An Interview with Gary
- Lots of acclaimed writers are late literary bloomers. You began a new career in writing at age 52. How did you leverage your life experience to start writing?
The best advice I’ve heard about writing fiction came from The Creative Way course, led by New York Times bestselling author and founder Ted Dekker. Dekker talks about writing from the heart and putting a part of yourself on the page. That’s easy to do at age 52 because I have a lot of baggage to unload. I drew from the experience of losing my father when I wrote the death scene. I used my grief to create Joshua.
- The underlying theme of “Joshua and the Shadow of Death” is forgiveness. What would you like for readers to take away from the book?
When I first conceived the idea for this novel, I had no idea how timely this series would be or how close to reality “Joshua and the Shadow of Death” would become. Society is becoming toxic. It is increasingly easy to get pulled into a negative mindset. Joshua, and his journey through the shadows, encourages us to think about how we respond to life’s insults and disagreements. At the end of the day, forgiveness is not to help the people who wrong us, it is to help us move forward and heal.
- Can you speak about your own personal background and how being adopted, and making the decision to find out about your biological parents, inspired the premise of this book and what the main character is dealing with?
I spent a big part of my childhood being very ill. For decades, no one was able to diagnose my disease. Behcet’s is difficult to pinpoint because the symptoms usually don’t appear jointly and can be identical to those of other illnesses. Once diagnosed, I opted to research my biological parents since Behcet’s is a genetic disease. I found information about my birth mother, who hails from Denmark, but was unable to locate material about my birth father. I turned to genome mapping to learn more and discovered that there were Turkish markers in my genes. In short, there are two old world conquering empires duking it out inside of my body.
I started reading about Danish and Turkish history and learned that the Berserkers, champion Norse warriors said to have fought in a trance-like rage, really existed. The term “going berserk” comes from these fighters. There are lots of theories as to who they were and how berserk they actually became. This research inspired the idea of a modern day berserker who didn’t know that they were a berserker because of their orphan status.
- Which writers inspire you?
James Michener’s ability to write compelling historical fiction not only takes a lot of research but a lot of talent. His writing inspired me to use places I have visited or lived for my fictional settings. I also think that the diversity and depth in Ted Dekker’s stories is amazing.