New Interview on George Cramer’s Author Site

ALFRED J. GARROTTO – Former Priest – Novelist / Screenwriter / Manuscript Editor / Author

Interviewed by Author-Blogger George Cramer 

Jan 10, 2022

I’m a native Californian living in the San Francisco Bay Area. My life path has included Catholic ministry, marriage, children, and a grandchild. The writing bug bit me somewhere along that path, and I’ve published 16 books ranging from spirituality to romantic drama to a trilogy based on Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables.

 Please tell us about your book and blurb and any comments about any other of your books:

Inspector Javert: at the Gates of Hell (Book 3 of the Wisdom of Les Misérables Trilogy)

Inspector Javert’s central theme: “What happens in the next instant after the heart beats for the last time.” Javert gazes into the River Seine. What future has he after freeing his enemy Jean Valjean? Rather than face his options, he leaps into the river.

Book 1… Lessons From the Heart of Jean Valjean (nonfiction)Book 2… Bishop Myriel: In His Own Words

Do you write in more than one genre? 
I write both fiction and nonfiction. Topics range from romance/action to the arts and spiritual themes.

What brought you to writing? 
After a 20-year career in Catholic ministry, the writing bug bit.

Tell us about your writing process 
I am gifted with (a) a love for the craft and (b) the ability to focus on the task at hand and stay with it for long stretches of the day. I don’t set goals about page count; I just stay with the process.

What is the most challenging part of your writing process? 
Most challenging is never allowing myself to fall in love with the draft I’m working on. Writing Inspector Javert brought that lesson home. At draft 10, I said, “Done!” The final book took 20+ drafts.

Has an association membership helped you or your writing? 
Without a doubt, my most important association throughout my career has been with the California Writers Club (Mount Diablo Branch). I tell people, “As a writer, it’s the only place I can go where people know what I’m talking about.”

Who’s your favorite author? 
If I have to pick one, it is Victor Hugo. He was such a complex human being in his personal life. That very complexity fed his mammoth ability to create the most varied and unforgettable characters.

How long did it take you to write your first book? 
My first three books came out as a series under the name Adult-to-Adult (Christ in Our Lives, Christians and Prayer, and Christians Reconciling, Winston Press). I drew upon material I developed during my ministry years.

How do you come up with character names? 
When writing fiction, names just seem to come to me. This may sound sappy, but the characters tell me their names.

We hear of strong-willed characters. Do yours behave, or do they run the show? 
My characters run the show, whether they behave themselves or misbehave. To me, a novel is boring if everyone “does the right thing” all the time. Characters must behave like real people. They can sin and repent—or not. There must always be a measure of growth as the story arcs to the end.

What’s the most challenging thing when writing characters of the opposite sex? 
As a male writer, it’s always a challenge to climb inside the mind and body of a woman character. In my trilogy (A Love Forbidden, Finding Isabella, and I’ll Paint a Sun), all the main characters are women. As is the protagonist in The Saint of Florenville. I’ve never heard a complaint from female readers that I “didn’t get it right.”

Do you ever kill a popular character? 
A protagonist, no. Supporting characters might need to die. Hugo modeled this in Les Misérables. At the barricade, the boy Gavroche dies first. Then his sister, Eponine, dies in Marius’s arms. Enjolras, the rebel leader, dies. Everyone dies except Jean Valjean and Marius.

How do you raise the stakes for your protagonist—for the antagonist? 
Inspector Javert: at the Gates of Hell offers a good example. Javert’s ordered life turns upside down when he allows doubt to creep into his soul. Could a lifelong criminal be capable of goodness? That crack in Javert’s armor demands recognition. He might have gotten it wrong all his life. In an instant, the entire structure of his life falls apart.

Do you outline, or are you a pantser? 
A hybrid “pantser.” I begin a novel with an idea arc. I don’t create an outline. I count on the characters to surprise me by doing something I didn’t see coming. In my Les Mis trilogy, I had to follow the plotline set by Hugo. E.g., Javert can’t be a warm-hearted, fun-loving cop. Nor could Jean Valjean act out of character. I worked within the parameters of Hugo’s storyline. After Javert’s death, I had complete freedom to do anything I wanted.

