welcomes as our guest Gary Smith author of The Willing.

Norm: Good day Gary and thanks for participating in our interview.

Please tell our readers a little bit about your personal and professional background.

Gary: I was born in Hayward CA. I was a sophomore in high school when I decided not to go to college and dropped all my college preparatory classes. I could not wait to get on with life. Out of high school, I went to work as a common construction labor.

After a few years, I was accepted as an electrician apprentice. I started my own electrical construction business at the age of 30. My company did heavy industrial work and completed projects in 32 states I retired from the business at the age of 62.

Along the way, I developed and patented three tools for the industry, received the Hayward Small Business Award, Hayward Volunteer of the Year Award, Hayward, and Rotarian of the Year Award. I was recognized with a water well in my name in Africa for my organizing the installation of 300 wells in Ghana.

I have served on many local foundation boards and served as Vice President of the board of directors of a local hospital. I currently serve as Chairman of the Peter Sategna Educational Foundation, which gives out $40,000.00 a year in grants to students in both the United States and Italy. I am a Fine Art photographer with my work held in both privet and public collections; in 1983 was accepted to the Ansel Adams Workshop. I still live in Hayward CA.

Norm: Are you a full-time or part-time writer? How does that affect your writing?

Gary: I consider myself a full-time author, and write most every day. I believe there is a difference between an author and a writer. I feel writing under a deadline or for an assignment to be much more difficult than what I do. I have dyslexia and could never do what most writers do.

Norm: How did you become involved with the subject or theme of your book, The Willing?

Gary: I started studying Italian in 2011 and became fascinated with the culture and the renaissance. Danti Alighieri and his love for Beatrice, Francesco Petrarca and his love for Laura, and Michelangelo and Vittoria Colonna, and courtly love. It seemed to me it was a more accepted practice back then. I thought I would explore Courtly Love in a modern setting.

Norm: Why did you choose to write the book as a novella rather than a full length novel?

Gary: I wrote the book exploring two ideas of deeper meanings, surrounded by a story that supported them. I felt the book had fully explored them. Too, add more to the story would only dilute what I was trying to say.

Norm: How did you go about choosing the title and what does it stand for?

Gary: My whole life, I have observed men who have lived their life with an extreme clarity when making a decision. A decision not based on a list of advantages or disadvantages, the old plus and minus list, but based on what they can live with or not.

These men are willing, to accept the consequences of their decisions. Example: A hand grenade lands in the middle of the squad. A solder jumps on it. Maybe his Kevlar vest is enough to save his life, maybe the grenade doesn’t go off, doesn’t matter. When he decided to go to war he was willing to accept the consequences of that decision.

Norm: What was the time-line between the time you decided to write your book and publication? What were the major events along the way?

Gary: The time between starting the book and publication was 13 months.

I went back to school for a spring semester of Italian, then to school in Florence Italy to study Italian. The book was written mostly over about a 12-week period between school breaks.

Norm: How did you go about creating the characters of Warren Steelgrave and Cindy O'Brian? As a follow up, is there much of you in Warren?

Gary: This is a tough question for me. Warren Steelgrave came to me as I was sitting in my Italian class admiring a very beautiful girl and thinking about the idea of courtly love. I think there is a little bit of Warren in every man, and maybe more than they will admit to themselves. I truly believe that all art is a reflection in part, of the artist. It is what I believe separates an artist from a great craftsmen. An artist leaves part of themselves in their work.

Norm: What purpose do you believe your story serves and what matters to you about the story?

Gary: I had a women who was a devout Catholic write me after reading the book. She said 30 years ago unexpectedly she and a man fell in love. They were both married and for 30 years, their only contact was to have lunch on his birthday every year.

She wrote to tell me the book made her understand they did nothing wrong, it was nothing they could control and finally after 30 years the guilt of falling in love has been lifted. That made the effort that went into the book worth it.

Norm: What do you think most characterizes your writing and what was the most difficult part of writing this book?

Gary: I was asked once, what I liked to photograph and I replied feelings. I wanted my photographs to provoke a response to the viewer good or bad. I would say it’s the same for the writing. I really didn’t have a difficult part of the book. After about chapter three the characters took over and I just followed where they wanted to go. I couldn’t wait each day to start writing to see what they had in store for me.

Norm: Where can our readers find out more about you and The Willing?

Gary: Amazon, Barns & Noble, Goodreads and many local independent bookstore,

Norm: What is next for Gary Smith?

Gary: I have written a dark short story. I have had many requests for a sequel to The Willing that I have started and I am about 18,000 words into.

Norm: As this interview draws to a close what one question would you have liked me to ask you? Please share your answer. 

Gary: I can’t think of one. I would like to express my thanks to you and your support of authors.

Norm: Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions. It's been an absolute pleasure to read your work. Good luck with The Willing!

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