Today I am delighted to be joined by author David McCaffrey. After reading his book Hellbound recently I was very intrigued to know more about the book itself as well as the author. Luckily for me after approaching David to request a Q&A for my blog, he happily obliged.
Many thanks David for joining me on my blog today. Having recently read your book Hellbound, which I loved, I would love to know how the whole concept for the book came about?
To me, there is always an interesting debate to be had about criminal acts and how they affect the public consciousness and our ‘accepted’ rules of morality. Serial killers rarely generate feelings of sadness amongst the public, instead stimulating only anger, suspicion and perhaps disappointment that, in some way, we as a society let these people down. That somehow the world took children and manufactured monsters. It was this theory that fueled ‘Hellbound’.
How would you make a truly evil person suffer? Do they feel anything? Are they capable? Expose them to more darkness and you run the risk of simply hardening their resolve. But what if you expose them to light? What if you expose them to love? Would they be able to learn to feel, learn to care? And then what if you tore it all away from them. Would they understand, even remotely, what it meant to lose something you care about?
Running parallel to this is the idea of what constitutes justice and at what point does it become revenge? ‘Hellbound’ begins with Obadiah Stark aka The Tally Man, being executed for his crimes. Because of this, the death penalty and the debate of its morality plays a large part in the storyline, though never to pass an opinion one way or the other but rather to provide certain ethical scenarios which hopefully allow the reader to form their own opinion of just how far justice can be taken before it becomes something more, something dark and immoral.
The book is mainly set in Ireland which you have used a lot of real places. Is Ireland a country you are familiar with and why did you decide to set it there?
My Dad’s family is from Kerry and I have been to Dublin a few times (and for a few drinking sessions!). I love Ireland, the culture, the accent, the history… that in part influenced my choice. Also, it seems every book is either set in America or London and I wanted ‘Hellbound’ to be set somewhere less well used. The other motivator was that there are no major penal facilities in Ireland so I figured what better place than there to plonk a supermax prison!
Obadiah is a very strange name, why did you choose this name in particular and where does it originate from?
Obadiah means ‘Servant of God’ in Hebrew. His name was originally Cameron Brett Easton (a homage to Brett Ellis Easton of American Psycho fame) but it was way to rock star! My partner at the time suggested Obadiah after we watched Iron Man, at which point I considered putting the first name of the movie’s antagonist with the surname of the movie’s protagonist, and you get Obadiah Stark!! Much better than Cameron and creepy because it is so unusual. Also, I realised early on it could be shortened to Obi, which not only helped make the character more relatable when called it later in the story, but also fulfilled a geek reference to Star Wars!!!! A serial killer book which is multi-layered!!
I really loved how the book plays out, towards the end I did start to feel empathy for Obadiah and am a bit concerned as to whether I was supposed to or not. After all he is a very cold and calculated killer and very much deserved the death penalty, so felt very strange that I should have mixed emotions by the end. Did you feel the same when you were writing the story or am I on my own?
You’re not on your own, Sarah! You’re absolutely supposed to feel empathy for him towards the end. I deliberately made him an odious, unrepentant character, but also knew that what was integral to the story working was his journey towards and realisation of remorse. Expose a dark heart to more darkness and you simply harden their resolve. But expose them to light, compassion…even love, and you can make them have an epiphany. It was a fine line to walk to make his transformation believable, but it was always my intention that if I did it correctly, the reader would feel sorry for him, maybe even care for him slightly and feel uncomfortable about it.
You have recently released a prequel to Hellbound called In Extremis: A Hellbound Novella. It seems to be getting quite a common occurrence now a days for authors to release some sort of prequel novella, why do you think this is and why did you decide to write one?
