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Michael James Gallagher's interview

 Michael James Gallagher

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1. You’re due to publish ‘Diamond Rain’ in April 2015.  Can you tell us something about the plot please?

Will Thomas ever shake off his run of bad luck?  From tough beginnings in the Bogside of Derry during the Irish 'Troubles', Thomas and his family slip away to coastal Maine. After more hardship, Thomas forms lasting bonds with Lanky and Billy and he embarks upon a career as a photographer.

Just as Thomas takes a job with an international news organization, events threaten to overturn the world. On assignment, chance brings him Kefira, only to snatch her away in the blink of an eye. But all is not lost. Before the humanoids kidnap her, Kefira gives him a powerful technology.

Equipped with Nanotech, Thomas believes he can rescue her and defeat a reincarnated Mao Tse Tung in Central China. Can he master the Nanosuit and reverse his fortunes?  One thing is certain, he'll do everything in his power to try.

2. You use ‘Mind maps’ in your writing.  Could you elaborate a little on this for us please?

When you're in the throes of a first draft and the sound of keystrokes slaps like the sound of skipping along on the train tracks to Patagonia; sometimes you forget the color of your secondary character's hair or the brand of cigar he smokes. In waltzes a mind map you keep updating with evolutionary changes in behaviour and likes or dislikes. Quick reference! Just scroll down in Scrivener (I am plugging them here 'cause it's such a matchless tool for writers.) and pop open the mind map for characters stored in your research file. 'Voila'! All of your minor and major people are clearly laid out in tree diagrams that you built up during the research stage of the first draft.

On a larger scale, Scrapple (another outstanding tool by Scrivener) lets you make story plots and subplots in the same easy moveable boxes that connect with dotted lines simply by hold and click then touch. Usually, I use keyword phrases to create capsules representing the main ideas in any given chapter. The brainstorming technique I learned as a teacher from the greatest storyteller in ESL today, Mario Rinvolucri. He's a genius who revolutionized my teaching career early on. I was invited to the UK to study and compare teaching with technology and attended a conference. Picture it! A warm-hearted, paunchy guy stood up in a British Council sponsored workshop. He was wearing a hand sewn calf-length coat covered with images. What he did blew me away. He started telling a story in Spanish and he gestured, expressed, doubled-back and referenced all of our listening strategies. The long and the short of it. With the help of a brainstorming exercise following his exposition, all the non-Spanish speakers in the room could re-tell the story.

My plot mind maps resemble the brainstorms Mister Rinvolucri taught us how to how to craft that day. How? From there hangs a 'tale' representing the thought process of an evolving story. The beauty of his method is that there is no one correct way to finish. Unending possibilities. Now, Just as Rinvolucri revolutionized the way I taught ESL, he has spawned a creative tool in my second career. Stephen King calls it keeping yourself on edge to be sure your readers are there as well. Though plotting makes sense, my eclectic personality and ADHD mitigate against it. I love King's idea of getting your character in a jam and then watching the story get them out of it again.

3. Have you always had the urge to write, or did you start later in life?

Started writing regularly 25 years ago. Before that I sat in cafes and pretended. For the last 4 years writing thrillers liberated me from writing about myself and opened up a whole new side of my life.

4.   Once Diamond Rain is published, will you be starting on anything new?

Spent 6 weeks in Costa Rica and got 125 pages into a romance called Monkey Love about a 30-something, under the volcano born naturalist with commitment problems who loves and preserves Howler monkeys. The place just drips family saga and romance. Warm, proud people who are unabashedly tolerant. Really. Also started the third part of my Spy Stories and Tales of Intrigue Series. Billy's Back spins a likeable minor character I introduced in Diamond Rain and finds him confronting a plot to import Ebola. Kefira and Thomas are on the watch too. Let's not forget the Nanosuits either.

When I got back from Costa Rica, on a whim, I entered a thriller writing contest at a site called Author Crowd. I've won the last three monthly chapter instalments in my category. It's pure futuristic fantasy science fiction. Whispering Just A Dream features a male protagonist in a dystopian nightmare.

5. Is there anything of your own life events in your books?

Tango. Taking up dancing seriously 16 years ago introduced pure pleasure and friends all over the world into my life and I had to include it in my books.

