Welcome to the six hundred and seventy-second of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with thriller novelist GT Rigdon. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, GT. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
G.T.: My name is G.T. Rigdon and I live near St. Paul, Minnesota. I write morally engaged fiction, provocative stories for curious minds. My themes revolve around fact and faith viewed through a philosophical lens. In my first book, High Striker, these themes are woven into a story that asks the question: What is the line that separates good and evil, coincidence and providence, delusion and reality?
This question leads us into a world where a brain surgeon who spent his childhood in a carnival is somehow connected to Isaac Newton, Nikola Tesla, The Bible, and serial killing. The central character, Dr. Amos Konklin, could be described as a fusion of Hannibal Lecter, Dexter Morgan, and a carny. High Striker is an Old Testament / Carnivale thriller that is grounded by fascinating perspectives from two of the greatest scientific minds of the past.
From an early age, I have been intellectually curious with eclectic tastes, which probably explains my participation in two very different vocations. In my work as an engineer, I’m immersed in the facts and what is understood as truth in the physical world. On the other hand, as a former minister, I was forced to contend with belief in things not seen or provable. As a writer, satisfaction comes from creating thrilling stories that play out the moral choices that arise from the co-existence of these two world views.
Morgen: Dexter is one of my TV series. We’re behind you here in the UK and series (season?) seven has only just started where his sister, Deb, has just found out ‘what’ he is. It’s really gripping – how a programme or book should be – and as you say, they should make the reader ask questions. Literature, in any form, should make us think. I like your description ‘morally engaged fiction, provocative stories for curious minds’ – what genre do you write?
G.T.: In terms of genre, I suppose it most closely matches the religious thriller category.
Morgen: What have you had published to-date? Do you write under a pseudonym?
G.T.: The book High Striker published in August, 2012 (www.highstrikerbook.com). I do not use a pseudonym, but I do use the initials of my first and middle name.
Morgen: A lot of authors are doing that. There used to be an emphasis on genre with some readers being put off if they perceived the wrong gender writing it, which is why Joanne Kathleen Rowling went with her initials. Morgen is fairly genderless (I’m sometimes addressed as ‘Mr’ so I know they’ve not been to my site and seen my picture), and genderless is useful when not sticking to one genre but then I’ve always written a variety. You’ve self-published – what lead to you going your own way?
G.T.: I like to be in control of my art and my craft and self-publishing is a great alternative for the mavericks out there.
Morgen: It certainly is, and it works for me. Is your book available as an eBook? How involved were you in that process? Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
G.T.: Yes, High Striker is available in paperback and on Kindle. I think self-publishing requires heavy involvement in the entire process. When you self-publish you take full responsibility to make sure you produce high quality work. That involves multiple iterations of review, feedback, and editing. High Striker was a three-year project. I employed multiple editors along the way and ultimately used the Createspace.com business model for publication. If your readers would like to ask me about my personal experiences and what I’ve learned about self-publishing, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Morgen: Thank you. That would make a great topic for a guest blog. 🙂 Having gone through the whole process (and talked about it on how to create an ebook) it certainly is an experience. It’s really not as scary as people think, and certainly rewarding once it’s done right – including, as we’ve done, have several first readers. Do you have a favourite of your books or characters? If any of your books were made into films, who would you have as the leading actor/s?
G.T.: I think High Striker would make a great film, or an even better television series. If you liked Silence of the Lambs, the HBO series Carnivale, or enjoy the ShowTime series Dexter you will love this book. Actually, my idea for the book goes back over 15 years, it just took a long time for me to get started with the writing.
Morgen: I don’t know Carnivale but I think we do have HBO programmes over here (Dexter is on Fox) and I did like Silence of the Lambs, although I had to watch it a couple of times to ‘get’ it. We’ve mentioned a couple of well-established series – are there any authors whom you would compare your writing to?
G.T.: As for High Striker itself, the story has the feel of Daniel Knauf, Thomas Harris, and Jeff Lindsay art. As far as religious thrillers are concerned, I’m sure most people have heard of Dan Brown of Da Vinci Code fame. What I have in common with him is what I would describe as fiction that both entertains and makes you think harder about your world view. I once read someone describing Dan Brown’s books as “intellectual suspense / thrillers,” and I think that is an apt description of my work.
Morgen: Dan Brown was my first thought when you said “religious thrillers”. Did you choose the covers of your book?
G.T.: I hired someone to do the actual cover design work, but I knew what I wanted. So, I was very involved and my cover designer did a great job of translating my ideas into art.
Morgen: What are you working on at the moment / next?
G.T.: I’m working hard promoting High Striker of course, but I’m also working on establishing my platform for future novels. It takes time to get recognized and people generally want to know what you’re all about before they read your books.
Morgen: It certainly does, and when I put a shout-out online (LinkedIn primarily) I didn’t have a clue that here I’d be a year and a bit later having interviewed nearly 700 authors on this blog and another 100 on http://morgensauthorinterviews.wordpress.com. It’s astounding. It just goes to show how much work it takes to get noticed. Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
G.T.: For High Striker it was a little of both. The story definitely evolved over time.
Morgen: I love it when it goes that. Do you have to do much research?
G.T.: Yes. For example, High Striker covers a broad base of topics like brain surgery, carnivals, Isaac Newton, Nikola Tesla, religion, The Bible, philosophy, and serial killing.
