I’d like to welcome B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree G. Egore Pitir to talk with me today about his book, Face of Our Father. He grew up in Indiana, and graduated from Purdue University in 1981 with a degree in Aeronautical Engineering. Immediately after graduation, George was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the USAF and served eight years as a fighter pilot, including one tour of duty in Europe during the Cold War. In 1989, he was honorably discharged with the rank of Captain, and obtained a job at a major airline. Always an avid reader of fiction, in 2006, he began pursuit of a lifelong dream, writing a novel. From 2008 until present day, he has studied the writing craft under the tutelage of a retired creative writing professor, producing his first novel in the autumn of 2014, the award winning FACE OF OUR FATHER. When he’s not flying or writing, George hikes the Rocky Mountains with his high school sweetheart, talking of their three children and five grandchildren, and wondering at the miracle of it all.
How did you discover indieBRAG?
While venturing down the Internet rabbit hole labeled “self-published reviews,” trying to divine reputable from reprehensible, I finally came across the bookbaby blog, and their article entitled “5 Places Indie Authors Can Get Their Books Reviewed.” All five seemed to have legitimacy, but indieBRAG possessed the most unique concept, and seemed to put the reader’s needs first. I liked that a lot.
Please tell me about your book, Face of Our Father.
First things first, Stephanie…please let me thank you, so very much, for choosing to interview me about my novel, and thank you for all that you do for us Indie novelists. Someday you will interview an Indie Pulitzer Prize winner. And you’ll have been a big part of why that barrier finally broke. Now, concerning my novel…
On the surface, Face Of Our Father is a political thriller, a West versus Middle East current-events saga of clashing cultures. But at its core, Face Of Our Father is an intricate love story, a vexing account of one couple’s conflicting devotions—the man forced to choose between love and honor, the woman between love and justice.
Readers first encounter Stuart and Angela Pierce when much of the damage has already been done. Although the Pierces don’t realize it yet, the foundation of their twenty-five year marriage cracked long before the novel opened. Stu and Angie are the quintessential mature couple that has allowed their diverging life goals to gradually pull them apart. In the opening chapter, this all too common (especially in real life) tale of the imploding mature relationship explodes into the extraordinary when Stu discovers that Angie is concealing a death threat. Angie is a vocal women’s advocate, and a former prosecuting attorney. She’s not going to let a few death threats deter her from bringing a murdering rapist to justice. But this murderer lives half a world away. Obsessed with catching this monster, Angie plunges them both into a web of global intrigue where every cultural truth they hold dear seemingly becomes just another well-told lie.
Yet, as the story unfolds, Stu and Angie discover that the worst lies are not the lies the world tells us, but the lies we tell ourselves. In the end, with every lie exposed, the Pierces find that the only truth that really matters is love.
So, although I like to think that I’ve told a page-turner, a story worthy of the most ardent fans of the thriller genre, the core issue in my novel is not the clashing of cultures. Instead, I see that cultural clash as the pestle of the West mashing against the mortar of the Middle East, grinding away at Stu and Angie’s relationship, and asking questions. How strong is their love? Will it be enough? And perhaps, most importantly, can they endure?
Your story is written from five characters’ perspectives, two protagonists, and three antagonists. That is quite a wide range of POV’s. Why did you choose to do this? Have you had any outside-if you will-opinions on this?
Yes! The second-guessing ran rampant. The earliest counseling came from my writing coach. She’s what I’d call a classicist, the type of creative writing professor who worships in the sacred temple of Fitzgerald. Of course, if one must bow before an author-deity, there’s some gorgeous prose scribed on Fitzgerald’s alter.
So, the early years with my writing coach were quite the battle. I kept reconsidering, rewriting, testing, but I couldn’t quite capture the conflicting devotions of Stu and Angie, or fully represent the antagonists’ views of our Western world, unless I wrote from each character’s head. Basically, I couldn’t come close to writing what I felt was a fair novel, fair to Stu and Angie, and fair to both sides of today’s cultural clash. And this is something I sorely wanted to achieve.
My writing coach eventually convinced me to drop the viewpoints from six to five. And, after a time, she approved of the five remaining POVs, somewhat, I believe, because of the A Song of Ice and Fire series. After all, George R. R. Martin writes from numerous characters’ perspectives, and he’s doing okay. Yes, that’s a joke—phenomenally successful are Martin’s GOT novels. All kidding aside, my writing coach and I agree that she acquiesced to multiple POVs because I didn’t argue with her verbally, I argued with my writing.
