Winner of the $50,000 Writers’ Trust
Charles Foran on the authors who have inspired him to take this path by Sarah Kidd
Although author Charles Foran has received many accolades for his writing, most recently the Writers’ Trust of Canada Fellowship, early on he had a different career in mind.
“I planned to be a psychologist, based on my love of The Bob
Newhart Show,” he laughingly admits. “It was a show about a psychologist in Chicago, who was very fun and had very odd people coming to his practice. I’m not sure how serious I was, but it seemed a more reasonable thing to become rather than a writer.”
Although he would not, in fact, be the next Bob Newhart, fascinating characters would come into Foran’s life — many of his own making.
It was during his time at Brebeuf College School that he first began to explore the idea of becoming an author, thanks in large part to an English class taught by Jim Barry.
“I remember in particular the teaching of a play by Samuel Beckett, Jim brought in little props like old boots and carrots, and I really appreciated how passionate he was. Sometimes passion transfers, and with Jim it did,” says Foran.
Inspired by Mr. Barry’s unconventional approach to these works, Foran decided to pursue a career as an author.
“Back then, you more or less self-declared as a writer. There was no degree or stamp of approval. You said it, and then you found a way to make it happen. And Jim was the only person who made it reasonable for me to do it.”
Foran was also influenced by the authors of some of his favourite works — the brazenness he found in John Irving’s The World
According to Garp, the anger and empathy in John Steinbeck’s The
Grapes of Wrath and the incredible poeticism and artistry of Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred
Years of Solitude. His exposure to these literary works had an immediate effect, pushing him to write and create.
“At that moment, when I needed it, these books, for different reasons, really had an impact on me,” says Foran.
After high school, he moved to Quebec City and worked as a historic tour guide in the old city for the summer before his fourth year of university. It was then that he began to put pen to paper.
“Every morning I sat down before I went to work and I wrote. By the end of the summer, I had written a novel. It was a very bad novel, but it was clear that I could do this and that I had that compulsion and discipline to do it,” he says.
Foran has also taught at various points in his life, including in Beijing during China’s turbulent democratic movement. It proved a formative experience.
“Those two years solidified my adult understanding of the world and had a huge impact on how I think about politics, power and freedom of expression. How I think about the often violent clash between individual lives and larger, impersonal forces,” he says.
He has since continued to explore these themes in many of his works of fiction.
The compulsion to write and create that Foran found early in life has produced 11 books, both fiction and non-fiction. In them, he has tackled Canadian literary lion Mordecai Richler, Habs hockey legend Maurice Richard and explored the Irish Troubles and post–Tiananmen Square China.
“I think people, if they are lucky, find a match for their natural passion,” he says. For Foran, it’s clear that he found his match in the written word.
Foran has written 11 books, both fiction and non-fiction