(Gwendolyn J. Acsadi, Gwendolyn Johnson-Acsadi, Gwendolyn Z. Johnson)
Born in Burgaw, NC; daughter of King D. (an entrepreneur) and Vivian (a school principal) Johnson; married G.T. Acsadi (a demographer), December 22, 1970; children: Peter (stepson). Ethnicity: "African American." Education: Howard University, A.B., M.A. (sociology), 1960; American University, M.A. (economics and demography), 1961; attended Columbia University, 1962. Religion: Protestant. Hobbies and other interests: Gardening, gourmet cooking, singing, listening to music, reading.
United Nations, New York, NY, chief of fertility and family planning research for Population Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, 1962-84; International Planned Parenthood Federation, London, England, chairperson of the international programme committee, 1986-90; novelist. Community Library of Roosevelt Island, New York, NY, vice president.
Romance Writers of America, Authors Guild, Altrusa International.
Awards for best multicultural romance of the year, Affaire de Coeur, 1997, for Ecstasy, 1998, for Naked Soul, 1999, for Fools Rush In, and 2000, for Swept Away; named author of the year, Romance in Color (Internet Web site), 1999, for Against the Wind; Gold Pen Award, Black Writers Reunion and Conference, 2001, for Beyond Desire; inductee, Hall of Fame, Affaire de Coeur, 2006; Career Achievement Award, Romantic Times, 2007.
Sealed with a Kiss, Kensington (New York, NY), 1995.
Against All Odds, Kensington (New York, NY), 1996.
Ecstasy, Kensington (New York, NY), 1997.
Obsession, Kensington (New York, NY), 1998.
Beyond Desire, Kensington (New York, NY), 1999.
Naked Soul, Genesis Press (Columbus, MI), 1999.
Fools Rush In, BET Books (Washington, DC), 1999.
Against the Wind, Genesis Press (Columbus, MI), 1999.
Swept Away, BET Books (Washington, DC), 2000.
Secret Desire, BET Books (Washington, DC), 2000.
Midnight Magic, Genesis Press (Columbus, MI), 2000.
Scarlet Woman, BET Books (Washington, DC), 2001.
When Twilight Comes (novel), Dafina Books (New York, NY), 2002.
Once in a Lifetime, Arabesque/BET Publications (Washington, DC), 2002.
Blues from Down Deep (novel), Dafina Books (New York, NY), 2003.
Flying High, Arabesque/BET Publications (Washington, DC), 2003.
Last Chance at Love, Arabesque/BET Publications (Washington, DC), 2004.
If You Walked in My Shoes (novel), Kensington Pub. Corp. (New York, NY), 2004.
Whatever It Takes (novel), Kensington (New York, NY), 2005.
After the Loving, Arabesque/BET Publications (Washington DC), 2005.
Love Me or Leave Me, Arabesque/BET Publications (Washington DC), 2005.
When You Dance with the Devil, Dafina Books (New York, NY), 2006.
(With others) Destiny's Daughters, Kensington (New York, NY), 2006.
Unforgettable Passion, Kimani Press (New York, NY), 2006.
McNeil's Match, Kimani Press (New York, NY), 2006.
Her Secret Life, Kimani Press (New York, NY), 2006.
Just the Man She Needs, Kimani (Washington, DC), 2007.
Getting Some of Her Own, Dafina (New York, NY), 2007.
One Night with You, Kimani (Washington, DC), 2007.
Contributor to anthologies, including Silver Bells, Kensington, 1996, I Do, Kensington, 1997, Wedding Bells, Kensington, 1999, Midnight Clear, Genesis Press, 2000, and Going to the Chapel, St. Martin's Press, 2001.
UNDER NAME GWENDOLYN JOHNSON-ACSADI
(With György T. Acsadi and Adenola A. Igun) Surveys of Fertility, Family, and Family Planning in Nigeria, University of Ife (Ile-Ife, Nigeria), 1972.
(With György T. Acsadi) Policy Relevance of Findings of the World Fertility Survey for Developing Countries/Department of International Economic and Social Affairs, United Nations (New York, NY), 1986.
(With György T. Acsadi) Optimum Conditions for Childbearing, International Planned Parenthood Federation (London, England), 1986.
(Editor, with György T. Acsadi and Rodolfo A. Bulatao) Population Growth and Reproduction in Sub-Saharan Africa: Technical Analysis of Fertility and Its Consequences, World Bank, (Washington, DC), 1990.
Author of nearly thirty works on demography, under name Gwendoyln Z. Johnson, Gwendolyn Acsadi, or Gwendolyn Johnson-Acsadi. Contributor to periodicals.