What kind of research do you do? 
Primarily, I focus on getting the historical time, place, weather, etc., as accurate as possible. It helps if I’ve actually visited the places where I set my story. For example, I’ve been to Paris four times over the years and have a feel for the local environment as I experienced it.

Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? 
It depends on the story. Inspector Javert bound me to get the time and place right. In another novel, I built my own world. Whether setting a story in San Francisco (I’ll Paint a Sun) or Peru (Circles of Stone and Down a Narrow Alley), I needed to get it as right as possible, though I’ve never been to Peru.

What is the best book you have ever read?
 Les Misérables. All 1,200 pages of it.

Do you have any advice for new writers? 
First, stop talking about writing and just do it. Don’t let your first draft be your last draft. Have faith in yourself and do the work.

Second, find a compatible writing community for moral support and learning the craft of writing. Third, have fun. Writing doesn’t have to be torture—if it is, don’t do it

If none of this appeals to you, find something else you like to do.

How do our readers contact you?



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Javert on Wikipedia

Did you know that Inspector Javert has his own page on Wikipedia? Check it out at

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Inspector Javert is here… and he’s looking for you

Inspector Javert: at the Gates of Hell is now available to all via your local bookstore and

Climb with me inside the dark and torturous mind of Victor Hugo’s most reviled antihero. It’s a dark and scary place. Is there any hope of redemption within that villainous soul? Let me be your tour guide on this perilous journey.

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Inspector Javert: The “Baddest” Villain?

Javert’s flaw in “Les Misérables”

“Javert’s the antagonist, but he really believes, from a moral perspective, that he’s doing the right thing. His job is to keep order. In his mind, he is doing something incredibly noble and heroic.”

— David Oyewolo who played the role of Javert in the BBC television series, Les Misérables.

Quoted by Bridget McManus, The Sydney (Australia) Morning Herald, June 13, 2020

“Few characters are scarier than the villain who thinks he is the hero. That is the case for Inspector Javert, the pitiless cop who vows not to rest until he sees our fugitive hero, Jean Valjean, safely behind bars. Is there no room for redemption in his book – even for himself? The Terminator in a frock coat, Javert makes this list through sheer tenacity.”

From “The six baddest Broadway villains”

in “What’s Onstage”
Zachary Stewart, New York, NY
16 September 2020

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Victor Hugo’s Testament of Life

“You say the soul is nothing but simply the result of bodily powers that begin to ail. In my heart, Winter gives way to eternal Spring. I breathe the fragrance of lilacs, violets, and roses. The nearer I approach to my eternal home, the plainer I hear around me the crescendo of a universe of endless symphonies.

Rodin’s “Bust of Victor Hugo

“Yet, the marvelous simplicity of ensemble washes over me like a warm summer shower. I feel like the charming prince in a children’s fairy tale. For half a century I have been writing my thoughts in prose, verse, history, philosophy, drama, romance, tradition, satire, ode, song. I have tried all. But I feel that I have not said the thousandth part of what is in me.

“When I go down to the grave I can say, like so many others, ‘I have finished my day’s work,’ but I cannot say, ‘I have finished my life.’ My day’s work will begin again the next morning. The tomb is not a blind alley; it is a thoroughfare. It closes in the twilight to open with the dawn.

“I improve every hour, because I love this world as my fatherland, because the truth compels me, as it compelled Voltaire, that human divinity. My work is only a beginning. My monument is hardly above its foundation. I would be glad to see it mounting and mounting forever. The thirst for the infinite proves infinity.”

Original Source: Sacramento Daily Union, March 16, 1882 (twenty years after publication of Les Miserables and three years before the great man’s death)

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Chapter 1 of Bishop Myriel: In His Own Words–on YouTube

I am happy to announce that the video of my reading of Chapter 1 of Bishop Myriel is now available for viewing on YouTube.

Follow this link
My reading begins at the 26 minute mark, if you want to skip ahead.

