Welcome to the newest installment of our monthly feature, Featured Author Fridays! Most people are familiar with the more established authors but we’ll be using this feature to introduce you to some of our favorite authors that you might not know about. Today we are featuring Joseph D’Lacey! Joseph has written several books in the horror genre including Meat, Garbage Man, and The Kill Crew. His newest novel, The Book of the Crowman, is the final chapter of his dystopian series that began with Black Feathers. Read on to learn more about Joseph and his books!
Tell Us About Yourself!
Badass Book Reviews: How did you begin writing and what made you choose the apocalyptic/dystopian genre?
Joseph D’Lacey: I’ve always had writing in my heart. Nevertheless, I spent the first thirty years of my life fruitlessly trying to find my place in the world. Throughout that time, I was a failed diarist, poet and writer of unfinished things. By my late twenties, though, something had begun to build inside me; a passion that I knew would only be realised on paper. The first story I wrote, a fantasy titled ‘Getaway Car’, was accepted straight out of the gate and I’ve never looked back.
I don’t write apocalyptic and dystopian fiction exclusively but such settings are so rich with horror, new worlds and the chance to strip humans down to their ‘base materials’ that they’re always attractive. It’s in extremity that every character reveals their true nature – just as it is in the real world. For me, that’s incredibly fertile ground and I can’t help digging there.
BaBR: Who is your favorite character that you’ve created?
JD’L: It may well be Grimwold, the Rag Man from the Black Dawn series.
Unlike most antagonists, he goes through a huge transformation and, whilst never actually a ‘good guy’, he does become a benevolent force. I didn’t realise the impact he’d have on the series until I was close to finishing the final polish but it turned out that his role was pivotal in the transition from the Black Dawn to the Bright Day.
BaBR: What is the biggest challenge to writing novels set in an alternate world?
JD’L: Making sure everyone stays in their other-world role and doesn’t do or say anything glaringly present-day! Also, not breaking the rules of that world in order to solve plot problems. That said, I find writing in fantasy realms far more liberating than it is troublesome. In a world where anything can happen, I can be as experimental as I want.
BaBR: Can you give us a peek into your writing space?
JD’L: Here is a sign from my workspace that I see every day
BaBR: Are there any occupational hazards to being a writer?
JD’L: Apart from physical and mental health issues, low income, prolonged periods of solitude, addiction, lack of fresh air, lack of sunlight and irregular eating habits, a career in writing is entirely free of occupational hazards.
BaBR: What would you say are the most important attributes to remaining sane as a writer?
JD’L: Writing is a process not a result. Everything about it takes time. The same is true of the industry that turns stories into products. Patience is a blessing at every stage from idea to publication but it’s a blessing I’ve yet to enjoy!
BaBR: What do you consider your biggest success so far? Your biggest failure?
JD’L: If so, biggest success so far: I’m still writing. Biggest failure so far: not having written more.
BaBR: Do you have any favorite books or authors?
JD’L: Margaret Atwood, DBC Pierre, James Herriot, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, Douglas Adams, Audrey Niffenneger, Patrick Tilley, Stephen R Donaldson, Adam Nevill, Angela Carter, Simon Bestwick, Anita Moorjani, Stephen King, Annie Proulx, Roald Dahl, David Mitchell, Clive Barker and many more!
All About The Author
Joseph D’Lacey writes Horror, SF & Fantasy, often with environmental themes, and is best known for his shocking eco-horror novel Meat. The book has been widely translated and prompted Stephen King to say “Joseph D’Lacey rocks!”.
His other published works to-date include Garbage Man, Snake Eyes, The Kill Crew, The Failing Flesh, Black Feathers, The Book of the Crowman and Splinters– a collection of short stories. He won the British Fantasy Award for Best Newcomer in 2009.
He enjoys being outdoors, eating vegetarian food and was recently adopted by two cats.
Bring On The Books!
The Black Dawn Series
Black Feathers is a modern fantasy set in two epochs: the Black Dawn, a time of environmental apocalypse, and generations into the future in its aftermath, the Bright Day.
In each era, a child undertakes a perilous journey to find a dark messiah known as The Crowman. In their hands lies the fate of the planet as they attempt to discover whether The Crowman is our saviour… or the final incarnation of evil.
It is the Black Dawn, a time of environmental apocalypse, the earth wracked and dying.
It is the Bright Day, a time long generations hence, when a peace has descended across the world.
The search for the shadowy figure known only as the Crowman continues, as the Green Men prepare to rise up against the forces of the Ward.
The world has been condemned. Only Gordon Black and The Crowman can redeem it.
Learn More About the World of the Crowman
BaBR: How did you develop the characters of The Crowman, The Scarecrow, and Black Jack? Were there any specific corvid legends or fables you researched?
JD’L: All three are aspects of the same natural – or unnatural, depending on your point of view – force. They’re a combination of man, corvid and effigy. How you view the Crowman and his behaviour is how you see the world. If you suspect evil at every turn and are suspicious, then you’re seeing Black Jack, the devil incarnate. If you’re open to the natural order in things – no matter how chaotic life becomes – then you’re connecting with the most positive aspects of the Crowman. The Scarecrow is just another name for him, one born of mistrust and ignorance. In my view, the Crowman represents harmony and balance in all things and the miracle of light from darkness.
