<><><> Betsie's Literary Page <><><>

The Piaculum
Home | Book Reviews | FREE Celebrity Addresses | Celebrities Page 2 | Celebrities Page 3 | Get Reviewed! | Writers Showcase | Major Record Labels | Guerrilla Publicity | Print Magazines | Independent Bookstores | Specialty Shops | Media Contacts | Celebrity Production Companies | Author Friendly Radio Shows | Screenwriting | Screenwriter Agents | Author/Talent - Agents | Advice to Authors | Want your Book Noticed? | Writer's Services | Internet Resources | "How To" Articles | Other Online Reviewers | Newspaper Book Reviewers | Recipes | Movie Reviews | Links | Meet the Reviewers | About Me

Keeping faith through crisis - An incredible read!

Title: The Piaculum

Author: Richard C. Gray

Publisher: iUniverse, Inc.;(January 13, 2004)

ISBN: 095303013

Genre: Dark Fantasy/Christian/Inspirational

Paperback; 207pp


Rating: Highly Recommended


April 29, 2004


This spiritually cased novel depicts the trials and tribulations of a man called, Cearl. Cearl is a Christian of Mone faith, which was born with a rare skin condition known as the white mark. To truly understand the basis of belief surrounding those with the white mark we must go back to the birth of the Kathe religion.


Three books discovered long ago in a cave, the book of the testament, the ancient word, and the lost (third) book. It is the third, and definitely the lost book that causes division within the Christian faith. Those who discovered these biblical treasures have very different interpretations as to its scriptures on the second coming of Christ and salvation.


The Kathe religious cult was formed from those who believed that atonement was necessary for salvation moreover; this could only be attained through their Piaculum (white-marked Gods). These fierce technically advanced warriors sought out their Piaculum and pursued their religious beliefs relentlessly.


The gentile benevolent Mone, whose faith based origin believed Christ suffered for the sins of man. Therefore, all who seek Christ with their hearts shall attain salvation, at the mercy of the Kathe's.


Cearl born and raised in the Mone faith is troubled by memories of his childhood adoption by the Kathe's, as well as a ferocious desire to protect his family. The story follows Cearl from boyhood to manhood. As an adult Cearl struggles through life attempting to maintain his faith, while serving God's purpose.


This is the most moving, inspirational tale of faith I have ever had the pleasure of reading. Not only does it inspire those struggling with life's woes, but it also teaches how to maintain a closer walk with Christ through faith and love.


The Piaculum is well written and the flow is nice, keeping readers entertained. It is truly amazing how well Mr. Gray put this mesmerizing tale together!



Reviewed by Juanita Reynolds



An Interview with Richard C. Gray



Q: To start this off, why don't you give an idea of what the book is about?


A: 'The Piaculum' takes place in a distant future that has technologically been sent back into the dark ages by wars and disasters thousands of years earlier. The only thing that has survived from the present day is the bible, and two very different cultures, the Mone and the Kathe, emerge. The Mone are more or less modern Christians. The Kathe, however, develop into a brutal cult that tortures and drinks the blood of human sacrifices called Piaculum's in order to cleanse the cult members of their sins. The story focuses on a Mone man named Cearl who is born with a rare skin condition called the 'white-mark', and because of this is sought after by the Kathe to be used as one of their Piaculums. At first glance 'The Piaculum' is a story about how faith and religion can make someone stronger or how it can lead them to violence and ignorance. Though the story relies on religious symbolism, it also more generally explores what happens when people stop thinking for themselves. 



Q: Where did you grow up and was reading and writing a part of your life?


A: I grew up in Salt Lake City Utah and I was the eighth of nine children. Reading and writing didn't really become part of my life until I was older. Though I've never been diagnosed, I think I might be mildly dyslexic. As a child I had a really hard time distinguishing between d,p,q,b, and it was next to impossible for me to 'sound out' a word phonetically because the letter ordering always seemed to change on me.  I remember my first grade teacher would yell at me every day and try to embarrass me in front of the other students because I "refused" to try and 'sound out' new words, and instead I tried to figure out what they were by using the context of what we were reading.  She seemed to think I was doing it on purpose, but it just wasn't possible for me to do what she was asking, and she never seemed to pick up on that. Though I was having problems with reading and spelling, I was very gifted with math, science, and art, and I developed a large vocabulary just from listening to adults speak to one another.  So, for better or worse, later on most teachers seemed to always assume I was very well read, and they ignored the fact that by the time I was sixteen I still couldn't tell the difference between, and used interchangeably, spelling like  'maybe' and 'mabye' or 'table' and 'tabel'.


