GABRIEL BOUTROS: I WRITE TO GET AWAY FROM THE WORLD
Posted by Ognian Georgiev
Gabriel Boutros is a practicing criminal lawyer who started to write few years ago. Sounds familiar? Yeah, there are many attorneys turned to become very successful novelists.
Our next guest released his third book Face/Mask few days ago. We will learn exclusively from the author about the story in the following interview.
– Gabriel, what is your fresh release Face/Mask about?
– While Face/Mask fits into the genre of dystopian fiction, it is not science fiction. It takes place only 25 years from now, so the world is still very recognizable. It’s the story of a man who lives, unhappily, in a world that is slowly decaying around him. There is constant war, the environment is toxic, and the government is corrupt and has no respect for civil rights. His search for a break from the monotony and meaninglessness of his life leads him into heavy gambling, cheating on his wife, and even informing on a relative to the military police, which puts his whole family onto a dangerous path.
The title refers to masks that people must wear to protect themselves from the poisonous air, as well as figurative masks they wear to hide their true natures.
– How did you decide to write the story?
– I wanted to write something which stuck to the original definition of dystopian fiction: which is a story about a place where everything is as bad as possible, the exact opposite of utopian. So, there are no superheroes or teenage girls with special gifts they can use to lead their people to freedom; nor are there space ships or aliens. Instead, the story is about average people who are trapped in an ugly (but, hopefully, realistic) world and how this changes them, so that they lose hope for a happier future, and with it their moral compass. The story follows their struggle to save themselves and their families from the consequences of their own actions.
– What was the biggest challenge during the write up process?
– My biggest challenge was trying to combine the smaller story of a man who hurts the people who love him, with the larger story of a physically and morally decaying world. It could have almost been two stories, but I think I managed to connect the main character’s personal struggles to the problems the outside world as a whole is facing.
– Tell us something more about your main character? Is it close to someone from your real life?
– The main character’s name is Allen Janus. For those who know their Roman mythology, Janus was a god who was usually portrayed as having two-faces. This describes my main character, who is two-faced: people think of him as a happily married family man, but he gambles heavily and spends much of his time with a prostitute. His character isn’t based on anyone I know. What I did to come up with him was to simply imagine myself behaving in a way that was contrary to all my values.
– How much time did you need to finish the story and to publish it?
– I started the story almost three years ago. I spent a few months writing it, and then got stuck in the middle. I just didn’t know what I wanted to do with the characters or the setting that I had. So I left it for over a year, during which time I revised a draft of older story that had been lying around for quite some time, which I eventually published as my first novel, The Guilty. After polishing that draft, then spending some time marketing and promoting The Guilty I felt I was ready to look at Face/Mask again. I think spending such a long period away from it gave me a fresh perspective on the story and I was able to finish it, with revisions and editing in a little less than a year.
– Your legal thriller The Guilty was very well accepted (av. 4,7 stars from 46 Amazon reviews). Give us some insights for the novel?
– I spent 24 years working as a defence attorney in Montreal, so I guess it was only normal that the first book I published would be about a defence attorney in Montreal. I thought it would be boring to have a plot that centered only on whether the lawyer was going to win or lose a case he was fighting. Instead, I decided that my main character was going to be facing a personal and professional crisis. While he is fighting to defend a man he believes is guilty of murder, he starts to question his profession and how he does his job.
I think this internal conflict, and the behind-the-scene insights that I could bring to the story, based on my own professional experiences, have helped this book to be as well-received as it was.
– Your other production is the novella If I Should Die Before I Wake. What may you tell us about it?
– This is my one work which I can say is totally plot-driven. The idea came to me one day that maybe when we fall asleep in this world, we wake up as someone else in another reality. My story is about two people: a mild-mannered account who stole from an organized crime syndicate, and a very macho hit-man who is sent to kill him. But when the killer falls asleep, he dreams that he is the one on the run, and when the man who is on the run falls asleep, he dreams that he is the hardened killer. Or are they two sides to the same person?
– Who are you?
– Just a guy trying to get by, working in a job I enjoy, taking care of my little family, and disappearing into the books that I read as well as those I write whenever I need to get away from the world.
– What are your writing habits?
