Name: Richard Gazala
Where are you from?
I’ve lived lots of places around the world. I was born in Findlay, Ohio, and live now with my family in Vienna, Virginia, just outside Washington, D.C. When I’m not in Vienna, I spend time in Sarasota, Florida, and New Orleans, Louisiana.
A little about yourself, i.e., your education, family life, etc.
I was born in Ohio. When I was very young, my father took a job in Beirut, Lebanon, where we lived until forced out in 1975 by the Lebanese Civil War. While growing up in Beirut, one of my closest friends was (and remains) Raymond Khoury, who grew up to be a very successful author himself, and lives now in London. After Beirut, we moved to London, then Massachusetts, then back to London, where I graduated high school at the American School in St. John’s Wood. I attended Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, where I earned my bachelor’s and law degrees while working in radio. After receiving my law license, I practiced a lot of entertainment law—given my radio experience and living in “Music City, U.S.A.,” it was a natural progression. I married my lovely wife in Nashville, and shortly after the birth of our first child, we moved to Vienna, Virginia, where our second child was born a couple years later. I’m a husband, father, writer, lawyer, youth sports coach, public speaker, blogger, book reviewer, guerrilla chef, and to retain my sanity amongst all of that, I work out a lot.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
I submitted a couple days ago a new short story to a prominent American mystery magazine. The story was inspired in some small part by an old Siouxsie and the Banshees song and video. The story’s titled, “Kiss Him for Me.”
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I can’t really remember when, but it was long ago. When we were kids in Beirut, Raymond and I used to write all kinds of things together, mostly funny stuff to amuse ourselves. As for why, we did it because it was fun, which is the best reason I can think of to write anything.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I became a “writer” during the course of my legal career, when I wrote every day for my job and learned to write succinctly under looming deadlines. I still learn new things about being a better “writer” almost every day. I became an “author” when my first thriller, Blood of the Moon, came out, and people paid for it and liked it.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
About six years ago, my widowed mother got sick, and I stopped doing other things to see to her care. Those circumstances kept me around the house a lot, and I read more voraciously than I usually do, which is saying something. I consumed all kinds of books, including many thrillers. Lots were good, and very many weren’t. Respecting the latter, they left me thinking, “I can write at least that well.” At the time international oil prices were dancing ever higher daily to tunes no one could really hear, much less understand or predict. Among the books I read while Mom was ill was a nonfiction work that discussed Soviet, post-Soviet, and Ukrainian petroleum science over the past eighty years, positing petroleum isn’t a fossil fuel. While living in the Middle East, where conspiracy theorizing is a national pastime, I learned a lot about the oil industry and the conspiracies abounding in it, but that book flew hard in the face of everything I’d ever been taught about oil. I dug up translations of the original science papers referenced in the book, and found myself fascinated by the so-called “abiotic origin” arguments. I had a long transatlantic call with Raymond, who encouraged me to write a novel. Another kid I knew in Beirut grew up to become a NASA space shuttle astronaut, and he was very generous with the space elements in what became my first novel, Blood of the Moon.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
Research well, write often, and write hard. Then rewrite hard over and over. Blood of the Moon went through nine edits after its first draft. And read rapaciously. No good writer isn’t a better reader.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
Other than saying the title’s very apropos given the story in Blood of the Moon, I can’t say much more about it without risking a spoiler. I knew the title before I started writing the book in earnest, and I’m very pleased with it. Pleased enough that the sequel’s title will be Blood of the Earth, and that works well, too.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
The book’s tag line is, “What if everything you know about oil is a lie?” That’s basically the message—that “truth” is an often elastic and situational commodity.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
I worked hard to make sure the book is realistic, within its parameters of being first and foremost an entertaining and thrilling read. As I said, I did tons of research to get it as “right” as I could.
Fiona: Are experiences in the book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
With one exception, none of the book’s characters are directly based on specific people I know. The exception is a character named Michael Rivers, who’s a retired Apollo 17 astronaut and the protagonist’s aged father. Michael Rivers is afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease, which is the malady that eventually claimed my mother. Small bits of dialogue between Michael Rivers and his son David are heavily based on exchanges between my mother and me when she was in the middle stages of Alzheimer’s. As for the events, the book’s set against a corrupted American presidential race in 2016, so the events in it aren’t based on particular life experiences so much as extrapolated from current events we all know well from the evening news.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most?
