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Thursday 1 February 2018

ℚ♫ The Shepherd's Calculus - C.S. Farrelly

Today we have the pleasure of meeting up with debut author to talk about The Shepherd's Calculus (, Cavan Bridge Press, 272 pages), a Political Thriller.

"Character-driven and fast-paced, The Shepherd’s Calculus by C. S. Farrelly is an explosive mystery thriller."Foreword Reviews

"Sure to please fans of governmental intrigue and fast-paced suspense; puts swift prose, commanding characterization, and contemporary hot topics to grand use." 
~ Kirkus Reviews

|| Synopsis || Teaser: KCR Preview || Author Q&A || About the Author || Giveaway & Tour Stops ||

 A very warm welcome to Cassie S. Farrelly. Thank you for joining us on BooksChatter!

Here at BooksChatter we love music, so C.S. Farrelly has shared with us her music playlist for The Shepherd's Calculus - enjoy!

What was the inspiration for The Shepherd's Calculus?
"Several personal interests and real life events combined to give me the inspiration. I enjoy a good conspiracy thriller and the realm of politics just teems with back door deals. I’ve always been interested in the relationship between religion and politics in the United States. As a Catholic, I watched with curiosity during the 2004 Presidential Election when Pope Benedict, who was at the time Cardinal Ratzinger, issued a memo weighing in on whether Catholics who vote for Pro-Choice candidates are sinning and which offered guidance on the fitness of Catholic candidates to receive communion. For me it really stuck out as a strong intervention on the part of the Church into American politics. I had recently moved back to the U.S. from Ireland where, during my time there, revelations about abuse had begun popping up. So the contrast of the Church’s silence on the abuse revelations with its outspokenness on an election stood out to me. I decided to run with a fictitious premise inspired by that and see where it took me."
How much of yourself is reflected in this book, and how?
"Well, I spent a decade working for government agencies headed by political appointees, so I’ve witnessed plenty of instances where personal ambition took precedence over ethical conduct. I’ve also, through those same jobs, worked with some of the finest, most dedicated members of society imaginable -- people who genuinely work to improve our communities. So, my professional experience heavily informed how the plot played out. In terms of the characters, I don’t have a lot in common with their personality traits or story arcs, but I did graduate from a Jesuit university where I had an exceptional educational experience, so that definitely inspired some of the character backgrounds."
The first thing that draws me to a book is its cover. Can you tell us about your cover for The Shepherd's Calculus - why you chose that concept and who the artist is.
"Scott Barrie of Cyanotype Book Architects prepared a couple of different concepts to choose from and this one was the winner hands-down. As a society, the U.S. prides itself on separation of Church and State as part of the folklore of our history and what makes us unique. Yet, religion plays an enormous role in how candidates campaign and legislation that elected servants choose to craft. And the very design of the US Capitol building was influenced by St. Paul’s Cathedral in London and St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, so even one of our iconic symbols of U.S. democracy is rooted in organized religion. The Shepherd’s Calculus takes a deliberately more cynical look at the interplay of religion with politics and raises some questions about separation of church and state, so I really love that the cover captures this."
Why should we read The Shepherd's Calculus and what sets it apart from the rest? What makes your book unique?
"It’s the first novel to take a look at the sexual abuse scandal from a financial and political angle. Both fiction and non-fiction depictions of the scandal have tended to focus on the individuals involved without always looking at the much larger power structures behind how or why decisions were made. The Shepherd’s Calculus offers a fresh perspective on the scandal because it draws parallels among the Church, Fortune 500 corporations and politics at a time when Americans feel very distrustful of leadership in all three of these arenas. The U.S. prides itself on certain elements of its identity: democracy, justice, etc. But the reality is that our three largest bodies of influence: religion, capitalism and politics, all behave in shockingly similar ways and have a lot in common. My novel explores this uncomfortable similarity while also demonstrating how and why idealistic belief in these principles is important on a personal level, even if on a structural level they often get corrupted. It also features a prominent female protagonist who goes against type. Ally isn’t some bombshell beauty who happens to be a tough CIA officer or detective. She’s a young, naive recruit to Washington, DC who has to find the strength to defy obedience to her religion when she uncovers its unethical conduct. She’s an example of how ordinary people can take action and have impact."
Can you tell us something quirky about The Shepherd's Calculus, its story and characters?
"I’ve lived in the Bronx in New York City off and on for 20+ years and while the Bronx generally has a negative reputation, I love the Bronx and its character, including the rich history behind all the street names. So I wove a number of tributes to my love of the Bronx into the novel. For example, some character names are based on streets in the Bronx (Tilden Avenue) and the section of the Harlem river where Owen and James swam as kids is still there. You can see it from the subway bridge at 225th street or from one of my favorite spots in NYC: Inwood Hill Park. Similarly, the decision to have Peter be someone who has spent time in Kashmir is the result of my time working with the British Government’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office. My colleagues there were extraordinary people who have lived all over the world and sprung into action to provide assistance during horrifying terrorist attacks and natural disasters. Hearing about some of their experiences informed that piece of the narrative. And finally, Peter and Emma’s vacation to Ireland is based on my time living there for graduate school and also because I have Irish citizenship through my grandparents, who were born and raised there."
Who would you recommend The Shepherd's Calculus to and what should readers be aware of (any warnings or disclaimers)?
"I think the book would be enjoyable for a variety of readers: people who follow current events and enjoy conspiracy thrillers, people who enjoy following a mystery with several plot strains to see how theys intertwine, people who enjoy themes that explore bigger philosophical questions in addition to being action-packed, and finally people like me who have an interest in politics but who want a break from the daily drudgery of our toxic political climate. In terms of warnings, while I don’t think it’s an overdone, there are a few scenes where characters use some strong language out of anger or to be threatening. Additionally, because some of the subject matter deals with sexual abuse, for individuals who may have experienced abuse, some of the themes or scenes might cause discomfort. Last but not least, for people who are extremely religious and feel sensitive about anything that questions religion, this might touch a nerve. The novel strikes a strong balance between questioning some of the Catholic Church’s choices around the abuse scandal while also highlighting the ways in which the Church gets many things right. But there’s no way to explore the topic of the sexual abuse cases in the Catholic Church without being critical of certain decisions."
If you could / wished to turn The Shepherd's Calculus into a movie, who would be your dream team?
Peter Berg or Ang Lee

