Interview with Author Gary Westphalen

Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into writing?

I have been a journalist all of my life, so writing is just part of my DNA. I have been a news journalist for radio, TV, newspapers, and even my own regional magazine that I wrote and published for 4 years before selling it. I have also been a documentary film maker, garnering numerous prestigious awards for my work. I worked for one of the national television news organizations for years as a White House journalist, covering every President from Ronald Reagan to the first year of Donald Trump. All of that kept me so busy that I never had time to write for pleasure. But, now that I am semi-retired from that career, the books that I have pushed into a dark, dusty comer of my mind are starting to spill out.

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What inspired you to write your book?

Murdered For Nothing was inspired by a real-life crime that I covered as a young journalist in Rochester, New York back in the late 1980’s. Over a 48 hour time span, two men killed five people in robberies that netted them less than a hundred dollars in cash and stolen items. It’s one of many chilling stories I covered over the years, and I’m finding that writing these stories is a sort of cathartic exercise for me. By putting these memories into written words, I am dealing with a head full of wild experiences I have had as a journalist.

What theme or message do you hope readers will take away from your book?

I think the message to be drawn from this story is that not only does crime not pay, but it leaves behind a trail of broken hopes and dreams for every one who is touched by the crime. Another theme in Murdered For Nothing is that everyone has a dark side that taints their actions. This might be a bit of a spoiler alert, but there are no “White Hat” characters in the book. Even the characters with the best of intentions are motivated by personal agendas. That doesn’t mean they don’t do the right thing in the end, but they don’t do it without thinking about themselves, too.

What drew you into this particular genre?

My personal experience as a journalist. I think it gives me a unique perspective on crime stories that most writers don’t have. It’s one thing to sit in front of your computer and create imaginary crimes. It’s quite another to write a story based on the personal experience of having been a front-line observer to a real crime. Although the characters in my book are works of fiction, they represent the real emotions and actions that played out in this story. This fictional account is very personal to me.

If you could sit down with any character in your book, what would you ask them and why?

This is a challenging question, because I have so many questions for every one of them. I think the most intriguing character is defense attorney Maxine Levine. Aggressive, driven, smart and sultry beyond reason, she’s the person everyone wants to be (or be with). Nicole Martin, the sister of one of the victims, displays a calm and insightful grasp on humanity that is beyond admirable. Homicide detective Dave Walters’ story leaves so many loose ends that the book raises more questions about him than it answers. Then, of course, there’s the television journalist caught up in the story from start to finish. Since the character is very loosely based on me (I wish I was as cool as he is), I have already been asking him questions for decades, never getting any clear answers. But in the end, I would want to (and actually did!) sit down with the two criminals to try to understand why they were willing to trade the lives of five people they knew for so little.

What social media site has been the most helpful in developing your readership?

Well, Facebook is still the elephant in the room. I am also partial to Linked In because I find it draws the kind of people who read books. It may be a smaller audience, but they are more likely to respond. It’s not exactly a social media site, but Goodreads is also a good place for writers and readers to get connected. I have an authors page on Goodreads, and anyone can ask me questions there. I don’t Tweet. I used to, but the excessive vitriol on that site drove me away.

What advice would you give to aspiring or just starting authors out there?

A writer writes. Sit down in front of the computer and write something. Every day. It doesn’t matter if, at the end of the session, you press the delete button and walk away. With every sentence you form, you improve your writing skills. Someday, that novel will pour forth from your head, and you will amaze yourself.

What does the future hold in store for you? Any new books/projects on the horizon?

My future holds many walks on the beach in Tamarindo, Costa Rica, which is where I now call “Home”. When the mid-day sun rises high in the sky, I make the ten-minute walk back to my domicile where it is cool. I sit down in front of the computer and write until the approaching sunset draws me back to the beach. Often, when I return from bidding adieu to the sun, I’ll sit down and write some more. Sometimes, all night.

Yes, there are many books to come. I have already written a book titled “Plan A Never Happens”. It’s the true story of how my wife Carmen and I completely upended our lives to move from the Washington, DC area to Costa Rica right in the middle of a worldwide Covid-19 pandemic. I’m currently working on another crime novel based on one of the most notorious crimes in US history. I actually started writing this one several years ago. Life got in the way of finishing it, but I am returning to it now. And, of course, there will be at least one more book based on some of the charcters in Murdered For Nothing. More will come beyond that, but they are mere thoughts at the moment. I will be writing until they pry my cold, dead fingers from the keyboard.

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About the Author

I discovered my life’s mission by the time I was five years old. My parents bought me an instant print camera for my birthday, and the fact that I could freeze a moment in time and keep it forever was enthralling. It sent me on the path of journalism. In the all too numerous decades since then, I have fulfilled that calling as a television news journalist, documentary film maker, magazine publisher, web content writer, and now author.

My work has been seen on every major television network, on the silver screen, and in that little screen you carry in your pocket. I guarantee you have seen some of my work. I have won uncounted awards, including an EMMY, a Peabody, a Jules Verne International Scientific Documentary Award, and on and on. I also had the pleasure to produce two documentaries for NASA, one for the 40th Anniversary of the Apollo moon landings, and another one celebrating the 50th anniversary of the formation of NASA.

After all of those experiences…from crashing in a helicopter, being shot at, and threatened with arrest in places where I didn’t speak the language, to telling jokes with every President from Ronald Reagan to Barack Obama…I have realized that my brain is full. It is time for me to blend this amazing lifetime of memories with an overactive imagination in order to sweep some of this accumulation out of my mental attic. The result is my bold foray into the world of being an author. I have written millions of words before, but they have always been based in fact. Now, I’m blending fact with fiction in a unique way. I am writing ficticious novels based on real events in such a way that you, my dear reader, will be left wondering which part was fact, and which was fiction. To be honest, sometimes I’m not even sure.

Social Media Links:

https://www.facebook.com/gary.westphalen

https://www.linkedin.com/feed/

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/18736977.Gary_Westphalen

https://garywestphalen.com/

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