Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Amy Lignor is talking with Gary D. McGugan, author of A Slippery Shadow.
FQ: According to your bio, I must say you’ve been a part of a variety of industries; can you tell readers what it was, and how, that brought you to the career of writing?
McGUGAN: Here’s how I like to describe my career. I’ve worked in a supermarket, sold appliances, distributed motorcycles, launched an automobile dealer network, and provided financing to help businesses grow. With each role in each industry, I assumed more responsibilities and grew more successful. But there was one common denominator. All my positions involved selling in a major way—selling products, services, ideas and goals. As a result, I learned about the art of selling.
When I retired from corporate life, a long-time colleague and I decided to create a consulting company to help companies and salespeople move up the learning curve more quickly and successfully. We co-authored NEEDS Selling Solutions to explain our secrets of success and used this book as the foundation of our consulting practice for ten years.
As I worked on NEEDS Selling Solutions, I came realized that writing a book is a huge challenge, but it’s not an insurmountable one. With a life-long love of reading as motivation, over four years—and with the help of four different editors—I crafted my debut novel Three Weeks Less a Day. Since its release in 2016, I’ve written a new suspense novel every year with A Slippery Shadow releasing April 1, 2022.
FQ: Because of your extensive travel background, is it easier for you to write about these amazing cultures and cities like those of Singapore?
McGUGAN: My visits to 66 different countries—and more than 650 cities—provide different insights than research alone. But, I think it’s more than just visiting. I think the way I travel is equally important. Typically, I like to “live” in a place for at least a few days, making all my own reservations, renting homes or apartments in local neighborhoods where I can interact with local residents, and walk as many streets as possible to experience a place with all my senses. While my stories are suspense thrillers and not travelogues, I think most of my readers capture some essence of the locations where my stories take place—if only briefly—and that familiarity creates more reading enjoyment.
FQ: How did Howard Knight come to life? And what was it that made you wish to make him into a series?
McGUGAN: Howard Knight has evolved greatly from the villain everyone hated in Three Weeks Less a Day. I created Howard because I think everyone can relate to him. He’s a very bright guy—maybe a genius in the financial world. But he has flaws and weaknesses each of us can recognize. In some stories, readers may want him to disappear, in others they feel empathy, perhaps even sympathy. In yet another story, they might cheer for the guy despite his faults. I don’t build all my plots around Howard, but I like him to play more than a supporting role in every tale.
FQ: With this being book #6, and still being so well written, have you already mapped out in your head, so to speak, when the series will end? Along those same lines, is it possible to let readers have a ‘sneak peek’ at what is evolving for book #7 Perhaps a location that it will be placed in?
McGUGAN: It’s too early for me to tease readers with a possible location or sneak peek into the next plot; and I haven’t yet visualized an end to the series of stories revolving around Multima Corporation. There were two primary reasons I decide to write my stories using a large company as a background. First, it’s a setting I understand intimately and thoroughly enjoyed. I write with knowledge and confidence about the goings-on at the most senior management levels. But equally important, a large company is an ideal format to introduce new players, create challenges or opportunities, and even eliminate a character from time to time! I find plenty of new ideas sprouting for plots and dilemmas for characters to solve.
FQ: I ask this question of all writers because readers love to know the answer: If you were given the opportunity to dine with one writer (past or present), who would it be and what would be the one question you would love them to answer?
McGUGAN: I’ve read every John Grisham novel and have enormous respect for his writing accomplishments. Should I have the opportunity to chat with him over a meal, I’d ask him to share with me the most important life-lesson he learned from his writing career. His initial answer would prompt more questions and I’m confident I’d leave the meal a richer man.
FQ: For all the up-and-coming authors, is there one piece of advice you feel is a “must-have” for them to know before they embark on their journey?
McGUGAN: I would encourage any writer to join a local community of writers as soon as they can. Too often, people think of writing as a solitary experience they alone must master. However, there are writing groups almost everywhere providing valuable information, genuine help improving a writer’s craft, and support to reach individual goals. Participation in a writing community can often save months, or years, in the process of writing a book and encouragement that often makes the writing process far more enjoyable as well as productive.
FQ: I learned that you are Co-Chair of the Writers’ Community of York Region and you are very passionate about the organization. Can you tell us a bit about that and what events, perhaps, you hold?
McGUGAN: The Writers’ Community of York Region is a great example of a group that truly supports its membership. In our community, we have representation from all genres. Among our approximately 100 hundred members, about one third are published authors. The majority of our membership are writing poetry, short stories, plays, graphic novels, writing for a screen or debut novels. Working with a sister organization, we have weekly two-hour virtual write-ins on three different days (one morning, two evenings) and members can join one or more sessions--whenever they choose to participate and write together. We also have monthly events online with individual themes such as editing, character development, coaching, genre blending, finding an agent, working with publishers, social media promotion, and writing collaboration. Each event features a successful writer with expertise in the subject. WCYR monthly events are open to anyone who registers, and with Zoom delivery, writers around the globe participate.
FQ: I also learned that creating a title for your book is a big process for you, with readers and fans giving their input as well. How difficult was it for this particular book?
McGUGAN: A Slippery Shadow came to life most easily of all my titles. Readers will learn that a Shadow figure hovering in the background seems to have an unusual ability to influence events for each of the three main characters, creating havoc and turmoil for each. Yet the Shadow remains slippery and elusive throughout the novel. I think readers will agree this title precisely matches the story!