January 29th sees the publication of Dave Jeffery’s Cathedral (cover by Adrian Baldwin; central art piece by Roberto Segate). As Lockdown 3 was about to hit, Dave and Dave sat down and talked about it.
DEMAIN PUBLISHING: Great to speak to you again Dave, glad that you’re well and safe. We’re here to talk about Cathedral…the story is set in the same universe as your previous (and critically acclaimed) A Quiet Apocalypse – is it a sequel?
DAVE JEFFERY: Hi Dean, great to speak to you too. To answer your question, no there are no characters from A Quiet Apocalypse featuring in Cathedral. This is one of the things I enjoy about this particular universe, the ability to have stories that could be happening at the same time as each other, just like real life, is liberating as a writer. There are references to places and certain events that link the books, but its chronology is deliberately ambiguous.
DP: It’s a very expanding / expansive universe and quite honestly thousands of different stories could be told. Congratulations on what you’ve created. I suppose for those that haven’t yet read A Quiet Apocalypse can you tell us a little about it?
DJ: Sure. A Quiet Apocalypse is set in the aftermath of a pandemic. A mutant strain of meningitis (MNG-U) has killed most of the world’s population and left the majority of survivors with profound deafness. There are a few hearing survivors, and they are hunted as a commodity for those affected. The story is told from the perspective of Chris, a hearing survivor enslaved by Crowley - a deafened farmer. It explores the brutality of slavery and the fears associated with both physical and psychological trauma. It is a very dark story and I’ve been stunned by reader response, with many reviewers likening its emotional impact to that of seminal greats like The Road and I Am Legend.
DP: You thoroughly deserved the plaudits Dave, it’s a great story with really believable three dimensional characters and I don’t believe I’ve read one bad review – so well done! In Cathedral who are your characters?
DJ: In keeping with the first book, the narrative is told in first person, this time from the perspective of Sarah, a citizen of Cathedral. Like all citizens, she has been deafened and quietly continues to mourn the loss of her family and best friend. Sarah is compliant and generally accepting of the ritualistic -and often brutal - laws of Cathedral but is left with a sense that she is missing something in her life. Her best friend, Alice, holds what is known as a High Role and is a proponent of Cathedral’s ethos. Conflict arises when Sarah falls in love with Paul, a man who has been rescued from the wilderness. As relationships form part of a quota system, Sarah must share the man she loves with others for the betterment of the whole community. The book explores Sarah’s battle to keep both her lover and her place in Cathedral, and the results of this conflicting scenario.
DP: Thank you – now, without giving any spoilers away (I know this one might be difficult though I am genuinely interested) – somebody called Abraham Maslow features heavily in Cathedral. He’s a real person right?
DJ: Yes. Abraham Maslow was an American psychologist who created a theoretical framework based on chronologically meeting human need. At the bottom of a five-tier pyramid is physiological needs such as food, water, warmth etc, and at the apex is the concept of self-actualisation, or the ability for an individual to achieve their full potential. In order to progress, Maslow theorised that a person must have each need met in his proposed hierarchy. Of course, for the purposes of Cathedral’s version (or Maslow’s Law as it is known in the city), the top two tiers that foster individuality are removed for the betterment of the whole community. The resulting trapezium shape this creates is a symbol of order in Cathedral and features on the city flag, and the doorways of the arboretum are fashioned in such a shape as a reminder to all that they are always under the influence of its doctrine. This removal of individual achievement ultimately creates an intriguing conflict between protagonist and the world they inhabit.
DP: I honestly haven’t found many horror authors who have gone to this level of detail in their stories Dave and this is why I and everybody else love what you have created with the A Quiet Apocalypse universe…I’m assuming that a lot of research was required?
DJ: As with A Quiet Apocalypse, I drew upon my existing knowledge as a mental health professional to explore Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and the adaptation of it to meet the skewed ethos of Cathedral. It was an odd thing to pick apart such a well-established and lauded framework so that it became something at odds with the original ethic established by Maslow. However, the more I worked on it, the more right it felt for the story. There was no going back once I started.
DP: I bet – so did you find any of the scenes particularly difficult to write?
DJ: Well, there were a few scenes that had me wincing, one even had me questioning whether I should edit it out because it was too barbaric. There are several bleak core concepts in the origins of Cathedral as a city and the ethos it has adopted. One of the overarching issues is a universal (yet unfounded) belief that people from the Deaf Community were carriers of the original disease and are therefore branded Harbingers. If harbingers are captured, then they are brought back to the city where they are ritualistically killed in a ceremony known as Retribution, a cathartic outpouring of hate that is inflicted upon the poor soul who is caught. The scene is pretty nasty but I feel there is counterweight when we look at Sarah’s rationalisation of events and the impact this has on Paul.
DP: Considering the times we now find ourselves in and though you began writing Cathedral before the Covid pandemic do you think what you are creating in your universe can be seen as a metaphor for the virus / current landscape?
DJ: I think any book written during such a time is bound to become a product of events. Cathedral (and A Quiet Apocalypse for that matter) try to be as realistic as possible in terms of human interaction and response to adversity. Cathedral explores how this is done on a grander scale, a city with radical policies to prevent a return to the chaos that is the immediate aftermath of World’s End. But like many human endeavours, the cure can sometimes be as harmful as the disease.
DP: Too true…so what next for the A Quiet Apocalypse universe?
DJ: The Samaritan, the third book, is already written and will hopefully be released later in 2021, if not early next year. Again, this will be a first-person narrative from one of Cathedral’s search units who becomes trapped in the wilderness beyond the city walls. Of all the books, this is possibly the darkest in terms of content.
DP: That sounds exciting…do you think that there might be further stories?
DJ: Okay…there is also another, super-secret project that is also greenlit for late 2021 that may well feature a story set in Cathedral, certainly an origin tale, but at the moment I’m not at liberty to give out any more information than that, sorry!
DP: Ah, spoilers! Love it…finally then, 2020 was a very tough year for most, how did you handle it and did it affect your creative work?
DJ: I was fortunate in that I’d literally only just retired in February 2020 and had a long ‘to-do’ list for the year, particularly around writing projects. I also have two young adults in the house who needed my support, so in all, I have been lucky in that my focus was predetermined. However, I am aware that not everyone has been so lucky, and my heart goes out to all those affected by this terrible disease.
Dave, thank you for your time and all the best of luck with Cathedral. You honestly deserve it.
Cathedral is released on the 29th January but is currently available for pre-sales.
If you would like to connect with Dave Jeffery direct:
Facebook: Dave Jeffery Writer