Today, we have the absolute pleasure of meeting AJ Grady, a deep-thinking author with a gift for humor. His book Proof of God has been a wonderful opportunity for him to explore some of his favorite intellectual hobbies while also entertaining all of us.
Tim Greaton: Thanks so much for taking the time to spend with all of us, AJ. We really appreciate it. Before we talk about your novel “Proof of God,” I was hoping you could give us a personal glimpse inside the life and mind of AJ Grady. I understand that you’ve had a fascinating career and life path. Could you tell us about it?AJ Grady: I’ve always had a wide scope of interests, many of which have taken me around the world as a scientist and business owner. In college, I started a business manufacturing chemicals for home aquariums. I've spent the past 30 years studying philosophy and history. I also ran a business designing and constructing water gardens and ponds. I have been involved in so many things, but after a while I get bored and change direction. Those kernels of various interests and skills always stay with me, though.
Tim Greaton: What age were you when you decided you wanted to be a writer?
AJ Grady: I always wanted to be a writer, but it wasn't until my college years that I thought I could do it.
Tim Greaton: Was there an event or person that influenced your decision to write?
AJ Grady: I didn't read or write much until college. I was fortunate to have had great college professors who helped me hone my skills and who told me I had talent. I was also inspired by works of the great writers I was reading at the time: Mark Twain and Kurt Vonnegut, for example.
Tim Greaton: Do you have any set methods or schedules that you’d like to share?
AJ Grady: Yes and no. I'm bipolar and I usually can’t sleep well into the wee hours of the morning. I found, while writing Proof of God, that my best time to write is during those sleepless hours. I'm a one- or two-page a day writer. I work using a type of moving outline. I lay out 5 or 10 chapters ahead in a word file with just chapter headings and some key phrases or notes typed in. I use those notations as a moving outline. Then, writing 1 or 2 pages per day, it’s a fill in the blanks project. I usually have the beginning and end accounted for, so I'm using the middle to add spontaneity. Those chance story lines really round out the text. This method has worked well for me.
Tim Greaton: Proof of God is a unique title for a novel. How did you come upon it?
AJ Grady: I’ve been reading and studying philosophy for 35 years. I happened to pick up a text on the School Men, as they were called. Here Saint Thomas Aquinas laid out his five ways. These were his proofs of God. I became fascinated that scholars were trying to prove God's existence using logic and reason…logical arguments. This was too cool. As I researched further, I found other proofs and somewhere along the way decided my book would be called Proof of God. But I still had to find a genre to place all this philosophy into. Ultimately, I determined my protagonist would be a hard-boiled detective who also happens to be an atheist. That was it, the hook: an atheist searching for a missing crime scene file, which also happens to be a supposed proof of God.
Tim Greaton: Could you tell us about your two main characters?
AJ Grady: Detective Shamus O'Shea and his partner Detective Victoria Quinn are the main protagonists. Shamus serves as narrator, too.
Detective Shamus O'Shea tells his story through his eyes maintaining the key characteristics of the detective in a hard-boiled novel. Although not characteristically violent in nature, he lives the violence defined in the open and dark recesses of NYC. He claims that one of his reasons for being a missing persons’ detective is the daily drama and terror he was exposed to as a paperboy reading the story of a missing girl who was ultimately discovered bound, strangled and shoved into a suitcase, the rancid smell of which gave away her location 12 weeks later. One confusing facet to the story, especially for a young paperboy, was that the notorious mob boss Paulie Fingers, whose name reflected the severed fingers of those who crossed him, turned out to be the one who had set up neighborhood searches until the little girl’s body was found. Shamus still remembered how wrong it seemed that a mobster not a policeman had been responsible for finding her. Shamus grows up to be the policeman who will do the finding next time, and hopefully before people wind up dead. Shamus is hardened to the world, with a unique moral bearing that serves as his “what’s wrong with this picture” barometer during investigations. Though O’Shea has a drinking problem, he is more or less on “the program” and somehow manages not to drink most of the time. Known for not playing well with others and ignoring procedure on a whim, he often finds himself in violation of the very laws he was sworn to protect. To his way of thinking, though, if a kidnapping will lead him to a victim, then snatching a person is what must be done. Basically a loner, he has a Master's in Philosophy from Saint John's and a PhD in street smarts from NYC. Move of a woman idolizer than a "sex them upper,” O’Shea is secretly in love with his super-smart and super-sexy blond partner, Detective Victoria Quinn.
Victoria Quinn is competent and smart with the looks of a super model and the fashion-sense to go with them. She is still, however, one tough cop. Voted most likely to use excessive force at the police academy two years in a row, she is skilled at all types of martial arts and was best in her class with weapons. She graduated Summa Cum Laud from John Jay School of Criminal Justice, and though not an intellectual in interests, has a head for reducing complex logic and a nose for finding clues. In short, she is the perfect partner for O’Shea. Socially, however, he would be content with an evening of philosophy discussions, while she would more prefer base jumping or motocross laps. She also has feelings for Shamus but wouldn’t do anything to jeopardize her position on the job so their love remains unrequited…well, there’s always the sequel.
Tim Greaton: Could you tell us a little more about the book?
AJ Grady: An elderly professor derived a proof of God that was said to have mystical and supernatural powers. He developed his proof in secret, and apparently for good reason, as it turns out, many people were seeking his proof for its alleged powers. When the professor comes up missing, the police send in their big guns, the Missing Persons detectives Shamus O'Shea and Victoria Quinn. When the duo arrives at the professor's office, they find it selectively destroyed with entire sections of the room missing, as in vanished. Most bizarre of all are the expensive Italian shoes on the floor…with a pair of human feet still in them. It’s your classic "locked room" mystery, which begs the question of how a crime could have been committed in the professor’s secured office when no one had been in or out. But make no mistake there had been a crime…or three to be exact: a missing elderly professor, a missing body with feet remaining, and a missing file folder that supposedly held a powerful proof of God. The remainder of the story revolves around a search for suspects and clues. Humorous dialog drips from nearly every encounter as O’Shea and Quinn work their way through an oddball cast of suspicious characters. During these encounters O’Shea explores major questions of philosophy, science and history in regards to the proofs of God. Quinn, for her part, just tries to keep him out of trouble. My detectives hurdle a series of plot twists and bends as the suspects grow more and more unpredictable and dangerous. Gunfights and a full-fledged attack helicopter are among the challenges they ultimately have to face in the Proof of God.
Tim Greaton: I’m fortunate to have already read your novel, and I’m curious if you intended for so many of the characters to be peculiar and fun, or did they just come out that way?
AJ Grady: I wanted my characters to be funny, quirky and in some cases downright surreal. For me, they were a way to illustrate that we, as readers, are not sampling reality in a standard way. Pick any person in the story and you’ll find only the illusion of normalcy, if it exists at all. I saw many of my characters as almost cartoonish in their looks and actions.
Tim Greaton: You mentioned a sequel earlier, do you have one planned?
AJ Grady: Yes there are two more books planned in The Metaphysical Detective series. The second book is called The God Machine--here Quinn and O’Shea follow the proof to uncover the mystery of the soul. And, finally, in the third book, Photon Views of Past Wrongs, the proof lead to the discovery of divine will, time travel and all being.
Tim Greaton: It’s been great talking with you, AJ. I know you have a busy schedule, but I’m hoping you’ll take the time to visit with us again when your next book comes out.
AJ Grady: I really enjoyed our discussion, Tim, and I’d love to come back.