And for any of the Layered Pages readers out there who are also moonlighting as struggling authors, and are lucky enough to have a writing coach of high caliber and strong convictions, my advice is to argue with your writing. No matter the specifics of your particular argument, prove the merits of your case with your prose. Writing a good story quiets the naysayers.
Please tell me a little about Captain Stu Pierce and a challenge he faces?
Stu’s primary challenge is seeing the reality of his situation. He is an extremely honorable man, honorable to a fault. Yet, the tenets of his personal honor act as blinders and shield, a way of not seeing the truth of the situation he faces, and a method of isolating himself from those whom he deems less than honorable. This mindset serves to confine his relationships to a couple of close friends, his two adult children, and Angie. But, in the opening chapter of Face Of Our Father, he has reached the point where the realities of Angie’s deceptions have penetrated so deeply that his subconscious has taken over. He is a man in full-blown denial, barely in control of his actions. Stu is a volcano on verge of eruption. And erupt, he does.
I’m really interested in your character, Kashif: I want to ask you questions about him but I’m sure that would give spoilers! So let’s skip on over to, Udav. He was born a second son. Can you tell me a little about what he is like?
I see Uday as me, an everyman. As what could have become of me, if instead of being born into middle class America, I’d been born into a life of power. Not just incalculable wealth, and unconscionable patriarchal privilege, but also absolute power. And, my primary parental example is a father who wields this power absent any hint of remorse or self-reflection. In the historical novel Poland, Michener paints a frighteningly sublime portrait of royal privilege, the rulers seeming to view the peasantry as livestock, each royal family owning so many head of horse and cattle and sheep, and oh yeah, that’s right, twenty thousand head of peasant. I’ve spent my life assuming that I’m above that sort of ethos. But what if, from the moment of my birth, I was taught that most of my fellow humans were livestock? What would that do to me?
Uday Azwad was born the son of a king. His family rules a present-day, fictional, Middle Eastern nation called The Realm. Yet, Uday still has a problem. He can never have the ultimate in absolute power, the throne, so long as his older brother remains alive. Like his father, Uday cannot conceive of an existence without absolute power, and he will do anything to make sure his family maintains the monarchy. But the strict rules of that very monarchy dictate that his older brother will become king. Consequently, Uday is a man whose emotions constantly pace, back and forth, between hope and hate. One moment he’s filled with the desperate hope that his father will see his superior talents and overturn centuries of tradition, the next he’s possessed by images of his older brother’s gruesome demise.
You have mentioned to me that the narrative is rooted in historical fact. Will you please tell me a little about that?
Love to. As one might guess from my earlier Michener reference, I’m a big fan of historical novels. From Poland to Gates Of Fire to The Red Tent, I can’t get enough. One learns so much while reading well-researched historical fiction. In fact, writing a historical novel is on my author’s to-do list. But first, I owe my readers Face Of Our Mother, and then the remainder of the Face Of series.
Face Of Our Father opens with a historical prologue, set in 623 CE on the Red Sea coast, where the fictional Azwad family first ascends to power. In the course of that prologue the reader learns of a disastrous Roman foray into the Arabian Peninsula in an attempt to circumvent the Nabataean stranglehold on the incense trade. The reader also witnesses some of the birth pangs of Islam, as the Azwad family debates the merits of aligning themselves with the Prophet Mohammed who has just publicly supported the raiding of the caravans from Mecca.
Moving out of the Prologue into the present-day narrative, the seemingly fantastical elements contained in Face Of Our Father are all rooted in historical fact. At the start of my novel, the reader learns that Stuart Pierce is an FFDO, a Federal Flight Deck Officer. This FFDO duty, where an airline pilot carries a badge and a loaded pistol in flight, is the direct result of 9-11. And the real-life “game of thrones” played by the world’s superpowers over the last seventy years has resulted in missing weapons galore. From sniper rifles, to shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles, and even fissionable materials, the government accountants have officially declared more than a few discrepancies. The World Health Organization recently reported on the cultural tradition of female genital mutilation (or the more widely accepted term, female genital cutting) that is primarily performed in the Middle East and Africa. International custody cases have recently shown the challenge of cross-cultural marriages where a Western woman may lose custody of her daughter to a Middle Eastern man, and that daughter could undergo FGC. Last year, as an airline captain, I received training concerning the spotting of human traffickers among our passengers. And, due to the extensive news media coverage of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the average reader has heard plenty about the term “collateral damage.” Sadly, every topic in my novel is rooted in either ancient or recent history. I could go on and on, but I’ll let the reader explore Face Of Our Father for more.
