FQ: What a joy it was to read the Multima Trilogy. As with the first two books in the series, Unrelenting Peril was a fantastic book. Once again, you managed to fold new characters into this last book and further enhanced the personas of returning characters. I don’t want to spoil the suspense, but Howard Knight certainly had quite the run of good fortune in Unrelenting Peril. Why not kill him off versus the shocker of someone quite close to The Organization?
McGUGAN: Thank you again for your kind words and the opportunity to chat about my books. Readers will know I like to portray Knight as a complex character. He has both streaks of brilliance and unpredictable foibles or weaknesses like every human being. Hopefully, they’ll also notice the way I peel back more layers of his character in every story. The character who died was indeed close to The Organization. I sacrificed him to reinforce the single-mindedness of that criminal element’s obsessed boss and his heartless resolve to win—even if it put those closest to him in grave danger.
FQ: Now that Unrelenting Peril is in your rear-view mirror, you mentioned you will ‘...launch four of the naughtiest characters from the Multima trilogy on an entirely new trajectory...’ In order to do so, will it be corporate intrigue, or will you set the scene on an entirely new backdrop?
McGUGAN: Pernicious Pursuit is the title of my next novel, and it will be released later this month. The subtitle on the cover is “A Howard Knight Escapade.” So, now you know another very compelling reason for me not killing him off in Unrelenting Peril! In the new story, readers will get to know Knight even better. As you might guess, he’ll be the pursued, and the story will take place almost entirely in Europe. During these days of a pandemic—when most of us are unable to travel—this story might become a great way for readers to escape their living rooms to explore Europe in an action-packed suspense story!
FQ: I never got a distinct understanding of the group who detained Howard Knight. In some respects, it sounded like the FBI or CIA, but they sounded a bit rogue while Howard was detained at Guantanamo Detention Center. The situation seemed to throw shade toward John George Mortimer and it didn’t bode well with Suzanne Simpson. Why not go a bit deeper into this subplot?
McGUGAN: It was the FBI, but I intentionally blurred responsibility to demonstrate how easily rogue elements of either agency might act if they were given a chance. In the past twenty years, both the CIA and FBI have been granted extraordinary latitude and power, ostensibly to fight terrorism. While these agencies often compete with each other, history shows they also often cooperate and occasionally operate outside American law in places like Cuba.
I didn’t intend to make either of these agencies focal points of the story. Instead, I wanted to draw attention to how easy it is for powerful business moguls like John George to influence actions in the name of counter-terrorism for reasons totally unrelated to terror. Money and influence can be powerful differentiators.
FQ: Douglas Whitfield didn’t have a very long rein at Venture Capital Inc. (VCI) and it was quite the shocker to learn how deep his connection with The Organization ran. Why pen his outcome the way you did?
McGUGAN: As I mentioned, his sacrifice is really to help portray the villainy of Giancarlo Moreno, head of The Organization. But I think some readers will feel that he met a fitting end. After all, he demonstrated many of the same characteristics as Mareno in the way he treated his friends and part-time lover Janet Weissel.
FQ: If character Suzanne Simpson were a real CEO leading a real Fortune 500 corporation, what corporation would that be and why?
McGUGAN: I think Suzanne Simpson could lead almost any Fortune 500 company she chose. Unrelenting Peril shows she is an intelligent, perceptive executive with outstanding critical thinking skills. But she would almost certainly head a corporation with multiple business units where leadership and people skills are most vital.
FQ: Why did you bring back certain characters that led the reader to believe he/she was either on their way out or already out? I understand to a certain extent but wonder if your method was to reintroduce him/her as a placeholder for that ‘new trajectory’ you mentioned you’re working on.
McGUGAN: During my long business career, I learned that change is the only thing “constant” in life. I try to reflect that reality in my stories. While we might think one character is in decline or on the way out, circumstances can suddenly create a demand for their qualities and help their star ascend. Conversely, just when we think someone is on top of the world, conditions can change their clout in the blink of an eye. I believe use of these realities also creates more excitement in a story! Sometimes this tendency can also serve as a placeholder as you suggest. Certainly, that will be the case in Pernicious Pursuit.
FQ: This series had a pace and plot that often had me thinking about John Grisham. Who are some of your ‘go to’ authors for inspiration and why him or her?
McGUGAN: I thank you for the compliment! To be mentioned in the same sentence as John Grisham is indeed an honor. I have read every book he has written and love his style. I think he has influenced my writing more than any other single author. Two others have also had considerable influence. James Patterson and his penchant for short sentences, short paragraphs, and short chapters. I try to emulate that style. African writer Wilbur Smith is another favorite. His ability to describe people and settings is remarkable.
FQ: In a previous interview, you mentioned ideas come to you when you take walks. What about travel? Where is one place you have traveled in your lifetime that left such an indelible impression on you it anchored itself in your memory to write about it some day? Has that place surfaced, or will it materialize in a future body of work? Why this place?
McGUGAN: I’ve had the good fortune to visit, work, or live in more than 55 countries. People often ask me which I enjoy the most or which influenced me more. I always give the same answer. Every place I have visited has some remarkable quality that makes it unique. It might be the scenery, the culture, or the people. And I remember those special characteristics fondly.
Conversely, no place in the world is perfect. Every city, nation, or continent has some characteristics that merit change or improvement. As a writer, I think part of my responsibility is to highlight some attributes of places in my writing. But I also believe it is equally important to draw attention to some characteristics that are harmful or dangerous. Sometimes I try to do that subtly. Other times, I use a blunt instrument.
FQ: I cannot express enough what a pleasure it’s been to read your books and spend time sharing the experience with you. I look forward to your future work and welcome the opportunity if it presents to review your new work as well.
McGUGAN: Thank you so much for the kind words and opportunity to chat with you and your audience. I hope you’ll watch for, and review, Pernicious Pursuit next month!
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