I was over visting Debbie at the thereadingfrenzy.blogspot.com a little while ago,and as always she shared great info about a brand new author who was getting all these rave reviews, and she was quite fascinating. I have no clue how she gets it all done, but thriller writer C.S Farrelly wrote this really exciting novel that will definitely grab your attention. To say that she is adventurous would be a total understatement, but there's a lot more to this prolific writer.
RO: With a BA in English, it seems like a natural progression to write a novel, but how did you get into government and religious intrigue with The Shepherd's Calculous? I absolutely adore stories like these! How did you do all the research?
CS Farrelly: My undergraduate studies focused on English and Philosophy and in both of those subjects, you spend a lot of time structuring arguments to make your case for analysis. To do so successfully, you’re taught to make connections in obvious ways but also to take a step back and look at the bigger picture to see other strategic connections. As a result, my brain is kind of wired to look for overlap in topics, people, structures, and similarities in a variety of places. With my career background – spending time working for large international corporations as well as large, influential government entities— I’ve observed similarities in the way they operate. Large organizations often share similar characteristics, be they a school, a government, a corporation, or even a large religious sect, I think in part because of the organizational psychology of how human beings interact with social structures. So all of these different factors influenced why I was interested in telling a story like this and how I did the research to help inform the plot. In terms of doing research, I spent a lot of time in libraries looking up different information. I used Lexis Nexis to pull news coverage of some of the abuse case investigations and lawsuits that have happened in the US to learn more about how those were handled. I also consulted with former colleagues of mine at Fordham University to learn more about the theological principles referenced and also because I wanted to ensure I struck a good balance in exploring the story but not coming across as anti-Catholic. As a Catholic myself, I have a lot of respect for the faith in which I was raised. But I also had some concerns and issues with the Church as a result of some missteps it made in handling abuse investigations. So I really wanted to explore these questions in a way that asked some tough questions, but also respected the positive elements of my faith.
RO: How long did it take to write the book, and was it accepted immediately by the publisher?
|With elephants in the campground and staying on in Zambia|
RO: What's the first thing you did with your royalty check?
CS Farrelly I bought a WiFi Bluetooth speaker so I can listen to music more easily when I write! When I first started writing this novel – and I count doing research as part of that – I wasn’t yet married and didn’t have children, so I could kind of sit anywhere in my apartment and blast my music and pace, etc. Now that I’m in a different stage of life, I have to find more dedicated time and space that doesn’t intrude on my family’s routine so having a small speaker to listen to my music quietly really helps me keep making progress on new writing projects.
|Swimming in a freezing cold glacial lake (Emerald Lake) in the Canadian Rockies at the end of a long hike|
RO: I love music too! Are you easily distracted?
CS Farrelly Yes. I used to see this as a negative trait and something that made me a terrible writer, but I’ve learned that the reason I’m easily distracted is also the same reason I can create multiple overlapping plots and complex, full characters. Growing up, my siblings were all very orderly and smart and successful in traditional ways. I never was. I always looked at the world a little differently, was a little more distracted and definitely didn’t feel the need to categorize people or situations in black or white terms the way my family did. And it was clear that I was the black sheep because of it, so I struggled with my nature and was made to feel like a failure a lot. But now I value this trait because it doesn’t just make me a better writer; it makes me able to understand others and connect with people in honest, valuable ways.
RO: Are your characters based on people that you know?
CS Farrelly No single character is based on an individual person but there are certain qualities some of the characters possess that are modeled after qualities of a combination of people I’ve met or who have been active in my life. For example, some qualities or traits that Fr. Ingram has come from a truly wonderful professor I had at Fordham named Mark Massa, SJ. And other qualities in Fr. Ingram are a reflection of my father. Some traits of Owen Feeney are from encounters I’ve had with a few people within Catholic hierarchy. Additionally, because I’ve spent a good amount of time working in government, I’ve encountered my share of political appointees in leadership positions who allow their ambition and greed to cloud their judgement when it comes to making ethical choices. I’ve worked alongside some truly remarkable public servants, but I’ve also worked for some absolute ego-maniacs who will do anything to remain the center of attention, including violating their oath to serve the public with honesty and integrity.
CS Farrelly Hell or High Water with Chris Pine and Jeff Bridges. I prefer films and stories that don’t paint people or situations in black and white terms, because the moral dilemmas that many of us face in life aren’t clean cut. If they were, I firmly believe that people would almost always choose the clear “good” answer. But things happen in life that force many of us to make complicated, difficult decisions that are not always beyond reproach. The title of my novel refers to the calculation that each of us makes about when to do the right thing and why. And what I really loved about Hell and High Water is that there were conventionally “right” courses of action that were complicated by other issues like needing to balance caring for your family or the questionable moral behavior of large corporations profiting from the misfortune of others, etc. Plus, my amazingly talented friend Heidi Sulzman was in Hell or High Water, so I enjoyed seeing her do an amazing job.