Gwynne Forster is the pseudonym of Gwendolyn Johnson-Acsadi, the author of a score of romantic fiction titles as well as several mainstream novels. Forster, a sociologist by training, has often been commended for using her professional background to inform the characters and the storylines of her novels. She also features African-American protagonists, often in interracial relationships. However, the emphasis in Forster's romance novels is most definitely on the romance rather than on an examination of the racial divide in the United States. Her first novel, the 1995 Sealed with a Kiss, is indicative of the direction the author has taken in her fiction. The work features two assured professional people: journalist Rufus Meade, and Naomi Logan, who is a commercial artist. Logan has managed to build a large wall around her emotions, as she has been injured too many times already by men. But Rufus, as determined as he is sensitive, manages to breech her defenses finally. Writing in Romantic Times, Cheryl Ferguson commended this first novel, noting, "Gwynne Forster writes with a fresh, sophisticated sensuality that raises romance from the ordinary to the extraordinary heights of breathtaking fantasy."
Forster often develops characters who appear as minor characters in one novel into major protagonists of later novels. Such is the case with the outsized Texan Magnus Cooper, part of the supporting cast of her second romance novel, Against All Odds. Cooper later appeared as the central character in the 1998 title, Obsession, in which he and his younger brother, Edwin, vie for the love of a transplanted New Yorker, former stock broker Selena Sutton. When the rivalry turns violent on the part of Edwin, Magnus turns protector, contracting a marriage of convenience with Selena. Ferguson, again writing in Romantic Times, termed Obsession "an interesting novel that explores the darkest facets of obsession and the power of love to heal, comfort and fulfill our deepest needs." Another marriage of convenience is contracted in Beyond Desire, in which a pregnant principal marries without love to cover up her mistake. But the marriage between Amanda and Marcus proves, in the end, to be one based on true love when Marcus saves his kidnapped stepson. Romantic Times Online reviewer Ferguson was enthusiastic about the title: "Ms. Forster has once again showcased the phenomenal talent that has become her literary signature and professional trademark in her latest, most compelling novel."
Forster tackles interracial love in her 1999 title Against the Wind, "a mature, believable, full-bodied romance," according to Romance Reader critic Gwendolyn Osborne. Similar praise came from Romantic Times Online reviewer Chandra Y. Sparks, who thought the novel was Forster's "best work to date." In Swept Away, Forster delivers a "legal romance … [with] a strong heroine," according to a Publishers Weekly contributor, while in Secret Desire she portrays the love between a robbery victim and the policeman who saves her.
The author has also written several mainstream novels, beginning with the 2002 work, When Twilight Comes. Here Forster deals less with romance and more with issues of self-discovery. The wealthy Hairston family is in crisis when the matriarch, Marge, is dying and wants one of her three children to take over the family newspaper. Each of these offspring have good reasons for not taking on this responsibility, but it is finally Sharon who volunteers and discovers a new life for herself; however, her decision also causes jealousy and new rivalries with her siblings. Ursula Hill, writing in Black Issues Book Review, felt that Forster "has made a smooth transition to mainstream fiction" with this title. However, a reviewer for Publishers Weekly was less impressed, terming When Twilight Comes a "facile morality tale pitting the shallow against the virtuous." Booklist contributor Lillian Lewis, on the other hand, found more to like in the work, concluding: "Readers will empathize with the struggles and rejoice in the epiphany that each character experiences." Another mainstream novel, Blues from Down Deep, explores a forty-year-old-woman's efforts to come to terms with her African-American roots, a journey of discovery that is sometimes at odds with the woman's newfound love. Reviewing that novel, Booklist contributor Patty Engelmann felt that Forster's "sensitive portrayal of a woman trying to find her roots offers some unusual offshoots and is a cut above the ordinary."
An undisclosed rape is at the center of another of Forster's mainstream works, If You Walked in My Shoes, Coreen Holmes Treadwell did not let her husband know about her high school rape nor that she subsequently put the resulting child up for adoption. However, now she fears her secret may be revealed; at the same time the child she gave up is on the search for her birth mother. Booklist reviewer Engelmann also had praise for this novel, noting: "Forster's understated style allows for an insightful inquiry into the plight of African-American women and the men who abuse them." In Whatever It Takes Forster deals with identical twins and the bad things that can happen when family members go to extremes, while in When You Dance with the Devil she presents an eclectic cast of characters who reside in a Maryland boarding house. In the 2007 novel, Getting Some of Her Own, Johnson-Acsadi moves the action to North Carolina, a setting she has used many times in her fiction, to tell "a simplistic story of love and parenthood," according to a Publishers Weekly critic.
Forster told CA: "I write because it is all I have ever done, first as a research demographer and now also as a fiction writer. I love using the English language, creating people and bringing them to life. I write because I love to read and because these stories pop up in my head. I have been reading since I was four years old. The written word is my love.