Who designed your book cover?
The design concept was mine. I wanted something that represented the broadest themes and symbols of my novel. I engaged a wonderful artist named Cid Freitag, who hunted the Internet for photos to collage, and layer. When finished, she applied a brush-stroke, oil-painting like texture that I think lends the whole image a mysterious, foreboding appeal. Or, so I hope.
How did you come up with the title for your book?
I wanted a title that I felt reflected the central theme of my novel. To me, the title, FACE OF OUR FATHER, reflects that all of human history is dominated by patriarchal societies. And, looking backward, as my cover art suggests, that patriarchal history is littered with the sun-bleached bones of constant strife. Additionally, at the time of my publication, when I checked the library of congress, not a single previous book had ever been written with that title. Seemed like kismet.
What are you working on next?
I’m writing the sequel, FACE OF OUR MOTHER. At book clubs, I always read an excerpt from the new novel, a scene from ANGIE’s perspective. So far, that scene is getting a big thumbs-up, one woman from my latest book club visit with the “Dog Ears” commenting, “Angie is one tough broad.” Made me smile big, and even bigger inside.
Do you stick with just genre?
First thing I’ll say is, that’s a terrific question! Really got me thinking…
My answer is no, not at all. In fact, escaping genre constraints was the primary reason I went Indie. Why waste years trying to convince some agent, let alone a publishing house, to speculate on an unknown author with a novel that bends genre? I do understand their challenge. Where does my novel belong in the bookstore? What genre? What shelf? How is it marketed? They have to make money. Heck, when I submitted my novel to the “Best Indie Book Contest,” even I didn’t know where to place it. So, I paid to enter three different categories, “Mystery,” “Mainstream,” and “Action.” And it finished 3rd, 2nd, and 1st respectively. A result that absolutely delighted me. I had set out to bend the typical thriller toward literary, and my struggle to successfully bend a genre felt validated.
And, I’m also a lover of historical fiction. So naturally, I have a few ideas, periods, settings, and basic characters for historical novels. In fact, I’ve had a couple readers ask me to please flush out my prologue, and turn it into a complete novel. Very tempting. But, first I need to finish the “Face Of” series. That’s where my passion lives right now. And without passion, I can’t write.
Truth be told, I’m a reading floozy. From Game Of Thrones to Gates of Fire and every genre in between, I lust after them all. If I had enough years left to me, I’d write in almost every genre.
Where in your home do you like to write and what is your process?
My writing location depends largely on what stage of the writing process I’m pursuing. Those first creative explosions usually occur seated in the leather chair near the hearth of my fireplace. But the many, many, many…did I mention many…rewrites usually take place at the kitchen table, or at my office desk, where I can spread the pages of a scene across a broad surface, and note the arrows, and strike outs, and margin scribbles, and the yellow, green, purple, and red of my many, many highlights that need editing.
I’m a character creator who forces those characters into action via external pressures. So, I begin with a plan, a loose outline, but like most battle plans, that outline never survives the first bullet, or in this case, that first pressure point. Of course, I’ve run into problems with this process. For example, for much of the first half of my novel, the protagonist, Stuart Pierce is a rumbling volcano. After he erupted, everything I tried to write for him didn’t work. Until…now I know this is going to sound weird, but…I finally asked him, “Okay, what in the heck will you do?” That question resulted in the hospital scene that everyone loves, Stu’s direct confrontation with the arch-antagonist. The lesson learned—one cannot un-erupt a volcano. Once exploded, there was no stopping Stu, his subsequent actions had to burn straight through to the end of the novel.
Is there a favorite food or drink you like to enjoy while writing?
I really dislike being a cliché, but truth is truth, and that’s all a writer really has. So, for me, it’s coffee in the morning, rich and dark, with a little raw sugar and plenty of cream. In the evening, it’s a glass or two of full-bodied red wine, or a couple fingers of single malt scotch.
Once again, Stephanie, thank you, so very much for the interview. It’s wonderful having you in our corner.
A Message from indieBRAG:
We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview G. Egore Pitir who is the author of, Face of Our Father, our medallion honoree at indieBRAG . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion TM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, Face of Our Father, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.