Guest Authors

Guest Author, Gary Caruso



Keep Calm and Answer These Twenty-Five Questions

 1.     Do you consider yourself a logophile? If so, have you always been?

 Interesting question. Absolutely. Even before I became a writer, it was always important for me to chose the right word to get the desired result. When I started writing, my appreciation grew because I love how one word or a short phrase can communicate a precise emotion. That’s why I feel so humbled by Shakespeare and Poe.

2.     What is your favorite color?


 3.     Where were you born? Where did you grow up?

I was born and raised in northeastern Pennsylvania. Much of my early live was in Wilkes-Barre, but my high school years were in Nanticoke. I love the area and I still have family there. The people are amazingly kind and generous, and you never have to wonder what they’re thinking. They tend to be very direct and honest, qualities I admire4.     What is your favorite football team?

 4. What is your favorite football team?

The Washington Redskins!

5.     Who is your favorite author?

It’s a toss-up between Poe and Shakespeare.

6.     What’s your favorite book?

No one book is my favorite, but I loved the Lord of the Rings trilogy for its wonderfully complex themes and characters.

7.     What do you do when you are not writing?

I write so often that it’s very important to balance my time with my wife and family. It almost doesn’t matter what we’re doing, as long as I’m with them.

8.     Do you have a day job as well?

Actually, I’m blessed to have two jobs I love, writing and teaching. I teach science to a wonderful group of eighth-graders.

9.     Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

I spent a lot of time considering the answer to this question. I know how important it was for me to get advice from writers as I struggled through some of the rough spots. Here is a list of important suggestions.

  1. Know that it’s hard to be a good writer. It requires many, many hours alone at your computer, so make sure you love doing it—a lot. Otherwise, writing will feel like work.
  2. Write as much as you can, even when you feel uninspired. You may not always like what ends up on your screen, but sometimes you’ll get ideas you never expected. Just let your mind roam.
  3. Learn from your mistakes so that you don’t spend too much time correcting the same ones over and over. You’ll improve at a faster rate.
  4. Don’t take shortcuts at the expense of producing the best quality work. That means edit, edit, edit.
  5. Be very open to advice, but remember that the person responsible for your work is you.
  6. I believe the only way to right well, is to accept that you’ll write poorly when you start. Once you understand that, you’ll allow yourself to get better.
  7. Treat yourself and your work with respect or no one else will.
  8. Write uncomfortably. I hear people suggest that you should write what you know. Good advice for beginning writers. But I believe growth happens faster, the farther you are out of your comfort zone. That’s why good actors take on a variety of roles. It pushes the edge of their creative potential. The same thing is true for writers. 

 1o.  Is being a writer a gift or a curse?

This question made me laugh! For me, writing is a passion, which is a gift, but it can easily manifest into an addiction. I think I walk that delicate balance reasonably well. At times, my wife might disagree.

11.  Where do you write?

 My favorite spot is at a table that is pointed toward my backyard. Somehow, the green trees help me stay calm and creative.

 12.  Do you prefer silence or some noise while you write?

I almost always have headphones on when I write, but I almost never listen to the music. It’s just background noise, except during the times when I have to write a particularly emotional scene. I pick music to match the mood.

13. What do you typically drink while writing?

Coffee, water, and Coke Zero.

14.   What challenges have you had in regards to your writing life?

Writing is challenging because it’s a very solitary profession. I don’t mind being alone, but it’s unnerving to know how I well I’m writing. I find that my self-confidence is always on a roller coaster ride.

15.  When did you first start and when did you finish your book?

I started Our Souls to Keep in February, 2011, but the process wasn’t a straight path. I wrote the first couple chapters and sent it to my editor. She warned me that it was too dark, and the YA market wasn’t ready for difficult topics. So I started writing a YA murder mystery called The Dark Side of Truth which is due for release in September, 2013. After a year and 25 revisions, I was ready to let The Dark Side of Truth rest for a while. My friends had been urging me to continue writing Our Souls to Keep. Nine months later it was finished, but had been rolling around in my head for about two years.

16. If your book is made into a movie, which actors/actresses do you envision playing the parts?

I have no idea at all. Besides, I prefer that the reader build their own image. It makes reading more personal.

17.  What does your protagonist think of you? Would he/she want to hang out with you?

I think what bonds Wake and me together is that we’re both very loyal to the people we care for and we’re both on a search for simplicity within a very complex world. However, Wake isn’t really the suburban Virginia type. I don’t believe he’d be too interested in hanging out with me. 

