Monday, February 17, 2014

Author Interview: Dan Gainor

Martinus Publishing’s latest anthology, VFW: Veterans of the Future Wars, is now available!  Throughout the month of February, I’ll be interviewing some of the authors who have stories featured in this collection. Today, I'm interviewing Dan Gainor, the skilled author who contributed “Flight Deck.”  Thank you for taking the time to be interviewed, Dan.

MTI:  Starting off, could you tell our readers a little bit about yourself?

DAN GAINOR: I’m a career editor and writer, but I’ve only recently started to pursue my passion of writing fiction. I’ve read sci-fi since I was a kid and was a science fiction/fantasy/horror critic for about two years. I’m proud to say this story is my first fiction published anywhere. And I really want to thank you and all the readers for making that happen.

MTI:  Now, getting down to business; what first compelled you to weave fiction, and what's your favorite type of story to write?

DG:  As a little boy, I remember having a bad recurring nightmare. It dawned on me that if I thought hard enough what to do, I might alter the story. It worked. I’ve been weaving stories in my head ever since. I think my favorite stories to read are those that take people from our conventional world and expose them to the fantastic – either going somewhere else or having it come here. I want to write of heroes and heroines. Of ordinary people doing extraordinary things.  I’m still figuring out what my favorite stories are to write.

MTI:  Tell me, if you had to pick just one author who has influenced or inspired you, who would it be?

DG:  Like many authors, I could list dozens, especially ones from my youth. (Thank you, Andre Norton.) But I’ll stick to William Forstchen whose writing is so inspiring that friends of mine started calling his “Lost Regiment” books, “The Books” with a kind of reverence we’d hold for “Lord of the Rings.”

MTI:  “Flight Deck” appears in VFW, an anthology of military science fiction that honors soldiers and veterans.  Was there any particular inspiration for this story?

DG:  A couple years ago, I was fortunate enough to fly out to the USS George H.W. Bush and catapult off. It was an incredible experience through the Naval Institute. It was a VIP tour and there we met a ton of admirals. I expected them to be impressive and they were. But this is the most powerful weapon in the world and it’s manned by men and women who are an average age of 19. Through guts, hard work and the efforts of the officers and master chief, they had become an amazing crew that protects our freedom. I am proud of every single one of them. God bless them for being on the pointy end defending us every day.

MTI:  If you could go back to any point in history, when would you visit?

DG:  That’s hard to decide. Part of me wants to be there for the signing of the Declaration of Independence. But I would rather be in the time of Jesus and seek some of the answers all of us carry around in our hearts.

MTI:  Definitely two of the most fundamental times in human history!  During your impressive career, you’ve no doubt met some fascinating people.  What are a few of your most memorable encounters?

DG:  Working in D.C., you meet a lot of congressmen and senators. But when I was an editor working on a paper in Baltimore, I met several Holocaust survivors. To have lived through what they had to endure and moved on and had lives is incredibly inspiring.

For famous people, I have to give a shout out to the late G. Gordon Liddy. I met him at a society ball when I first came to Washington. I was there because of my newspaper work, but I didn’t fit in. Gordon was kind of enough to strike up a conversation with me in the line to the bar. He was the first D.C. celeb to ever treat me as a human. Years later, I was on his radio show many times. But I never forgot that kindness.

MTI:  Shifting back to your writing, can you tell us a little about what you're working on right now?

DG:  I’m in the midst of the Martinus writing competition and that’s keeping me busy. When that’s done, there’s a book idea that has been languishing but that I love. It’s not really my genre, more of a thriller, but I think it’s bubbling up out of my soul. Time to finish it. I also have a sci-fi novel that I’ve finished but want to re-edit some. Time for that too.

MTI:  Other than your contribution to VFW, you have another short story, “We the People” being published in the forthcoming Martinus Publishing anthology Altered America.  Tell our readers a little about that fascinating piece.

DG:  This is probably as close as I can come to merging my political life with my fiction. I was having dinner with one of my friends one night and he said something about what the Founders would say about our society now. Political people make that argument all the time. I decided to think it through and imagine someone trying to bring back the greatest minds of our past. And why.