Reading and writing slowly started to become a part of my life when I was fifteen. I always loved listening to and coming up with stories, and I wanted to be able to write down one of my own. I had taught myself calculus out of a college textbook when I was fourteen, so when I was fifteen I decided that if I could do that I could do anything. I decided one day to sit down and write a book; despite the fact that it had been years since I'd actually attempted to read one. That summer I wrote a full-length novel called "The Shadow Dancers".  "Shadow Dancers" wasn't of high enough quality to actually publish or anything, but considering my age and my history I consider it an impressive achievement. I enjoyed writing it so much that I kept writing and it became a part of who I was. When I went to college the symptoms that plagued me as a kid seemed to become mild enough that I could actually enjoy reading, so that eventually also became a big part of me.



Q: Who were your earliest influences and why?


A: I guess you could say that my earliest influence in writing was probably one of my older sisters. I remember telling her I was going to write a book a few days before I started working on "Shadow Dancers". She told me that I was just a 15-year-old kid, and there was no way I was going to ever finish writing a book. I may have just been a kid, but I was a very stubborn kid, and I took that as a challenge. I may not of actually finished it if it wasn't for that sense of being challenged to do it.

My first literary influence was John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men. I remember hating just about everything they tried to force me to read in school. Mice and Men was the first book in school that I actually liked. In fact, I loved it. It had a simple, yet profound story and the writing style was true to the thoughts and words of real people. When I write, I often try to go for the same thing.


Q: What would a typical day be like for a writer?


A: For me, that depends on what stage of a project I'm in. Sometimes it's just floating on with regular daily activities while a story brews up in my head.  I may be doing the dishes, or doing my laundry, but in my head I can see the story unfolding like a movie and I start seeing it told in different ways until I find the best way to write it down. Other days I'm glued in front of my computer typing and before I know it the entire day has gone by.



Q: How long have you been writing and in what capacities?


A: I started writing as a hobby when I was about 15 years old. I went to the University of Utah to earn a degree in physics, and I'm currently doing graduate work in High Energy physics at Cornell University. So, through most of my writing career it has been a weekend or spare time only sort of thing. The Piaculum is my first published novel.



Q: Which is more difficult to write - Fiction or nonfiction and why?


A: I think that nonfiction is easier to write than fiction. Almost all of the nonfiction I've written in the past has been highly technical in nature. If you really understand the subject that you're writting about, then technical non-fiction is simply formulaic. In fact, in the past when I've written a scientific paper I spent most of my time putting in the plots, tables, and diagrams, and the actual writing was secondary. In fiction writing you not only have to understand your subject, you have to create it, it also has to keep someones interest the whole way through. If someone picks up a scientific paper, they do it because they want to know the information you've put in it, and they don't care that much if the writing is interesting or if it keeps them wanting to read on. In fact, making the writing interesting is somewhat frowned on (just stick to the facts). However, in fiction you have to keep the reader wanting to turn the page. You have to convince them, page after page, that they want to get to the end and see what is inside.



Q: Has there ever been a time when you wanted to throw in the towel and give up? And if so, how did you defeat those instincts?


A: I think every author has a moment of wanting to throw in the towel every time they pick up the first draft of a manuscript they wrote months ago and see everything that's wrong with it. It always seems perfect right after you finish it, you're too close to it, then after a while you go back and you see your problems.  To get a story right you have to go through it over and over and over again. It can be hard to keep yourself from just giving up on it. Now days, when I ever think of giving up on a project I think back to what my AP art teacher in high school, Mrs. Rawson, told me, "Every single masterpiece goes through an ugly phase. An artist has to be brave enough to allow their painting to go through that ugly phase and have faith that it will turn out in the end. Otherwise, their work will always look amateur." Writing a novel is the same as creating a painting in that respect. If you spend your whole time afraid to explore the story and make a few 'ugly' drafts you will never get the story to where it could have been.



Q: What is the hardest part about being a writer?


A: Honestly, finding time to write. There are two very important things that can take up an author's time and keep them from writing. First, an author has to eat, and until you come up with a novel that hits the bestseller list you will need a day job. Second, I think the best authors are ones who have done interesting things or have interesting jobs in their lives other than just writing. I don't think you can just write, you need to at least have a background in something else that might seem unrelated at first glance.  You have to know what it's like to really understand and research another field. I don't think it matters whether that something else is science, law, law enforcement, psychology, medicine, mountaineering, martial arts, military, or whatever, but if you don't have that extra background all you will ever be able to convincingly write is a story about a writer trying to write a book--you can only write so many novels like that. 



Q: Do you have any hobbies? What are they? How do they enhance your writing?


A: When I had access to the supplies I used to make sculptures. I take the time to draw and paint when I can.  I enjoy learning about science. I'm an avid runner, I'm into weight training, and I used to do kick boxing and karate. I think the art and painting helps me to think of characters, landscapes, and new ideas. The science and math help me to construct plots and think of things that are physically plausible. The running, in particular the marathon I ran a few years ago, has taught me patience and to concentrate on things one step at a time while keeping the big picture in mind. These are all things that I believe a person needs in order to write a novel.



Q: Articles and media alike make it sound as though the only way to rise to the top is to sacrifice. What do you find to be good sacrifices?