18.  How do you market your book? What avenues work best?

Unfortunately, marketing requires a completely different skill set. I would never be so bold to give suggestions for marketing.

19. What has been the toughest criticism so far?

I’m fortunate that I haven’t received any real brutal criticisms. All the reviews have been fantastic. Even when the star rating is one or two stars less than I’d like, the comments are usually so positive that it’s hard to be upset. One of the cool things about reading is that people bring their own personal experiences to the first page, and then they use those experiences to interpret the themes as they continue though the book. Writers do the same thing when they write. Sometimes a character’s actions or motives don’t match with a reader’s personal experiences and expectations. Fiction is highly subjective, and differing opinions are accepted.

20.  What has been the best compliment?

There are two compliments that make me shake my head in disbelief. First, many review have said that Our Souls to Keep is refreshingly original. That isn’t easy to do within a genre with so many good writers.

The other compliment that surprised was how my words struck an emotional chord with many of my readers. I’ve had readers tell me that there were moments when they cried or screamed at their book. I never thought my words would invoke that kind of emotion in others.

21.   Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?

The setting in Our Souls to Keep is more dire than my life, but my mom, who insists she can read a dark story, asked me where I come up with my ideas. I can tell she was really asking me if I had bodies buried in the basement.

Of course the events are pure imagination, but I believe the characters always have something in common with an author. I think real emotions and motivation helps to bring a character alive.

22.  How did you come up with the title?

I hate writing titles, but I love when I know I have the right one. Our Souls to Keep is from a prayer and wonderfully represents the nature of the book. Originally, it was called End Times. I hated it. Thankfully I found something I loved.

23. Will there be a sequel?

I’ll begin the outline for the second book in the series soon. Souls on Fire has a target release of Spring, 2014. Unfortunately for Wake, his circumstance will be more complex and the stakes will be higher. I’m out-of-my-shoes excited to write it! I can’t wait!

24.  What project are you working on now?

My next novel is due for release in September, 2013. It’s a YA murder mystery series called The Dark Side of Truth. It’s an action-packed and heart-warming thriller about fifteen year-old Will Reed and his friend Mason, who stumble over a corpse in the woods. Will’s ex-con father is arrested for the murder—and it’s Will’s fault. With the police about to close their investigation, Will must discover the identity of a ruthless killer before his father goes back to prison. Not an easy task for two teenagers, but the discovery of a coded message starts them on an unexpected journey of mystery and danger to find an ancient relic. Unfortunately, there are others who are willing to kill in order to take possession of this valuable item.

25. What question did I leave out that you’d like to answer?

 I wish I was asked if I thought anyone can be a writer. Being a writer is pretty cool, especially when people you’ve never met are so enthusiastic about your work. But nobody sits down at a computer and creates a masterpiece overnight. In other words, writers aren’t born, they’re created. So I guess the better question is, “What are the character traits necessary to become a writer?”

The answer is determination and grit. No matter how poorly you write, you must have the strength to push fear aside and a resolute desire to keep moving forward. It takes a thoughtful view of our mistakes so that we don’t make the same ones over and over. It’s the willingness to be bad, so that our skills continually improve. Most importantly, we must always have an unwavering believe in ourselves, even when there’s no good reason to feel that way.

Please fill in the blank: Keep Calm and Live Life Fully!

 About Gary: 

Gary Caruso lives in northern Virginia with his wife Jill, but their favorite place is in Ohio with their three beautiful grandchildren. Although Gary is exhilarated when he sits down to write, teaching middle school science is his first love. He’s passionate about empowering students to make thoughtful decisions and positive choices in life. Gary enjoys reading, especially fiction that blurs the line between what’s real and what’s fantasy. He never imagined becoming a writer until an ordinary car ride on a spring day jolted an unlikely thought into his head. Gary’s early experience writing is a reminder that no matter how intimidating the challenge, action and determination are the foundations for fulfilling any dream. Gary has an insatiable love for writing, a blessing he’s excited to share with his readers.

Summary of Our Souls to Keep:  

After seventeen-year-old Wake Reynolds agrees to sacrifice his soul to protect his suicidal mother from the fiery tortures of Hell, Satan strips him of his humanity and forces him to become a demonic collector of souls. With no memory of his human existence, Wake spends years in loyal service—but something within him is changing. His stolen human emotions are beginning to return.
As Wake struggles to keep his new sensations hidden, Satan orders him to corrupt the soul of a pregnant girl, Annemarie. Beautiful, gentle Annemarie. From the moment Wake sees her, she brings lightness to his blackened heart, dampening his loneliness, fueling his passion. If he chooses to defy Satan and spare the lives of Annemarie and her unborn child, his mother’s soul will writhe in Hell’s deepest pit for eternity. Annemarie or his mother? It’s a choice no one should have to make.

