Today, I’m talking with the perspicacious Gary Duffey, author of the thriller, Territory.
M: When reading, Territory, My Antonia by Willa Cather came to mind, which also depicts the frontier of Nebraska during the 1800’s. Is there anything you read in particular that sparked the idea for writing Territory?
G: I’ll have to read, My Antonia…. It better not be mushy!
M: I seem to recall a part, where a guy is driving a wedding party on a sledge. In order to speed up to get away, he throws both the bride and the groom off and they get eaten by wolves. So yes, it is a love story.
G: Territory, or more so, the boy, came about from my time as a security guard at an abandon hospital. I was 18 years old at that time, so it was actually 18 years ago. I’m not going to say ghosts are real and I am not saying the boy is a ghost, but what I will say is, many an odd thing would happen at this hospital. No one but me was on the hospital grounds and in the building. It’s very unique to spend 8 hours a day in a full size hospital, with no one but yourself about. This particular hospital known as, Memorial South, in Ceres California, was vacant for a long time before I arrived there. A new hospital was built where I live in the connecting city of Modesto and Memorial South was left to decay. It was guarded, when a group of investors bought, Memorial South to use it as storage for medical paper work. Every hospital room that was rented (and there weren’t many), had pad locks on them and some rooms had pad locks on them for different reasons, such as blood spatter on carpets and walls, from what I could only assume was from a murder as the building sat vacant. The hospital was 3 stories, if you included the basement; the hospital in its entirety was or is in the shape of a cross. In this cross, only one of the 4 cross pieces had power and that was only on the lower level, this is where our guard office was, but really was the old gift shop. Now, as to the weirdness, no matter the time of day or night, I as a guard was to walk the perimeter of the hospital to look for illegal entry. I never found that, but what I did find, were curtains closed that were open, or open when earlier they were closed. There was an elevator that shouldn’t have been functioning, that would come up from the basement, opening with a ding at my floor. I remember walking to it and looking at the service sticker, to see it being last serviced in 1973 and at the time it was 1999. Anyway, as I was looking at it, the emergency phone started ringing, so I reached in after what seemed a long time, picked it up and asked “Hello?” It sounded like hundreds of voices talking over one another. I couldn’t make anything out of what they were saying. I put the phone back on the receiver and as soon as I did, the elevator went, ding and the door closed, but as it did, the interior lights shut off. The elevator went back down to the basement, only to rise again months later. I could go on and on about this place, but what gave me the idea for the boy, came one night, I was walking past the maternity ward (an additional smaller building also shaped as a cross); it was raining, I for whatever reason, looked at the front double doors as lightning flashed; it filled the rooms with light and what I saw looking back at me, was a man in a jean jacket. I acted like I did not see him. This event, along with all the other weirdness, melded together a story in my mind, of a group of misfit army cadets, being unknowingly experimented upon, as they refit an abandon hospital into a barracks for military use. This story never made it to print, but elements from it did make it into Territory. I will not say what, as it might be boring for readers. The bad guy in that story was a man who was an escaped mental patient and he set up a place to live in the hospital long before our army cadets got there. This man known to those who knew him was called, “Manic Mason” or to you and I, as the man I saw in the jean jacket in the maternity ward. Mason had unique superhuman gifts, and was as old as the world. Territory is a collection of ideas that over time, amassed into what it is today. Why Nebraska? Why 1867? Well, in the second Manic Mason story (again never made it to print), we find Sarah on her front porch drinking from a dinted tin cup and a supernatural human by the name of Manic Mason has set up residence in her barn. He plans to kill her and her family. Why? Well, that is exactly why I wrote Territory; it was a cool concept, but didn’t make any damn sense! No spoilers were just given; the boy is not a supernatural human who has lived from the beginning of the world. He is something altogether different…. To explain why 1867, this is because many historical things were happening in Nebraska at this point in time, some of which are found in Territory and others found in Texas that spilled into the book.
M: How terrifying it must have been to see some dude in a jean jacket. I mean, who wears those anymore.