A: I think that one of the best sacrifices that an author has to make to write a good story is that they have to sacrifice their most private thoughts and feelings and then put them on paper for the whole world to see. It's not easy. "The Piaculum" was particularly difficult to write because I put a lot of myself and my own thoughts into it that I don't particularly like to share with just anyone, or even with my family.  But, I think that if you want to make something meaningful, you have to open up a vein and let it flow into the work.



Q: What question do you get asked more than any other?


A: I think that would have to be, where did the story for 'The Piaculum' come from.  I think part of it is that the story is quite original and people have a hard time labeling it.  'The Piaculum' has elements from religious fiction, horror, social fiction, science fiction, and fantasy, yet it doesn't quite fit in with any of these categories.



Q: Whats the coolest thing a reader has said to you?


A: I think the coolest thing that a reader has said to me is that the story actually brought tears to their eyes. It was a pretty weird, yet good feeling to know that I had touched someone like that.



Q: What has been your feedback from readers? What do they say to you about their interpretations of your book?


A: The feedback from readers has been quite positive. There have been a few people who thought the violence in the story was too intense, and someone else who I don't think was comfortable with the religious symbolism. Other than that everyone else has told me that they loved the story.  Some people find it incredibly spiritual, other people see a very dark horror story, and others see a message about thinking for yourself and the dangers of taking ancient documents too literally. The story is actually all of these things, but I find it interesting that people tend to only see one of them.


Q: Do you think that as a writer you are more prone to watching what goes on around you and observing behaviors than most people are?


A: I've always sort of studied the world and the people around me and tried to figure out what makes them tick and take note of how they carry themselves, things like that. I'm not sure if I would say that I do it because I'm a writer because I started doing it long before I started writing. But, I think it's something that anyone who wants to be a writer needs to get into the habit of doing.



Q: Who are some of the authors you consider to be "don't miss"?


A: I'll name just a few. First off I'd have to say John Steinbeck, particularly 'Grapes of Wrath' or 'Of Mice and Men'. Next, I'd say 'Lord of the Rings' should be required reading in school. Jill Patton Walsh wrote an excellent novel called 'Knowledge of Angles'--I keep meaning to read more of her work. George Orwell's '1984' and 'Animal Farm' are must-reads. If you were in the mood for an action packed fantasy/horror novel you might consider 'The Shivered Sky' by Matt Dinniman. 



Q: If one were looking to start his/her own career as a writer, what would you suggest his/her first step to be?


A: It depends on what the person wants to do. If there love is writing, regardless of the subject or the length, and that's how they want to pay the bills, they should probably start with creating a number of short works: book reviews, articles, short stories, add copy. Then they should pick up a copy of Writers Market and try to sell their work. Even if that person eventually wants to write novels, having a number of published articles will probably help getting their book published. Personally, writing articles or add- copy would never do it for me. I'm a lover of creating stories more than anything. If someone is like me, the only advice I can give them is to keep reading, keep writing, and be patient. They have a hard road ahead of them. Finishing a novel can take well over a year, especially if you're working in something else while you're writing, and trying to get that novel into print and into the hands of readers is more difficult than creating it.



Q: What kind of movies do you enjoy?


A: My friends tell me I have odd taste in movies. I usually find the current blockbusters to be enjoyable, but I also tend to look for things that are different, artsy, and often a little dark. Sometimes, I like to watch movies that are just plain stupid and I dont know why.


Q: What is your favorite city to visit, but one that you wouldnt want to live in?


A: I guess that would be New York City. The museums are fantastic. I remember my first time in the Guggenheim museum I was looking at a painting and I thought to myself, "Wow, that looks just like a Picasso." Then, it dawned on me that it actually was a Picasso. I had this moment where I realized that a lot of the paintings and fossils that I'd heard about as a kid were within walking distance of me. However, as much as I love many of the things that are in the city, I would never be able to live there. It's way too crowded for me, the traffic drives me beyond nuts, and compared to where I grew up everything seems slightly dusty or dirty.


Q: Whats the strangest question youve ever been asked in an interview?


A: I'm not sure about the strangest question, but the strangest comment I got was from a reviewer about the cover of the book. I got the chance to put one of my own paintings on the cover of the book. Without really realizing it I made the person on the cover look almost exactly like me (except, of course, for the white skin and the crucifix marked into their forehead). When the reviewer compared the painting on the cover to the photograph of myself on the back I think they got a kick out of it. They told me that, based on that, I must be a "riot" to know.



Q: Whats the best part of being a writer?


A: I think the best part is being able to create a world out of your imagination and bring people you've never even met into it.



Q: What's next?


A: Right now I'm working toward a Ph.D. in High Energy physics. Hopefully I'll get enough spare time to finish another novel between now and the time I graduate. I have about 5 different ideas at the moment, some of them already started, and I'm just trying to decide which one to focus on next.



We hope you enjoyed learning more about Richard Gray, as we did. Betsie's Literary Page thanks him for his participation and time to complete this interview. It is obvious there are great things to come for this author, we wish him all the best.