James Ingram: Jeff Bridges
Owen Feeney: Ed Harris
Peter Ingram: Christian Bale or Sam Rockwell
Ally Larkin: Brie Larson or Saoirse Ronan"
What do you like to write and read about? Do you stick to a particular genre or do you like to explore different ones?
"Secrets and mysteries, mostly. I say that because not all of my writing centers on crime or a hard mystery, but usually there’s some element of the character interaction that’s defined by a mystery. I might write a short story about a day two friends spent sitting on the banks of a river, but their conversation will allude to something that happened that influenced their relationship. Or characters may relate to one another in a particular way because one of them has a secret he/she isn’t telling the other. Part of what I enjoy about writing is the opportunity to try to write characters in different occupations or places so that I can do some research to better understand how to craft them. I also enjoy reading genres that deal with secrets or mysteries because I think it’s truly impossible to know another person 100%. Everyone harbors secrets: things they’ve done, thought about or want but wouldn’t admit. That’s not necessarily a bad thing (unless you’re a serial killer, perhaps!), but the notion that truth is 100% achievable in another person is flawed. I like to read stories to explore themes of physical and emotional honesty."
What is your writing process?
"I start with a general idea of how I think I want the plot to go, then I spend a lot of time doing research to map out the specific details that will help the plot and characters move from point A to point B. I find that sometimes I have to skimp on the characterization in the beginning because I’m still getting to know the characters myself. So sometimes I hit a wall with them and I have to settle for a weak scene just to keep the momentum. Then by the time I get further along in the piece, I usually know the characters well enough that I can go back to those problematic first scenes and fix them more easily. If I spend too much time at the front end trying to make it perfect, I won’t make any progress. The main thing is that while it takes me a long time to put all my research and plot points together, once I have that done, I can usually crank out the writing portion in intense bursts of productivity. It’s important for me to take breaks and go for a walk to stretch my legs so I can clear my head a little."
What is in store next?
"I’m working on a follow up novel that will also feature a mystery. The main character happens to be stationed somewhere on a work project and happens to notice a Missing Person poster on a telephone pole and it turns out that she recognizes the person and it’s an individual with whom she has a past. She starts reading up on his disappearance out of feelings of guilt but starts to uncover a wider scandal around what happened in the process. It’s kind of a series, in that Peter Merrick will make another appearance. But this time, he’s going to be more of a friend that the main character consults for advice while she tries to piece together what’s going on."

The Shepherd's Calculus
Available NOW!

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CMash said...

Great interview! I am reading this book now and really enjoying it.

CSFarrelly said...

Thanks so much for the opportunity to talk with you about The Shepherd's Calculus. I always enjoy reading about the process behind books I've enjoyed, so I hope readers enjoy this too. I look forward to getting some great reading recommendations from Books Chatter in future!