Page Turner / Edited by Peter McDermott
If you like the presidential electoral skullduggery of “House of Cards,” admired the Netflix documentary series “The Keepers” or the Oscar-winning film “Spotlight” and also more generally enjoy reading a good thriller or mystery, you’ve three reasons right there to pick up C.S. Farrelly’s debut novel, “The Shepherd’s Calculus.”
“By the time this page-turner reaches maximum velocity, a fine balance has effectively been established between political intrigue and religious scandal,” said Kirkus Reviews, adding that the book is “sure to please fans of governmental intrigue and fast-paced suspense; puts swift prose, commanding characterization, and contemporary hot topics to grand use.”
“The novel takes a hot button issue and makes it feel fresh. It successfully links religion, politics, and journalism with guilt and moral issues,” Publisher’s Weekly BookLife said, “Farrelly has a good ear for sharp dialogue.”
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“Farrelly avoids the pitfalls of her bombshell subject,” it continued. “The conclusion is especially well paced.”
“It’s a mystery/thriller examining the interplay of organized religion and politics,” Farrelly told the Echo. “It follows three plot lines that overlap during a U.S. presidential election: the acting president’s campaign to appeal to Catholic and Latino voters, a journalist who suspects his mentor may have been a pedophile priest, and the friendship between two senior Church leaders and how the abuse scandal impacts their relationship.
“I took a class about Catholicism in the U.S. and studied why JFK’s faith got attention during his campaign. It made me pay attention to the relationship between politics, religion and candidates,” she said. “‘The Shepherd’s Calculus’ sprang from curiosity about this subject, but also from being one of many Catholics dismayed by the abuse revelations. It prompted questions about my faith, so I wound up exploring both topics.”
Date of birth: July 21, 1977
Place of birth: Rock Springs, Wy.
Spouse: Matthew Richmond
Children: Fintan, 2 years old
Residence: The Bronx and Pennsylvania
Published works: “The Shepherd’s Calculus”; academic journal articles on Irish theater
What is your writing routine? Are there ideal conditions?
My ideal conditions would be in a cottage in Donegal, where I could write and hike. I wrote my first full-length play in Dublin, so Ireland’s been good to me. My current routine involves sketching plots and doing research to make them feel authentic.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
1. Even while writing, try to read work by other writers. It keeps you connected to your own enjoyment of reading. 2. t’s an adage that applies to politics too, but don’t let perfection be the enemy of progress. Not everything you write in the first draft is going to be good, so keep going. 3. Recognize that not everyone will love or understand your message. Some will get it, others won’t.
Name three books that are memorable in terms of your reading pleasure.
Michael Chabon’s “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay”; Caleb Carr’s “The Alienist”; Louise Fitzhugh’s “Harriett the Spy.”
What book are you currently reading?
J.T. Ellison’s “Lie to Me.” I love seeing the same story from different points of view. A theme in my own writing is the mind’s capacity to believe whatever it needs to in order to rationalize one thing or survive another, so I’m really enjoying it.
Is there a book you wish you had written?
“Banished Children of Eve” by Peter Quinn.
Name a book that you were pleasantly surprised by.
“The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins.
If you could meet one author, living or dead, who would it be?
Eugene O’Neill. I read all his plays in high school. From everything I’ve read, O’Neill wasn’t the nicest person, so I’m not sure how the meeting would go. But he tapped into themes of depression, addiction and family dysfunction at a time when it wasn’t acceptable to present them in public, let alone on a Broadway stage. And his depictions of them – the high price of pretending something rotten is good—really spoke to me. He’s a master at capturing emotional paralysis.
What book changed your life?
It’s such a cliché, but I have to go with “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen. I was a dark-haired, nerdy, sarcastic girl growing up in the 1980s—a time when it was definitely not cool to be any of those things. I read it in junior high and loved Austen’s humor and that Elizabeth was unapologetic for being smart and self-assured.
There’s a character “The Shepherd’s Calculus” who says when you’re a kid, your immediate world is all you know and that’s why it’s so hard to see past what’s in front of you. Austen being a famous author for writing a character like Elizabeth Bennett helped me see a bigger, brighter world beyond the now.
What is your favorite spot in Ireland?
The summit of Mount Brandon. The scenery on the way up is gorgeous, but that top view of the Atlantic, rocky outcroppings, lakes and sloping hills is spectacular.
You’re Irish if…
You say “bye” 10 times in a row getting off the phone.