Interview with K.C. Gillis, Author of Toxic Deception

11 Feb 2020

What can you tell us about your new release, Toxic Deception?

To start, it’s my first novel. That only happens once for a writer, so for me, Toxic Deception is my debut. More importantly, it’s the first book in a series and I have the next three books at different stages of preparation and production, as well as a prequel, available through my website, for anyone interested in joining my email list.

Considering the actual story, the lead character, Jordan Reed, is a young reporter at a Boston newspaper. Still very junior and a bit naïve, she gets drawn into investigating the death of an employee at a biotech company. Without giving too much away, let’s just say that the real story is much more than the employee death, that the biotech company is behind something terrible. Maybe even be something infectious. With the help of a couple of friends, Jordan pieces together seemingly unconnected bits of information to figure out the truth. For sure there is some danger, some seriously tense confrontations, and a couple of truly distasteful characters. I tried to keep the pace quick and share just enough science to make sense.

On the business side of things, I’m at the beginning of a steep learning curve on book promotion. I’ve taken the key courses (yes, that means Mark Dawson’s self-publishing courses) and am testing all sorts of advertising tactics. Hopefully I’ll learn quickly how to promote effectively without breaking the bank!

What or who inspired you to become an author?

For me it was more a “what” than a “who.” I’ve loved reading since I was young and truly love a great story. I’ve always had a desire to write fiction, accompanied by a loose vision of how rewarding/satisfying it would be to write stories that others enjoyed. To be able to look at books I had written, knowing that someone, somewhere, loved them, was very motivating. Though in hindsight, since it took me so long to actually do the “writing thing” for real, maybe I needed more motivation!

What’s on your top 5 list for the best books you’ve ever read?

That’s a super tough question, especially since I read some very popular books a very long time ago. I don’t remember their details well, so recency definitely comes into play. In the last few years I’d have to say the book I enjoyed the most was “The Passage” from Justin Cronin. It’s an expansive post-apoc story that has an interesting twist on the vampire theme. I loved the characters and the threat of utter violence that surrounded those who survived a deadly pandemic. Going back farther, I remember not being able to put down Jurassic Park. While the science was a bit off, the concept was ahead of its time and the tension was kept at an amazingly high level for most of the book. I’ve read a lot of Ken Follett (maybe even everything) and have loved pretty much every book. If I had to pick a favorite, I’d have to say “Pillars of the Earth.” The interconnecting plot among an amazing cast was fabulously well written. I should also throw in Mila 18 from Leon Uris. Set in a Jewish sector of Warsaw during the German invasion at the start of WWII, I remember devouring it in a weekend. As a mystery-thriller writer I have read tons of the leaders in the area (James Patterson, Lee Child, Mark Dawson). It’s very hard to pick a favorite, but I’d read just about anything by authors like these.

Say you’re the host of a literary talk show. Who would be your first guest? What would you want to ask?

Another tough question. I say I’d go with George R.R. Martin. I devoured his “Game of Thrones” books and mostly loved the HBO series, so there would be a lot to talk about. First, I would want to know if he thought the show would ever “pass him.” I think he had a five-book head start, so there was a chance he could have kept ahead. But he didn’t. Given that, I also wonder how much influence he had on the last two seasons of the show and if the ending was what he would have wrote. Given the attention his epic and the HBO show have received, I’d also love to learn some behind the scenes stories, especially from the last season of the show. There have to some amazing stories waiting to get out!

What’s your favorite thing about writing?

There are many aspects of writing I enjoy, including some of the business tasks. But I think what I find most enjoyable is when I work through a plot sequence that really hangs together and feels like it’s part of a great story. I know that I can struggle with plot, especially when it won’t “do what I want,” so pulling together what feels like a strong plot sequence is very rewarding. Not to mention that when I do this in the outline phase, it makes the writing that much easier.

What is a typical day like for you?

Since writing is not what pays the bills, it is forced to fit around the demands of the job that does pay the bills. So from a writing perspective, my typical day is to get up at 5 and get in about 1.5 hours before transitioning to the rest of my day. I try to find time in the evenings to write, but that is not feasible every day. Weekends are wild cards…sometimes I can get in big blocks of writing (4-5 hours)…sometimes there just isn’t time. I look forward to a day sometime in the future, when I won’t have to get up at 5 to write…

What scene in Toxic Deception was your favorite to write?

There is a scene late in the book where Jordan confronts one of the antagonists. It was rewarding for her and was definitely rewarding for me to write. It was one of those scenes I could easily visualize in my head and the words came easy. If only that were always the case!

Do you have a motto, quote or philosophy you live by?

Interesting question. I wouldn’t say I have a mantra that I repeat/consider frequently, but I do have phrase that often guides me when I feel like my schedule and demands on my time are too high. The literal phrase is “some is better than none.” What is means is that some progress or accomplishment, no matter how small, is better than none. It started when I was doing lots of running (50+ miles per week) and sometimes found it hard to fit a run into a busy schedule. Despite some internal resistance to short runs, I adapted my thinking to accept runs of 2-3 miles (instead of 8, 10 or more) because at least I got outside and broke a sweat. I have since allowed that phrase to apply more broadly in my life, in particular to writing and the related work. Better to get in a few hundred words in 30 minutes than to get none because I felt the time available was too short.

K.C. Gillis is the author of the new book Toxic Deception.

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