Catherine Forster is the Author of Chasing Tarzan. This is her story.
About the Book
In the 1960s, a relentless school bully makes Catherine’s life a living hell. She retreats inward, relying on a rich fantasy life–swinging through the jungle wrapped in Tarzan’s protective arms–and fervent prayers to a God she does not trust. She fasts until she feels faint, she ties a rough rope around her waist as penance, hoping God will see her worthy of His help.
As the second of eight children, Catherine is Mommy’s little helper, and like Mommy, Catherine is overwhelmed. The bullying and the adult responsibilities together foment her anger. She starts smacking her siblings, and becomes her younger sister’s nemesis. Spooked by who she is becoming, Catherine vows to escape for real, before she hurts someone-or herself.
Catherine finds salvation in a high school exchange program: new town, new school, new family, new persona. A passport celebrity. In New Zealand, nobody knows her history or her fears. Except for her Kiwi “mum,” who sees through Catherine’s façade and pulls her out from her inner safe-house. Exposed, her sense of self implodes. Catherine must finally rethink who she is.
What is your book about?
Chasing Tarzan is about the ripple effects of bullying, how it shapes who we become, and impacts our closest relationships. In my early years we moved like gypsies, my father chasing the elusive brass ring in sales. He promised adventure, a new state, a new town, a new school, but I found only chaos and menace. There was no one to protect me from a school bully or my brother’s fists. My parents, teachers and friends did not intervene. I escaped the only way I knew how, channeling an imaginary companion and protector, Tarzan. Powerfully adept at whisking myself away, I retreated far inward so their taunts could not reach me, not realizing no one else would be able to either. A rich internal world dampened the pain, but changed nothing. I woke to this truth and sought action, becoming an exchange student. In New Zealand, seven thousand miles away from my tormentors and all who knew me, I took on a new persona: the popular girl. I fooled everyone; except for my Kiwi host “mum,” who saw through my façade and pulled me out from my inner safe-house. Exposed, my sense of self imploded, and I was forced to rethink who I was.
What do you hope other people will take away from reading your book?
I wrote the book so that those struggling with bully or its long-term effects would not feel alone. I want the targeted to know that what they are experiencing, or encountered in the past, is indeed abuse. I was told that bullying was a fact of life, part of growing up, that one would be stronger for it. This is not the case. Individuals who are the target of severe bullying (whether physical or verbal) are more likely to struggle with their relationships, suffer from depression, addiction, and suicide. It is my hope that Chasing Tarzan will help young readers seek positive solutions, and begin the process of fortifying their own voice. For those still suffering from trauma inflicted long ago, I hope the book shines a light on that past, laying bare the truth––the mistreatment was not their fault, and they did not deserve it.
What was the most difficult part about writing the book? The most rewarding?
Most difficult: finding the story.
My first draft was a 700-page memory dump. I thought it was a book, only to discover through sharing that it was at least five: a coming of age story, a parenting book, a travel book, an exposé on relationships, and a cookbook! I started over. The second draft was three-hundred pages and radically stripped down, at least I thought it was. After another round of sharing with my writing group, I wrote draft three and sent it to an editor. Her response was devastating. Feeling I’d embarked on a foolish journey, I put the book away, but it would not leave me alone. I re-read all the notes from my readers and the editor, and began again. I dove deeper than I ever thought possible, exposing incidents I’d long ago banished, tucked away in an impenetrable vault in my head. Only a few radically modified chapters survived from the original manuscript, but I’d found Chasing Tarzan.
Most rewarding: my readers’ responses, how the book resonates with them, allowing many to rethink their own story.
What do you do when you are not writing?
I am an artist, a filmmaker, a writer, a mother, a wife, and a kayaker who loves to bake. My creative platforms are for exploring issues and themes I am passionate about. They are equally fascinating to me, just in different ways. Writing is more cerebral, painting more physical, and filming is physical in the doing and solely a head game when editing. What I like is the steps between them, how they arrest different components of my abilities, my body, my emotions. If I’m having creative difficulties, I take walks, kayak, or knead dough, each step or stroke bringing me closer to finding a solution.
What’s next for you?
I’m writing a work of fiction, Sorry Cakes for Supper. The story alternates between the main character Judyth’s week with her granddaughter and to flashbacks of Judyth’s childhood, beginning in 1914 and ending in 1920 when she meets her future husband Ed. The journey takes her from a joyful child to a reticent adult, yet it is the course of one week spent with her granddaughter that is most life-changing. In the studio, I’m working on the painting series, Bristle and Lick, inspired by the current lack of genuine political and social engagement. I’m also developing a new experimental film based on man’s sense of entitlement towards nature.
How can our readers get a copy of your book?
It is available where ever books are sold including Amazon
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