ED- The Eerie Digest is very pleased to present author Richard Gazala to all our readers. Richard, you were born in Ohio and moved to Beirut, Lebanon when you were young. Why did your family move there, and what kind of culture differences did you experience at such a young age?
RG- I appreciate the opportunity to enjoy this exchange with The Eerie Digest and its readers. My family moved to Beirut when I was a young boy because of my father’s job. Dad worked for an American bank, and in the mid-1960s was tasked with establishing the bank’s presence in the Middle East. At the time we moved there, Lebanon still was influenced heavily from being under French control until Lebanese independence in 1943. From its founding over 5000 years ago, Beirut had been dominated in succession by Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Crusaders, and over 400 years of Ottoman rule until the French took control of Lebanon after WW I. Beirut was a critical cultural and trading crossroads between East and West for many centuries, and remained so when we lived there. So I grew up in an ancient city, haphazardly modernized over 25 years of fits and starts by the French, full of people from everywhere round the world representing just about every culture and speaking almost any language you can call to mind. More than 5000 miles from the USA, in a seaside sliver of Arabia dominated by Arabic and French culture and language, I attended an American school, situated near the American University of Beirut, not far from a boulevard named for John F. Kennedy. People took WW II-era Mercedes sedan taxicabs to European cafés to drink thick Turkish coffee and complain in Arabic about the city’s quasi-functional French telephone system. Compared to the small-town Ohio life I’d left to go to Beirut, the cultural differences between the two were everything from subtle to seismic.
ED- Tell us about your move from Lebanon and what caused it.
RG- Lebanon’s located in a very volatile part of the world. Internal Lebanese politics are equally volatile due to the country’s entrenched and seemingly intractable sociocultural and religious divisions, exacerbated by incessant external influences and the legacy of a shaky national government system that France embedded in the Lebanese Constitution. These factors erupt periodically into extreme violence. We were forced from the country in the summer of 1975, at the start of the Lebanese Civil War that lasted until 1990. I’ve not been back to Lebanon since we left.
ED- Tell our readers where you moved from there.
RG- 1975 wasn’t the first time my family left Beirut because of civil strife. We did the same in the fall of 1973, returning after about six weeks’ temporary exile in England waiting for the fighting to stop. So when we left in 1975, we came to the States on summer vacation, figuring we’d return to Beirut after the fighting died down as it did in 1973. The fighting didn’t die down, and come summer’s end we found ourselves homeless. We moved to temporary housing in London for the remainder of 1975, hoping relative calm would come back to Beirut. Instead the war escalated, so we kissed our hopes of return to Lebanon a last goodbye, and moved to Belmont, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston. After a while there the bank transferred Dad to London, where I lived until I graduated from high school. Then I attended college and law school in Nashville, Tennessee. I lived there until I moved in 1994 to my current home in Vienna, Virginia, just outside Washington, D.C.
ED- Your secondary education took place in Boston and London, and you traveled throughout the Middle East and Europe learning French and Arabic along the way. How did this lay the groundwork for your writing?
RG- This laid the groundwork for not only my writing. Experiencing the world from an abundance of places and perspectives, and exploring it in a variety of languages and settings, impacted immeasurably the way I viewed the world as a young man, the way I see it today, and the way I share it now with my family, friends and readers. In my travels I was impressed by how different we all are, and how much we are all the same. In terms of my writing, my travels sensitized me to the wonders of words and language, the art of expression and perspective, and the countless captivating places and intriguing people there are to share through the storytelling craft.
ED- Moving to Tennessee you attended Vanderbilt University where you had studied law. Please let our readers know about this aspect of your life and your career as an attorney.
RG- I had a great time in Nashville. Excepting a brief interlude in Massachusetts, I’d not lived in the States since I left Ohio as a little boy. Nashville was a homecoming of sorts for me. Initially I suffered a bit of culture shock in Nashville. I’d left the hardcore punk-rock London of The Sex Pistols and The Clash for Music City USA, the so-called “Buckle of the Bible Belt” where country music ruled. For a while I had trouble understanding some of my classmates’ southern accents, but soon enough I had friends from rural Alabama feeding me poke salit and woodchuck paté. I worked in rock radio as a DJ, and met loads of music industry people. After graduating from law school, I practiced in Nashville for years, including lots of entertainment law. After my daughter was born my parents started to spend time in northern Virginia, so I moved my young family there so my kids and my parents could have time together while I worked in intellectual property and telecommunications law in and around Washington, D.C.
