Thursday, September 26, 2013

Author Spotlight: Geoffrey Girard

Remember your high school English teachers? One of them was the strict grammarian, right? He seemed like he was always on the edge, ready to break into a million jagged pieces if you wandered just a little bit from the tidy corner of Strunk & White. There was the classic lit teacher—she was at least 100 years old and could quote Shakespeare and Dante better than Shakespeare and Dante. And what about the grizzled fireplug who taught you bits and shards about Twain and Hemingway and Faulkner when he wasn’t investing way more energy coaching the school football team, visions of state championships and college sidelines swirling in his head.

But then there was the other English teacher. The cool one, as cool as you dared believe any high school English teacher can be. He seemed to get you, and you seemed to get him, and even though neither of you had a clue about what the other did off school grounds, to this day you smile when you remember what he taught you about reading and writing that matters.

That man is our guest today on the Gazalapalooza Author Spotlight. His name is Geoffrey Girard, and his new scary thriller Cain’s Blood is fresh of the presses. When he’s not teaching English at a prestigious private boys’ high school in Ohio, he’s writing, and winning awards and accolades for what he writes. Exemplifying the latter, no less an authority than the National Book Examiner calls Cain’s Blood, "Compelling and repulsive… A page-turner par excellence."

It appears our esteemed authorial colleague Mr. Girard copes masterfully with the grisly, and the macabre. Cain’s Blood is exhibit one on that score, trust us. Perhaps it’s too much to hope that the piercing beams from our array of unforgiving klieg lights will make the man sweat, or squirm a bit. But hope o we will, as we get this edition of the Author Spotlight underway.

Gazala:    In my omnipotence, I've sentenced you to be stranded alone on a desert island for offenses best left unnamed. In my beneficence, I've decided to allow you a limited amount of reading material to make your stay a little less bleak than it would otherwise be. I'll spot you your religious text of preference, and the collected works of William Shakespeare. In addition to those, name the one fiction book, and the one nonfiction book, you'd choose to take with you, and tell why you choose them.

Girard:    Literary practicality wins here. There are perfect books I’ve reread a dozen times (e.g., A Prayer for Owen Meany, Shadowland, Dubliners), but the idea of having to read only one of them for the rest of my life is not appealing. And while The Lord of the Rings is probably the most pivotal fiction of my life, the writing itself ain’t all that hot. So… I’m gonna go with Infinite Jest. I think Wallace is a brilliant writer and thinker. I reread his shorter work often just for the language, but have only tackled Jest once. At 1000+ pages, that’s a lot of ground still to cover a few more times. Broken up, Infinite Jest can be hundreds of stand-alone stories/scenes.  It’s my generation’s The Divine Comedy in a way, I think. So, plenty to think over there.

Since you’ve stranded me alone on a desert island, under those circumstances there is no nonfiction book I’d ever want to re-read other than 1000 Ways to Cook a Seagull. (Ed. note:  despite valiant effort, to date Gazalapalooza’s crack staff of expert librarians has been unable to confirm the existence of this book. The closest they’ve gotten is 1001 Ways to Cook Jonathan Livingston Seagull.)

Gazala:    Your latest book is an excellent and gripping novel titled Cain's Blood, centered on the U.S. Defense Department's use of cloned DNA from nefarious serial killers to develop a new breed of terrifying bioweapon. I've read it. I enjoyed it immensely, and recommend it highly. Shockingly enough, however, from time to time my bare recommendation doesn't always motivate a book's potential reader to become a book's actual reader. Tell us something about Cain's Blood, and why its potential reader should make the leap and become its actual reader.

Girard:    Thank you for the endorsement.

For thriller/horror fans: Cain’s Blood is Jurassic Park with serial killers. If you’re a serial killer aficionada, you might enjoy. They’re all here: Gacy, Bundy, Dahmer, Fish, etc. And they’re all teens, some of who would scare the shit out of their genetic forefathers. There’s some dark fun to be had. The Ruins author (ed. note: Scott Smith) called Cain’s Blood “deeply twisted,” and R.L. Stine says it “still creeps him out.” Coming from those guys…

For you English-class lovers:  Cain’s Blood is something more like Huckleberry Finn, or On the Road. Two broken characters (a war vet not quite home yet and a teen who’s just discovered he’s the clone of Jeffrey Dahmer) make their way across America (and all that means), figuring out how to deal with each other and themselves, and hopefully come out okay on the other side.

Gazala:    What are books for?

Girard:    Easier than finding a cave to paint on, I suppose. I teach high school English and am always reminding the guys that Art is Art: be it a book, song, painting, dance, video game, movie, etc.  Even when it’s “just” entertainment, there’s usually a legit and worthwhile portrayal/ examination of “being human” within that entertainment. And for those books, songs, etc., that strive to dig a little deeper, all the better. Books are simply one way to do that.

Gazala:    W. Somerset Maugham said, "There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are." Do you agree, or disagree, and why?

Girard:    I might make it ten rules to writing to muck it up even more.  Yes, I agree no one knows what these rules (three, ten, or 50) are. I believe Twain has some line to the effect that the three rules are:  write, write and… write.  Other than that, who knows? I’ve been doing this seriously about ten years and have met a hundred other authors, each with his or her own style, methods, voice, habits, weaknesses, craft, etc. And even once you’ve tied it down to one writer, they’ll change it up too. Cain’s Blood was written in an entirely different way than Project Cain (a spinoff I wrote for teen readers). I changed up the devices used, voice, story structure, mechanics, etc. Wanted to try something new for that particular wall painting.  Part of the fun of writing (and reading) is trying new things, even it proves personally unsatisfying in the end.

Gazala:    I'm knee-deep in a robust philosophical argument about nature versus nurture with a weird guy who calls himself Tad Bundy. This may take a while. Ask yourself a question, and answer it.

Girard:    Q: Do you think the science in Cain’s Blood is possible? A: We went from cloning sheep to cloning monkeys in just three years. And that was 15 years ago. You’re asking me to believe we haven’t gone from monkey to human in those ensuing 15 years? That’s absurd. Furthermore, America spends more money researching weapons than it does on medicine, agriculture, manufacturing, education, and transportation combined. And most all of that research is conducted via black budgets with 0.0 regulation or public accountability. I’d say “possible” is fair.

Compelling and repulsive though it surely sounds, we still can’t track down a copy of 1000 Ways to Cook a Seagull. We’re not often stumped—it’s quite disturbing. How can we make this up to you, our very gracious and stunningly attractive reader? By positioning you with the merest mouse click to get your own copy of Geoffrey Girard’s Cain’s Blood right from, that’s how. We overpay our debts, here. You’re welcome.