Thank you to the Lamorinda Arts Association for inviting me to be a featured author at their August 30, 2020 broadcast.

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Bishop Myriel: In His Own Words — Chapter 1, The Beauty of Goodness

I have been invited by Art Embraces Words to do a virtual reading this month (August) of a chapter from my latest (2020) novel, Bishop Myriel: In His Own Words. A firm date has not been set, but I will keep my readers informed through all my online social media sources.

Below, is that same first chapter. Enjoy this “sneak preview.”

The Beauty of Goodness

[Myriel’s sister, Baptistine] had never been pretty; her whole life, which had been a succession of pious works, had produced upon her a kind of transparent whiteness, and in growing old she had acquired what may be called the beauty of goodness.
— Fantine,  Book the First, Chapter I, M. Myriel: An Upright Man
      I am compelled by grace to explore a phenomenon I have observed with awe over the course of my lifetime. We Frenchmen are obsessed with beauty. The ancient Greeks were as appearance-consumed as upper class culture is today. Yet, they had the insight to peg the root of beauty to the word, ὥρα (in Koine, their common dialect). It meant “being one’s hour,” an interesting linkage to be sure. Beauty, then, knows “what time it is” or better perhaps “knowing who I am and who I am not.” My personal mandate as a human, then, is to know my true relationship with every person I encounter, at each stage of my journey and all the individual days that comprise that journey.

     I offer my dear sister Baptistine as a model of virtuous living. The call to recognize the “beauty of goodness,” however, applies not only to those having a lifelong resume of virtue. I have witnessed beauty’s goodness at life’s earliest stages. A toddler knows no other way of being than “in the moment,” even as the child grows and changes from week to week. A mother holding her child in her arms, searches beyond that moment for hints of the emerging man or woman in their maturity. I suspect that, within every parent there resides an unspoken awareness that they may not live to see their children fulfill their God-given destiny.

I have witnessed the beauty of goodness in teenage years, when it easily suffers displacement along the meandering path to maturity. I pay attention when I hear of any child, teenager, or young adult taken too soon by illness or tragedy. Also, when I hear of young soldiers sacrificing their precious lives on the desecrated altars of their elders’ self-serving wars. Parents and friends remark, “He was such a fine young man, always ready to assist someone,”  or “He was too good  for  this world.”  My heart cries,  “No!  The world  needs such young, idealistic men to stay alive, to make their mark upon our shattered society!” Some of us live our way into beauty. Others suffer their way to it. I think of patients I have known in our neighboring hospital whose clear eyes glow with inner light.
The beauty of goodness is like that hidden treasure Jesus spoke of in Matthew 13:44:
The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure, hidden in a field. The one who finds it, buries it again; and so happy is he, that he goes and sells everything he has, in order to buy that field.”
When I discover goodness, be it for a moment or longer, I rejoice in its native beauty and bask in its bright light. So inspired, I take quill pen in hand. I lay no claim, on earth or before God, to poetic aptitude. At those times when I hear the call—I should say “challenge”—of the muse, I dare to express my heart in the fewest possible syllables. In doing so, I take comfort in knowing that no other eyes will see—and, God forbid, judge–my verse.

The Beauty of Goodness

i see goodness

in a mother’s smile

a helping hand

a loving heart

i find goodness

in a kind word

a silent shrine

sunrise aglow

chancing upon the

beauty of goodness

i catch my breath

stand in awe

Bishop Myriel: In His Own Words is available through your local bookstores or through Amazon and other online book sellers. Paperback list price: $17.99, ebook $3.99.

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Bishop Myriel: In His Own Words

Welcome to my new novel, Bishop Myriel: In His Own Words–a novel based on the life and writings of a fictional nineteenth century character created by Victor Hugo. Reviewer Judith Ingram (author of Forgiving Day by Day) calls  Bishop Myriel “a stunning achievement!”

IS--paperback front cover-

The whole world loves Hugo’s Les Miserables. Millions on every continent have flocked to the stage/musical version of this beloved story of a man who lost 19 years of his life for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his sister’s starving children. As a new parolee, he was a pariah in “decent” society.