ED- Your career, and life experiences have added much background to your novel “Blood of the Moon.” How so?
RG- Being an effective lawyer, no matter the specialty, demands respect for the power of words. I’ve been an entertainment lawyer, and a litigator. Scores of trees have given their lives for the raft of pleadings and contracts I’ve written. I’ve been general counsel in a multinational multibillion dollar publicly traded telecommunications company with thousands of employees strewn across the world. I’d like to think I’ve done well in each iteration of my legal career. If I’m right about that, it’s largely because of my relationship with words. Whether talking to a judge or jury, or writing a contract, or advising about the prizes and perils of a given corporate strategy, in each instance I was telling a story in way or another, and each story had its own characters, prologues, plots, twists and endings. My travels impact my choice of settings, personalities, and conflicts. I grew up in a place and time where shadowy conspiracy theories were the national sport and the world was no less obsessed with oil as it is now, all of which certainly inform “Blood of the Moon.” Growing up in Beirut, my friends and I were as familiar with the Saudi Arabian Oil Minster’s name as we were with Muhammad Ali’s, Vince Lombardi’s, and Babe Ruth’s. Another seminal life experience reflected in “Blood of the Moon” is a principal character, an old NASA astronaut named Michael Rivers, whom I was influenced to create in part by the Alzheimer’s disease that took my mother just as I started writing the book.
ED- Please introduce your novel “Blood of the Moon” to our readers.
RG- “Blood of the Moon” is a fast-paced international action thriller, set against a corrupted American presidential election in 2016. The story happens during a time America is embroiled in global war over control of petroleum assets, while terror and riots rip through the country in the face of gasoline shortages and rationing. The main character, David Rivers, battles formidable forces and powerful conspirators as he twists through intrigue, lies and violence designed to manipulate perception and myth about the nature and value of oil. When David finally learns the truth, he’s confronted by a terrible crisis of conscience, and must decide whether the world is ready for what he knows.
ED- What similarities, if any, does your work have with today’s economic events, and is there a message there?
RG- If your life is touched in any way by the oil economy, which it inescapably is, then you’ll find “Blood of the Moon” very relevant in the current economic, social and political climate. For example, that oil and gas supplies and prices remained pretty static during the entire recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is fascinating. The book’s central message is there’s an incessant conflict between perception and truth in every significant human endeavor. It behooves us all to embrace this fact, ask hard questions, and then scrutinize the sources and biases behind the answers we’re given or denied.
ED- Where can our readers find your book and tell us something about the publisher.
RG- “Blood of the Moon” is published under the iUniverse imprint, with national and international distribution. Domestically, it’s distributed primarily by Ingram Book Company, and Baker & Taylor. Still, as a debut book by a new author in a tough and crowded market, it’s not always easy to find in your local library or bookstore. However, it’s very easy to find at a myriad of online retailers in the States and abroad. Here in the States, “Blood of the Moon” is ubiquitously available online, including at amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, booksamillion.com, and dozens of other booksellers. By popular request, it’s available in a variety of formats ― hardcover, paperback, e-book, as well as for the Amazon Kindle and Sony Reader. Readers have sent me copies of the book from all over for me to sign and return, which I’m happy and honored to do if I’m not making an appearance near your location.
RG- My readers often ask me the same thing. It’s the most gratifying question an author can get. There will be a sequel to “Blood of the Moon.” I’m doing the research for it now, and plan to start writing very soon. As for other work in the wings, I’ve a lot of intriguing ideas for some great stories I’m excited to tell. I’m fairly confident I’ll not live long enough to write them all. That’s a good thing. For an author, it sure beats the alternative, doesn’t it?
ED- Richard, we want to thank you for your time with us and we know that our readers will be shortly looking to get a hold of “Blood of the Moon.” We wish you much luck and look forward to hearing good things about you in the future.