The 7th of July sees the publication of THE SaMARITAN, Book 3 in Dave Jeffery’s outstanding series, A Quiet Apocalypse (cover/branding by Adrian Baldwin; central art-piece by Dark Artist Roberto Segate). Dean and Dave sat down recently (social distancing of course) and talked about the new book and the series as a whole.
DEMAIN PUBLISHING: Exciting times right now Dave and congrats for all the amazing reviews you’ve been receiving for Books 1 (A QUIET APOCALYPSE) and 2 (CaTHEDRAL) – thoroughly deserved. So before we talk THE SaMARITAN let’s take a step back for a moment, for those that aren’t yet familiar with your AQA universe could you please give us a quick rundown of where we are so far.
DAVE JEFFERY: Hello! Great to be here. And yes, of course. The premise of the A Quiet Apocalypse series is very simple in that a mutant strain of meningitis (known in the series as MNG-U, or Meningitis Unspecified) has destroyed the world and left only a few survivors. Those who contracted the disease have been left deafened and to avoid living in a perpetual state of fear, form a community known as Cathedral, a small commune in the centre of Birmingham, which has strict laws and harsh sanctions, but provides the safety they crave. To compensate for their sensory loss, Samaritans – search teams who go out into the Wilderness beyond the city walls to find resources – track down those who have survived and still retain their hearing. These people – known colloquially as ‘Harks’ – are enslaved and used as commodity. Samaritans also seek out members of the Deaf Community, those people who were born Deaf before MNG-U and unjustly blamed for carrying the disease that wiped out mankind. Scapegoated by the citizens of Cathedral, Deaf people are branded as ‘Harbingers’ and if caught are ritualistically and barbarically executed in an event known as ‘Retribution’.
Each story is seen from the perspective of one individual. In A QUIET APOCALYPSE, we learned through the eyes of Chris, an ex-teacher who still has his hearing, what it is like to live as a slave to a deafened master, the atrocity that faces him when he tries to escape and how, in a world so embittered, to find hope. In CaTHEDRAL, we get a perspective from Sarah, a citizen of the community known as Cathedral, and we see how prejudice and blame are fuel for survival in a city where barbarity and civility walk together in the name of keeping everyone safe. Sarah’s story really starts when she falls in love Paul, someone rescued from the Wilderness, and in a commune where long term partners is not in keeping with the law, how she navigates and ultimately challenges old conventions.
DP: Thank you…so where does your new book, THE SaMARITAN, fit into this?
DJ: One of the joys about writing (and reading) the AQA books is that they all feature different characters and could be happening at any point in time. THE SaMARITAN expands the AQA universe with more details about the way this group functions and their place in the strata of their city. The important thing is how an individual copes when he is cut loose from his unit and must make decisions in isolation as to how to stay safe and, more importantly, stay alive.
DP: Tell me a little about your main characters this time around.
DJ: Our protagonist is Nathan, the book’s titular character. He is a man caught between two loyalties, that of the city of Cathedral and James, his partner who died of MNG-U. James has left Nathan a code of behaviour that has as its basis a blueprint as to how Nathan may maintain his wellbeing and stay safe. This is in tune with his life within the walls of his city but becomes a major source of conflict when he finds himself injured and isolated in the Wilderness.
DP: One thing for me which has been a massive success is that each of the stories has real/fully defined characters which exist totally in their respective universes. Well done. Um, okay so when you wrote the original A QUIET APOCALYPSE did you envisage it would become a trilogy…
DJ: Not at all. To be honest, my initial draft was for a commissioned short story for an anthology that never happened. At that point the story was about 8k words and pretty much fleshed out the journey of hearing protagonist Chris and his deafened persecutor Crowley, and Chris’ eventual escape from slavery. This edition didn’t feature the city of Cathedral, nor did it say much about the Samaritans, though they did have a very brief scene. The draft was eventually lost during a Windows 10 upgrade but by this point I was already thinking that it needed to be a longer piece, so this setback just meant I had an opportunity to revisit the story and introduce the concept of the city of Cathedral and give more depth to the Samaritans. It during the second draft phase of book 2 the idea for a third book sparked and started to feel right. I started THE SaMARITAN straight after handing CaTHEDRAL in to my publisher. I was about a third of the way into the first draft when the concept for the fourth [spoiler!!!!] and final installment was fleshed out during a discussion with my son, Tom. As I write this, book 4 is well under way.
DP: Really looking forward to that and brilliant news that Tom is involved! The AQA universe is in my opinion a unique one, what made you create it in the first place?
DJ: The origins come from my experience of working within the culturally Deaf Community for over 10 years. During that time, I saw the prejudice and ill-informed perceptions of what deafness means to those who are not. To the Deaf Community, deafness is not a disability but the foundations of their cultural identity, with British Sign Language the cornerstone to that culture. The idea of a disease like MNG-U killing most of the world and leaving survivors deafened came in 1999 when I was heavily involved in Deaf Culture. The nuances of the world of AQA would come later, but the basic premise had been percolating for a long time before I committed the first draft to paper.
DP: You’ve set the stories local to you…
DJ: Yes. They say write about what you know, and this is partly why the setting is primarily in the West Midlands and Worcestershire. But I often find there are scant stories that feature areas where I live and where I grew up. I guess this is my small attempt to address that in some way.
DP: And it’s added so much colour to the series as far as I’m concerned. Made them more real and unbelievable. Okay, so [again, spoiler!] you’ve mentioned another book?
DJ: Yes. I did. There will be one further book called TRIBUNaL. I have started the first draft and it’s going well. As a world, I find it very easy to write in and it’s easy to get lost in it. There will also be more news announcements relating to the future of the AQA universe as part of this A Quiet Apocalypse Week, hosted by Kendall Reviews [and many thanks to Gavin for giving us his site for a week].
DP: Earlier we talked about the reviews that the first two books have been receiving, which are continuing with those reviewers/bloggers who saw THE SaMARITAN prior to publication.
DJ: I’m always stunned by the reader/reviewer response to the series. To be compared to masterworks such as McCarthy’s The Road and Matheson’s I Am Legend is an honour that I do not take lightly. If anything, such accolades only serve my motivation to make the next in the series even stronger than the previous episode. I’m incredibly lucky to have a great publisher [thank you Dave] who understands the series and what it aims to achieve. The content of the AQA universe is grim yet this tone has never been challenged by Dean and the team. This makes for a broad landscape for me to work, without compromising the series.
DP: Finally, do you think the AQA universe would work in other mediums? If so – which ones.
DJ: I can see the universe working well as a TV series, especially now more of the universe has opened through the release of the other books. Likewise with graphic novels. I understand that audio books may also be in the pipeline, the irony of A Quiet Apocalypse - books about deafness - as an audiobook series isn’t lost on me, but the prospect of such a project is exciting.
It is indeed.
Thank you so much for your time Dave (and for everything you do for and in the horror community) and the best of luck with THE SaMARITAN – your success is very much deserved.
If you would like to connect with Dave direct:
Dean M. Drinkel