Please help me welcome Gary Guinn who is sharing a little about himself and about his new release, a thriller mystery that sounds like my kind of read!
- Where did you get the idea for Sacrificial Lam? Was there anything unusual, any anecdote about this book, the characters, title, process, etc, you’d like to share?
Fairly early in my career teaching at the university, a disturbing incident occurred. Three of my colleagues at the university, who were all liberal, progressive professors like myself, received anonymous threats couched in violent terms. The university was a small, conservative, southern place, and liberal professors like ourselves were in a real minority and sometimes found teaching there an uncomfortable fit. At the same time, we felt a sense of purpose in being the source of divergent, more open, views in the areas of politics, social issues, and religion. The threats created a tense environment, and though nothing could be proved, there was a pretty strong suspicion of who was responsible. As it happens, the threats stopped, and nothing further came of them, but that situation became the kernel for developing the series of mystery/thrillers featuring English professor Lam Corso, a liberal who teaches at a small, conservative southern college. Sacrificial Lam is the first in the series. The second, which I am about halfway through, has the working title A Lam to Slaughter.
- Why did you choose this genre (is it something you’ve written in before)?
All my previous writing had been literary fiction, usually historical. But my writing had begun to feel stale, and I found myself doing a lot of revising of older work rather than creating new work. So I decided to break out of the mold altogether and do something totally different. I’ve always loved reading mystery/thrillers, but didn’t think I could pull one off. National Novel Writing Month was just around the corner, so I spent a couple of weeks outlining the story and then cranked out fifty-five thousand words in November. It was great fun and really seemed to open my creative juices again and let them flow. After a year of revising with my writing group and editing with my publisher, it was ready to go.
- What was the most difficult thing about this novel in particular?
Probably the most difficult thing about writing this particular novel was that I was using a setting that all my friends were familiar with, and I was basing some of the characters in the novel on people who would be recognizable. I had to make the place and the characters believable as fictional characters in spite of the fact that they would be recognizable to many readers. I wanted readers to read the story, not think about the biographical background and connections.
- What book have you read that you wish you had written?
Love Medicine, by Louise Erdrich. When I read that novel, I fell in love—with the book and with Louise Erdrich. The sense of mystery, bordering on magical realism, and the rich characters made me want to cry half the time. And her beautiful treatment of the Native American culture in the novel was just delicious. There’s no other way to describe it. Delicious. And the novel was full of surprises. A really engaging narrative. Erdrich’s language just overwhelmed me at times, like music, like the language of love. I’ve read the book again and loved it as much the second time—a sure sign that it’s true love.
A close second in answer to this question would be The History of Love, by Nicole Krauss. That is the only novel I have ever finished reading and then gone right back to page 1 and started reading again. Loved it. I think I’m seeing a pattern here—Love Medicine, The History of Love.
- What do you want readers to come away with after they read Sacrificial Lam?
Sacrificial Lam pits liberal, progressive, humanistic ideas against radical, fundamentalist, religious/political/social ideas. But it doesn’t preach a particular ideology. In fact, the sympathetic characters have to confront their cherished beliefs in light of the immediate threat of violence and death. The novel presents the very real complexity of what it means to believe, to have real commitments, passions, that are challenged by reality.
I want readers to come away with a sense of the problem of extremism, of radical belief that drives us to put the lives of, the dignity of, other human beings at minimal value. That puts theology of any kind above the humane treatment of people.
- Would you rather have a bad review or no review?
The bane of most writers is marketing and promotion. We love to write. We love our books. But we hate to spend a huge chunk of our lives marketing. But it is marketing that we have to do. And one of the most important promotional tools is the book review—lots and lots of book reviews! When I first started learning how to promote my books, like most people I thought, “Good reviews, good. Bad reviews, bad.” So I might have answered the question then as I’d rather have no reviews than a bad review. But I’ve learned that even bad reviews bring attention to your book. And more importantly, they bring balance to all those 5-Star reviews that your friends and family write. If you have fifty reviews, and they are all 5-Star, a smart reader will be a little suspicious. But if the average of your reviews is 4.5 Stars, then a reader will think that you have received a few negative responses but that the great majority of people loved the book.