6. Do you tend to harbour grudges, or do you forgive and forget?

Picture that scene from The Sting when Lonegren finally starts playing poker on the train and you know my grandfather, a florid-faced man with a pocket full of candies and a warm smile. When I was six, he took me aside one day after his monthly trip to New York on the redeye to New York. He always played poker there. He said, "Remember Mikey, always forgive your enemies, but never forget their names." Then he took my hand and stick it in his pocket full of candies and laughed.

7. You try and use unusual tactics when you teach English, such as instructing your students in English how to tango.  Do you find this works better than learning by rote from a book?

Laughter is the best teacher. When people laugh in a classroom, especially a language teaching class, the learning process goes into hyper drive and people don't even know they are soaking up the knowledge they paid for. For me, teaching is 90 percent soft-shoe.

8. Which book could you read over and over again?

I read Eon by Greg Bear several times over the last few years and Len Deighton's blockbuster series, especially the Faith, Hope and Charity trilogy, but I re-read the whole nine books and still marvel at a story that runs through so many books. Bernard Samson, Deighton's anti-hero played often played by Michael Caine would be a loyal friend in my life anytime.

9. Are you self-published?

Yes, but Matbuat Publishing Group just picked up the rights for my first novel, Tsunami Connection, and will be releasing it in Germany and Turkey next year.

10. Have you always lived in Montreal?

My wife, two amazing daughters and I have lived for thirty years in Montreal and shared the city with the backwoods of Northern Vermont near Jay Peak on weekends and in the summers.

11. Have you ever seen a ghost?

A shiver ran down my back one day as we walked around Lac des Boulots not 10 kilometres from our house. A man stared at me and his face became a skeleton, but he looked away and I said to my beautiful wife, Ilona: "I just saw my death." We kept walking, but to this day I believe I saw the grim reaper and he decided not to take me. Ilona insists there was no man on the trail that day.

On another occasion, my wife and I were watching TV and a rustling sound disturbed our concentration while a chilling breeze passed through our tightly sealed room in winter. I turned to Ilona and said: "Your father's here."

She laughed, but half an hour later we got a phone call from Poland saying her father had passed.

12. What do you like about Costa Rica?  What is it about the country that motivated you into writing again?

Lovely warm tolerant people living by the code of Pura Vida. Costa Rica has a special atmosphere. I was surprised to find that loads of single women retire there because it’s hot and because no one ever bothers them even late at night on the street, in the small towns. They say San Jose, the capital is different but I didn't go there. Maybe having no military's the way to go.

13. What is your favourite song?

Seven years ago we went to Buenos Aires to study tango for eight weeks. After four weeks of 8 hours-a-day dancing, one evening at the Confeteria, I picked up my courage to launch us into the rule-governed swirl of madness on the floor and succeeded in making it around the floor for the first time without hitting any other dancers-no small task. The song was ‘Poema’ by Francisco Canaro and his Orchestra Tipica circa 1930.

14. Your books will soon be translated into Turkish.  Do you worry that any subtle plot nuances or humour might be lost in the translation?

Part of my book features a loving relationship between a sonless man for his daughter in Indonesia. Just before a tsunami swallows them they go through a morning prayer ritual in which I tried very hard to be respectful of praying and descriptions of faith. Sometimes I worry that a translator will not share my convictions about the sanctity of prayer. So I guess the answer is yes.

15.  Which one possession would you save on a sinking ship?

My glasses.

16.  How do you market your books?

I spend hours on Facebook and twitter and many related social media sites. For an unknown author like me, it is difficult to find readers. What I have found is an amazingly supportive and helpful group of Indie authors always out there ready to lend me a helping hand or an encouraging word when the task of making my work known becomes discouraging.

17.  Do you think it’s worth promoting your books on Twitter?

Hard to say, but I do it.

18.  What advice do you have for would-be authors just starting out?

Write 2000 words a day and start a mailing list as soon as you can. Perhaps a mailing list of potential readers is as important as your writing.

19.  Have you any regrets in life?

Regret is a waste of energy. Live in the moment.

20.  Which one possession could you not do without on a desert island?

My glasses.

Thanks Michael for your entertaining and interesting answers!