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TWO Interviews with Rebecca Forster

October 2, 2018 by in category Interviews tagged as , , ,

We’ve taken over Jann Ryan’s column this month, but don’t worry, she will be back in November.


Rebecca two | Marianne H. Donley | A Slice of Orange

TWO Interviews with Rebecca Forster



These two interviews first appeared on Bethlehem Writers Roundtable. Rebecca has graciously updated them for inclusion on A Slice of Orange.

Rebecca Forster marketed a world-class spa when it was still called a gym, did business in China before there were western toilettes at the Great Wall, and mucked around with the sheep to find out exactly how her client’s fine wool clothing was manufactured.   Then she wrote her first book and found her passion.

Now, thirty-five books later, she is a USA Today and Amazon best-selling author and writes full-time. Most recently, she released the Finn O’Brien crime thrillers – three books about a shunned cop and his single-mother partner who work the meanest streets of Los Angeles while the Witness series continues to enthrall readers and listeners. Hostile Witness, the first book in the popular series, was released by Tantor Publishing and was voiced by Anne Marie Lee who most recently narrated Gillian Flynn’s, Sharp Objects.

She is a popular speaker at writing conferences as well as women’s and business groups and has taught at the acclaimed UCLA Writers Program. She is married to a Los Angeles Superior Court judge and is the mother of two grown sons. Alex is a talent manager and producer, and Eric who has been living overseas researching a book. Rebecca spends her free time traveling, sewing, and playing tennis.

Marianne: Did you grow up knowing you wanted to write? If not, when did you realize you were an author?

Rebecca: No, I didn’t even think about writing until I was in my thirties and then I only began because someone dared me to try. After going to college and graduate school, I worked in advertising. My client was married to an author I had never heard of–Danielle Steel! When I found out who she was, I made a comment to a colleague that “I could do that (write a novel).” My co-worker dared me to do it, and the rest is history. I had no idea I had it in me. However, I don’t think I really thought of myself as an author until my eighth or ninth book. I kept thinking each published book was a fluke. Then one day I realized how deep my commitment was to writing and how passionate I was about becoming the best writer I could be. That was the day I became an author. 

Marianne: You started writing contemporary romances and now write thrillers. How did that happen?

Rebecca: I look back on my romances and contemporary women’s fiction novels and realize almost every one of them dealt with a lawyer or some aspect of the law. I guess I thought writing about the law was really for men and especially men who were lawyers. I found my stride when I gave myself permission to write what I really loved.  Well, that and my editor at Kensington basically fired me from romance. He said, “You can’t keep killing everyone before they fall in love.” That was a good hint I should change genres. 

Marianne: You are not a lawyer, yet you write gripping legal fiction. What happened to the “write what you know” advice writers always seem to get?

Rebecca: The truth is I sort of ‘write what I know.’ My husband has had an amazing career, first as a federal prosecutor specializing in organized crime and terrorism, and then as a judge who handles high profile cases. Our circle of friends includes DEA agents, police, private eyes, court reporters, and lawyers of every ilk. Pretty much I’m a legal voyeur. I read the legal newspapers, watch the news. I love everything having to do with the law, but I never had a desire to actually become a lawyer. As much as I love the technical aspects of the law, I never forget a book is about characters. There is nothing more exciting than pitting a single person against a system. The justice system makes for great personal drama.

Marianne: How much research do you do for your books?

Rebecca: It really depends on the storyline. If it’s a courtroom drama, I do a lot of research including seeking help for appropriate cross-examination and how to explain a legal premise without it coming across like I’m presenting a research paper. Some of my books are more character driven and inspired by some aspect of the law but are not procedurals. When my characters don’t spend much time is spent in the courtroom, then the research is limited. My favorite research, though, was for Eyewitness. I researched the legal system in, of all places, Albania. My son was serving in the Peace Corps, and when we went to visit his village, I came away with an incredible story about the centuries-old system of cultural justice that I combined with our modern judicial system. I love that book.

Marianne: Tell us about your current book. Where can we buy your books?

Rebecca: I’m working on book number eight of The Witness Series and book number four of the Finn O’Brien Crime Thrillers. I actually hadn’t planned on writing Lost Witness but fans kept asking me “what happened to Billy?”  I thought they would enjoy using their imaginations to determine an end for that character. Now that I know they want to know how I would handle his ending, I’m hard at work figuring it out. I hope everyone is happy when they finally find out what happens to Billy. The next Finn O’Brien book is Intimate Relations.  Finn and his partner, Cori, are turning into a wonderful duo. Instead of writing about Los Angeles in general, I am setting the crimes in the pockets of Los Angeles many people don’t know about like Little Ethiopia. It’s very exciting. And, of course, the big news is Tantor producing all seven of the current Witness Series books for audio. I just heard the first one and it’s so exciting.

You can purchase digital, paperback and audio copies of my work on every online bookstore – Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks and so many others. You can also visit my website and find sample chapters, book club guidelines and, of course, link buttons.

Marianne: For over 25 years and 25 books, you were traditionally published. Why did you decide to launch your indie career?

Rebecca: One of the reasons was because of a book I wrote called Before Her Eyes. I truly wanted that book to have an audience. Good or bad, I just needed to put it out there.  The book was inspired by my dad and my father in law’s illnesses. They passed within three months of one another, and I was privileged to witness what did pass ‘before their eyes’ at the end of their life. For me, there was no question but that book needed to be published and that I was going to have to do it myself. At some point, I think all authors have a ‘book of their heart’ that pushes their creative envelope. This was mine.

