Gabriel Farago’s latest Jack Rogan thriller is a medical adventure that deals with the dark matter of the human genome and a visionary scientist with the power to change the future of medicine. Sounds like Sci Fi you think? Well it’s not. It’s had approval from top cancer researchers.
Jenny: Hi there, I’m your host Jenny Wheeler and today Gabriel tells us about the virtual reality game that’s helping make dark science real to ordinary people – and why he thanks Dan Brown for his writing career.
Six things you’ll learn from this Joys of Binge Reading episode
- Where you can take Professor K’s virtual reality tour
- Why world class cancer researchers praise Professor K
- How Dan Brown helped Gabriel’s career
- Where he’d take fans for a mystery literary tour
- The four contemporary writers he most admires
- And the mind attitude that’s the secret to his success
Where to find Gabriel Farago:
Facebook and Twitter https://twitter.com/gabriel_farago
What follows is a “near as” but not word for word transcript of our chat with links to important mentions.
Jenny: And now, here’s Gabriel. Hello there Gabriel, and welcome to the show. It’s great to have you with us.
Gabriel: It’s an absolute pleasure to be here and thank you for asking me.
Jenny: It’s lovely to think of you sitting in the Blue Mountains in Sydney right now, is the weather good?
Gabriel: We had a little bit of fog this morning but yes it’s good. I’m sitting right on the side of the Blue Mountains, on the edge of a World Heritage National Park, and I write in my attic here so it’s an absolutely wonderful setting for a writer.
Jenny: Beginning at the beginning . . . .Was there a “Once Upon A Time” moment when you realised you had to write fiction or your life would be the lesser for it? If so what was the catalyst?
Gabriel: Looking back on my life that’s a difficult one to answer I don’t believe it has been one particular moment It’s been more of a journey than a moment. I have had a very long legal career. I’ve been a barrister for many years, running court cases and I have met some very interesting people who were inspiration for taking up writing. However my interest goes back much further than that. I have a literature degree and I have been interested in books going right back to when I was a boy in Austria.
Jenny: I see. You’ve now published three historical mysteries in the Jack Rogan series, but did you start with Jack?
Gabriel: Yes, I started with Jack. My first book, The Empress Holds the Key, was a very ambitious project and was ignited by my interest in ancient Egyptology and the church and the scriptures and how all of those mesh together in the past. So that book took me ten years to complete. I was still practising law at the time, so it’s been a gradual process.
Jenny: Your most recent book, The Hidden Genes of Professor K, introduces us to a visionary scientist with the power to change the future of medicine. One of your colleagues at the Garvan Institute has described it as a journey into the “dark matter of the human genome” – and I’m very interested in your connection with that institute – it’s an internationally recognised cancer research facility in Sydney and several of the scientists there have contributed to a foreword for the book.
Gabriel: Yes they have and I think it’s appropriate that I tell you a little of how that came about. A writer should only write about things he knows about and is interested in and medical research has been an area of interest of mine for many years. The Garvan Institute is a world-renowned institute with 500 scientists working there on cutting edge medical research. I have been a director of the institute for ten years and having had the privilege of seeing the work they do – research which will affect the future of mankind – and that sparked the interest in introducing a science-oriented topic into a Jack Rogan mystery.
Jenny: Yes now that book won an indie writer’s award – that must have pleased you – but also you can also go to the website and take an interactive tour – it’s quite fascinating for readers to complete.
Gabriel: One of my involvements is philanthropic and that has provided an opportunity to link my book to create awareness of medical research and how it works. One of the main aims of the book was to find a way to translate complex medical research subjects for readers without having to delve into medical jargon, and I think that’s also why the scientists were happy to be involved. It’s a great opportunity to reach out to the public at large and I think that’s why its been well received, particularly in the United States where medical thrillers are very popular. It’s received a lot of interest on social media and I’ve also incorporated a pledge card in the electronic version to allow people to find out more.
The virtual tour has only just been released and takes readers into the heart of the Garvan Institute through the eyes of Professor K.
You can take the virtual tour: https://professork.online and even hear Gabriel introducing the tour . .
Jenny: We will certainly put a link to the website in the show notes. In your delightful memoir Letters in the Attic you jokingly blame Dan Brown for having a role in impeding the acceptance of your first book by a traditional publisher . . . can you tell that story?