Corvids are often associated with death because they eat carrion. After battles, they would flock to the fields and feast on the fallen. However, it’s worth remembering that this is their natural place in the scheme of things and that there’s nothing weird about carrion-eating animals eating dead flesh. The fact that their calls sound like laughter might have made people think they mock the dead as they eat them. Nevertheless, in more enlightened indigenous societies, the corvid has been seen as a trickster spirit and a messenger able to travel between our world and the world of spirit. All these characteristics, both positive and negative, added wonderful ‘weight’ to the legend of the Crowman.
BaBR: Your main characters, Megan and Gordon, actually live in different time periods. Did you have any difficulties keeping the aspects of their worlds separate? Did any unique concerns present themselves when the two timelines began to interweave?
JD’L: The degree to which Megan could interact with Gordon and to which Gordon could be aware of her had to be almost nil. I wanted Gordon to sense that he wasn’t entirely ‘alone’ but never to know why. I wanted Megan to be able to touch Gordon’s world but only in the subtlest ways.
It was tricky at times, especially as the novel was written without any sort of plan or structure. The important thing was that, in the beginning, their world and journeys were entirely split but that, as the story deepened, the wall between Megan and Gordon thinned until it was, very briefly, membranous.
BaBR: Megan’s world, the Bright Day, is the time period where society is starting to rebuild itself. What was your inspiration for the type of lives these people now lead?
JD’L: It was purely a desire to have a positive outcome from the apocalypse. For a change I wanted to envisage a world in which cataclysmic events had actually taught us something and that, through our own efforts in response to so much destruction, we gained the understanding necessary to living in harmony with the land – as have many cultures that existed before ours.
BaBR: Gordon and his journey seems to shadow a lot of what is believed about Jesus and his life. Was this comparison intentional? Are we meant to see Gordon as the messiah of the series?
JD’L: Gordon is definitely a messianic figure, bound for martyrdom from the outset. But I wanted his journey to be almost entirely secular and only informed ‘spiritually’ by his connection with the natural world, rather than with a deity. The Crowman, whilst certainly a supernatural figure, is not a god. He is a nature spirit; one who responds in kind to how he is perceived and treated.
I’m not religious but I am absolutely riveted by humanity’s religious leanings and I find every religion and spiritual path fascinating. In the west, so ingrained is it in our culture and from such an early age, that many people carry the story of Jesus as an archetype. What’s interesting to me about any messianic figure, though, is the similarity between their stories and the archetypal hero’s journey. I wanted to unite those progressions, that of the messiah and the ordinary individual, in a single tale.
BaBR: The Ward seems to be pure, undeniable evil. Are there any redeeming aspects to them and their cause?
JD’L: When corporate entities purchase law enforcement and military forces for further growth, profit and control there are no redeeming features whatsoever. It is the principle upon which an organization like The Ward is based that makes it intrinsically ‘wrong’. It holds the sovereignty of the company over the sovereignty of the individual. The individual is a measurable unit of profitability or risk rather than a sacred consciousness manifest in flesh and blood. This corporate principle, whilst flawed almost to the point of insanity, appears to the defining principle of contemporary society.
BaBR: You mention the 72-hour rule – that taking away food, water, and necessities would cause people to become like beasts within 72 hours. Gordon’s society does begin to crumble in a very short amount of time; do you think our actual society would start to fall apart just as quickly in the face of an apocalyptic event?
JD’L: I can only guess at what might really happen but not knowing where your next meal is coming from is a fairly serious motivator and it’s not something we’re used to. To lose power, water and supply chains together would cause fear and panic. If it went on long enough, people would split into factions based on existing community affiliations and/or boundaries. Some would batten down the hatches, others would rampage. Larger or preexisting power bases – people who are already armed and organized – would soon exert control over those without leadership and we would swiftly revert to tribalism and protectionism; without the veneer of democracy. I suppose the outcome would depend very much on whether cooperation or force became the ruling principle in the majority of minds. If the latter, our current dark age would simply get darker.
BaBR: There is obviously a deep ecological message running throughout this story. What are you trying to tell the readers about mother Earth and our treatment of her through the journey your characters are taking?
JD’L: My books are for me long before they’re for anyone else. By that, I mean that when I’m working on a first draft, the reader doesn’t exist for me. If I allowed myself to consider ‘reaction’ as I wrote, I’d never writer a thing or, if I did, it would be so sanitised it would no longer be genuine. My fiction is simply the exploration of themes through story. Ideas, phrases, titles, concerns, characters, situations or questions occur to me. If they occur strongly or repeatedly, I’m moved to write about them.
At no point in the process am I thinking ‘this is what I’m telling my reader; this is how they will think after they’ve read this.’ If I have any concerns at all about my reader, it’s during the editing stage when all I’m focused on is whether or not they’ll be emotionally involved enough to keep reading. Yes, there are messages in my work – or perhaps they’re warning signs – but they exist primarily for me.
All I ever really do at my desk is tell myself a story, one I love, and hope that others will love it just as much.
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