Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Diane Lunsford is talking with Gary D. McGugan, author of Three Weeks Less A Day (Book 1 in The Multima Trilogy of Corporate Intrigue).
FQ: Thank you for your time. It’s a pleasure to have the opportunity to visit with you today. I must say, you waste no time in shooting your audience out of a canon from page one forward in Three Weeks Less a Day! The opening line is compelling. Did it come to you immediately or were there edits to pack the punch it packs?
McGUGAN: Thank you, it’s great to spend some time with you and your readers. The initial idea came to me immediately, but I must confess wordsmithing took longer. I accept the adage that writers need to engage readers as quickly and powerfully as possible, and my opening chapters are always reworked several times before I’m satisfied. As with every other skill, I hope you’ll find my openings become progressively more engaging with each novel!
FQ: In line with my previous question, you’ve done an amazing job with anchoring tone and voice immediately. Is this something you’ve always had a knack toward, or has it evolved over time and when did you recognize a distinct maturity in your writing ability?
McGUGAN: I appreciate your kind words, but my editors still always remind me about both voice and tone. If we’re effectively capturing both in Three Weeks Less a Day, I give all the credit to them for keeping me focused.
FQ: Let’s talk about editing. I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing books on behalf of Feathered Quill for many years now. As a writer, what struck me instantly with your book is the precision polish of layout, word placement, scene set-up, grammar, dialogue and the list goes on. Were there any moments in the editing process when you were adamantly going to ‘stick with your guns’ with what you had written versus the insistence from your editor to ‘rewrite, remove, etc.”? What was the outcome?
McGUGAN: I think my many years working in senior leadership roles with large corporations, prepared me well for the editing process. A good leader seeks out people with varying viewpoints and different backgrounds for advice. Then that leader asks for their opinions and listens carefully. He or she thinks about their ideas from every perspective possible. Finally, a good leader makes a decision based on all the variables.
I approach editing the same way. I want to create the very best story possible and welcome differing views. I think carefully about every suggestion, then decide whether to accept it, accept part of the recommendation, or appreciate—but disregard—the idea. I didn’t keep score on how many were accepted or declined, but I valued every input.
FQ: The pace of Three Weeks Less a Day never lets up! What I mean by this is there seem to be countless moments of turns, upsets, gotcha moments, etc. When you were in the throes of writing, were there times when circumstances and situations would write for you versus you writing for them? Essentially, were there times when you were on such a roll, when you finally came up for air, would you sit back and ask yourself: ‘what the heck did I just write’? If so, can you elaborate?
McGUGAN: No, my working style isn’t quite that flamboyant! Typically, I write a chapter each day. My goal is to hold a reader’s attention on every page of the story, so I follow a regular habit, both writing and editing. Almost every day, I walk outdoors for one or two hours. No headset. No phone. No music. For the entire walk, I think about the story and the chapter I’m working on with a straightforward objective: How can I make that individual chapter, and the story, more engaging? I create twists and turns as I walk, often long after the initial ideas formed. I think such attention to detail makes the reading experience more fun!
FQ: You reference in your acknowledgements how writing your first novel was a ‘daunting mission.’ How long did it take you to complete it?
McGUGAN: Four years. From the initial concept to the final touch-up, four years elapsed because I had two fundamental goals. First, I wanted my first novel to be the very highest quality possible. And I wanted Three Weeks Less a Day to appeal to an extensive demographic readership. I chose four different editors—women and men, younger and more mature. Each editor offered very different perspectives that I was able to usefully incorporate, often tweaking only a phrase or choice of words. As a result, I now receive emails from 18-year old women and 70-year old men—and from all age groups in between—telling me how much they enjoyed the story.
FQ: In line with my previous question, when you began Three Weeks Less A Day, what was your experience writing it? Did your pen flow freely? Did you experience any dry spells? How did you overcome the latter if you did experience block?
McGUGAN: I never experience dry spells. My wife attributes that to an overactive imagination! My daily outdoor walks—when all I do is think—provide the time, energy, and creative space to both develop a story and polish the twists and turns.
FQ: One of the most exciting moments I’ve personally had in writing was to have dreamt about my characters. Not necessarily in a sense that the next scene was written and ready for me to type when I woke the next day, but more akin to a bonding with them. Your characters are very credible, and each have unique personalities. I suspect you have dreamt about one or some of them. If so, could you share your take on the experience?
McGUGAN: I’m one of those people who rarely remembers dreams, so I may have dreamed about one or more characters and not realized it! Nevertheless, I feel I bond with my characters. Before I start writing, I develop a very clear image of each. I think I know his or her strengths and weaknesses and how they would react in various scenarios. I treat my characters as people with qualities, foibles, and imperfections, then try to capture all of those characteristics as I tell the story.
FQ: How difficult was it to move from ‘the end’ of Three Weeks Less A Day and onto the opening chapter of the next book in the series, The Multima Scheme?
McGUGAN: Surprisingly easy. When I wrote the last sentence of Three Weeks Less a Day, I was already mapping out the plot for The Multima Scheme. I think readers enjoy the ending of Three Weeks Less a Day and think they know how the story might continue at Multima Corporation. In The Multima Scheme, they probably learn they were right about a few circumstances but are surprised about other attributes of some characters.
FQ: Did you take a break between your first book in the series, Three Weeks Less A Day, and the next, The Multima Scheme?
McGUGAN: No. I started writing The Multima Scheme while the publisher was making final cover designs, layouts, and font selection for Three Weeks Less a Day. I realized that selling and promoting a single novel—particularly at author signing events—would be a challenge as many readers like to know there’s more available if they enjoy the first story. Besides, I had the outline already formulated in my head, just waiting to tell it!
FQ: Do character names come to you naturally? Do you keep a running list of ‘future character names’ to source? Do you “people watch” and imagine: ‘he/she would make a great character in a future book and this is what I would call him/her’?
McGUGAN: I give considerable thought to the names. My method is to completely visualize characters first. Then, I try to think of a name that best fits the character. John George Mortimer in Three Weeks Less a Day seems an appropriate name for a dynamic, self-made billionaire married only to his company and its success. Janet Weissel, on the other hand, might fit the behavior of a promiscuous, opportunistic young woman who puts survival ahead of prevailing morals whenever necessary.
FQ: Thank you again for your time today. I thoroughly enjoyed Three Weeks Less A Day and look forward to the continuing saga of the Multima Corporation in The Multima Scheme. Any future projects beyond this series in the works? If so, are you able to give us a quick peek?
McGUGAN: Three Weeks Less a Day and The Multima Scheme are the first two books in a trilogy of corporate intrigue. Unrelenting Peril has now also been released and is the third exciting story in that series. In the spring of 2020, we’ll release Pernicious Pursuit—a story unconnected to Multima Corporation. However, I’ll launch four of the naughtiest characters from the Multima trilogy on an entirely new trajectory. I think readers of the first series will really enjoy it. My thanks to you. It’s been a pleasure spending some time with you and your readers, and I hope to have the opportunity again soon!