1. What are your ambitions for your writing career?
My main ambition is to entertain as many people as possible. That means I have the responsibility to write engaging stories because, unlike movies that ask for only a two hour commitment, a book is part of reader’s life for a much longer period of time.
2. Which writers inspire you?
It’s hard to say that I’m inspired by any author, but I’m humbled when I read how easily Edgar Allen Poe and Stephen King pull readers into a suspenseful scene, or Shakespeare for the emotion he creates within a short phrase.
3. What have you written?
Our Souls to Keep is my first published novel, but I also have a short story prequel called The Promised Land available for free download at www.garycarusobooks.com. It’s a great way to better understand Wake and how he ends up in such a life altering situation.
4. Give us some insight into the main character. What does he/she do that is so special?
In Our Souls to Keep, Wake is Hell’s only hybrid (human/demon) soul collector. But what makes him so interesting is his willingness to defy the wills of both Heaven and Hell to protect one beautiful pregnant girl, even though he may sacrifice his own life in the process. Even with demon blood coursing through his veins, he allows himself to love fully and he searches for something very precious—his lost humanity.
5. What are you working on right now?
I’m putting the finishing touches on my second novel, a YA murder mystery series called The Dark Side of Truth, will release in September, 2013. I’m also writing notes on Souls on Fire, the sequel to Our Souls to Keep.
6. What genre are your books?
Our Souls to Keep is a romantic paranormal thriller, and The Dark Side of Truth is a murder mystery.
7. What draws you to this genre?
What has worked well for me is to genre-jump because it keeps my writing experience fresh and challenges me to write well within a new genre. For me, thrillers, mysteries, and adventure stories are a wonderful platform to build vibrant characters within an engaging story. They allow for the full spectrum of emotion and provide an opportunity for the characters to grow within dire circumstances.
8. When did you decide to become an author?
I was driving home from work, stuck in traffic. My mind was wandering because I had an urge to do something different with my spare time. Then it just popped into my head, “Why not write?” It was really a radical thought. I watch football, but it doesn’t mean I can run onto the field and play pro football. I read books, and I was considering being a professional writer. It was a leap of faith. I had no writing experience—none! But I decided it would an adventure. That was three years ago. It took me a year to write and edit my first novel, Benjamin Drake and the Stones of Oberon. It was a fun story with lively characters, but I was a terrible writer. Thankfully, I enjoy writing more than I ever thought I would, so I was able to stick with it through the ugly times. I pushed that novel aside, burying it deep in some unknown place so no one would ever find it. I worked very hard to improve as quickly as possible so I could share my work without being too embarrassed. Now, I can’t imagine my life without writing.
9. Do you have a special time you write or how is your day structured?
I teach science full time, so finding time to write takes planning and less sleep than I’d like. After school, I’d come home, do my teacher homework, say hello to my wife, and write for 4-5 hours. On weekends, I write 10 -12 hours a day unless I have other activities planned. The summer is the same 10-12 hour writing schedule. It’s a lot, but I love writing so it doesn’t usually feel like work.
10. Where do your ideas come from?
I have to know the very end of a story before I start writing it. If it isn’t a powerful ending then there doesn’t seem to be a good reason to continue. In the case of Our Souls to Keep, I knew the ending first. Soon after, a clear understanding of Wake and Annemarie followed. Then the challenge was crafting a story around them. It took quite a few laps around my house, but I had a rough plot in a weekend. It changed quite a bit in the writing process, but the ending and the core characters remained true.
11. What was the hardest thing about writing your latest book? What is the easiest thing?
Actually, I don’t think anything is easy about writing. There’s a respect and intensity to every moment because every detail, even the smallest detail, matters in the overall quality of a story. But the hardest part of writing a story is knowing where the story should start because that’s where you either grab the reader or give them a reason to put it down for good. If I start too far back in the story the details are unnecessary and boring, too far ahead and readers will feel confused and slighted. It’s a delicate balance.
12. How long on average does it take you to write a book?
About a year, draft to release. Although with the popularity of Our Souls to Keep, my time is drawn in other directions that have very little to do with writing. Some of those things I really enjoy, like responding to reader’s questions.
13. Do you ever get writer’s block?
Never. I’ve had times when I didn’t know where I was headed or how to fix a hole in the story, but I just write. Most of the time I end up deleting it, but every once in a while, I get a great idea, or a line of dialogue I can run with. The important thing is to write, even when you feel uninspired.
14. How many more books do you plan to be in this series?
Right now, I’m planning three books in this series, but this is a story with a very large scope. Ultimately, I’ll let Wake decide where the story ends.
15. What project are you working on now?
I mentioned before that 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.
16. Who designs your book covers?
Very early on I realized that my creativity stopped on the pages in the book. I was lucky to find Glen Edelstein. He’s a very talented graphics designer out of New York.
17. Where can you see yourself in 5 years time?
Older, but really doing the same thing I’m doing now only much better. I’m a very blessed person. I have two jobs, teaching and writing, that I love. I have a wonderful wife and a loving family. I have a circle of caring and supportive friends who I both admire and adore.
18. What advice would you give to your younger self?
My first reaction is to tell myself to pay attention more in class, and to avoid that one girlfriend, I would know who I mean. When I really think about it, the truth is that my life has taken a certain path. Some of it was hard, some of it was rewarding, but I would rather allow my life to unfold the way it did. I’m really a happy person. I wouldn’t want to change a thing.
19. How can readers discover more about you?
You can also find me lurking around Google+.
20. To end: Give us three Good to Know things about you.
- I can play video games for hours with my grandchildren without the slightest hope of winning and still enjoy myself.
- I choose my friends carefully. I prefer quality over quantity.
- I love dark chocolate, about 75% cocoa powder and beans from Venezuela. Actually, I think chocolate should have its own food group.
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.”
“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.