Gary D. McGugan
Independently Published (2020)
Interview by Sheri Hoyte for Reader Views (05/2020)
Gary D. McGugan loves to tell stories and is the author of Three Weeks Less a Day, The Multima Scheme, Unrelenting Peril and Pernicious Pursuit. Whether sharing a vision with colleagues in large multinational corporations, helping consulting clients implement expert advice, or writing a corporate thriller, Gary uses artful suspense to entertain and inform. His launch of a new writing career—at an age most people retire—reveals an ongoing zest for new challenges and a life-long pursuit of knowledge. Home may be in Toronto, but his love of travel and broad business knowledge accumulated from extensive experiences around the globe are evident in every chapter Gary writes.
Hi Gary, welcome back to Reader Views! Tell us about your latest thriller, Pernicious Pursuit.
Thanks for having me back! Pernicious Pursuit is a story of two lovers hidden in the Netherlands by the FBI witness protection program who are suddenly discovered by The Organization. Howard Knight is captured and carted off to suffer personal punishment by the kingpin of the criminal element. Janet Weisell escapes and unwittingly launches her life on a different trajectory. The fast-paced story takes place over thirty-seven days in six European countries and one Caribbean island. It’s a true international thriller.
As indicated by your subtitle: “A Howard Knight Escapade,” you brought back one of the more complex characters from your Multima Trilogy, Howard Knight. What inspired you to bring back this specific character?
Howard Knight is a character I think we can all relate to very easily. Like real folks everywhere, he has qualities we admire. But dangerous flaws influence his make-up. We never know which will prevail, and we never know for sure whether we should cheer him on or hope he’s punished justly for poor judgment or selfish acts. I think such a character makes a story more intriguing and nudges us to think less judgmentally as we race through his escapades.
To build on that, are you creating a Howard Knight series? If so, what will future escapades look like, do you plan to focus on a certain niche in the thriller genre? (i.e., like your corporate intrigue focus with your Multima Trilogy)
I’m not planning a Howard Knight series, but I think readers should expect to see him play some role in future novels. He’s a survivor and I think readers will continue to see that characteristic in stories to come. My next book will have more of a corporate setting, and Howard will play an essential and entertaining role. But he’ll take a back seat to the main characters.
Following you on social media shows you sporting some pretty nice digs for editing – Barbados style. You also place significant value on physical fitness. Talk about the importance of taking time outside of writing, marketing, etc. to focus on self-care and the impact self-care has on your creativity.
Yes, I did the final editing for Pernicious Pursuit in Barbados. That was work—work in an idyllic setting mind you—and the island environment surely made the task of editing more pleasant. But my work there followed a trip with family to Viet Nam, Cambodia, Thailand and Singapore to learn and explore. It was a great way to clear my mind from the story for a few weeks, and I returned refreshed and energized. I can also divulge that I made several significant changes to the story after those weeks away. Travel may have instilled some new awareness into my thought process and creativity!
And you’re right about my convictions related to exercise and well being. During my long career in the world of business, I saw countless examples of the crucial role that physical fitness and good nutrition habits play with our mental acuity—both impact mental fitness more than any other individual factor.
Pernicious Pursuit is a magnificent standalone novel, though dedicated fans will enjoy the snippets of references to a few of your Multima characters. Do you have any plans to bring any of the other characters back? Perhaps a strong female character who has apparently gotten herself into deep trouble for money laundering?
Yes, as some astute readers might suspect, Suzanne Simpson will return in novel number five. Other characters from both Three Weeks Less a Day and The Multima Scheme will also resurface. I can divulge that two principal characters in the next story will be strong, powerful women and Multima Corporation will once again become a battleground.
Talk about your experience moving from the environment of your trilogy to a new project altogether.
When I finished writing Unrelenting Peril, I wanted to challenge my writing. I started my writing career adhering to that adage ‘write about what you know.’ Pernicious Pursuit has very few references to the corporate world and deals almost exclusively with the underworld of organized crime. Researching and learning about that sub-culture was stimulating and personally rewarding. With my next story, I intend to challenge myself more as a mature male writing from the perspective of successful women. I’m having a wonderful time learning!
You did a mind-boggling number of bookstore visits last year. What’s it like to be directly on the frontlines talking with your customers and is this your preferred method of marketing?
