Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Author Spotlight: John Gilstrap

Though I know what I'm talking about, you don't have to take my word John Gilstrap is a gifted writer. That his books have earned him the coveted status of a repeat New York Times bestselling author tells you this. So too does the fact that Threat Warning, his novel published last year, was named 2011's best book by Suspense Magazine, and is a nominee for the 2012 Thriller Award by no less an authority in the field than International Thriller Writers. Not to mention his books have been translated into 20 languages, and are deservedly popular worldwide. And yet even with all that, we haven't touched on his success as a screenwriter.

Gilstrap's new release, Damage Control, is his twelfth book, and the most recent installment in his continuing Jonathan Grave series. If past is only distantly related to prologue, Gazalapalooza is supremely confident Damage Control will soon ride high on international bestseller lists, thrilling and pleasing fans of Gilstrap and his Jonathan Grave adventures all across the globe.

Frankly, we're not only happy, but completely unsurprised Gilstrap readily agreed to undergo the Gazalapalooza Author Spotlight's glare. On the off chance his expertise in explosives safety and handling hazardous waste hasn't sufficiently prepared him, surely his long stint with the Burke Volunteer Fire Department in northern Virginia has positioned him well to withstand the Spotlight. Without further ado, let's get Gilstrap lodged beneath the Spotlight's blistering blaze, and see how he fares.

Gazala:    In my omnipotence, I've sentenced you to be stranded alone on a desert island for offenses best left unnamed. In my beneficence, I've decided to allow you a limited amount of reading material to make your stay a little less bleak than it would otherwise be. I'll spot you your religious text of preference, and the collected works of William Shakespeare. In addition to those, name the one fiction book, and the one nonfiction book, you'd choose to take with you, and why you choose them.

Gilstrap:    Let’s do nonfiction first: Army Manual FM 21-76-1, Survival, Evasion and Recovery.  Just because you put me there doesn’t mean I’m going to stay.  Meanwhile, I’ll learn a lot about which plants make me healthy and which will kill me. 

As for fiction, I’d be tempted to bring Melville’s Moby Dick.  With that being my only option for entertainment, I’d never lose my motivation to escape.

Gazala:    Your new novel is an excellent and gripping thriller titled Damage Control. I've read it. I enjoyed it immensely, and recommend it highly. Shockingly enough, however, from time to time my bare recommendation doesn't always motivate a book's potential reader to become a book's actual reader. Tell us something about Damage Control, and why its potential reader should make the leap and become its actual reader.

Gilstrap:    Damage Control is the fourth novel in the Jonathan Grave thriller series.  (The third novel, Threat Warning, was named Best book of 2011 by Suspense Magazine, and it is nominated for the prestigious Thriller Award by International Thriller Writers.)  Jonathan Grave is a freelance hostage rescue specialist.  In Damage Control, he and his team travel to Mexico to handle what is supposed to be a routine ransom exchange: $3 million for the release of teenage missionaries and their chaperones.  It turns out that Jonathan has been betrayed by power brokers in Washington, and the result is a bloodbath.  As Jonathan moves heaven and earth to bring the one surviving hostage home, a Mexican drug lord and his allies inside the Beltway pull out all the stops to kill them all before they reach the border.

Gazala:    What are books for?

Gilstrap:    Books are intellectual nutrition.  Some are good for you, some are just comfort food, but all of them together provide essential elements of life.

Plus, if my copy of Moby Dick is the Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition, I’ll have toilet paper for my first 672 days on the island.  (Oooh, I’m going to be in trouble for that one.)

Gazala:    W. Somerset Maugham said, "There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are." Do you agree, or disagree, and why?

Gilstrap:    Well, I agree that there are no rules to writing a novel, which I think was really his point.  At its essence, a novel is nothing more than a good story well-told.  Good stories, in turn, are tales of characters doing interesting things in interesting ways, and telling them well requires a strong mastery of language, pacing and characterization.  To pull all of that off simultaneously, a writer needs to trust his own instincts and abilities.  It’s part art and part craft, and only the craft half comes close to having rules.  Art is all about imagination, and you can’t put a leash on that.

Gazala:    Wisdom dictates I go check out the black helicopter now hovering ominously low over my rooftop. Ask yourself a question, and answer it.

Gilstrap:    Q: So, John, how can people learn more about you? A: Well, they can always visit my website,  There, they’ll find not just information on my books and on where I’ll be promoting Damage Control, but they’ll also find what I think are some pretty cool essays on writing and other topics that interest me.  Every Friday, I blog on The Killzone (, and they can always write to me at  I make it a point to personally answer all of my email.  It might take some time, and I’m sure I occasionally drop one, but I work hard to get them all.

We're confident you'll agree Gilstrap fared very well indeed under the Spotlight. We learned many worthwhile things, including Gilstrap is a man who really, really doesn't like Moby Dick. And we know your appetite is now whetted to get your very own copy of Damage Control. Not only don't we blame you, we made it easy for you to satiate your appetite for Damage Control by merely clicking here. You're welcome.

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