– I wish I was one of those people who set aside one or two hours to write every morning, and never miss a day. I write in spurts, sometimes every day and for hours on end, sometimes not for weeks or months. I’m easily distracted and a terrible procrastinator. I’d really rather just watch hockey and eat potato chips all day, but then I know the urge to tell my next story would get too strong to resist.
– Are you satisfied by the sales of the book?
– I can’t say I’m satisfied, but I’m not disappointed with how The Guilty did. As mentioned, it got very good reviews, and it has been out almost two years now, and I still get a few sales each week. I think I didn’t do enough to promote it, which is one of the parts of being an independent writer that I like the least, so the sales probably reflect that.
Face/Mask has only been out for a few days, and I’m working hard to get readers to know about it now.
– What are you doing to promote your book by the best possible way?
– I’m doing lots of interviews like this one, writing some guest blogs, etc. I’ll also probably do a Kindle promotion eventually, but I want to see how the early sales go first.
– When we will see your next novel?
– I’ve already got the next idea, and have even written a few draft chapters. I’ll be going back to the Montreal legal scene, although I think my main character will be very different from the lawyer in The Guilty. Based on my experience with my two other full-length books, I’d say about 12-18 months.
– You are a practicing criminal lawyer. How is your work experience helping in your writing?
– In The Guilty, my professional experience was obviously very helpful, as I could get into the minds of the lawyers, and use my insider knowledge to draw a very realistic portrait of how a murder trial unfolds. But I also think that years spent working with so many different kinds of people, most of whom found themselves in very difficult situations, has allowed me to develop a good understanding of human nature, and hopefully this helps me write more interesting and well-rounded characters.
– John Grisham or Robert Dugoni?
– Would you believe I hardly ever read courtroom novels? I read two by Grisham many, many years ago, and none by Dugoni. Two courtroom thrillers I really enjoyed are Reversal by Michael Connolly and Reversible Errors, by Scott Turow, and those are the only ones by either of those authors I ever read. While I enjoyed writing about courtrooms; there are so many great books and writers out there that I love to read from as many different genres as possible.
– You are doing a lot of reviews. What are the most common mistakes that newbie writers are doing in their novels?
– When it comes to independent writers, the most obvious complaint I have is that they rush their work onto the market before it’s ready. Whether it’s full of spelling mistakes, or the writing isn’t as sharp or clear as it could be, or maybe the story is missing important elements. It’s so easy to self-publish now, but some writers don’t bother to spend enough time on the writing part. This leads to my second complaint: Too many writers are trying to copy what others have had success with. Paranormal romances full of werewolves and vampires seem to be the vogue. Or the wild sexual awakening of a timid, repressed woman. At least boy wizards have finally gone out of style. Sometimes I read books that are written with technical skill, but that have no originality to them. It makes me wonder if newbie writers are afraid that they won’t be noticed if they try a different kind of story, but the opposite is true: the only way to be noticed is to write something that nobody else has.
– If you may ask yourself one question in the interview what it will be? (Don’t forget to answer)
– Why do you write? I’ve written off and on for most of my life, but much of it was what I would call doodling: silly little stories just to entertain myself when I got bored. I began writing seriously over a dozen years ago when I was feeling some dissatisfaction with my work as a lawyer, and much of that comes through in The Guilty. But once I finished the first draft of that book, I realized that I really enjoyed writing, and when I don’t have a story to work on I begin to miss it. Now I can’t imagine not having something to write, or at least to think about and plan for. It has become as essential to me, and as natural, as breathing.
Take a look at Gabriel’s books:
About Ognian GeorgievOgnian Georgiev is a sport journalist, who is working as an editor at the "Bulgaria Today" daily newspaper. He covered the Summer Olympics in Beijing 2008 and in London 2012. The author specializes in sports politics, investigations and coverage of Olympic sports events. Ognian Georgiev works as a TV broadcaster for Eurosport Bulgaria, Nova Broadcasting group, TV+, F+ and TV7. He is a commentator for fight sports events such as boxing/kickboxing and MMA. In May 2014 Ognian Georgiev released the English version of his book The White Prisoner: Galabin Boevski's secret story.
Posted on December 23, 2014, in Author, Books, Interview and tagged author, book, Face/Mask, Gabriel Boutros, If I Should Die Before I Wake, interview, the guilty. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.