That alone gives you an idea about the research involved. The book is a nexus of themes in one cohesive story. It takes work to get the facts right, but probably even more effort to turn that kind of material into great thriller fiction.
Morgen: But definitely worth it if your readers enjoy it. Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
G.T.: Sure. Every new writer does. I think it means at least you’re trying and I never take it personally.
Morgen: The best way to look at them; often just the wrong person for the right thing. Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
G.T.: I don’t have an agent, and I’m not convinced about the “vital” part. However, if someone were interested in representing me, I would most certainly be willing to hear what they had to say.
Morgen: Me too. Never say never. Given that everything then is down to you, how much marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
G.T.: I’m busy marketing every day. Initially, I hired a publicity firm to generate leads and get my name and book out there. Now, I’m trying a little bit of everything it seems.
Morgen: 🙂 What advice would you give aspiring writers?
G.T.: Well, I’d have to take my own advice since that is exactly what I am at the present time. My advice would be to do a little writing every day. You might as well jump in there and after a year passes I think you’ll be amazed at what you’ve accomplished.
Morgen: Absolutely. 300 words a day is 100,000+ words a year. If you could invite three people from any era to dinner, who would you choose and what would you cook (or hide the takeaway containers)?
G.T.: Isaac Newton, Jesus, and Richard Dawkins. I’d serve Lamb with red wine while listening to Dawkins lecture the greatest scientist who ever lived about his irrational belief in one of the fellow guests of honor, who no doubt would have something profound to say. Actually, since I enjoy the company of deep thinkers, I’d have to admit being a fan of all three guests, although technically Jesus wasn’t a writer.
Morgen: I’m sure he’d have plenty to say though. What do you do when you’re not writing?
G.T.: Reading of course! Actually, I enjoy physical fitness and am a P90X devotee. I enjoy a variety of sports, movies, art in its various forms, good conversation, and most of all learning new things.
Morgen: Every writer should be a reader. I think some are worried that they’ll subconsciously store other authors’ writing and plagiarise it by accident but unless they have a fantastic memory, they’d have to remember large enough chunks for it to be recognisable. Are there any writing-related websites and / or books that you find useful?
G.T.: Yes. I’m a big fan of Joanna Penn (www.thecreativepenn.com). If you’re a new or aspiring writer, then I would highly recommend her site. She’s also written a couple of great religious thriller novels I might add.
Morgen: Joanna’s great. I interviewed her on Easter Sunday 2012. Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how valuable do you find them?
G.T.: I’m just now in the process of creating a social media presence. I’m going to have my own blog soon and I have future plans for Facebook, and Twitter.
Morgen: Blogs are great… but then with eleven of them (including five online writing groups) I could be biased… and I certainly am towards WordPress – it’s certainly the most user-friendly and the fact that every post connects automatically with Twitter, Facebook, Yahoo Groups, LinkedIn and Tumblr is invaluable. Where can we find out about you and your writing?
Morgen: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
G.T.: Yes. Your readers can email me at email@example.com. I’d love for them to join a list of people who are interested in following what I do. I can be proactive in filling them in on what’s coming next.
Morgen: Yes, folks. Please do. Thank you for joining me today, G.T. It’s been great chatting with you.
I then invited G.T. to include an excerpt of his writing and this is from the opening chapter of High Striker…
Dr. Amos Konklin departed the intensive care unit at 11:15 p.m. on a seemingly typical Wednesday at the hospital. While late evenings were commonplace, Wednesdays were planned neurosurgery days and traditionally busy. He often spent those nights on his office couch. Nevertheless, this particular Wednesday was different, for its dawn gave birth to a murder plot that commenced at home, when Amos awoke from one of his routine nightmares. While his wife Cynthia lay asleep, Amos arose and made his way to the garage. There, in the quiet lull of privacy, he placed a sledgehammer in the trunk of his car. The garage was a repository for many of his tools, but the twelve-pound sledge occupied a place all its own in the corner. He kept it in a hard plastic case, the type in which one might store a billiard stick. It was not the first time such an early morning event had occurred.
Much of Amos’s day was occupied by two planned brain surgeries that required his attention and focus. His patients, Vicky Moore and Dorothy Woolf were strangers in life, but they shared a common disease. Now, both women were surgical patients of Dr. Amos Konklin, a capable and caring healer, a man consumed by matters of life and death. This Wednesday was far more meaningful, though, than just the day Vicky and Dorothy would be healed.
Thoughts of vengeance flooded his mind, and Amos deliberately chose Wednesday night for the trip to the Old Wilderness Campground; it was a good night for an alibi, assuming he would ever need one. The campground was in Orange County, New York, about fifty miles northwest of Times Square. The reference to the campground had become a hospital joke, as doctors often spoke of getting away from it all by taking a quick trip to “The Wilderness,” a whopping one-hour drive from their beeping machines and whining patients. Cabin 326 at Old Wilderness was actually hospital property, donated years earlier by a former chief of staff at the time of his death as a shared resource for the senior doctors, a hideaway where one could take off their scrubs and stethoscopes and relax. Amos had frequented the campground on several occasions and was confident he could be back at the hospital within a three-hour window, a reasonable amount of time, he believed, considering the stability of his patients in recovery. The safety of his patients was always at the forefront of his mind, though admittedly, on this night, his professional concerns competed against a strong personal urge, one that demanded his attention.
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