- Your favorite…
Movie: Smoke Signals, based on a short story by Sherman Alexie titled “The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven.” A wonderfully quirky and funny movie that will make you cry for the compassionate treatment of the main characters.
Music: Well, I love Bluegrass. And I love 1940’s Big Band. And I love Classical Guitar. But if I had to name an artist that I want to sit down and drink brandy or beer and listen to all night, it would be Norah Jones. Tom Waits would be a close second. Paul Simon a close third.
Place you’ve visited: The village of Chamonix at the base of Mont Blanc in the French Alps. My wife and I spent our 25th anniversary there, hiking in the mountains, having dinner at sidewalk cafes, watching the moon set over the mountain from bed, with a glass of wine.
Place you’d like to visit: Machu Picchu in Peru. I’ve been to some beautiful Mayan ruins in Central America, but those sky-high ruins above the clouds at Machu Picchu just seem like the ultimate Mayan experience.
TV show from childhood: Gunsmoke. Matt Dillon and Miss Kitty and Chester and Doc. What could possibly be better?
TV show from adulthood: Humans, Jack Taylor, Inspector Morse, Midsomer Murders.
Food: Italian Chicken Spaghetti with red wine.
Loved your answers, Gary…interesting! Very wise words on the review situations.
When English professor Lam Corso receives a death threat at work, he laughs it off. A liberal activist at a small Southern conservative college, he’s used to stirring up controversy on campus. It’s just part of the give and take of life. Even when violently attacked, Lam is convinced it must be a mistake. He can’t imagine anyone who would want to kill him for his beliefs.
When his home is broken into and his wife’s business vandalized, Lam is forced to face the truth. His wife—a passionate anti-gun crusader—is outraged when Lam brings a gun into the house for protection. The police can’t find a single lead. Left to their own devices, Lam and Susan are forced to examine their marriage, faith, and values in the face of a carefully targeted attack from an assailant spurred into action by his own set of beliefs.
What will it cost to survive?
In the silence immediately after Susan screamed, Simon’s high wail came from upstairs. Billy’s voice broke through, “Mom? What happened, Mom?” His voiced moved to the top of the stairs. “Mama, I’m scared. Where are you?” Simon was sobbing.
Susan grabbed the flashlight and scrambled to her feet. The darkness of the room pressed in on her, weighted with threat, the silence in the downstairs smothering her voice. She shined the flashlight toward the stairway, heading that way, and yelled, “Boys, can you see the light from the flashlight?”
She flicked the light around the room, and seeing nobody, she yelled again, with less panic this time, “Nothing to be afraid of, Billy. I’m sorry I scared you. You and Simon come on downstairs right now.” She shined the light on the stairway steps, fear crawling up her spine from the darkness behind her.
Gary Guinn lives in Siloam Springs, Arkansas, with his wife, Mary Ann, and their lab mix, Seamus, and their Corgi mix, Peanut. He writes both literary and mystery/thriller fiction. His first novel, A Late Flooding Thaw, was published by Moon Lake Publishing in 2005. His poetry and fiction have appeared in a variety of magazines, and his short fiction has appeared in several anthologies, the latest being Yonder Mountain, from the University of Arkansas Press. His mystery/thriller novel Sacrificial Lam, released by The Wild Rose Press March 3rd, is set on a small Southern college campus. His favorite pastimes are reading, writing, traveling, and brewing beer (and of course, drinking it).
Facebook author page https://www.facebook.com/garyguinnwriter/
Amazon author page https://www.amazon.com/Gary-Guinn/e/B01N4GPT7P
Goodreads author page https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/585203.Gary_Guinn