Anything by Edgar Allan Poe resonates deeply in me. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, by Hunter S. Thompson, and In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote, made me want to write. I read a lot of books by Michael Crichton, Ian Fleming, and Stephen King (The Shining being my favorite). Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, Tom Wolfe’s Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, Vincent Bugliosi’s Helter Skelter. I’m a huge fan of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, too. There are way too many more to put here, but I’d be remiss not to include J.K. Rowling’s and my buddy Raymond Khoury’s books in this list, as well.
Fiona: If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I’m a reviewer for the Amazon Vine program, so I get to read a lot of cool books before they’re released. I just started last night The Truth of All Things, a gothic murder mystery by Kieran Shields that’s due out in mid-March.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
He has written other things such as poetry and plays, but Those Across the River is Christopher Buehlman’s first novel. It came out last September. It’s a beautifully written and engrossing literary horror novel in the Southern Gothic tradition.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
Besides continuing to promote Blood of the Moon, and an e-book anthology of a handful of scary short stories that I put out late last year titled Trust and Other Nightmares, my authorial attention is riveted on Blood of the Earth. It will stay so until that book’s release. Well, that plus “Gazalapalooza,” an author blog I write that will pout if I don’t pay it sufficient mind.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
Assuming I may categorize the readers I’m so fortunate to have as an “entity,” my readers.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
My latest book is that e-book anthology I mentioned, Trust and Other Nightmares. Looking back on the entire e-publication process, the only thing I’d change about Trust is that I would have mastered the applicable e-publishing formatting requirements before I assembled the book, not after. That was very inefficient.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
Yes. It originated from my mother keeping our homes, wherever they were, full of books, and encouraging me to read and discuss them all.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
My current project is Blood of the Earth, the sequel to Blood of the Moon. The sequel picks up a few months after the end of Blood of the Moon, and brings back those few lucky characters who managed to survive the first story, including David Rivers. As for sharing a little of my current work, here’s the first paragraph from Blood of the Earth’s prologue, which is set in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1866:
“Dmitry Vladimirovich Karakozov looked at the huge, hooded man looming over his right shoulder. Bloodshot eyes behind slits in the hood’s cracked leather gazed down indifferently at Karakozov’s face. Though the weather was mild and the afternoon sun was well into its wane, Karakozov watched a thick bead of oily sweat meander slowly down the hollow of the man’s gnarled throat, before it disappeared into the folds of the worn black tunic straining across a formidable chest. The man snorted and leaned down to test again the bindings ripping savagely into the bruised flesh of Karakozov’s thin ankles and mangled wrists. A boisterous, drunken cheer rolled up from the large crowd milling in the field below the large scaffold as the man straightened himself and nodded his satisfaction with the restraints, while Karakozov teetered on unsteady feet.”
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Getting the right word. On rewrites sometimes I spend a long, long time trying to find what I hope is just the right word.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
Edgar Allan Poe is my favorite author. What strikes me hardest about his work is how well he knows his way around a dark, dark heart, and how elegantly he write about it.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
I travel more to promote them than to research and write them.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
My publisher designed the cover for Blood of the Moon. For Trust and Other Nightmares I hired a very gifted young high school senior, one of my daughter’s best friends, to do the cover. It was her first “professional” piece, which she wanted in her portfolio in connection with her applications to collegiate fine arts programs. I think she did a great job, and I’m honored to have her work be part of that book.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I learned a great deal. First and foremost, I learned to do my best to avoid distractions.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Besides avoiding distractions? Write something every day, even (if not especially) on the days you don’t feel like writing anything at all. Never wait for your “muse.” I’ve yet to encounter a muse who respects her writer’s schedules or deadlines. And read. If words are your passion, reading and writing are as vital as inhaling and exhaling. Lastly, and most importantly, have fun.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Yes. Thank you.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
When I was a far younger man, I wanted to play professional baseball, preferably for the Boston Red Sox.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
I have both. Gazalapalooza is my blog. You’ll find it at http://www.rgazala.blogspot.com. My website is at http://www.richardgazala.com