Michael Forge looks much more the part of a lifelong construction worker than a children’s author.
The reason is simple. He spent roughly 30 years working his way up the ladder in that industry. Ever since he dropped out of school as a freshman in Dorchester, Forge has known little outside a hammer and nail.
“I never even touched a computer until two years ago,” Forge said. His wife, Rebecca, who works at a local magazine, introduced him to the machine that has become commonplace in our society.
When the construction industry crashed a couple of years ago, Forge found himself seriously out of work for the first time since he was a teenager. Stuck at the couple’s Clinton home, Forge didn’t know what to do with himself. After a short time, Rebecca began twisting his arm to get a GED.
“So I’m 50, and I have to go back and get my GED?” Forge asked, in a sarcastic tone that belied much more frustration two years ago. After a few months of heavy hesitation, Forge walked into a classroom with a bunch of 17-year-olds.
“I was very nervous. But, the people at the Clinton Adult Learning Center were very nice and helpful. I grabbed the GED book and read the thing cover to cover,” he said. “Then I finally found the nerve to go in and take the test.”
Elaine Weymouth, the center’s technology coordinator, said she was impressed by his drive and his quick completion of the program.
“I just find his story an inspiration for those who lose their jobs and feel hopeless,” Weymouth wrote in an email.
When Forge got to the test’s poetry and writing sections, he quickly discovered something new about himself. He had never written anything like that before. Suddenly a door — and a laptop — was opened to the man who spent 30 years wielding a hammer.
“Rebecca gave me a laptop and said to take some time and see what happened,” Forge said. “Before I knew it, this story line came together and the characters started appearing.”
Forge then contacted Amazon.com to find what it took to publish a story. He signed up for CreateSpace, an online self-publishing program used by Amazon. From there, it was made pretty simple. The program helped him choose styles, sizes and everything in between. “Snow in the Cellar” started coming together.
Drawing on memories from his youth in Dorchester, Forge was able to create a tale of two young boys who embark on a wild adventure in a mystical land. The story centers around the Blizzard of ‘78, which occurred during the tail-end of Forge’s youth.
The two boys are sucked into a Christmas present, transporting them to a place called Shadow Land. The boys are accused of crimes they didn’t commit, while continually bumping heads with Snow and Fang, two evil characters.
The illustrations were all done by Forge, with the help of his mother.
It never occurred to Forge that this passion was lying beneath the surface of his conscious, not even after spending years in a band or painting a beautiful portrait of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast,” which hangs prominently in the couple’s dining room.
“Everything here is all home-grown,” Forge said. All the content is written by him and edited by him and his wife.
Forge is currently at work on the sequel to “Snow in the Cellar,” which he will call “Snow in Urban Nightmare.” The evil characters from his first book will enter the real world and deal with the boys in Dorchester. Landmarks around his hometown, as well as Boston, will be involved heavily in “Snow in Urban Nightmare.”
He has no set release date yet, but maintains the goal of attending next summer’s Nantucket Book Festival as more than a casual observer. He and his wife vacationed there in June, immersing themselves in the book culture.
“It has launched me into this new world of writing,” Forge said, a world that is vastly different from his previous life. However, it is not a world he is entering alone. He holds the support of a newly-found community.
Throughout the writing of this first story, Forge kept it a secret from his family. Coincidentally, that is exactly what his brother did. His brother, Kristopher Forge, wrote “Unthinkable Acts,” about a serial killer/terrorist. The two wrote vastly different books, at the same time, without telling one another until their completion.
While his brother’s book is for a more adult crowd, Forge is targeting children ages 8 to 12.
“I don’t think there are a lot of books out there for young boys,” Rebecca said. “There are a ton of options for girls that age, but this is a great, rare choice for boys.”
“It is all very local. We love it here in Clinton and I definitely want the kids to know about it,” Forge added.
According to Weymouth, Forge has sold over 1,000 copies of “Snow in the Cellar” on Amazon thus far. He also has plans to give them to local libraries, as well as the Learning Center.
“What really helped me do this was the GED, the Learning Center and the people there,” Forge said. “They gave me a ton of support right from the beginning. They gave me the energy and confidence to get through the whole process.”
“The respect you feel,” is the biggest difference between his previous career and now, Forge said.
When Forge first showed up at the Learning Center, they asked how his writing was. The large man, with long blonde hair and calloused hands, answered that he had never written anything in his life.
A GED and children’s novel later, Forge can’t imagine doing anything else.