Desperately hungry, Jean Valjean knocks on a door in the city of Digne, France, hoping to find help. When the door opens, he blurts out, “My name is Jean Valjean. I was a prisoner on the galleys. Number 24601.” The man behind the door is an elderly bishop who invites him in to rest and dine with him. Best of all, the bishop invites him to spend the night in a comfortable bed.   

During the night, Valjean repays the bishop’s generosity by stealing his benefactor’s  precious silver dinnerware and disappearing. In the morning, he is caught and hauled back to the bishop’s house. The bishop tells the authorities that the “stolen” items were gifts, not a theft. The dubious police dare not contradict the bishop. Freed and gifted, Valjean  prepares to depart. It is then that the bishop offers these immortal words, “Remember, with this silver I have bought your soul and given it to God.” 

With that, the stage is set for Jean Valjean’s transformation from convicted felon–a human animal–to a life of unending gratitude, right living, and immense compassion for the poor and downtrodden (les miserables). Bishop Myriel knows nothing of this, because he never sees or hears from Valjean again (until Valjean’s deathbed scene, as a guardian spirit).

Decades pass.

Victor Hugo states that the bishop wanted to write a book on Christian duty. The author goes on to provide a detailed outline of the book, then adds that it remained unwritten.

In Bishop Myriel: In His Own Words, I have dared to “channel” the saintly bishop’s mind and written the book that remained unfinished in his lifetime. I invite you into this fictional world created by both Victor Hugo–and me in his footsteps.

The book is now available on in both paper and ebook formats.
IngramSparks has published the paperback for sale in your local bookstores.      

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Bishop Myriel: In His Own Words

IS--paperback front cover-

I’m delighted to announce the publication of my ninth novel, BISHOP MYRIEL: IN HIS OWN WORDS. All  fans of Les Miserables and Victor Hugo will enjoy this story of the man whose wisdom and kindness changed parolee Jean Valjean’s life with these immortal words: “Jean Valjean, my brother: you belong no longer to evil, but to good. It is your soul that I am buying for you. I withdraw it from dark thoughts and from the spirit of perdition, and I give it to God!”

Few Les Miz fans know that Bishop Myriel is the first character to appear in the 1862 novel. Or, that Hugo devoted the novel’s first 90 pages to this backwater bishop. In telling the bishop’s story, Hugo reveals that the bishop intended to write a book on the topic of Christian Duty.

Hugo provides a detailed outline of the book, along with the fact that the bishop never not got to write the book. In Bishop Myriel, I have taken the liberty of “channeling” the bishop and writing his book, as he might have . . . in “his own” words.

The Bishop “had his own way of looking at things. I think he derived it from the Gospel.”— Victor Hugo, Les Miserables

A stunning achievement. Alfred J. Garrotto delivers compelling spiritual insights through the humble voice of Victor Hugo’s beloved priest, Bishop Myriel. Meticulously researched and delivered in the authentic style of an early nineteenth-century writer, Bishop Myriel: In His Own Words charms as it challenges. The bishop’s gentle words continued to speak to my heart long after I turned the last page.” —Judith Ingram, author of Forgiving Day by Day and A Devotional Walk with Forgiveness

The paperback edition is due out in mid-March.
The ebook is ready for preorder on:  

KDP  Amazon ebook


Barnes & Noble

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Bishop Myriel: In His Own Words

2019-12-25 new cover w candle

A blessed, happy Christmas to one and all!

Early in 2020, I’ll be releasing my 8th novel, “Bishop Myriel: In His Own Words.”

Les Mis fans will enjoy this inspiring story. Writing in the voice of Victor Hugo’s beloved fictional character is requiring me to climb inside the body and soul of this great yet very humble man. Writing in the bishop’s own voice is a personally rewarding challenge. It requires me to “channel” Hugo’s bishop, Les Mis’s catalyst character. The bishop’s generosity and personal challenge (“to become an honest man”) sent the former convict John Valjean on his way to becoming the courageous, exemplary man who served to the poor and suffering (les miserables). Stay Tuned.

Happy New Year in advance!


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