Born in England, raised in Montreal, and educated at McGill University, Peter C. Foster is a child of the Sixties. After travelling all over the continent and dabbling in political activism and journalism, he went on to earn his living in the Montreal taxi industry, where he has worked in every capacity from driver to dispatcher to general manager. He is the author of three published novels. His previous book, Flash Drive, has earned more than 450 ratings and 150 positive reviews in Amazon stores in four countries.. His work has been described as riveting and carefully crafted. It is infused with the exotic atmosphere of bilingual Montreal and informed by the hard-scrabble world of the taxi industry, where life is never easy, and dollars are earned one nickel and dime at a time. His stories are filled with compelling eclectic characters who reflect these influences and bring them to life on every page. As our Author of the Day, Foster tells us all about his latest novel, Time Lost.
Please give us a short introduction to what Time Lost is about.
First off, I’d like to say thanks for this opportunity. Like most authors, I love talking about myself and my books. I’ll try not to rattle on endlessly.
Time Lost is my third published novel. It’s about a man who runs into an old flame he’s had no contact with for forty-odd years, not since the Summer of Love, which was in 1967 for those who weren’t around at the time. One thing leads to another, and against his better judgement he winds up getting involved in an investigation into her daughter’s murder. Time Lost is a mystery, and it’s also a love story spanning three generations.
What inspired you to write about a man who has to investigate the daughter of his ex?
I’m semi-retired now, but I still work part-time as an instructor at the École de Taxi in Montreal. That’s French for Taxi School and, yes, there is such a thing. One Saturday morning a few years ago a young woman walked into my classroom and she immediately caught my eye because she reminded me so much of a girl I knew years ago when I was a student at McGill University in the Sixties. She looked like my old girlfriend. She walked like her and she talked like her. And this got me thinking “What if…?”
From this “what if” question, Time Lost was born.
Time Lost is also a bit of a look back at the Sixties. Why did you take this approach?
Well, I have characters who met and fell in love in the Sixties, so it was more or less inevitable that the story would involve a look back at the Sixties, you know? And it’s not much of a stretch for me to do that because, well, I was there.
There’s something else, too. We live in turbulent times at the moment in the U.S. and in Canada, and for younger people it may seem that things are pretty bad, maybe even hopeless. But for people of my generation, we know there have been turbulent times before, and it’s been worse. The Vietnam war, the civil rights movement, political assassinations right and left… It’s good to bring some perspective. We got through that. We can get through this.
Your characters are so relatable and real. Who inspires them? Are they people you know?
First of all, thanks for the compliment. But no, I don’t know these people any more than you do. This is fiction. Everything is made up, including the characters. Having said that, I have to admit that there are often bits and pieces of real-life experiences in everything I write.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
I have some random unmarketable skills that I’m proud of. For example, I mastered parallel parking when I worked as a car jockey years ago. From my years in the taxi business, I know the streets of Montreal as well as anyone. And I make a mean osso bucco. Things like that.
Why did you pick Montreal as the backdrop for your book?
I grew up in Montreal, and I grew up reading fiction. The backdrop of much of what I read was the big cities of the world. For example, I knew all about Central Park long before I ever set foot in Manhattan. So one of my goals as an author has been to portray Montreal as a character in my stories in the same way the authors of my youth did with London or Paris, to give the reader an idea what it’s like to live and breathe the air in Montreal.
What was your greatest challenge when writing this book?
There are two stories here: the present-day mystery and the love story from the Sixties. The challenge was to tell the backstory without letting it slow down or get in the way of the development of the intrigue. I hope I succeeded.
Are there any books or writers that have influenced your work?
Thousands. Pretty much everything I’ve ever read, good and bad, is an influence.
Do you have a favorite line from the book, and can you explain what that line means to you?
“Poker is the new bingo.” It reflects the changes that are coming to retirement homes and long-term care facilities as the boomer population slides ungracefully into old age. Which is another recurring theme in the book.
What has most surprised you about the response you've received from readers from your previous book?
Flash Drive has been quite successful. It’s been downloaded by more than 50,000 readers and sales are in the four figures. And it’s picked up hundreds of favorable ratings and reviews all over the world. I was pleasantly surprised by the extent of this success. But I was even more surprised, and humbled, by the enthusiasm of many of the reviewers. It is very rewarding to connect so intimately with this audience. I cherish every one of them.
Do you have any interesting writing habits? Favorite writing spot, pen or laptop, best time of the day for you to write?
I write at home, mostly in the early morning, and I use a word processor. Not really that interesting, is it?
What are you working on right now?
I’m working sporadically on another novel, my fourth. It’s slow going.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
My books are all listed in Amazon stores world-wide. And there’s more information than anyone could need on my website: www.petercfoster.com.