NEW YORK — Gary Wassner was close to getting his doctorate in 19th-century Continental philosophy when his father, who cofounded Hilldun Factors in 1952, fell ill. Wassner left school to join the family business. Today, he is president and principal of the factoring firm, which he runs with his partner, Jeffrey Kapelman. Wassner is also a published author.
His series of epic fantasy books, “Gemquest,” includes three already published works, “The Twins,” “The Awakening” and “The Shards.” The fourth book in the series, “The Revenge of the Elves,” will be released in April 2007, and the fifth book, “When Monsters Call Out the Names of Men,” should be forthcoming some time after that, Wassner said. His first children’s mystery for fourth- and fifth-grade readers hits shelves on Aug. 1.
WWD: You have a series of fantasy books, “Gemquest,” and are about to publish a children’s mystery. When did you start writing?
Gary Wassner: I started writing in about 1998. All three of the books that are now on the shelves came out in February of 2005, all at once.
WWD: How do you reconcile your creative side with your work in finance?
G.W.: The business that I’m in is a very creative one. We’re not number-crunchers. We look at the creative abilities of the principals of the businesses, we look at what they produce, what they create, what they generate. We don’t just look at the numbers. They are two very different things that I do, but the people I deal with are not all that dissimilar. Every industry, including the book-writing business, has the creative end and business end. You have to be able to handle them both in order to be successful at what you do. Authors have to be small businesses today, they have to do their own marketing, they have to do their own promotion, they have to be their own advocate. It’s very similar to what a designer needs to do today.
WWD: Has that helped you bring more to your relationship with designers?
G.W.: Yes, being an author and knowing what it takes to be on your own with something you’ve created, and having the burden of getting it into the market yourself, makes me much more aware and much more sympathetic.
WWD: From where do you draw inspiration for your books?
G.W.: A lot comes from my own conflicts as a child. A lot comes from being a parent — I have three sons — and helping them choose the right course for themselves and make the right decisions.
WWD: What do these books mean to you?
G.W.: The books are a platform for me to discuss environmental issues, current political issues, that are of interest to me … My books are really an attempt to reconcile all these questions that I have about how to be a human being in today’s world.
WWD: How do you envision your future as an author?
G.W.: I’ve been asked to write something different, start something new. I love writing in the fantasy genre, but I may just write something else that incorporates a little bit more of my real-life experiences in the fashion industry. I wrote the first chapter and a synopsis of a novel about a murder mystery in the fashion industry. And I love writing children’s books. I have two others that I finished already that are sequels to the one coming out in August.
WWD: Anything else to add about your experience as a fantasy writer?
G.W.: People have a misconception of what fantasy really is about, they think it’s about elves and dwarves and dragons, that it’s childish literature. Today, fantasy has become the genre of choice for so many literate people who feel that the freedom it gives them in world-building is much more suited to discussions that are meaningful. What is upsetting to many fantasy authors is that the general public really doesn’t understand that fantasy goes beyond the quest level … Many philosophy professors or former philosophy students I know have chosen fantasy as a medium for expressing their ideas.