Gabriel: That was a funny story looking back, although it wasn’t at the time. As I mentioned the first book was a very long and ambitious project and towards the end I started putting out feelers to traditional publishers and hoped for acceptance. To my great surprise one of the first publishing houses I approached expressed interest and commenced negotiations. An editor was appointed and the whole process dragged on for a year, until I finally said to them that “something has to happen – we either go ahead or part company.” And then they said well your work has flavours and nuances of Dan Brown and we feel a first time author wouldn’t be in a position to compete so regrettably we want to let you go.. Of course that was disappointing but it opened the main door to setting up my own publishing company.
Jenny: And from what you said in Going It Alone, your guide for other authors, you make it clear that you feel now that it was fortunate because you’ve flourished in the new publishing scene – your publishing company is the Bear and King and it has an interesting story in its own right. Tell us how that came about . . .
Gabriel: As a story teller, I love stories and this one has its origin in my family crest. My family come from Hungary – I have a German mother and a Hungarian father and we have a family crest that dates back to the 16th century when a great ancestor saved the King’s life. He killed a bear who attacked the King when he was drinking from a well. He heard the commotion and ran to the scene and killed the bear with the King’s sword – hence Bear and King Publishing.
Jenny: You take pride in blending fact and fiction but I suspect each book is based on historical events that sparked your imagination? Is that a fair assumption?
Gabriel: That is a correct assumption. Again I am fascinated by real events, and I blend fact and fiction into what is I hope a seamless story line. I hope that the tag line I use – “thrillers for the thinking reader” accurately captures that approach.
Jenny: You spent your early years in Austria and came to Australia as a teenager. Was it difficult integrating into Australian life? Can you tell us a little of that journey? And has that experience influenced your writing?
Gabriel: I never felt a stranger in this country I had a very warm welcome The curious thing was I went to Jesuit school in Austria where everything was taught except English – so when I arrived as a 16 year old I spoke several languages but none of them was English – ironic now when I look back on my life and career where language has been the hub of the wheel as a barrister and writer . . .
But I did not feel like an outsider at all, I felt instantly at home here and for that I am always grateful.
Jenny: You certainly made up lost ground very quickly.
Gabriel: Being multi lingual certainly helps. When I look at anything in maths I always think in German, so certain subjects trigger a certain language in my mind… It has helped me understand sentence structure.
In more general terms (moving away from specific book focus)
Jenny: Before you turned to fiction you had an exciting and rewarding career as a barrister, You weren’t ever tempted to be the Southern Hemisphere’s John Grisham and write legal thrillers?
Gabriel: Another interesting question! The answer is “No” I really didn’t want to emulate anyone I simply wanted to follow my interests and that is in history. I love Russian literature – the Dostoyevskys, Tolstoys, and Pushkins and also French writers. I was very much influenced by Alexander Dumas – those were the books that I read with great interest as a boy. And then later in my teens I discovered James Michener. I loved his books and I wanted to turn to that particular way of writing. I didn’t want to limit what I did to legal subjects although I do use them, but not as the main driver, as a tool.
Jenny: You do call them historical mysteries because although they are in contemporary settings, a lot of the plot harks back to history?
Gabriel: That is correct. A very good example is the first book The Empress Holds The Key which basically is a quest for the Ark of the Covenant. I have always been fascinated by the scriptures and the Ark of the Covenant interested me – whether it ever existed and if so what happened to it and so the history goes back thousands of years way beyond Egyptian times. The Hidden Genes of Professor K is a medical mystery and The Disappearance of Anna Popov delves into crime and bikie gangs which has also always fascinated me, but they all have continuing characters who evolve. Each stands alone and can be read by itself but readers feel connected by the characters and get more out of it read as a series.
Jenny: Yes and they go all over the world. One question I like to ask – maybe facetiously – is if you were going to organise a magical mystery literary tour of your books where would you suggest readers go? What places have you enjoyed most researching?
