This month, Fabulous Florida Writers is pleased to welcome guest blogger Steven Forman. He is the author of a series of hilarious mysteries set in Boca Raton. His newest novel, A Better Place, was released in July. Forman was our featured writer on February 3, 2015.
As a young man my favorite books were expansive sagas that spanned generations. I loved James Michener’s epics and enjoyed the unique experience of reading The Source while traveling through Israel in 1986. I was able to see what Michener described in such exquisite detail. I think I read every book by Harold Robbins which were often multi-generational sagas, broad in scope. So, after writing and publishing three mystery/comedies (Boca Knights, 2009, Boca Mournings, 2011, Boca Daze, 2012 from Tor Books) I decided to write a novel like the ones I loved reading as a young man. My latest release, A Better Place, is the result of that decision and though I love the outcome, I struggled with the process — and it took me five years.
Writing mystery/comedies came naturally to me. The plots, characters and humor flowed effortlessly — if not always perfectly. Conversely, writing a multi-generational saga encompassing eighty years, two world wars, the Korean War and Vietnam, multiple, interconnecting characters, in different places, was an entirely different challenge for me. It required extensive research and more patience than any of my previous novels. For instance, I wanted two of my characters, a teenage boy and his uncle, to travel from Zurich, Switzerland to Berlin, Germany in 1936 and attend Hitler’s Olympics. The uncle is a wealthy circus owner with his own limousine and chauffer and decides to take his limo rather than a train to Berlin. I had to address the following: What kind of limo would a wealthy Swiss businessman own in 1936? Were there decent roads between Zurich and Berlin in the summer of 1936? Could a Swiss citizen easily cross borders into Germany at that time? Were there gas stations along the route to enable them to make the ride? What was the route? How long would it take? The travel itself was not crucial to the story but I thought these minor issues should be addressed to add credibility to the story. I did the research and got the answers.
As it turned out, I cut the scene, determining it wasn’t important enough to a book that was already approaching five hundred pages. I was concerned with making the book unnecessarily long. Granted, my idol, James Michener, wrote books that exceeded a thousand pages, filled with extensive research and brilliant writing, like the scene he wrote about the death of a dinosaur that brought tears to my eyes. He was known and loved for his technique — but I was not James Michener. So, I chose to cut down the scope of the book and follow the trail blazed by Harold Robbins— character driven historical fiction. Considering Robbins had twenty-five best sellers, that sold over 750 million copies, I was still aiming high.
A Better Place is driven by unique characters both mighty and meek who live through important historical events but always remain the story’s focus. The title comes from a scene where a father asks a son how he felt after committing an extreme act of violence. The son thinks before he answers and says, “I feel like I made the world a better place.” To which the father responds, “A better place for who? That question is the central theme of the book. Is there anything that would make the world a better place for everyone. Leaving my writer’s comfort zone was … well … it was uncomfortable. But it was also an educational adventure, and I feel the outcome was well worth the effort. Since completing A Better Place I have finished a new mystery comedy and am working on another.
For more information, visit Forman's website at www.stevenmforman.com