Excerpt from Our Souls to Keep: 

The crowd thins, eventually leaving Annemarie and me alone in the hallway. She gathers her books and turns, quicker than I expect. I can’t maneuver out of her way. Our collision is mild, but jarring enough to dislodge the books from her hands.
“I’m so sorry,” she says as she kneels to pick up her scattered books.
I should be helping her, but my eyes are fixed on her graceful movements. Her long brown hair has fallen to the side, exposing the back of her softly curved neck, and every reach for a stray book lengthens her back and shoulders, inviting my touch. From the lowest point, just above the waist of her jeans, the tip of my finger would snake upward, navigating the gentle ridge of her spine until my hand laces through the richness of her flowing hair.
She tilts her head upward and grins at me. “Are you okay?”
Her voice snaps me from my fantasy. “Me? Yeah, I’m…fine. Oh, god. I’m so sorry. I should be picking up your books. You’re…you know.” I point feeble-mindedly at her extended stomach.
“Pregnant,” she says as she stands and straightens her blouse. “It’s all right to say it. I already know.”
The tip of her tongue unknowingly caresses her lower lip and the gentle arc of her full upper lip stretches, the smallest amount, as a smile slowly radiates across her flushed cheeks. These emotions, human, raw and…hormonal, forgotten for so long, now my only hope for clear thought is to suppress them. This has to be one of Satan’s sadistic jokes.
I laugh from embarrassment, but it’s the first time, in too long, that the sound of untempered, unrestrained joy bubbles from my heart. How can she have this warming effect on me? I want to say something cute and funny, but my mind is a hornet’s nest of scrambled thoughts.
“You look familiar,” she says. “Do we have a class together?”
I gaze into her hazel eyes. I must appear flustered because she tilts her head and grins.
“No. I mean, I don’t know. Today is my first day at this school.”
“Great. Welcome to Roosevelt High School. My name is Annemarie.”
“I’m Wake.”
“Wake? That’s an interesting name.”
“Yeah, I know. It sounds like a funeral.”
“I like it. But I have to go. My little guy keeps pushing on my bladder. Lately, I have to use the restroom between every class.” She covers her mouth as if she gave too much information to someone she just met, but her joyful eyes can’t hide the smile hidden behind her hand.
“I can’t believe I just told you that.” She starts to hurry away, but looks over her shoulder. “See you later, Wake.”
I wave like an embarrassed adolescent. What a lousy first impression. I sounded like a bumbling, immature little boy.
I watch as she continues down the hall. I’ve seen other pregnant women before. They were clumsy, out of balance from carrying extra weight in front. But not Annemarie. Her steps are graceful and refined, like she’s gliding on a frozen pond. The gentle curves of her hips have remained slender, and sway hypnotically side-to-side in a rhythm that matches the drumming of my heart.
What am I thinking? Mooning about like a lovesick teenager. I can’t let my physical attraction for Annemarie erode the resolve I’ll need to complete this assignment. Yet, she’s the most beautiful… Does she even know how she makes me feel…how human? I’m stuck in a moment reserved for young love. There’s nothing merciful about denying the uninhibited excitement coursing through every inch of my body, but my plan is already in motion. The fate of my mother’s soul is in my hands. As much as I hate myself for thinking it, Annemarie’s beauty has to be extinguished. I have to collect her. I know Satan is convinced these human emotions will help, but right now, I wish I was a stone-cold demon. It would make it a lot easier to incinerate her goodness from the earth.

* My Review:

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  1. I’m not familiar with his writing but will have to check it out. Thanks for the info! :) You da best!

  2. I loved this book! Definitely recommend!

  3. Wonderful interview! I had to look up logophile and I’m in mom mode right now, which is a very literal thinking process, so when Gary said you have to “write uncomfortably” I immediately checked that off on the list. My chair has to be the most uncomfortable thing ever I thought. Yep, that’s not what he was talking about at all. The real intent resonated, especially with my upcoming writing project that is so far outside my comfort zone. Thanks for the great post!!
    Robyn Jones recently posted…Think Out Loud [13] SummerMy Profile

  4. Great interview!

    I’m always interested in what other authors lives are like, and you always choose good ones to highlight.

    The excerpt was intense, by the way! Very vivid. I’m quite intrigued.
    Katie Cross recently posted…So… I married Spock.My Profile

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