We’re talking books with Greg Messel, author of the wonderful new book, The Illusion of Certainty.
The Illusion of Certainty follows two parallel storylines. Marc is a successful businessman who seems to have everything—a great job, a beautiful wife, a house in an upscale neighborhood of Portland, Oregon and two great kids who are preparing for college. But something is not right. Marc is unsettled by the sudden change in his wife, Aimee, who seems distant and unhappy. What’s going on with her?
The second storyline involves a successful young attorney, Alexandra Mattson. Alex, as she is called by her friends, meets a handsome young cop, Sean, during an unexpected crisis in her neighborhood. Sean and Alex seem made for each other and begin to merge their futures in a world of uncertainty.
The only certainty in life is that we will face uncertainty. Despite all fo the technology and controls available in the modern world, sometimes the only comfort comes from the human touch.
Q. Thank you for this interview, Greg. Your new book, The Illusion of Certainy, is classified as a literary fiction but can it also be labeled a romance?
Greg: It is a romance. I guess I can't help myself. I still find the relationships between men and women to be one of the most fascinating aspects of life. Both of the main characters have had some really hard knocks in the first two parts of the book. Utlimately, there is hope and a path towards redemption. The main characters are motivated by their desire to be in a loving and happy relationship. Someone mentioned to me that a common theme in all of my books is the healing power of love. I really had not realized that but I think it's a good observation and it's true. I really like the quotation by Ford Madox Ford that I used in the book. "Why can't people have what they want? the things were all there to content everybody; yet everybody has got the wrong thing." I think that perfectly captures the dilemma of some of the men and women in the book. There is a longing to love and be loved but it is difficult.
Q. Did you outline before you wrote your book or did you just go with the flow?
Greg:I do make an outline. I start with some story ideas and then begin to slowly flesh it out. Then I make an outline as kind of a road map to follow as the story unfolds. I am not restricted by the outline however. It always changes as the story evolves. My favorite part of writing is when the story evolves as you write. It goes in directions that you didn't originally imagine. I follow an outline but not to the point where creativity is restricted.
Q. Who was your favorite character in The Illusion of Certainty and why?
Greg: I really like Marc but I think Alex is my favorite character. I would really like to be Alex's friend and I can see that she would be easy to fall in love with. She's a very accomplished woman but she has a very soft, tender side as well. There is an innocence to her, that Sean commented on in the story. I also really liked the friendship between Alex and Monica. They really looked out for one another. Monica idolized Alex, her smart and beautiful friend.
Q. Who was your least favorite character?
Greg: I had a family member who read "The Illusion of Certainty" but wished Aimee would have gotten her comeuppance. That is a good point. There are things I like about Aimee but she committed the ultimate selfish act which destroyed the lives of her family and best friends. In the end, she got what she wanted and seemed to be largely unscathed. Everyone else seemed to pay the price for her decisions. Life can be unfair like that sometimes.
Q. Can you tell us about the setting and why you chose it?
Greg: I love Portland, Oregon and lived there for many years. I am intimately familiar with the city and it's many charms. I also had several friends who lived in Lake Oswego. There was also a good friend who bought a house on Peacock Lane and invited me to her Christmas party each year. I think Lake Oswego and Peacock Lane added a lot of interest as a backdrop for the unfolding story. I also ran in seven Hood to Coast races and decided to use it in the story as well.
Q. What was the hardest part to write?
Greg: I think it was the second part. In Part 2 of the book a lot of really tough things happen to the characters. I had a concern that it might be too grim as their lives basically fall apart before there is ultimately redemption. However, the reaction to the book by reviewers and readers have been positive. The trials the characters endured in Part 2 seemed to make people empathize and relate to the people in the book. I'm glad it turned out that way but it was a concern.
Q. What was the inspiration behind the story? Where were you when you came up with the idea?
Greg: Over a year ago I was diagnosed with melanoma, a severe form of skin cancer. The title comes from a discussion I had with my oncologist. I said the diagnosis introduced a lot of uncertainty in my life. My doctor said that the uncertainty is always there, we are just not aware of it. I got to thinking about that and thought of all the types of uncertainty that exist just below the surface in our lives that we generally are blissfully unaware of--much like the characters in the book. We cannot live in fear, wringing our hands about all the things that could go wrong, however we should always remember that it is there. Life itself, prosperity, success in relationships is very fragile. Any certainty we think we have in our life is only an illusion. Fortunately my treatments were successful and I plan to be around for a while.
Q. Do you plan on writing more novels?
Greg: Absolutely. In fact, I'm bursting with several ideas that I'm anxious to write about. I need to settle on one for my winter writing project. I'm pretty sure my head would explode if I tried to write two novels at once. Right now I'm working on a story about a San Francisco baseball player who at the end of his career decides to become a private investigator. It is set in 1957. I think it's a wonderful time for the setting and presents all kinds of interesting possibilities. I hope the story of this detective becomes a series. It's a new challenge to write a detective novel but of course, there is romance as well. I'm also working on the outline of a story of an American family and one young man's journey to rise above his circumstances. It is loosely based on stories from my family's history. I have at least three books in my head trying to get out. It should be fun.
Q. Thank you for this interview, Greg. Can you tell us where we can find out more about you and your wonderful new book?
Greg: It is available at iBooks, Nook and Kindle editions on line. The softcover is also available at Barnes & Noble and Amazon. Follow my writing and developments on www.gregmessel.com. There are links to buy all of my books on my blog.