"I begin with an idea, let it simmer for a couple of weeks until I feel I have to write about it. I do whatever research is needed. I develop the major characters by interviewing them for what may be thirty or more handwritten pages of answers. I figure out what the story is about and what I wish to tell my reader; that is, the theme and premise. I don't plot. The characters tell the story. I know the beginning and the end when I start. I may write out seventy to eighty scenes, or I may not. It isn't a matter of inspiration, but of what I perceive, hear, imagine, see. The picture of a waterfall, a lighthouse, a mountain scene can set my imagination on a junket.
"There have been changes in my writing. It is less gentle, I would say, and more down to earth. I love happy endings, but life isn't always like that. I want my writing to be relevant, to allow the reader to find in it something that jerks her out of lethargy or complacency. And I want my readers to recognize themselves. Most of all, I want to write about life without being circumscribed by formula."
She later added: "I've always written. As a professional demographer, I wrote daily, but I never planned or dreamed of becoming a fiction writer. That emerged from my long trips overseas for the United Nations and later the International Planned Parenthood Federation during which I sometimes told myself stories because I couldn't work and, needing privacy from my seat mate, I would close my eyes and pretend to be asleep. Bored, I entertained myself with stories. Finally I wrote one of them down and got hooked. I'm a social scientist and have traveled all over the world. All that figures into what I write. I'm also influenced by my mother's personality and perspective on life and by some of what she wrote.
"My writing process has changed. I used to put notes on cards, but I found that that killed the spontaneity. I spend most of my preparatory time on character development and research.
"The English language is richer than I'd thought; it can be powerful if used skillfully and it is endless … meaning writing is a constant learning process. I don't have a favorite among my books, but I have reread several of them, and I realize that that is because I particularly like them. They are: If You Walked in My Shoes, Getting Some of Her Own, and When Twilight Comes (mainstream novels), and Beyond Desire and Against the Wind (romance novels).
"I hope some of my books will offer direction and solace to my readers, and that all of my novels and novellas will entertain and inform the readers."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Visions, April, 1999, Nancee Lyons, review of Obsession, p. 35.
Black Issues Book Review, March, 2000, review of Wedding Bells, p. 17; September, 2000, review of Swept Away, p. 25; May 1, 2002, Ursula Hill, review of When Twilight Comes, p. 43; January 1, 2006, Mary Oluonye, review of Whatever It Takes, p. 60.
Booklist, January 1, 2002, Lillian Lewis, review of When Twilight Comes, p. 808; July, 2002, Shelley Mosley, review of Once in a Lifetime, p. 1829; February 15, 2003, Patty Engelmann, review of Blues from Down Deep, p. 1045; November 15, 2004, Patty Engelmann, review of If You Walked in My Shoes, p. 561; January 1, 2005, Patty Engelmann, review of After the Loving, p. 830; August, 2005, Lillian Lewis, review of Whatever It Takes, p. 1991; February 1, 2006, Lillian Lewis, review of Destiny's Daughters, p. 24; August 1, 2006, Lillian Lewis, review of When You Dance with the Devil, p. 40.
Library Journal, November 15, 1996, Kristin Ramsdell, review of Silver Bells, p. 50.
MBR Bookwatch, January, 2005, Harriet Klausner, review of If You Walked in My Shoes.
Publishers Weekly, March 27, 2000, review of Swept Away, p. 58; May 21, 2001, review of Scarlet Woman, p. 87; January 7, 2002, review of When Twilight Comes, p. 48; June 19, 2006, review of When You Dance with the Devil, p. 42; June 25, 2007, review of Getting Some of Her Own, p. 33.
Gwynne Forster Home Page,http://www.gwynneforster.com (October 24, 2007).
Romance Reader,http://www.theromancereader.com/ (October 24, 2007), Gwendolyn Osborne, reviews of Obsession and Against the Wind.
Romantic Times Online,http://www.romantictimes.com/ (October, 1995), reviews of Sealed with a Kiss and Wedding Bells; (April, 1998), reviews of Obsession, I Do, and Silver Bells; (July, 1998), Chandra Y. Sparks, review of Naked Soul; (January, 1999), review of Beyond Desire; (December, 1999), review of Against the Wind, and Cheryl Ferguson, review of Fools Rush In; (October 24, 2007), Debbie R. Sims, review of One Night with You, Robin Taylor, review of McNeil's Match and Flying High, Aisha Cargile, review of Her Secret Life, Tee C. Royal, review of Love Me or Leave Me, T.L. Burton, review of Last Chance at Love, Pamela Dungee, review of Midnight Magic, and Pamela Tullos, review of Secret Desire.