Gary D. McGugan
Independently Published (2021)
Reviewed by Sheri Hoyte for Reader Views (02/2021)
Gary D. McGugan has been in love with the same special lady for more than five decades. Together, they celebrate a daughter, a son, a daughter-in-law, and three outstanding grandkids. Their family is close and tightly knit. They live nearby. They travel together. And they love to share life.
Writing started for Gary after a 40-year career in the world of business. He’s worked in supermarkets, sold appliances, distributed motorcycles, launched an automobile dealer network, and provided financing to help businesses grow. Every industry was very different from the other. Each company had a distinctive culture and character, but all were units of large corporations with operations around the globe.
Travel has always been a large component of his business roles and he’s now visited more than 650 towns and cities in more than fifty countries for either business or leisure.
Experts say we should write about things we know best. In Gary’s case, those subjects are business, travel, and people. As an author, his goal is to entertain readers around the world — one at a time.
Hi Gary, Welcome to Reader Views – it’s nice to have you back today! Tell us a bit about your latest novel, A Web of Deceit.
Thank you for having me back! A Web of Deceit is an international thriller with three main characters who each have very different goals but become entangled in one conspiracy to steal millions of dollars from legitimate companies. Readers of my previous novels will know all the major characters, but they may not recognize a couple. As usual, I try to transform characters in response to different plots and circumstances.
What inspired you to write this story?
Covid-19. To be candid, I originally planned to take a year off from writing in 2020. In March, I had scheduled 85 personal appearances with Canada’s largest bookstore chain and watched those opportunities evaporate as the pandemic spread. I realized my plan to focus on promoting books wouldn’t happen anytime soon, so I decided to use my time to write a fifth novel. I combined my just-completed trip to several Asian countries with a long-held concern about organized crime’s increasing technology sophistication to create A Web of Deceit.
Some of the characters in A Web of Deceit come to us from your original corporate intrigue trilogy, Escapades Abound. How do you keep your characters interesting and relevant with each story?
People often change when circumstances change. Folks we thought we knew well suddenly become different when they confront challenges outside their ‘normal’. I change the plots in my stories dramatically, knowing my characters will behave differently.
Two of your three lead characters are women, Suzanne Simpson, head of Multima Corporation and Fidelia Morales, new Kingpin of the crime syndicate known as The Organization. These characters are exceptionally well written. Tell us about your experience writing from the perspective of the opposite sex.
Thanks for your compliment. As a writer, I get real satisfaction when someone recognizes the scope of the challenge. As a guy, I must step out of my own mindset and worldview to think and write from a woman’s perspective. Fortunately, I worked with strong women throughout my career. I visualize a circumstance—and some of the women I know—to imagine how they might act or react. Surprisingly, this usually works well!
When I think about Fidelia Morales, the phrase “You’ve come a long way, baby,” always comes to mind. When did her current career path open up to you?
Fidelia is the ultimate survivor. After growing up in the slums of San Juan, Puerto Rico, her brilliant mind won her a scholarship to Columbia University in New York, where she graduated among the top of her class in law school. Disillusioned quickly with her legal career, she eventually chose a life of prostitution and thrived under the protection of crime-boss Giancarlo Mareno. When she ‘retired’ from The Organization—with Mareno’s blessing—Fidelia intended to give a traditional relationship a try with Howard Knight. When she dumped him in The Multima Scheme, I already started thinking about what such a relentless survivor might do next.
Do you plan your character arcs, such as Fidelia’s above, or do they sometimes surprise you while you are writing?
Fidelia’s character arc was three books in the planning and development stage. What does occasionally surprise me are specific actions or decisions made by a character. Those are usually the result of what my wife likes to call an overactive imagination!
Susanne Simpson is driven by her high moral standards, while Fidelia Morales seems more motivated by the dark side. Both are outstanding, professional leaders. What are some of their common traits that take each woman down a different path?
Both women have a remarkable ability to compartmentalize their lives. They both prioritize issues and block out noise or interference that might distract from their mission. And they solve problems like someone might build a puzzle, putting individual pieces into the correct places step by step.
