Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Diane Lunsford is talking with Gary D. McGugan, author of A Web of Deceit.
FQ: It’s such a treat to have the pleasure of chatting with you once again. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed your Multima series, and A Web of Deceit was, yet another thrilling read. I have to ask, when you were in the throes of writing the current body of work in this series, were you thinking ahead to how the current work will transition to the next installment?
MCGUGAN: Thank you for your warm welcome! It’s great to spend some time with you again.
The most accurate answer to your question about thinking of a transition to the next installment is, “Somewhat.” I planted some seeds in the final chapters of A Web of Deceit that signal who some of the major characters might be in subsequent stories and some of the challenges they might face, but I haven’t created a plot or storyline. My wife likes to say I have an “overactive imagination.” She’s probably right. I have every confidence my imagination will create those details quite quickly once I’ve decided to focus on writing the next story.
FQ: It’s abundantly clear you love to tell stories and there’s an element that resonates in each title that tracks with current events. I was intrigued with how you incorporated Covid 19 as an imminent threat to global commerce and its dark cloud threat to Multima Corporation, yet you didn’t make it the underlying theme to the storyline. Was that difficult to do considering what the world has endured over the past 15 months?
MCGUGAN: When I started writing A Web of Deceit in April 2020, I sensed the pandemic would be long, devastating, and disruptive. History tells us pandemics usually last a couple years. I realized readers would be fed-up with COVID-19 well before they started reading my story and would have little interest in reading more about it. However, I thought a novel would lack credibility if I wrote a story set in 2020 that ignored the coronavirus. So my challenge was to weave the virus into the story, but not let it dominate either the plot or the characters. So far, most reviewers think I achieved that balance and used the pandemic to enrich my tale.
FQ: You state in your bio, ‘...After a forty-year career at senior levels of global corporates, Gary started writing with a goal of using artful suspense to entertain and inform...’ Do you miss the intensity of the day-to-day corporate environment or do you think your experiences provide the endless fuel that breathes such life into the epic tales you spin now?
MCGUGAN: During my long career, I had the good fortune to work with some of the finest companies on earth. And I was lucky to win some of the most interesting assignments possible. My professional life took me to more than fifty countries and more than 650 cities towns and villages on every continent except Antarctica—where I met interesting people, learned about habits and cultures, and became fascinated with the ways society functions around the globe. I incorporate those experiences and knowledge into everything I write, hoping readers will share my fascination with our world as they enjoy plots with mystery, action, and suspense.
Do I miss the corporate world? I miss the comraderies of colleagues and customers, but I devoted massive amounts of personal time to my various roles. At the age of sixty, I realized it was time for me to shift gears, start another career, and begin an entirely new adventure.
FQ: In line with my previous question, when writing what was your ‘aha moment’ to hunker down and pen Three Weeks Less a Day and the subsequent titles in this series?
MCGUGAN: As an avid reader, I’d long toyed with the idea of writing a book or two, but never had enough time available. It also seemed a daunting task. I wasn’t confident I had the muster to create and complete an entire novel. After leaving the corporate world, I first co-authored a work of non-fiction called Needs Selling Solutions with Jeff Allen—a friend and former colleague. When we completed that book, I realized it would take a lot of work, but the goal of writing an entertaining story seemed achievable. Three Weeks Less a Day took me four years from start to publication. I’ve written a subsequent novel every year since then, and I’m confident there are still lots of good stories to tell!
FQ: You’ve stayed incredibly true to a deep-seated plotline with incredible flow from one book to the next. I envision the walls in your writing space wall-papered from floor to ceiling with post-it notes to keep matters straight. Aside from the organization chart in the forward of A Web of Deceit, what are some of the methods you use to keep matters organized and deconflicted?
MCGUGAN: The ”Post-it” note décor you describe in your question is very common with many writers. When we exchange our experiences in writing groups, other authors are usually quite surprised to learn I make very few notes and usually destroy my scraps of research once I’ve used them in my stories. My desk typically has no clutter with no more than a few documents or reference books on an adjoining credenza.
So far, I’ve been able to rely on my memory to call up details as needed and keep track of the various mischiefs my characters pursue.
FQ: You bounce from the Orient, to Europe, to Canada, to the US and islands in between. The scenery depicted in each location is credible and quite detailed. I’m assuming you’ve been to many of the places where scenes have been set. If you had to pick one place to be a ‘must see’ where would that be and why?
MCGUGAN: Yes, I’ve been to virtually every spot I describe in my stories and I think that familiarity gives my stories a boost of reality with fictional plots. Many people ask me to pick one “must-see” location, but I find that an impossible task! Without exception, every place I have visited has some remarkable positive qualities. And every locale comes with some negatives. To me, the joy of travel is seeking out both—learning as much as possible about how a location came to life, what factors shaped its development, and how it evolved to its current state.
Whether I’m admiring a picturesque landscape, magnificent architecture, or one of the wonders of the world, I like to think about the “backstory” as much as the current appeal.
FQ: Howard Knight is the equivalent of a cat with nine lives. I love how you keep resurrecting his character to hold a key role in each story. How is it this man has escaped the brink of death on more than a few occasions, and will he meet his ‘maker’ if you plan to write another book in this series? Without too much of a spoiler, if it’s time for him to go, will The Organization mob boss Fidelia Morales play a role in his ultimate demise?
MCGUGAN: Howard Knight is a perfect example of how easy it is to fall in with a wrong crowd and how difficult it is to escape their clutches. He demonstrates superior intelligence, questionable judgment, and human adaptability with almost every challenge he faces. I’ve been tempted to write Howard out of a story, and almost every reader would agree he’d deserve it, but I suspect he’ll be a useful character in future stories. His role may become more or less important by turn, but his human failings are easy for us all to relate with and usually create a strong emotional bond. We either like him or hate him, so he’s useful to an author either way!
FQ: There is a consistent rat in each of your stories that is eyebrow raising when he/she is exposed. Do you know from the onset who that will be (or does the story take on its own life and it naturally tells you who it will be when the time is right)? Please explain.
MCGUGAN: I know who the ultimate villain will be when I start because I think it imperative to develop that character so readers will be surprised, or shocked, or disappointed at the appropriate time. I guess it’s possible to change midstream if necessary, but it seems to me that creates a lot more work than necessary.
FQ: You get quite technical with the art of hacking and moving money without getting caught. What is your technology background?
MCGUGAN: I have no technical training whatsoever. My first experience with a computer was the day I started a new management role with a new company and found one parked on the corner of my desk. I’ve been learning about all aspects of technology since, reading articles, talking to experts, asking questions, and experimenting. I must quickly add that I haven’t actually experimented with any of the technology shenanigans I describe in A Web of Deceit!
FQ: Once again, I want to thank you for your time and the treat of reading yet another fantastic and adventurous thriller. Please tell me you are working on the next and if so, are you able to share some insights of what your fans can expect?
MCGUGAN: There will be another suspense novel coming, but probably only in 2023. For release in 2022, I’ve started a work of non-fiction. During book signings and promotional events, many people have suggested that many folks might enjoy reading about some of the things I’ve learned from my extensive travel and life experiences.
So, I’m developing a “memoirish” book about some of the interesting stuff I’ve learned on my voyage through life and hope to make it as entertaining as a suspense story. I’m shooting for a Spring 2022 release, so I hope you and your readers will stay tuned!
I also want to thank you for this opportunity to chat again. I value your interest and appreciate you helping your readers become more familiar with me and my work. Thank you!