Knowing and Working with Thriving, Best-Seller Author Gary KaschakBy Mark Orrin, Author, Authors' Editor/Mentor
An ultimate multi-tasker, Cedarbrook, NJ's own Gary Kaschak's been a sports coach and newspaper columnist and feature writer, a winning entrepreneur and business owner. He's also someone many folks who do a few or all of those things never manage to be as well: both a wide-visioned, best-selling novelist with a deep, common touch and a prince of a man every bit as compassionate and resolutely determined as the unbashedely heroic characters he creates for his novels.
I know that's true because I've worked to help Gary energetically shape three increasingly ambitious novels to date, and I can vouch for his growing breadth of story-reach and depth of character-probing as an author and also his largesse of human spirit. I emphasize his energy first and foremost because it's a rare guy who does all Gary does- he's a devoted family man, too- and how Gary finds (or makes) any time to write novels is a mystery to me.
Yet he's managed to write three, each longer and better than the last.
Gary Kaschak and I first met nearly eight years ago, via an on-line network of skilled book editors and mentors (www.book-editing.com); he chose me to help with his dynamic first novel, Hands That Break...Hands That Heal. I was soon deeply impressed with his natural storyteller's style and his uncanny ability to co-mingle host of fiction elements readers don't often see under one cover these days.
Hands is essentially about whether life in our times can produce a fully human young person who's also truly saintly. In it, a severely injured teenage girl proves herself the heart and soul of her grade school volleyball team, a peerless inspiration to her community and eventually a lighthouse of blessing to the poorest of the poor and all humanity. As Gary weaves complex sub-plots, inter-generational intrigue, athletic conflict, corrupt special interests' machinations and a local news reporter's resoluteness on behalf of what's fine and honest, he emerges, never resorting to sentimentality or cheap plot devices, with values-victories of family, self-sacrifice, friendship and good-over-evil triumphs.
In Kaschak's next outing, The Hole To China, a small-town boy starts to dig exactly that- and then keeps on trying to dig it even after he himself realizes full well it's impossible. Fighting discouragement, ridicule, bullying and a dismal family environment, the boy doggedly pursues his implausible dream, and to his own amazement finds people joining him! By the time he's done digging, he's turned his town, state, nation and the world upside down as a surprised, least-likely goodwill ambassador! Again, Gary balances and juggles a host of resonant sub-plots and characters of all ages until they feed into a climax that makes you feel great- after the circumstances he's set up to create tension and suspense that have you feeling not just bad, but desperate for thr young digger.
Several years later I started digging into Gary's latest (and grand-scaled) tale, Lifestone, which this time daringly caroms and intercuts between two centuries as its young male and female college student protagonists, arrogant young publishing industry scion Torrance Albright III and stubborn Maura Dean track legendary Professor Sebastian Norwich's unique assignment back to the U.S. Civil War's end and beyond. Doughtily assisted by elderly historian-journalist Peter McDonnell, they find evidence of the life of a dynamic woman named Hope, buried deep by murder, prejudice, and a deceitful cover-up it takes all their ingenuity, courage, energy and at last, love, to disinter.
By its end Lifestone solves a mystery rooted in the 19th century, on a grand canvas sprawling over America's Eastern states- and rights wrongs and injustices festering against an extraordinary woman whose forgotten, heroic, freedom-seeking journeys and labors of faith, healing and love reach into our era to bind up countless social and personal wounds. I reflected that Gary had taken on quite a challenge, courageously trying to manage such a large-scale literary "architecture"; by book's end I both wept and rejoiced that he'd pulled it off with mighty skill, accomplishing something truly astounding.
In all three of his books so far, Gary Kaschak stands resolutely for un-preachy spiritualities so truly "heavenly minded" they produce heaps of "earthly good." He refuses to let "generation gaps" discourage his good-willed characters of all ages from working together to achieve great acts of human spirit. He and his overcomer-characters stand for truth, honor, integrity, humor and respectful love, and he makes you believe, not only that such people still exist in our day, he shows you how they can labor effectively to defeat whatever and whoever would stand against those virtues and replace them with shackles molded from power, corruption and oppression.
After "working" his three books (so far), I understand well how and why Gary Kaschak can create such convincing characters: It's because he's just such an individual himself. Anyone who's tried in a constructively critical vein to help authors forge their books knows how testy "writers' egos" can be. Not Gary's; he's got one of those healthy talents that's non-defensive, teachable, modest and growing. As for the quality of his personhood, I can thank him from my heart for sticking with me through a deep personal crisis that occurred as I was editing Lifestone, during which he evidenced great compassion and patience toward this beleaguered editor-mentor.
All this being said, you shouldn't find it surprising that thousands of copies (making Gary not only an author, but a best-selling one) of Hands and Holes have found their ways to inspire and uplift readers who've been privileged to read them. I feel honored to have helped Gary with these books, and now with his remarkable Lifestone, which I trust will soon be blessing many thousands more folks. I can't think of another author's voice America would benefit from hearing as much in these troubled times for our country and her anxious, hurting people.
Gary, bravo!- and I'll be there for you and whatever part you may wish me to play in future word-works your great storyteller's heart pours out.