Robert Gallant, iUniverse author and a finalist for the Eric Hoffer award, kindly tells us about his book, Rob the Vatican, along with his writing technique and marketing experience.
Hello, I’m Robert Gallant, author of Rob the Vatican. The Vatican contains the greatest treasure trove in the world and is Europe’s most famous locale. But it is a walled fortress, with only a few closely guarded gates. Absolutely impossible to rob. Until now. An ambitious Cardinal seeks to become the next Pope. An idealistic young priest discovers a deadly conspiracy, plunging he and beautiful Italian gymnast Darlena Aldonzo into a whirlpool of danger and desperation. American jewel thief Craig Reynolds, who has robbed jewelry establishments and wealthy chateaus all over Europe, senses an opportunity. He methodically manipulates the players and events to make the impossible possible. He will rob the Vatican. But will he sacrifice the woman he initially deceived but now loves?
This story originated when I asked myself, “What would be the greatest robbery in history?”
I discarded about a dozen ideas and then thought of the Vatican. I began researching it and found that the Vatican is absolutely impossible to rob. But I had spent a forty year career in technology, manufacturing, and business. My specialty was figuring out how to solve seemingly impossible technology challenges. I had written over 50 articles in scientific journals, published 3 books on technology, and one book on how to be a leader. My forte was taking complex information and converting it into something that a person could understand and utilize.
So figuring out how to rob the Vatican was an irresistible challenge. I spent 5 years studying hundreds of books and articles. Talked to dozens of people with special capabilities and knowledge. By the time I wrote the novel, I think I knew more about the security system and its vulnerabilities than the Vatican security people knew. As with solving impossible technology challenges, the key is to know more than your competition, and to bring together the right people with the right skills to make it happen.
So that you are not misled, during that five years I was also working on a four-novel series totally unrelated to the Vatican robbery. I used the same approach on each of those novels. Do enough research so that you know more about the geography, the culture, the issues, and the technology than your reader. That way, you can provide both a suspenseful thriller and unique insights into every aspect of the people and setting.
My wife Margie was an avid reader of mystery novels, mostly by women authors. So I had her critique my first pass on the novel. She gave me two important messages that dramatically improved my writing. Probably more important than all the books on writing I have read.
- DO NOT make the woman character dependent upon some manly hero. She must have the capabilities to significantly impact the outcome of the story. That was valuable in Rob The Vatican, but much more so on the four novel series I wrote. The same woman became the dominant character in those four novels. In the book reviews, the reviewers commented about a sensational protagonist pitted against dangers in the swamp and evil men.
- An artist paints pictures with brushes. A writer paints pictures with words. Your reader must be able to visualize the characters, their moods, and the scene around them. I had a tendency to keep the momentum moving. Painting the picture allows the reader to walk along beside the character and see and sense what the character is feeling. It also allowed me to better utilize the vast research I did on each novel. I included the reader in what I had learned. Again, the reviewers commented about my knowledge of the Vatican’s property, treasures, and security system. And in Satan’s Stronghold, my first novel in the other series, they said that the swamp and the Cajun culture became characters of their own in the story.
So I strongly recommend that you do extensive research for your story and utilize the two critiques that my wife Margie gave me. Unfortunately, Margie developed serious health problems and I quit writing while taking care of her at home. She passed away in 2013. My five novels, which were published 2005-2007 by iUniverse, had sat dormant for eight years. iUniverse urged me to begin publicizing my novels and have given me excellent guidance and assistance in doing that.
I attended the Pitchfest in New York City in October 2015, where I presented pitches to studio representatives on why they should make a movie out of Rob the Vatican. Two studios are considering it. It could be another 6 months before I find out if they want to proceed. But it was a fascinating adventure. Rob The Vatican is also a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award grand prize. In June I will attend the Las Vegas Pitchfest to present pitches on making a movie out of Satan’s Stronghold, the first novel in my four book series featuring Chesney Barrett as a strong protagonist in battles against bad guys. I’ve done radio interviews on two of my books and also on my other main activity. I’m very heavily involved in exercise programs at my local Community Center, both as a participant and in encouraging others. I was featured in the Wall Street Journal for being an 81 year old who plays volleyball 3 days a week; goes to exercise classes 5 days a week, and works out 7 days a week. So my main interests are writing and exercising.
Writing adventure stories had been a lifelong dream of mine. When I took biology in high school, I thought how amazing it would be to actually see the inside of the human body. So I had myself swallowed by a giant sea serpent, ended up in its stomach, and was befriended by a large antibody. Each time we would do a new chapter in biology, the antibody and I would visit that area and go through an exciting adventure. I ended up with 60 handwritten pages. Then I went to work at a grocery store and so didn’t have time to write anymore. But I told myself someday I would write adventure stories that readers would enjoy. Because I was very good at math and science, I chose that as a career and sated my love of writing by writing technology articles. After I retired, I finally began writing stories. That endeavor got interrupted for 8 years by my wife’s health problems.
So that is why I’m now 81 years old and working on publicizing my first novels.
The lesson is that you should never give up on your dream.
Many thanks to Robert for a very meaningful and informative article! And we wish him the best of luck as an Eric Hoffer finalist.