Sunday, May 5, 2013

Blog Tour {Guest Post & Giveaway}—Our Souls to Keep by Gary Caruso

Our Souls to Keep
by Gary Caruso
Publication: April 25th 2013 by Inertia Publishing
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal Romantic Suspense

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After seventeen-year-old Wake Reynolds agrees to trade his life to prevent the damaged soul of his suicidal mother from the fiery tortures of Hell, Satan strips him of his humanity and forces him to become a demonic collector of souls. With no memory of his human existence, Wake preys on defenseless teenagers until they willingly end their own lives.

After many years of loyal service, something inside Wake is changing. Images of a forgotten life, lost human emotions begin to emerge. As Wake struggles to keep these new sensations hidden, Satan orders him to corrupt the soul of a pregnant girl, Annemarie. Beautiful, gentle Annemarie. From the moment Wake sees her, she brings lightness to his blackened heart. If he chooses to defy Satan and spare the lives of Annemarie and her unborn child, his mother’s soul will writhe in Hell’s deepest pit for eternity. Annemarie or his mother? It’s a choice no one should have to make.

A Paranormal Romantic Suspense novel suitable for readers 15 years and up.

About Our Souls to Keep
by Gary Caruso

Hello and thank you for having me as a guest on your blog. I’m very excited for the release of Our Souls to Keep. It’s a beautiful story about love and redemption that will touch your heart as much as the action will make your pulse race. I’m often asked where I came up with the idea for this novel. The overall plot for Our Souls to Keep  really came last. It was the final scene of the story that popped into my head first. I saw it so vividly in my mind, like I was watching a scene from a movie. I knew readers would find it strikingly emotional and gripping. I couldn’t wait to build an in-depth and engaging plot that would equal the powerful ending. After all, it’s the journey to the climax that makes reading a book enjoyable. At the time, I was working on a different novel. I jotted down some notes (I forget more ideas than I remember.) and put it aside. But as much I tried to focus on the novel I was writing, Our Souls to Keep  kept pecking at me, begging for attention. Once I was finally available to start writing this novel, it was like running down hill. Plot ideas came and went, but at the core of the story was this reluctant, forbidden love between two seemingly different characters.

When I started writing Our Souls to Keep, I recognized that the plot was highly charged and twisting. I knew the story would fall flat unless the main character had a strong personality who wouldn’t fade within the strength of an in-depth story. Wake Reynolds turned out to be the perfect main character. At the start of the novel, his actions make him so easy to despise. Yet, I fell in love with his character immediately, probably because he had fallen so far. I thought it would be fun watching him rise up against the bonds of Hell. After many revisions, I handed the manuscript to a few early readers for feedback. As their comments began to flow in, many of them asked me why I hated Wake so much. At first, I was surprised. They said, “Every time it seems like things start to go well for Wake, you throw him down again.” I guess I’m guilty of taunting him with “happily ever after.” He’s a demonic bad-boy, but as we search within him, we discover someone who is intensely loyal and tragically vulnerable. He wants a chance to experience everything he’s lost—love, friendship, a family, even a future. I hope you enjoy watching Wake struggle through this journey as much as I enjoyed making his life Hell.

An important part of the writing process is getting feedback from people with an eye for detail. When critique partners and friends finished reading an early version of this novel, many were surprised by the dark, sometimes violent nature of the book. Not that it’s over-the-top violent, it’s just that people know me as a calm and happy person (on most occasions.) But that’s what makes creativity so addictive. While writing Our Souls to Keep, I was able to explore a tragic, paranormal life of Wake Reynolds without leaving the comfort of my home. That’s not to say I was able to detach from Wake’s horrible situation. In order to believably stitch together fantasy and reality, it’s important to engage in the character, to feel what he feels, to know what he wants and what he’s willing to do to get it. It’s like how an actor prepares for a role. At times, Wake’s deep, conflicted emotions made me push away from the computer, sometimes feeling the same emotions. Wake is a powerful and vulnerable character. He searches for happiness while being tormented by decisions of life and death. I hope as you ride through the twists and turns of Wake’s extraordinary journey, you enjoy getting to know the passion and desires that make him a special character.

People ask me what I think is the hardest part of writing a novel. For Our Souls to Keep, it was including a strong romantic element in the story without being overtly sexual. Most people don’t experience the heightened level of romance that fiction presents so well. I suppose that’s the allure. Creating a believable and loving relationship between two very different characters was difficult. It can easily fall into a corny, redundant pattern. “I love you” and holding hands isn’t nearly enough to express the intense emotions that develop between Wake and Annemarie. Born within a tragic journey, surrounded by secrets, their relationship becomes complicated. That made every interaction between them so important—the nature of their touch, the hesitancy in their words, and finally the birth of their spoken and unspoken love. I’m very pleased with how well the novel represents their tenderness. I hope it sparks a wide spectrum of emotions within you. I know it did for me.

In fact, after a few early drafts, I changed the beginning to be more jarring, kind of punch in the gut. Because it involves teen suicide, I was challenged to write an engaging, realistic scene with paranormal violence, and still respect a serious issue. I worked for many days before I was comfortable that it in no way triggered or promoted suicide. Initially a couple editors said the YA market wasn’t ready for that kind of realistic imagery. That was two years ago and since then, the market has changed and many YA authors are addressing difficult topics, like drug use, bullying, and eating disorders, in a responsible way. Wake Reynolds is an unlikeable character in the beginning of the book, mostly because he does horrible things to defenseless, vulnerable teens. As he searches for his lost humanity, I don’t think he ever truly forgives himself. The responsibility and regret he has for his actions and the effect it has on the people around him is what makes Wake so endearing.

It’s fascinating how people lock into the relationship that develops between Wake and Annemarie. I understand, their relationship is tender and uncertain. And it’s probably the aspect of the story that readers can easily relate to. For me, the background conflict between Heaven and Hell is just as engaging. In our lives, too often, good is good and bad is bad, but in a fantasy world, theses lines can get blurred. After all, is anything totally good or evil? And what is each side willing to do to get their desired outcome? It isn’t so clear-cut when both Heaven and Hell are both strongly motivated to succeed. As Wake and Annemarie search for safety and salvation, they find themselves caught in the center of something much larger than they can ever understand. How they struggle against these two powerful forces is one of the reasons readers will be gripped to Our Souls to Keep  until the very end.

Gary Caruso

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Gary Caruso lives in northern Virginia with his wife Jill, but their favorite place is in Ohio with their three beautiful grandchildren. Although Gary is exhilarated when he sits down to write, teaching middle school science is his first love. He’s passionate about empowering students to make thoughtful decisions and positive choices in life. Gary enjoys reading, especially fiction that blurs the line between what’s real and what’s fantasy. He never imagined becoming a writer until an ordinary car ride on a spring day jolted an unlikely thought into his head. Gary’s early experience writing is a reminder that no matter how intimidating the challenge, action and determination are the foundations for fulfilling any dream. Gary has an insatiable love for writing, a blessing he’s excited to share with his readers.

Ten (10) eBook sets of Our Souls to Keep
Annemaries's unique bracelet in Our Souls to Keep
Signed Bookmarks


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