Monday, 24 September 2012

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Gerry Fostaty

Today, like every other Monday recently, I have an author interview. My third, to be exact. Today, I am posting an interview I had with Gerry Fostaty about his book, As You Were: The Tragedy at Valcartier.

This is a non-fiction book, and what happened isn't for the faint-hearted. But it is suitable for young adults who love history and you may just learn something very valuable in the book.

On with the interview!


1. Can you tell me about the Tragedy at Valcartier?

'As You Were: The Tragedy at Valcartier is a true story. I have to 
mention that off the top, because some people find it impossible to 
believe. Six fourteen and fifteen year-old cadets were killed, and 
fifty four were seriously injured when a grenade accidentally exploded 
at a Canadian Forces army base in 1974. The cadets were attending an 
explosives safety course. They were being shown inactive explosives, 
which are sometimes called dummies, so that they were aware of what 
explosives looked like. The idea was that in the unlikely event that 
they might find an explosive, they would know not to touch it, but 
report it to a superior. Somehow, a live grenade got mixed up with the 
dummies and exploded in the lecture. Ironically, this was a lecture to 
keep them safe from what actually happened.  There were one hundred 
and thirty eight people in the room when the explosion occurred. I was 
on my way into the room when it happened.'



 2. What sort of emotions were you feeling at the time?



'In the immediate few minutes after the explosion there was no time to 
think. All of us just immediately reacted to the emergency. There were 
about eight or nine of us who were able to react. A surge of 
adrenaline fueled us and kept us focused on what had to be done, which 
was to get the injured boys out of the room before another explosion 
could happen. We had no idea what had caused the first blast, and we 
were sure that another one would take place at any second. It was only 
later, that I began to realize how deeply this was affecting me.  We 
all like to think that we are immune to the effects of trauma, how we 
are so much stronger emotionally 
than everyone else, but the fact is, 
we are all terribly vulnerable. I was in shock for a good portion of 
the day, and sometimes in a state of confusion. I was eighteen and 
responsible for about fifty of those boys; I had tasks to perform to 
make sure they were accounted for and safe. Sadly over thirty were 
missing, and that created a feeling of panic in me until I could 
account for my whole group. I would be repeatedly thrown into 
situations throughout the rest of that day that I had never before 
encountered, nor even thought possible. The body and mind have very 
sophisticated systems for dealing with acute stress of this kind. 
These systems depend on a large surge of adrenaline.  We've all 
experienced some type of adrenaline rush, like when we ride a 
roller-coaster, or when someone jumps out from behind a door to scare 
you, but the type of massive surge I am talking about focuses the mind 
on the threat, and allows us to decide in one twelve-thousanth of a 
second, how we will deal with the danger.  This helps you to deal with 
the immediate danger, and helps you to get to safety, or get those you 
are responsible for to safety. But once the panic is over, and the 
situation has returned to normal, it may take some time for the mind 
to realize that the danger is gone. In many cases, the effects can 
last up to a month. In some cases, it can last years.'

 3. What made you want to write a book about it?



'I wanted to let my family know what had happened to me so many years 
ago: what had changed my life. It was impossible for me to speak about 
it. It was a very complex day, and there were so many questions that 
arose when telling the story.  The answers to the questions became 
their own stories and I realised that the only way to tell the story 
was to write it down. I realised, too, that If I was having such a 
difficult time telling the story, the other boys who were with me 
would undoubtedly be having a similar challenge. So, I wrote it for 
them, too: so they could pass it on to their families.'

 4. Did you always want to be an author?



'No, I always wanted to be an actor. And that's what I did for twenty 
years, doing stage, television, commercials and some film. I had a bit 
of luck with some playwriting, too, so when I began writing As You 
Were, I realised that I was still engaged in storytelling, only now I 
was telling my own stories. It seemed to be a natural progression for 
me.'

 5. How did you feel when your work was passed for publication?



'I was thrilled of course.  There are scads of people who will tell you 
that writing the book is the easy part; getting published is the hard 
bit. So, I was over the moon when the publisher contacted me to say 
they wanted to publish As You Were. But I was nervous, too.  I 
suddenly became aware that this story I had been keeping under wraps 
for so many years would be public.  It would no longer be my secret 
identity.'


 6. Have you got any plans to write another book?



'I already have one written. I am in the process of editing it right 
now, before I sending it to a publisher. This one is fiction and is a 
complete departure from As You Were. It is not autobiographical, but I 
did draw on my experiences in the theatre to create the story and the
characters. A third book is also in the works.'

 7. What type of books do you like to read?



'I read everything.  Ok — not everything. I can't quite read romance 
novels, although I have tried. I have tried to read something from 
every genre, although the lines of the genres are getting blurrier.  I 
have a friend (Howard Shrier) who is a mystery writer, so I am reading
his books right now.  I like the way his plots move like a freight 
train.  I like to read some non-fiction, too, like Margaret Visser's 
Much Depends on Dinner, where she disassembles — no, 
reverse-engineers, a simple meal in a way that's fascinating.'

 8. What was the last book you read?



'That is tricky. I like to read books that I have read before, to 
cleanse the palate between new books.  I know it sounds kooky, but 
I've always done that. The last new book was The Bishop's Man by 
Linden MacIntyre. It is a great book.  The in-between book was a few 
chapters of The Mists of Avalon.'

 9. Did you enjoy it?



'I loved the Bishop's Man.  It is about a priest who does the Bishop's 
difficult work of resolving potential Church scandals quickly and 
quietly. To give him a low profile, the Church assigns him to a remote 
parish, where we see him struggle with the effects of his work, and 
see the man beneath the Roman collar.'

 10. What advice do you have for any aspiring authors reading this?



'Read everything you can, in as many genres as possible.  Then write, 
and keep on writing.  The most important thing, though, once you have 
decided to publish, is to have an editor: not just a friend who likes 
to read, or someone with a degree in English, but an editor.  Nothing 
can substitute for the critical eye of an experienced editor.'



Sounds fantastic!

If you want to contact Gerry of learn more about the book, his website is linked here: http://www.gerryfostaty.com and you can find him on Twitter @gfostaty.

Have a great evening!

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