TORONTO — It’s not often that an aspiring first-time novelist gets the benefit of direct feedback and advice from Oprah Winfrey.
So when the talk-show queen and publishing-industry saviour recommended Amy Foster change the setting of her first book, When Autumn Leaves, from Massachusetts to her native British Columbia, Foster listened.
“You can’t deny Oprah,” Foster said in a recent telephone interview. “When Oprah tells you to do something, you do it.”
Then again, Foster isn’t your typical first-time novelist.
The daughter of Canadian superproducer David Foster, Amy is an accomplished songwriter in her own right, having penned tunes for Josh Groban, Diana Krall, Destiny’s Child and Andrea Bocelli.
Her most famous collaborations have been with Michael Buble, including Haven’t Met You Yet, the first single from his latest record, Crazy Love.
That album was released Oct. 9 and has been No. 1 on the album charts in the two weeks since in both Canada and the United States. When Autumn Leaves was released Oct. 6.
So yes, Foster has had a pretty good month.
“It’s like a whirlwind,” said the 36-year-old. “It’s the best time. It’s amazing. I couldn’t have planned it any better.”
Foster and Buble met through her father years ago, when Buble had just moved to L.A. and was searching for a record deal.
Now, she says he’s “like my brother” and they’re best friends. She calls him brilliant and says he’s one of the hardest-working people in the business.
And Buble has reciprocated that support.
“He goes around everywhere . . . and buys copies of my book and then hands them out to strangers in airports,” Foster said. “He’s just so loyal that way. He’s a really good dude. I think he’s the type of person that doesn’t feel threatened by other people’s success, he wants everybody to be successful.
“So if I’m successful too, that makes him really happy.”
She would certainly seem to be off to a good start in her publishing career. When Autumn Leaves (The Overlook Press) is just the first in a series that Foster says will ultimately number 14 books. She’s nearly completed the next three books.
The first novel centres on Autumn, a shopkeeper and member of a sisterhood of witches who oversee Avening, a quaint little fictional town nestled off the coast of British Columbia. A promotion within the sisterhood means Autumn needs to select her successor from a group of 13 local women, each of whom possesses a latent magical ability.
“I think that is really the big overarching metaphor, is that we all have these gifts, and sometimes it just takes a spark to let the magic inside of us — god, that sounds so cheesy — but to let the magic inside of us, to reveal it to the rest of the world,” Foster said.
“I really hope it is empowering for women. I really hope that women read this and feel like there’s potential inside of them that’s lurking that they might not have known. That they’re stronger than they think they are.”
And Avening, an impossibly picturesque hamlet, is an integral part of the book’s charm.
“The idea for the town was I wanted to create a place that if I went there, I would want to stay there and live there forever,” she said.
That’s where Winfrey came in.
Foster met her once, in scenic Desolation Sound, B.C. (“I blurted that I was writing a book, and I acted like a complete moron because it was Oprah,” Foster recalls.)
Winfrey, admiring her sweeping surroundings, couldn’t understand why Foster chose Massachusetts for the book’s setting.
“She said: ’So you wrote a book about magic that takes place in New England. I thought you said you were from here. Did you go to school in New England?’ I said no,” remembered Foster, who moved back to B.C. from Nashville earlier this year.
“So she said, ’So you wrote a book about magic and you didn’t set it here, in the most magical place on earth, where you’re actually from?’
“It wasn’t like lightning bolts or anything came out of the sky when she said it — it wasn’t threatening at all — but it was a very kind suggestion.”
Foster’s father, on the other hand, doesn’t have much advice for her as she enters a new stage of her career.
“He gives me lots of advice, but he’s a musician, he’s a rock star, I don’t know how much of a reader he is,” she said.