Reality Skimming

Interview with Gary Caruso

Gary Caruso

Gary Caruso lives in northern Virginia with his wife Jill, but their favorite place is in Ohio with their three beautiful grandchildren. Although Gary is exhilarated when he sits down to write, teaching middle school science is his first love. He’s passionate about empowering students to make thoughtful decisions and positive choices in life. Gary enjoys reading, especially fiction that blurs the line between what’s real and what’s fantasy. He never imagined becoming a writer until an ordinary car ride on a spring day jolted an unlikely thought into his head. Gary’s early experience writing is a reminder that no matter how intimidating the challenge, action and determination are the foundations for fulfilling any dream. Gary has an insatiable love for writing, a blessing he’s excited to share with his readers.

Interview by Lynda Williams

Your book, Our Souls to Keep, has enjoyed lots of action on Goodreads in just the two months it’s been out. What's the best thing anyone's said to you about it? And do your students review you?

After hundreds of hours alone at the computer, I can’t even begin to describe how humbled I am by the generous comments Our Souls to Keep has received from so many readers. It’s probably corny to say, but their enthusiasm for my story has touches my heart. So choosing the best comment is like favoring one child over another. If I have to choose the comment that gave me the biggest sigh of relief, it was when readers called Our Souls to Keep an original story. Over the last few years, there have been so many very good paranormal novels published. When I started outlining the first draft, I thought it would be impossible to create a story that was truly different. Then I saw the very last scene in my head and wrapped the rest of the story around it, making Wake and Annemarie come alive. Throughout the writing process, I was happy that the deep emotion and complex themes made Our Souls to Keep refreshingly unique. I’m glad readers think so too. As for my students, I’m fortunate to have a wonderful relationship with them. They have been excited and encouraging since Our Souls to Keep was released. Their positive comments about my book have been more of a personal interaction than through public reviews. I prefer it that way. You can’t see smiles and joy on a website review.

You say you like fiction that blurs the line between real life and fantasy. How does Wake's predicament in Our Souls to Keep parallel a real life for you?

What I enjoy about Our Souls to Keep, is that the story takes place in present day Arizona, but Wake’s world is driven by the paranormal, and an impending conflict between Heaven and Hell. These two very different environments aren’t in conflict. They seamlessly flow within each other, creating a world that may exist around us, if we only had the vision for it. Also, too often in fantasy novels, good is good and evil is evil, but reality is much different than that. In real life, strong motivations for success can lead people or organizations to make questionable decisions. These actions are then justified as being beneficial for the common good. Wake’s world blurs that line, asking the question, Is there such thing as absolute good or absolute evil? But for me, the most interesting connection between fantasy and real life is the difficult choices Wake must make. Wake isn’t just a character of fantasy. His choices define him as a person of courage and honor. He gets swept away by love, yet he doubts that he will ever be fully loved in return when his flaws are revealed. Most importantly, he searches for acceptance within a complex, human world. Wake is you and me.

In order to protect the lives of Annemarie and her unborn child, Wake must kill many demon-possessed people. Can you discuss the ethics of the Wake’s decision to take the lives of so many innocent people?

The first innocent life that’s lost in Our Souls to Keep is Wake’s. Because his mother commits suicide, Wake kills himself to save her soul from Hell. By stripping his memory and human emotions, Hell ensures that Wake will be a productive collector of souls. More like a machine, Wake does his job, convincing the weak to commit suicide. As his emotions begin to return, it’s regret for his actions, and his refusal to be Hell’s puppet that begins his path toward redemption. Unfortunately, his journey is littered with death. When I wrote Our Souls to Keep, I wanted to make sure that Wake and readers weren’t casual about the loss of innocent life. The victims I chose were people Wake and readers might recognize like a mother and son exercising together, friends watching a football game, a young boy playing in a park, or an elderly couple taking an evening walk through a quiet neighborhood. In order for Wake to kill the demons inside them, they too must die. So Wake has a choice, kill innocent people in order to protect Annemarie and her unborn child, or save the innocent by stepping aside and allowing Hell to consume her soul. Wake isn’t a ruthless murderer. Nor is he immune to the guilt of his actions. I believe Wake would like to modify the circumstances so that fewer people would die. He even considers alternatives, but in the end, there is nothing more important or powerful than the love he has for Annemarie. I wonder if many of us would make a different choice.
Our Souls to Keep
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