I love meeting readers and potential customers! Regrettably, COVID-19 has closed many bookstores, and travel remains severely restricted, so I have no events planned for the near future. I miss the inspiration I get from those events. Most potential customers in bookstores share a love of reading and genuinely want to see authors succeed. It’s gratifying when folks come to a second signing event and confess they bought Three Weeks Less a Day only to encourage me, but they’re back to buy The Multima Scheme or Unrelenting Peril, or both because they’re hooked!
Can you share some insight you received while talking to customers?
The one I hear most often—and dismiss quickly—is to write about my own experiences. As we chat, people often seem amazed at the number of places I’ve visited and the people I’ve met. They think it would make a good story, but I don’t agree. It’s much more fun to write fiction!
Obviously, your marketing strategy has had to change some for Pernicious Pursuit because of the pandemic. In spite of this, the industry has seen an incredible spike in book sales. How concerned are you with sales for Pernicious Pursuit and what are you doing to ramp up the numbers?
In the short term, my book sales may suffer because I’m not a well-known celebrity or long-established author, but I hope those who like to buy online or download digital versions will have both the time and inclination to buy all my books. Interviews like this one with ReaderViews help people to get to know me better, and I’m indebted to you for your support! I also expect to do more radio interviews and social media advertising to tell the story about my stories. Like everyone else, I will feel an impact from the virus but will not be overcome by it!
When you get back into the bookstores will you market all of your books together or focus for the time being on Pernicious Pursuit?
That’s a great question, but one I’ve given little thought to at this stage. I’m in the camp that believes life can’t return to ‘normal’ until we have a vaccine that protects us from COVID-19. Physical distancing will remain for some time to come, so I’m not sure what author events will look like or if they will even be possible for the next couple years. However, I’m confident we’ll find an innovative solution, and from that I’ll develop a strategy that works!
What are the advantages of marketing more than one title? What are the disadvantages (if any)?
Those questions are more complex than they may appear. Here’s my simple read on the pros and cons. More titles attract more potential readers. I think some of us like to read every book we can by an author we enjoy, so more is better. However, from a marketing perspective, it’s hard to promote multiple books unless they are positioned as a series. As a writer, I prefer to move outside the box of a series and tell very different stories. Sometimes this can pose challenges.
Talk about your writing process – what does a day in the life of Gary McGugan look like?
My days probably seem boring and predictable to many people. Mornings are devoted to writing or research or both. Almost every afternoon, I walk alone for a couple hours at a very quick pace with no speakers or headset, and with a phone only for an emergency. For those two hours, I think about the plot, characters, research to refine, or challenges with the story. By the end of my walk, I usually have a clear picture of my mission for the following morning. I find it stimulating and attribute most of my creativity to those long walks thinking!
Has there been any significant changes to your process since you wrote your first book?
My wonderful editors continuously urge me to create more structure before I start writing. They maintain it will make me more productive and complete novels more quickly. Gradually, I’m making outlines more detailed, but much of my writing still twists and turns with inspiration gleaned from my long walks.
What is the most challenging part of the artistic process for you?
To me, editing is the most tedious part of the process. I’m a perfectionist who tries to create the best possible story with every novel. I self-edit extensively before showing a copy to anyone. Then I work with multiple editors who have different perspectives, skills, and insights. Every round of editing makes the story immeasurably better but consumes a lot of time and energy.
I touched on “what’s next” in an earlier question, but as it relates to writing – are you taking a break from writing while you focus on marketing Pernicious Pursuit or do you multitask?
I really don’t think of writing while I promote as ‘multitasking.’ Instead, I consider it ‘compartmentalizing.’ I write or research about 3 hours a day and think about the story for another two. That leaves me about 19 remaining hours each day to focus on something else! Marketing current novels indeed occupies part of that remaining time, along with reading, networking, or family and social activities.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I always like to thank readers for their support. Whether downloading an eBook or buying a paperback, every purchase helps writers like me continue generating stories for their reading pleasure. And I’d also like to express my appreciation for your interest in my novels. You perform a valuable service helping your audience to become familiar with contemporary authors and their stories.
Gary, as always, it’s been a pleasure talking with you. Thank you for sharing your insight and your work with our readers!
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