“Don’t be afraid to kill your darlings,” is advice often heard in the literary world and you have killed off some of key characters over the course of your novels. What is your motivation behind these fearless deeds and how do you stay objective when disposing of a character?
I look for a form of justice when I eliminate any character. In my first novel, Three Weeks Less a Day, no major characters met an untimely end. In each of the others, we’ve lost one or more significant players. Readers shouldn’t be entirely surprised, but they should still feel some emotion, some sense of loss, and perhaps even regret. As the cold-hearted author, I make my decision to eliminate well in advance of the actual deed based on how useful that character might be in future stories.
Have you had any pushback from readers about killing your darlings?
Every story! If I’ve done my job well, even characters who deserve to go have some loyal fans. If characters disappear, some people are quick to shoot me an email or share their disappointment when we meet up at a signing event.
I can’t leave Howard Knight out of the mix – he’s been one of my favorite characters from the start! How has Howard survived the axe thus far?
Howard Knight might be a bit of a bumbling genius, but he’s still a genius. We came close to losing him in Unrelenting Peril, but he survived in the end. More than any of my other characters, he’s an example of how easy it is to become mixed up with a criminal element and how painfully difficult it is to escape. Lesser men would not have survived the retribution of The Organization for such a long time.
I’ve said before that your novels are both character-driven and plot-driven but I must amend that statement to include setting-driven, which admittedly may not even be a “thing,” but regarding your settings, can you speak to the level of influence your travels have on your writing?
I often like to describe myself as a “citizen of the world.” I feel equally comfortable in Manhattan or a village in Cambodia. To me, it seems normal to have characters move easily from country to country and setting to setting because that would describe accurately my life experiences. It would also describe my ambition for humanity. The more comfortable we all become, exploring and learning from our global neighbors, the greater our chances for lasting peace and global prosperity. I truly hope my stories inspire readers to pursue that sort of exploration once we get COVID-19 under control.
How has the global pandemic altered your writing/marketing routine/career?
The pandemic has changed everything as you might imagine. First, I didn’t think it was realistic writing a story taking place in 2020 that didn’t include the pandemic. My challenge was to create a plot that included COVID-19 but didn’t allow the virus to dominate the story. Personal appearances don’t exist in Canada, and many bookstores remain shuttered. In place authors need to use the internet, online retailers and zoom appearances.
As a world traveler, how are you coping with staying at home? Where do you plan to visit once the virus is under control?
I’m Canadian, but this winter is the first I’ve spent in Canada in 25 years! I had to buy a new outdoor wardrobe. I love to walk most days and had to find ways to stay warm for one to two hours in snow, wind and sub-zero temperatures. Coping required a very positive mindset, discipline and dogged determination to carry on. Japan, Croatia, Peru and some Caribbean islands will all factor into my plans as circumstances in each country permits. Realistically, it may still be a year or two before we can travel safely wherever we choose.
In all your books you credit your team, consisting of family, friends, other authors, and experts, humbly noting that your journey is a shared experience. How have these influences strengthened your writing?
I treat learning as a life-long experience. I seek feedback in all subject matters—from writing structure to social or political viewpoints. I truly like to listen to perspectives and impressions from other people. I hope to learn something new with every interaction I have. While I don’t necessarily agree with everyone’s view, I make a concerted effort to think about their outlook and learn from it.
I have to ask, what’s next? Do you have another story planned? Can you give us a sneak peek as to what it’s about?
There will be more novels, but after 2022. Instead, I’m in the early stages of developing a work of non-fiction. I can’t share much with you because there’s not much there yet. But I can tell you I visualize a book about the most interesting stuff I’ve learned from my varied life experiences around the globe. If I move forward, I’ll write it in a “memoirish” style.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Yes. A heartfelt thank you for your interest in my stories. I think it’s wonderful the way you use your platform to help writers and their books become better known to your audience. Keep up the great work!
Thank you, Gary, for sharing your stories with us!
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