M: Your characters are all unique, some are acting out of desperation, revenge, atonement and just plain greed. Which character did you find most interesting to write about?
G: I enjoyed writing about Jacob. My favorite part was when he was in the barn with Sara’s daughters. I think we see a master manipulator at work. The reader really sees his pure manic evil, after he sends the girls into the house, leaving him to work on a spike. I also enjoyed, Barbra.
M: Centered in your fictional story is something nonfictional, and that is the scalping industry. Most people think it was the Native American warriors, who had a penchant for scalping settlers and soldiers, but in reality, it was Europeans who carried it out much more and then later Americans, so much so that scalping became an industry. Can you elaborate a little on that industry and why you chose to incorporate it into the story?
G: I really didn’t, and still don’t know much about it. This being a fictional story, I found it to be an opportunity to use it to provide more depth to Barbra, and to provide a little foreshadowing for the next book. The blanket was an afterthought.
M: Okay, I’ll enlighten them. HaHa! In the 1800’s, Mexico and several other surrounding states, paid private armies and bounty hunters to scalp Native Americans. They saw it as a good way to protect their citizens. I believe it continued for many years before it was finally outlawed.
M: You did an amazing job of blurring the lines of sanity, insanity, dream and lucidity. It felt like a dream sequence at times, especially when the Native American boy was at the river. Did you set out writing with that in mind, or is that just something that developed?
G: I set out with that in mind and as the story progresses we will see why. *zips lips*
M: Was the Native American boy a symbol of justice to address the wrongs of an entire culture?
G: I could see how one might see this, in this first book; the boy is used as a weapon of revenge. What we will find in the next book, will twist this notion. We will also learn what the boy is and where he came from.
M: How many more books do you plan to write in the Territory series?
G: The upcoming one and possibly a prequel revolving around Jacob in his youth, following him until he finds, Mindy… maybe further. If there will be a third Territory book remains to be seen. I won’t leave out the possibility, but I’ll know more when I finish the second book.
M: How much time each day do you set aside to write?
G: Less than I would like to. When I set aside all other projects I’m working on, my goal becomes 2,000 words a day. On a day when I’m tired, I hit around 500-1,000. Sometimes I find it’s good to stop for a week and then out of nowhere, my mind fits a few plot pieces together, that I don’t feel I would have come up with if I just kept writing. For instance, in my new book, Home (working title), Sheriff Sean Laing, is at a grocery store during a small storm at night. That’s where I left off. I pick up after a week, with the power shutting off and leaving the store in darkness. This darkness brings us to the home of, Polly, the main character in the story. Here we find her discovering a boy with Down syndrome watching her and her daughter from an outside window. I would not have connected these story points, without time away and the boy (whom isn’t a new character to the book) will be much more potent to the plot.
M: What books/authors have most influenced you in your life?
G: Hugh Howey, this person is an independent writer who has made a large success in his, WOOL trilogy. If you haven’t read, WOOL, I highly recommend it to anyone who likes an apocalyptic world, mixed with a mystery and dialog that’s believable. My second would be, Stephen King. Many nights at my job, I listen to audio books written by him. His writing flows very well; I only wish he would get his mind out of the gutter. My favorite book by him is, Misery. Not much swearing and zero perversion, it’s a very well-crafted thriller.
M: What are you currently reading? What is your favorite genre?
G: Currently I’m listening to, Fall of the Governor: Book two. It’s a story in the world of The Walking Dead, but it follows the Governor. He’s not the man we think he is at all. … Now, to be clear, I’m a fan of swearing when the moment calls for it, but unfortunately in The Walking Dead novels, the swear words are sprinkled about randomly like sprinkles on a cupcake. My favorite genre would be, thrillers, something with a great plot and dialog.
M: Tell everyone where they can go to learn more about you & your thrilling novel, Territory:
You can find, Territory on Amazon at the link below and on Kindle found by the same link in the “See all formats and editions” category.
AND coming soon around 5/20/2016, Territory will be on Audible.