About Gary + Frequently Asked Questions
Gary McAvoy has turned his mind and expertise to many pursuits in life, and has been a working writer through all of it. Skills honed in his twenties—writing columns for a small-town weekly newspaper and articles for a regional Southern California magazine—laid a foundation for corporate communications work supporting his own and clients’ businesses, and later to authoring nonfiction books and novels. Fascination with cryptology and intelligence during his U.S. Army tour in Germany triggered Gary’s lifelong entrepreneurial interests blending communications with information technology—and his lifelong passion for European travel.
Following his years of military service, Gary built a number of successful ventures in Southern California before being drawn to the Pacific Northwest in the 1990s by the promise of its burgeoning software industry. His immersion with startups in that field led to leadership positions with the Washington Software Alliance and his first book, Cracking the New E-conomy: Business Tools for the Entrepreneur, with his passion for literary works and historical collectibles forming engaging side interests.
As it often is with entrepreneurs, each of Gary’s endeavors spilled over into the next to create intriguing opportunities. Among these was meeting and working with world-renowned primatologist Dr. Jane Goodall, which fostered a close and lasting bond that led to their collaborative work on Harvest for Hope: A Guide to Mindful Eating and years of volunteer work on behalf of the Jane Goodall Institute, and later, the Seattle Humane Society.
A collector of handwritten documents spanning fields of history, literature, and entertainment, in 1998 Gary launched Vintage Memorabilia, where he gained a following as a reputable dealer of first edition books and vintage letters and manuscripts. It was here where the many strands of interest and accomplishment that marked his various ventures over the years blended in a complex and thoroughly unexpected weave, when in 2012 a client approached Gary with an intriguing historical consignment that would form the basis for his 2019 book, And Every Word Is True, a fresh look at the investigation of the 1959 Clutter murder case made famous in Truman Capote’s book In Cold Blood.
1962 letter from Truman Capote to KBI Special Agent Harold Nye
Growing up in a large Catholic family, Gary has always had a fascination with the Vatican and its global influence, and the people who devote their lives to its work. He attended a Jesuit seminary for a short time himself, but later decided his life would be better informed as an agnostic writer—though his interest in the power of faith never left him, resulting in his first foray into fiction with The Magdalene Chronicles series and Vatican Secret Archive Thrillers.
Frequently Asked Questions
Authors are often asked many questions about their books and work habits, both from readers and other writers, and here I’ve chosen ten of the most commonly asked such questions with candid answers. Hope you find them helpful!
What other writing have you done?
Apart from my fiction, which I started publishing in 2020, I’ve written nonfiction in And Every Word Is True, which many have lauded as a sequel to Truman Capote’s masterwork In Cold Blood; and I co-authored Harvest for Hope: A Guide to Mindful Eating with the eminent primatologist Dr. Jane Goodall and Gail Hudson. In much earlier years I’d written on a variety of topics for magazines and newspapers.
What made you choose the Historical Fiction genre?
I’ve been a suspense thriller and mystery fan since I was a young boy, starting with The Hardy Boys, then Ian Fleming’s masterful James Bond stories and on to Robert Ludlum’s gripping thrillers, the Bourne series among them. My work isn’t truly Historical Fiction—in which the stories usually take place entirely in a past era—but all my books draw from actual historical mysteries, persons, and events and are incorporated into each story.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Writing is the one thing I most look forward to every single day. I thrive on artistic creation, developing plots that engage, characters that readers can identify with and either love or loathe, and just have fun blending creative fiction with historical facts.
Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
When I began The Magdalene Chronicles series, I knew there was a finite limit to what I could write about, so I decided three books would suffice for that series. But, readers came to love the characters so much I decided to create a new series, Vatican Secret Archive Thrillers, which feature the same characters, places (old and new), and fresh, compelling adventures. So while each book can stand on its own, I always encourage readers to start with The Magdalene Deception, in which the characters are more fully fleshed out and readers get to know them much better for all following books.
What are your favorite authors to read?
Apart from Robert Ludlum and Ian Fleming’s older work, I’ve thrived on Michael Crichton’s amazing books, as well as Erik Larson, Daniel Silva, Ken Follett, Dan Brown, Tim Tigner, Blair Denholm, Brad Parks . . . writers who tend to have taut, gripping, unpredictable, suspense-filled plots.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
Research is the most fun I have while writing. I’m a curious person by nature, and am always absorbing news across a wide range of topics to glean subjects I can incorporate into my work. All of my books are based on some fascinating historical event or person(s), and once I’ve settled on which actual events to write about, my characters simply take their places in each story and become as interested as I am in the history they’re dealing with.
How many hours a day do you write?
From around 9:00 am to noonish you’ll find me doing administrative and marketing work: checking on the previous day’s sales and reviews, monitoring advertising effectiveness, managing email and social networks, reading the news, and managing two small side businesses I own. Then from noon until around 6pm I write nonstop, with frequent breaks to stretch and clear my mind. This is my routine seven days a week, unless I have a sizable client project.
How do you select the names of your characters?
I consider character naming one of the most important steps in building a book. I pore over databases of given and surnames for all nationalities, find a suitable given name for a particular character based on their role in a book, then give them a surname that, when blended, has just the right tone to it. Lastly, I Google the name to make sure it doesn’t conflict with someone famous. Though there’s nothing stopping any writer from using most any name, I’m sensitive to such things myself—especially if the character is a noxious villain.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
I’m happy to say I have no ego tied to my work. I read every review, good or not so good, because I can learn from every one of them. Fortunately, the vast majority of all reviews for my books are 4-5 stars (and authors know when they’re being trolled by low ranking reviewers). My goal is to keep my readers happy and engaged, and if I’m not doing that, I’ll see it in the reviews.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
Usually from four to six months. Then it goes to my editor, who takes another month or so to verify logic and flow, plot development, character consistencies and such, and generally polish it for final publication. Another couple weeks of final setup tasks and it goes out for publication.