Also, the publishing world was changing. Bookstores were disappearing, publishers were not buying as much as they used to. I really felt it was my time to either move forward or retire after twenty-five years in the business. That was three years ago. I am so happy I moved forward. The creative freedom, the ease with which I can engage with readers, the ability to price my books reasonably are all reasons why being indie has been so fabulous.

Marianne: What do you know now that you wished you’d know before you went indie?

Rebecca: I wish I had created a better work model earlier so that my writing time was not given up for marketing time. Writers truly need to understand that whether they publish traditionally or as an indie, this is a business and not all about creativity.

 Marianne: What advice would you give to emerging writers?

Rebecca: Develop your unique voice. The best compliment I ever had was when a reader said, “Even without a cover, I would know I was reading one of your books.” That’s what I think every author should strive for: defining and perfecting their voice. It takes a lot of trial and error, but when you ‘hear’ it, you’ll know.


~~~~~~~~Beginning second interview~~~~~~~~~~~~


Marianne: What’s the best thing about being an author?

Rebecca:  Every experience, emotion, bit of knowledge, and dream I ever had or will have is relevant to what I do.

Marianne:  What’s your writing day like?

Rebecca:   I am up at 5:30, read the paper, clean at least one room in the house and then take my computer to Coffee Cartel and set up at my favorite table near the fake suit of armor. I’ve been going there for 17 years, almost every day. I write from about 8:00 a.m. To 2:00-3:00 p.m. I pack my lunch. In the evening I answer fan mail, emails, Twitter, Facebook and anything else that comes my way.

Marianne:  Do you listen to music when you write?

Rebecca:   I listen to talk radio and Pandora.com while I write. I have everything from Classic Baroque to Johnny Cash and show tunes on my playlist.

Marianne:  In your books, who is your favorite character and why?

Rebecca: Here are two. Hannah Sheraton, the sixteen-year-old ward of attorney Josie Bates in The Witness Series is one of my favorites. She is beautiful and flawed; a kid and yet incredibly wise because she has had to fend for herself for so long. She is fiercely loyal and holds hope deep in her heart. I’d like to be as brave and loyal as Hannah. The second is Tessa, the heroine in BEFORE HER EYES. She’s a woman who objectively looks at her life – full of hard knocks, mistakes, misunderstandings – and forgives herself. As death closes in, Tessa understands that she played the hand she was dealt as best she could. Now that Finn and Cori have come on the scene though, I’d have to include them. I suppose, bottom line, an author can’t pick a favorite any more than a mother can pick a favorite child.

Marianne:  You’ve written both romance and thrillers –very different genres. Why?

Rebecca:   At the beginning of my writing career, romance/women’s fiction had guidelines that gave me parameters.  I can’t thank the women’s fiction editors I worked with enough for their guidance. Because of them, I learned the craft and eventually found my true voice in thrillers. Really, though, it’s a matter of emphasis. Each of my romances had a thriller element, and each of the thrillers has a solid relationship.

Marianne:  What’s your all-time favorite book?

Rebecca: For an indie book I would pick Eternal L.A. by Eric Czuleger (yep, my son). I love the vision for the future in this collection of short stories but what I really admire is that they are each about compassion and love in a time when the world seems to be all about technology

Marianne:  What‘s on your To-Be-Read pile?

Rebecca:   Eric Larsen’s, THE GARDEN OF THE BEASTS (nonfiction), BRAINRUSH, another Indie fiction by Richard Bard. THE LINCOLN LAWYER by Michael Connelly. A zillion magazines for research and for fun. I could go on.

Marianne:  What’s your favorite song?

“Danny Boy.”  When Johnny Cash sings it, I cry. “Ring of Fire,” of course.  “Happy Birthday” because everyone smiles even though no one can sing it well.

Marianne:  What’s your favorite movie?

Rebecca:  These questions are hard! Prelude to a Kiss. Yep, a romantic comedy. Oh, and Beetlejuice. And Legally Blond.  And Zombie movies.  We see a lot of Zombie movies.

Marianne:  You tell the funniest stories, why don’t you write humor?

Rebecca:   I have a secret.  One day my mother asked me “Why don’t you write books without bodies”. So, for her 89th birthday, I wrote the Bailey Devlin trilogy about a young woman who is struggling to make her way in the world and just as all her hard work is going to pay off, someone appears on her doorstep that changes her life. The Day Bailey Devlin’s Horoscope Came True is the first book and it’s free. It’s a sweet, funny, charming trilogy. No sex, lots of love, some laugh-out-loud moments.

Marianne:  What’s the funniest (or sweetest or best or nicest) thing a fan ever said to you?

Rebecca:   That if John Grisham and Lisa Scottoline had a literary child, it would be me!

Marianne:  If you could be on a TV reality show which would it be.

Rebecca  Project Runway!

Marianne:  If you could travel back in time, who would you like to meet and why?

Rebecca:   A pioneer woman who walked beside a wagon across the desert in a long dress and high-topped boots, set down roots in the middle of nowhere, raised children without benefit of a ‘village.’ I would want to ask her if she was ever afraid, what did she love, who did she love.

Marianne:  If a spaceship landed in your backyard and the aliens on board offered to take you for a ride, would you go? Why or why not?

Rebecca: I’d go in a snap, but they would have to take my husband and boys, too. We all love adventure. Recently, I landed on an aircraft carrier via tail hook and spent two ‘Top Gun” days on the U.S.S. Nimitz. If I can do that, I’d certainly head off in a spaceship!


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