I think prequels are a more interesting way of continuing a story. Everyone is writing a trilogy nowadays. I was taught that you just write the book, getting everything you want to into it and make it as good as you can. If there is a good idea for a sequel down the line, so be it. But get that first story as tight as possible. Don’t get wrong, I love a good trilogy; Star Wars, Die Hard, Alien (well, when they were prequels!!) I have a few author friends who are well into their story arcs and cannot wait to read them. But a prequel, for me, is a more interesting way of establishing on the world and characters you have created without being bogged down by rules you have already established. And I chose a novella as I had one more good idea I wanted to get out, but knew it wasn’t big enough for a full-length novel so it seemed perfect way to go.
I loved the ending to Hellbound and thought it left it open to quite a few different possibilities for future books. Will there be any more books or is that it for Hellbound?
I think that’s it for Hellbound! I said I would only write a sequel if I came up with a killer idea…and I did! But it’s not a sequel. However it does inhabit the same universe as Hellbound and references some of its characters.
How did your writing career come about and what has your writing journey been like from starting out to where you are now?
I was always interested in writing and dreamt of being an author. I used to enter competitions at my local library when I was a child and win felt tip pens and things like that! But, as with most things, life gets in the way and you move on to other things…like becoming a nurse. But when my eldest son was born, for some reason I have yet to understand, I felt compelled to write. And I wrote a few pages of something that, in a non-linear way, would become Hellbound. Because of the support I received, I carried on and started to think maybe, just maybe, I could write a story others would be entertained by. Writing has allowed me to be mentored by an international bestselling author in Steve Alten who taught me everything I know about writing, has allowed me to meet some amazing people like Louise Hunter from Crime Book Club and your good self of course! I have made friends with some fantastic authors, too numerous to mention here but they know who they are! I’ve raised money for charity, and had the good fortune to find out that people just enjoy a book I have written. And I have to mentioned Murielle, my publisher at Britain’s Next Bestseller and all the team there. They are quite extraordinary and are really redefining the relationship between authors, readers and publishing.
I know its a question you will probably get asked quite a lot but who are some of your favourite authors and are there any books in particular that have stood out to you for any good or bad reasons?
Steve Alten is my favourite author and was long before he became my mentor. I love John Grisham, George.R.R Martin, Stephen Leather, Stephen King, Josh Viola…I have also gained some new favourite authors because of and through my publishers that I share with others which include Paul Ferns, Rebecca Pate, Julie Timlin, Julie Spiller, Diane O’Toole, Lisa Bush, Ria Frances and Donna Marie McCarthy to name a few. However a few books that really stood out for me recently were One by One by Rob Enright, Disorder by Paddy Magrane and The Safe Word by Karen Long. One by One stood out because it was one of the best thrillers I have read I a long time, Disorder because it is an exceptional political thriller and The Safe Word because of the interesting and unique protagonist Eleanor Raven. I like interesting characters and strong storylines that can catch you off guard which is what all of the above share in their own remit.
I don’t think I have a book that stood out for bad reasons…maybe IT for no other reason than it made me (and many others my age) afraid of clowns!!!!
Is there any author living or dead you would, if not already, love to meet and why?
I’d love to meet John Grisham and J.D Salinger, author of The Catcher in the Rye. And Steve Alten of course! Spoken to him over the phone and do frequently by e mail but never met him…yet!
Finally, what are you currently working on and are you able to share with us what it is about?
As I mentioned I have another book set in the Hellbound universe underway (but not a sequel!!!) and another novel all plotted out which concerns a contagion spanning Florence Nightingale’s day to the present titled Pathogenicity. The current one has a cover all designed and there will be a reveal in the near future.
And I have a few other ideas jotted down! I do have some more tales that would be novellas telling tales relating to some of the characters and events mentioned in Hellbound ala In Extremis. I think it would be kind of fun to have a short story out every now and then which dips back in to the world of Obadiah Stark…I was quite fond of him!
Thank you Sarah!!!
I hope you enjoyed today’s Q&A as much as I did and thank you again to David for some great answers. If you would like more information about the author himself and his books please click here.