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On The Table Read Magazine, “the best book magazine in the UK“, author Gary E. Smith shares the inspiration behind the latest installment in his Warren Steelgrave book series, Betrayal.
Written by JJ Barnes
I interviewed Gary E. Smith about his life and career, what inspired the latest story in his Warren Steelgrave series, Betrayal, and his creative writing process.
Tell me a bit about who you are.
My name is Gary Smith. I am the author of seven books in the Warren Steelgrave series, a book of short stories, and several magazine articles.
I grew up in Hayward. California and spend half the year in Hayward and half the year in my home in a small village in Italy. In high school, I dropped all my college prep classes, deciding to go to work after graduation. The first significant decision of my life and the best. I started working as a common laborer a few years later as an apprentice electrician. After nine years, I started a small company that grew into a multimillion-dollar national electrical company. After retirement, I started writing.
It was a great life to prepare myself for writing. Shelby Foote said. You don’t learn to write dialogue in a classroom. You learn working in the steel mills, construction, and paper mills, etc., and paying attention to how people speak. My work history has given me a great reservoir of mannerisms, speech patterns, etc., to build characters. Ernest Hemingway was quoted as saying. To write a very good story. You must have experienced it.
My life’s work and living in two countries have certainly prepared me for the Warren Steelgrave series of books. Working alongside laborers learning English and struggling to feed their families, working twenty-four hours straight in a crew of electricians to get a factory running again. Building a business and negotiating million-dollar contracts and, of course, thousands of hours in the courts suing to get paid. Of these experiences, book seven in the Warren Steelgrave series BETRAYAL was born.
When did you first WANT to write a book?
At about eight years old, I wanted to write songs. But unfortunately, I am dyslexic, and being only eight, I got very frustrated and put the idea away.
When did you take a step to start writing?
In 1994, I was asked to participate in the Connections Leadership Project for the State of California. Halfway through the three-year project, the editor asked if I would consider writing and submitting something for the book. I submitted three articles, and to my surprise, all three were published in the book Options, Making Connections in Today’s World. Published in 1997. At the end of the project, the committee had a final meeting to celebrate the end of the project. Everyone connected with the project, and a large crowd was there.
At the end of the luncheon, the editor addressed the group at the head table. As the last order of business, he wanted to leave us with one final thought from one of the articles in the book. He began reading my article on my son’s death. Immediately, I recognized my words and became very uncomfortable as the crowd started to look around. He introduced me at the end of the reading and said, “Thank you,” ending the conference.
As I started out, I heard someone calling my name. I turned, and a middle-aged gentleman was heading toward me through the crowd. He approached me and stood there for a second, searching for words. Then he said, “I couldn’t let you leave without saying,” he paused, composing himself. Then continued, “I, too, have had a devastating loss recently. However, your words have given me a new perspective. You changed my life.” Finally, he reached for my hand, shook it, turned, and left, disappearing into the crowd.
That was the moment I understood why people write, and why I write.
How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?
About seven months.
How long did it take you to complete your latest book from the first idea to release?
About eight months.
Focusing on your latest release. What made you want to write Betrayal?
I have been asked many times what I use for inspiration. Is it living in Italy half the year, or does a current event spark the idea for a story? The answer is complicated. After finishing a book in the Warren Steelgrave series, I think that is the last Warren Steelgrave book. I am tired of the series. The series is cathartic for me, and after a week, something is bothering me that I cannot put a finger on, so I start another Warren Steelgrave story.
Soon, the story begins to take shape. The subconscious takes over, and the issue that is bothering me surfaces from my subconscious and becomes woven into the story. This is precisely what happened with my newest book, Betrayal. I started another Warren Steelgrave book, unsure what I would write about.
After the second chapter, what surfaced was a betrayal by a close friend. The country entered a deep recession about thirty years ago while I was in business. The business was out of work and cash, and my wife was pregnant with twins. I lost the company and almost lost our house and health insurance.
After restarting the company, it was discovered that the company’s Chief Financial Officer had embezzled three hundred thousand dollars over the last three years. The betrayal was most painful because this person was a close friend worth a lot of money. Someone I regarded as family. That was when I understood this quote from Danti Alighieri. “The worst sinners in hell were the traitors. Those who betrayed their loved ones, their country, and their God.”
What were your biggest challenges with writing Betrayal?
Writing a suspenseful story that continued the overall theme of the Warren Steelgave series around betrayal.
Who or what inspired you when creating your Protagonist?
Who or what inspired you when creating your Antagonist?
The experience of having a close friend betray me and my family.
What is the inciting incident of Betrayal?
When the Protagonist, Warren Steelgrave, is being abducted in a parking garage but is saved by a young female reporter.
What is the central conflict of Betrayal?
Warren Steelgave, who believes killing someone leads straight to hell, plots the murder of two Russian agents to save his family. The internal struggle he goes through.
Did you plot Betrayal in advance, or fly by the seat of your pants and write freely?
I never plot the story. I allow my characters to plot the story.
Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did Betrayal need?
No help with the editing, but lots of help with proofreading.
What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a story?
The discipline to write every day. I can always throw it away, but write something. It can be gobbledygook, but write. Hemmingway said if you have not experienced it, you can’t write effectively about it. So, put into your stories part of yourself and your experience.
Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?
I am finishing a ninth novel, Number Eight, in the Warren Stealgrave series.
And, finally, are your proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?
It was diifentley worth the effert. The last four books have won six national awards between them, which is very satisfying.
Pop all your book, website and social media links here so the readers can find you:
Web page: www.garysmithauthor.com
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