Gwynne Forster

Gwynne Forster

Interviewed by: Lauretta Pierce
December 29, 2008

Lauretta: How did you come about the idea to write A DIFFERENT KIND OF BLUES?

Gwynne: I heard of someone who was told that she had an inoperable tumor. I don't know how she dealt with it, but it occurred to me that the problem could be a study for a novel. After I figured out how I could make such a story interesting but not morose, I decided to write it.

Lauretta: When you begin writing a new novel, how do you go about clearing your previous characters out of your head in order to make room for your new characters?

Gwynne: That's a good question. As a rule, by the time I get to the end of a story, the next one has begun to buzz around in my head, and I can hardly wait to write it. I do in- depth interviews with my major characters as a means of getting to know them and directing the story. When writing their responses to these interview questions-- usually fifty to seventy-five pages per character in a student's black and white notebook-previous characters are forgotten. One very recent hero has pestered me for months, but he's so unlike any other that I've written, that inability to forget him is not an impediment.

Lauretta: How did you come about Petra's character?

Gwynne: Once I settled on the idea for the story, I decided that I needed an average woman for the major role, but I didn't want her to be too average, so I gave her a few quirks. She took shape as I was doing my character analysis and evolved fully as I was writing.

Lauretta: Would you give the reader a brief synopsis of A DIFFERENT KIND OF BLUES?

Gwynne: This story is about challenge, meeting it or lying down and letting it overwhelm you. Petra's doctor tells her that she has an inoperable and incurable tumor and a short time to live. First, at the admonishment of her pastor, she makes a list of the people she's wronged and asks forgiveness of each. However, the majority of them do not appreciate her gesture and, in some cases, her confession causes trouble. So she chucks that idea, and decides to enjoy the time she has left, doing the things she's always wanted to do and seeing places she's always wanted to go. In the process she finds happiness, health and a new lease on life. Publishers Weekly call the story "An ode to life…wise and wonderful."

Lauretta: What would you do if you found yourself in Petra's health situation?

Gwynne:I've never given that any thought. However, I doubt that I would be as brave as she. I do know that I would put my personal and financial affairs in order, buy the two-volume set of Marcel Proust's Remembrance of Things Past and read as much of it as possible. I've never had time in which to concentrate on it.

Lauretta: How did you come about the idea surrounding Krista, her father and her siblings?

Gwynne: Sometime I look at my computer screen and get the biggest surprise. Goodman Prout and his family were not in my thoughts when I began writing the story. I knew that, because Petra had a daughter, there had been a man in her life, but I hadn't created him. He materialized when Krista wanted to meet her father. I realized then that I had an opportunity for another level of conflict. When Krista met her father, she asked about his family. This would be natural for any precocious eighteen year old. Learning that she has two brothers, she wants to meet them.

Lauretta: How did you come about the idea for Goodman to always ask Jada for money?

Gwynne: I'm a social scientist, and I understand male-female interaction. A man who truly cares for a woman is protective toward her and wants to provide for her. Jada wants to be a kept woman, but he's too clever. By taking money from her, he's letting her know that she is not special to him and that she can't depend on him for financial support. Whenever she asks him for money, he tells her that he was about to ask her for some, and he keeps a record of the amount he takes from her.

Lauretta: How did you come about Lena's character?

Gwynne: Petra is thirty-six years old. Thirty-seven years ago, many women who had out-of-wedlock children were born to women who had not married and who were often members of the culture of the underprivileged. I put Lena, Petra's mother, in that category.

Lauretta: What made Carla accept Krista?

Gwynne: Goodman didn't give Carla a choice; neither did his sons, who found that they liked having an attractive and smart sister.

Lauretta:What message would you like readers to receive from reading A DIFFERENT KIND OF BLUES?

Gwynne: Life is what you make it, so as long as you're breathing, embrace life with hope, faith, graditude and a will to survive.