RO: I saw that one too, and really enjoyed it. How different is it to write plays versus a novel, and do you have plans to write more books in the future?
CS Farrelly I’m working on a follow up novel at the moment. It’s more of a traditional murder mystery than TSC was in that it opens with the discovery of the body of someone who was murdered. But, like the TSC, the story is going to be less about the murder and more about the events leading up to the murder and the notion of collective culpability as opposed to guilt for an individual act. I have an outline started for a third suspense novel, but I’ve also started working on a more humorous novel as well. So, I’m not sure which one I’ll finish first, but I’m going to keep working at it! Writing a novel instead of a play is very different in that you have freedom to describe scenes and add details to it that you can’t always dictate when writing a play, or share insight on what characters are thinking or feeling internally. With a play, the action you can depict is limited to the confines of what you can design for a stage, so a lot about how the characters interact with one another and how critical background information is shared, has to be through more subtle means. You can’t spell it out for audience members the way you can for readers. I think writing plays is good practice for writing novels.
RO - Best of luck with that new novel! What types of books were you reading before you decided to write your own novel? What are you reading now?
CS Farrelly I’ve always enjoyed a good mystery with well-developed characters and good research. As a kid, I loved reading Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie and as an adult, I’ve really enjoyed Dennis Lehane and Caleb Carr books. So when I decided to start to write my first book, I’d been reading a lot of mysteries. At the moment, I’m reading The Elizas by Sara Shepard, a longtime friend of mine from many years ago when we both had a summer job working for JP Morgan on Wall Street. I love how Sara writes female characters who have rich, honest interior lives but I also really personally value how she champions the literary community, whether by supporting small independent book stores, or providing advice for new writers like me.
RO - If I asked your friends to tell me what one word would describe you what would they say?
|White water rafting (and falling out!) on the Zambezi river in Africa|
CS Farrelly Funny. I almost always find something humorous in situations, no matter how serious they are. That’s not to say that I’m trying to diminish serious issues/thoughts things at all, but I think finding humor allows me to remain grounded and focused on how to process news, good or bad, etc. and find solutions for moving forward.
RO - You're involved in so many things including water rafting. (Very brave-lol) How in the world do you find the time to sit down to write?
|Sitting (literally) on the edge of Victoria Falls|
RO: Can you cook, and if so what's your favorite meal to prepare?
|Hiking the Athabasca glacier in Canada|
CS Farrelly I can cook and I enjoy doing it. One of my favorite meals is a toasted walnut, mushroom and gorgonzola risotto served with a side of lemon-garlic green beans. It’s not any more complicated to make than lasagna or stew, really, but the mix of flavors and textures is so delicious. It’s particularly nice to have on a cold night. It’s super easy to make, so let me know if you’d like the recipe!
RO: What are you hooked on eating these days?
CS Farrelly I’m really looking forward to the Pennsylvania summer and the amazing produce that will come with that – tomatoes, corn, strawberries, etc. I grew up in a small town with a lot of farms around it and we were going to farmers markets long before it was a hip and cool thing to do, because every farm had a roadside stand where you could stop and by delicious, fresh items. But at the immediate moment, I’m having a love affair with fig jam and Manchego cheese as my go-to snack for writing breaks.
RO: I'm definitely a fan of strawberries as well, and that Manchego cheese is pretty yummy too! Tell us something people may be surprised to know about you.
CS Farrelly I have dual citizenship with the Republic of Ireland. My grandparents on my Dad’s side of the family were born there and so I applied for citizenship through that connection and was granted it back in 2002 before I even moved to Dublin to go to Trinity College for grad school.
|Kayaking the Hudson River near NYC|
RO: That's pretty neat! Where will we see you in the next 10 years?
CS Farrelly I hope I’ll be promoting my 4th or 5th novel and continuing to connect with readers. All things considered, I’ve had a pretty great life – I’ve gotten to travel the world and see most of the places I dreamed about visiting as a child—London, Petra, Victoria Falls, the Pyramids, etc. And I’ve gotten a front row seat to some truly world-altering developments, such as being at Bear Stearns when its collapse tipped off the subprime mortgage crisis. I owe all of it to reading. Having great children's’ books to read when I was a kid (Bridge to Terabithia, Island of the Blue Dolphins) taught me about resiliency and helped me get through some really tough times. Reading gave me the basis of knowledge to communicate effectively and find jobs to financially sustain myself. And reading now gives me a way to connect with my family and others. It’s such a valuable skill and to be a writer, someone who contributes to that for other people, is truly an honor and a privilege.
A HUGE Thanks to Ms. Farrelly for spending time with us today, and we wish here much continued success in the future!
A HUGE Thanks to Ms. Farrelly for spending time with us today, and we wish here much continued success in the future!
To find out even more about this wonderful new author, visit her Twitter page @SwiftRetort, her author FB page, https://www.facebook.com/
csfarrellyauthor/ and fans can also reach out to her via the author website at www.csfarrelly.com.