Gabriel: I do take research very seriously, and I make a point of visiting all the places mentioned in my books and so far with one exception I have been able to do that. I have quite a visual sense I transport myself to the places and situations that I then visualise in my imagination before I put pen to paper. It gives me great pleasure and satisfaction to visit those place I experience the sounds, smells, languages, climate and that has an influence on me. I travel for at least two months every year. I am currently working on a “sequel” – in a loose sense – to the Professor K called Professor K The Final Quest . . and that book is set principally in Florence, Istanbul and Venice. I know those places very well and visited all the artefacts and iconic buildings like Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque to create a feeling of authenticity for the books. It would be difficult to choose one, but I will if you would like me to.
Jenny: Yes that would be good – and I’m interested in the one you couldn’t get to . . !
Gabriel: The one I couldn’t get to was in Ethiopia. which features in the first book – it was too dangerous to travel and those remote sites like the rock churches in Lalibela check were just too dangerous.
Jenny: Oh I see. So where would you take readers?
Gabriel: If I were to take readers to one place, and we might perhaps have a gathering, perhaps we could enjoy a great meal together – if I was going to do that I would take them to Rome.
Jenny: It sounds like a great idea! Perhaps we should suggest to your readers you are going to take a tour next year and see what they say!
Gabriel: Oh that would be a scary prospect. I think I’f be overwhelmed with suggestions and get nothing written – but it was a great question.
Jenny: Gabriel is there one thing you’ve done in your writing career more than any other which has been the secret to your success?
Gabriel: Follow my instincts. I think is the way to respond to that very important question. I get great joy out of writing and the joy of learning inspires me. Writing is a very solitary way of doing it so you have to be happy in your own company and it is a cerebral thing every single scene word, character, is a creation of my imagination, so it has to happen within yourself . It has been a great joy to do that, not just interesting but satisfying.
Gabriel as reader
Jenny: Turning now to Gabriel as reader. The series is called “The Joys of Binge Reading” because I see it as providing inspiration for people who like to read series . . . . Have you ever in the past been a “binge reader” Who did you read?
And do you have a current series or author – or more than one – you’d like to recommend to listeners.
Gabriel: It’s been a gradual process, I have been inspired by the classics, I am a very keen reader – although not so much time today which is ironic.. and I have my favourites obviously . . . Wilbur Smith is one of my favourites, I love his Seventh Scroll and The River God, Frederick Forsythe, David Gibbins, James Rollins The Bone Labyrinth – really too many to mention, but I would like to mention Christopher Hepworth . . he is on a very similar journey to mine, we share a publicist, and the Sleepwalker Legacy is my favourite of his books.
Circling back to the end
Jenny: At this stage in your career, if you were doing it all again, what would you change – if anything?
Gabriel: Jenny I believe trying to change your life is a folly anyway, and we are the sum total of all the experiences we have shared so far, so the answer is “No, I wouldn’t want to change anything.” There have been so many things that have happened in my life, all of which of course have a bearing on my writing today. I wouldn’t want to change anything and I look forward to the future and the possibility of writing many more books to come.
Jenny: That leads us beautifully into our final question, and that is, what is next for Gabriel the writer ? You have new projects under development?
Gabriel: Well there is something that many writers complain about that has never bothered me and that is not having any ideas about what to write about. If anything I have too many ideas assaulting me and I have at least three of four books planned in my mind going forward and so I plan to continue doing what I am doing and enjoying it. I hope for a long journey of creativity, so there are many more books planned involving my loveable rascal and friend Jack Rogan, and I hope to do just what I am doing for a long time.
Jenny: Oh that’s lovely. So where can readers find you on line? You do have a very strong on line presence.
Website: https://gabrielfarago.com.au first and foremost. All they have to Google up my name and they will find many different topics and sites to connect.
Active on Facebook and Twitter, Linked In and Pinterest, but just Google my name . . .blogs and whatever is happening at the moment.
“The Professor K Tour of the Garvan.’ Take the virtual tour: https://professork.online turn up the volume, and enjoy the journey! Incidentally, you will hear Gabriel’s voice introducing the tour so have fun and tell your friends!
Thanks To Our Technical Support:
The Joys of Binge Reading podcast is put together with wonderful technical help from Dan Cotton at DC Audio Services. Dan is an experienced sound and video engineer who’s ready and available to help you with your next project… Seek him out at firstname.lastname@example.org or Phone + 64 – 21979539. He’s fast, takes pride in getting it right, and lovely to work with.
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