MTI:  On a lighter note, have you watched any good tv lately?

DG:  I watch TV for a living. But that makes TV work sometimes. Most of the shows I watch disappoint me, especially “Revolution.” But I watched an episode of “Blue Bloods” recently, with Tom Selleck. It was excellent, inspiring, faithful, heart-felt and patriotic. If I can write my fiction encompassing those elements, I’ll consider myself a success.

MTI:  I’ve heard a lot of good things about Blue Bloods, and Tom Selleck is a fantastic actor.  I’ll have to check it out.  Anyway, what sort of music do you prefer?

DG:  I love lyrics and I listen to a lot of Irish music – Dropkick Murphy’s, the Pogues and Saw Doctors. But my favorite band is Black 47 out of New York. Larry Kirwan is a great writer and his songs really tell a story. He’s also a damn nice guy. Our politics are completely different, yet I really respect and admire him. They are on their farewell tour this year after an incredible run. Check them out. You won’t be disappointed. If you want to hear one song, try “Mychal,” a tribute to Father Mychal Judge who died on 9-11. It’s incredible and reminds me of those we lost that day, including two of my MBA classmates who died in the Pentagon. If that song doesn’t make you want to hear another, you have no soul.

MTI:  You have the attention of potential readers.  Are there any great words of wisdom you’d like to share with them?

DG:  I have been reading since I was very little. It’s one of God’s greatest gifts to us. It can anger or inspire, entice or amuse. And it’s something that is in every one of us. Write – a blog, a short story, a poem, a song or a book. You aren’t just writing for your readers, you are writing for yourself. And, if you build your world well enough, you are writing to give those characters the life they deserve. Share them with others and they might live forever. Maybe that sounds a little crazy, but once you create a character, you give that character life like the golem. Some of the greatest in history, Shakespeare’s Henry V or the Three Musketeers – live on hundreds of years later. That’s more than any author can ask.

MTI:  Readers love free samples.  Is there anything you’d like to share with us today, perhaps something new or recent that you’ve written?

The first page of “Standing Watch:”

The alarm bell clanged obnoxiously at 5:45 and John rolled over and resisted the temptation to throw the clock across the room. Like its owner, the wind-up alarm clock was a little out of date, very functional and at times very annoying.

            John liked to think of those things as some of his good qualities. In any case, they went well with being a cop. That was all John ever wanted to be growing up in South Baltimore. Dad had worked on the docks and expected his oldest to follow in those footsteps. But Uncle Willie had been a police officer and told wild tales of cops and robbers – some of them even true. By the time he was 5, little Johnny was hooked. By 10, he was reading the crime log in the newspaper.

            Dad gave up fighting it and decided to help. When John got out of high school and applied, his application landed deep in a pile of also-rans. The physical tests and lie detector has been easy. John had never excelled at academics and the entrance exam was no exception.

            Dad intervened. He took him to see City Councilman Anthony Bonanno, allegedly a distant relative to mafia don Joe Bonanno. In Baltimore’s Little Italy, that actually was a vote-getting bonus and Bonanno played it up as a don of local politics.

            John still remembered the look on the councilman’s face as his father spoke. When Bonanno seemed confused why he should help, dad reminded him he was a shift foreman. “It’s for the union,” he said. That meant votes. Bonanno just smiled and replied with a straight face: “Wisnieski, eh? Good Italian name.”

            Like any bureaucracy, the city police operated on favors. Bonanno made a quick phone call and John’s mediocre test scores were ignored. One name was added to the recruit list. Another subtracted. The scales of justice went back into balance – Baltimore style.

            John was determined to never need that kind of help again. He became a damn good cop.

MTI:  Excellent stuff.  It’s always a pleasure.  Thanks for an exceptional interview.  Those who want to check out more of Dan Gainor’s stuff can pick up a copy of VFW: Veterans of the Future Wars today, and Altered America around the first of April.

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