Things I know about John C. Foster: He’s got a dangerously dark and unique imagination, as evidenced in works like his newest novel The Isle and his “Libros de Infernos” series, which starts with the novel, Dead Men. I also know that, in spite of a somewhat twisted mind, he’s one fuck of a nice guy and one Rich and I both consider to be not just a respected colleague, but a friend. And one other thing I know is this guy can write his ass off. And I don’t mean to say that he’s merely technically proficient, but that he’s one of those magical orators, a natural born storyteller with the innate ability to mesmerize with a sentence and entice with a word. If you haven’t read his stuff yet, I’d urge you to go unfuck that right after you finish reading his thoughts behind the creation and evolution of his story, “Gilda,” the first entry in this new anthology coming soon from Cutting Block Books.
John C. Foster Gives Us the Skinny on Gilda
His story in The Seven Deadliest, coming in May from Cutting Block Books
I was terrified when I started writing Gilda. Not frightened in the way I hope readers will be frightened, but terrified that I would miss the mark.
Because everything about writing Gilda was different.
I rarely write fiction guided by someone else’s theme. I rarely write fiction on a deadline.
Wait, let me back up. I was in Princeton, NJ preparing to interview Lauren B. Davis about her new novel The Grimoire of Kensington Market when I received a message from John Taff, a good friend and writer I admire. Did I want to participate in a project with a tight deadline? I had no signal in the venue, so I had to run up and down the stairs to exchange a few messages. Busy preparing for the interview in front of a live audience and tired of the stairs, I said, “Yes” without really knowing what I was in for.
Turns out Cutting Block Press wanted a novelette to complete a collection about the seven sins and I had about a month to write it.
My topic was Avarice.
Wrath and Gluttony come naturally to me and if I conjure my student days, I can take a fair swing at Sloth. But avarice? I mean, would I be a writer if avarice was a driving motivation? Even when I was in business with a nice salary and expense account, money was always a means to an end, never something I cared much about (more’s the pity).
As it turned out, this was a blessing in disguise. Richard Thomas tackled Lust in this same anthology and mentioned awhile back that he had to work to avoid clichés in approaching his sin. I suspect that I would have stumbled into all kinds of traps if I were investigating a subject closer to my nature.
I approached the project as if I were a chef on the TV show Chopped, gathering an armful of ingredients while the plan was still forming in my mind. The first ingredient was mythology, and I delved into the stories of Mammon, personified in the Middle Ages as the demon of greed, and Plutus, the Greek God of Wealth. This led me to the Vulgate Bible and Dante’s fourth circle of Hell…and I realized I was cooking with gas.
The next ingredient was a story fragment that had been knocking around in my ‘unfinished ideas’ box for some time. A group of old women. A secret club of storytellers. Hard-bitten old broads who wanted something. Who wielded their stories as if they were weapons…or keys.
Last but not least I needed a name for my fictional group of storytellers, and I borrowed an idea from my partner, who belongs to a group called the Bay Area Ladies Drinking Society, a.k.a the BALDIES. I tweaked it a bit to fit my needs and came up with WILDS, the Whiskey & Ink Ladies Drinking Society.
Why set it in Thailand? Because it was a setting at odds with my notion of campfire stories and I was feeling ornery.
I made my protagonist younger than the rest of WILDS because I needed an entry point. I could identify with her being an outsider, the imposter syndrome. Most of all her youth gave me a way to grapple with avarice. I was able to recall my own headlong charge out to Hollywood when I was 20, determined to be a screenwriter without having ever seen a screenplay. Hungry, aggressive, needy and willing to do whatever it took to claw my way up from the muck of wannabes.
It turned out I was no stranger to avarice after all.
The story really came together when the name GILDA scrawled itself across my mind. Gilda. Gilded in gold. Old school. Throaty. Noir. Femme fatale.
I fell in love with her, despite her flaws.
The writing itself went quickly and the story was well received.
I hope you like Gilda. I hope you’ll judge the characters kindly, not just young Claude, but fading Wilma and anxious Hysteria. Even Gilda herself, despite her cruelties. It’s not hard to understand their hunger. It’s not hard to understand that one taste isn’t enough.
After all, what will you do when there’s a knock on the door in the middle of the night, and a visitor holds out a briefcase, telling you it’s yours?
Thanks to John and to all of you who took the time to read his insights. Stay tuned to this site, though, because we’ll be running six more of these delightful little teasers over the next several weeks.
About John C. Foster
John C. Foster was born in Sleepy Hollow, New York, and has been afraid of the dark for as long as he can remember. His most recent novel, The Isle, grew out of his love for New England, where he spent his childhood. He is the author of three previous novels, Dead Men, Night Roads and Mister White, and one collection of short stories, Baby Powder and Other Terrifying Substances. His stories have appeared in magazines and anthologies including Dark Moon Digest, Strange Aeons, Dark Visions Volume 2 and Lost Films, among others. He lives in Brooklyn with the actress Linda Jones and their dog Coraline.