was the death of my sister in 1992 that was the catalyst and main inspiration behind the writing. In hindsight, I see the task of writing as a type of therapy for dealing with tragedy and trying to work-out the “needless” suffering she endured.

2) How long did it take to write it and what can you tell us about the process?
I wrote the original draft in 1994 – so when it was published in 2011, it was roughly a seventeen-year project. The manuscript evolved during those years and I wince when I think of how horrible those early drafts were (hoping I don’t wince in another 17 years when I look back on the finished work). I had submitted the manuscript to critiquers, friends, and writing groups – all made valuable comments, edits, and suggestions. I grew frustrated at times when I felt the story was not progressing or when I felt I hit a wall in the development of a character. Frustration grew even more when I would receive a “no thank you” from publishers or received no response at all from the proposals I sent. There were seasons when I stepped back from working on the manuscript and either worked on other writing tasks, or did not write at all. 

3) I love the real life trivia, detailed conversations, and rich explorations and few fiction books have a bibliography as detailed as yours. Why did you incorporate so much research? How did you do it?
I struggled to find a way to make the fantasy dimensions of the book believable – after experimenting with various scenarios, I decided to parallel the miraculous occurrences in the “current” narrative with historical events. I did the historical research in an attempt to make the “impossible” into something plausible the reader could believe as he/she moves through the narrative. 

With regards to the real-life trivia, some of the protagonist’s adventures are based on my own childhood. One of my favorite literary works is To Kill a Mockingbird – I think I subconsciously was following Harper Lee’s example of incarnating much of her childhood into Scout’s character – as I did with my main character, Carter Mason. 

I’m a baseball nut as is clear throughout the story. Part of my fascination with baseball are the statistics, trivia, and history of the game – how all of this helps to connect one generation, decade, even century with the next. The love for our national pastime was a natural inclusion in the lives of the characters.

4) I know that you won a prize for the book. Can you share the details? Did you have the complete manuscript in hand at the time you entered the competition?
Although the manuscript was complete when The Crèche was announced as the winner of the 2011 Westbow Press Award, as soon as I learned I had won, I feared the monumental task ahead of me, knowing that the condition of the manuscript was not what I considered to be “publishable” condition.  One of the first thoughts I remember thinking was, “I have won this award based on the first two chapters of The Crèche which the judges apparently liked – but they haven’t seen the rest of the book…”

The award was announced in April 2011, I worked through the manuscript once on my own, submitted it to be professionally edited, worked through it several more times, incorporating most of the suggestions of the editor, and it was published in December 2011. 

5) Who are some of the authors who have influenced you and whom you like to read?
I fell in love with reading during my early adolescence years – the same time I had begun seeking and following Jesus. C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien captured my imagination and inspired me to seek God in ways I did not necessarily learn at church – it was okay to be creative and a Christian. My favorite books were all written during the 19th century by men who had a deep love of God and their fellow man – Charles Dickens, Victor Hugo, and Fyodor Dostoyevsky.  My two favorite books are Les Miserables and Brothers Karamazov.

6) What else have you written and where can we find them?
 Two articles of mine have been published – one is a short memoir in which I wrestle with the theology of suffering and the other is about a fellow baseball fanatic I met who has created his own baseball museum in the shadow of Anaheim Stadium. Both articles can be found on my website: larryforcey.com, under “Other Writings”.

7) What are some of your sources of inspiration as a writer?
Although there are several inspirations that have influenced my writing, I think all of them emerge from two main sources: family and God. The things in life that fill me with passion seem to have some connection with my childhood – baseball, fantasy, Christmas. I find it much easier to write when passion is behind the pen/keyboard, so I would say that much of the inspiration that drives my writing are topics about which I am passionate. 

There are three artists whom I admire and hope in some small way to emulate – C.S. Lewis, Rod Serling, and Alfred Hitchcock. Each of them create a world of fantasy, or a fabric of scenarios, in which a reader or audience can escape and at the same time learn valuable life-lessons. Upon entering their world, I brim with anticipation, eager to be surprised and educated. It is with this intent that I wrote The Crèche, hoping readers could experience what I experienced when I first read Narnia, saw a Twilight Zone episode, or was gripped by the developing drama in North by Northwest.

Ultimately, my inspiration is to seek God in my writing and to encourage others to seek Him. That is why I began writing The Crèche, and it was this aim that kept me writing and pursuing publication opportunities.

Plot summary
A fiery preacher tried, convicted, and burned at the stake.  An elderly monk, questioned and scoffed by a papal delegation.  A father, in the outskirts of Paris, tormented with the decision to protect his family or follow Christ’s teaching of “turning the other cheek.”  An abused wife leaves her husband, embarking on the unknown to protect her seven-year-old daughter.  An eleven-year-old boy, Carter Mason, despairs to find answers to the injustices and evil he discovers in his world.

Carter finds an ally in his search when his sister, Shannon, has a close brush with blindness.  The incident sets her on a philosophical journey that alienates her from her mother and encourages Carter to keep seeking answers. But it is a nativity set, a family heirloom crafted by an elderly friar in Florence, Italy, during the fifteenth century that offers Carter hope in the face of growing anguish.  

The miracle of Christmas provides an opportunity of escape from the pattern forming early in Carter’s life.  As a child on the verge of his teenage years, his eyes are still open enough to believe the impossible, to listen and wonder.  His family is presented with similar opportunities to wrestle with their own past and beliefs as they explore the mystery of The Crèche.

Brief bio:
Larry Forcey is a former history teacher who now works as an accountant in the Title Insurance industry. He has served as mission elder at Trinity United Presbyterian in Santa Ana, California and continues to serve on the mission team.  He is a graduate of Westmont College in Santa Barbara and currently lives in Orange County. The Crèche is his first novel.

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