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

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