Monday, June 16, 2014

David O'Brien: Leaving the Pack

Werewolf fans, take note: David O’Brien’s exciting new Horror/ Romance, Leaving the Pack, is out! One reviewer calls this a thrilling, well-written tale, the first book in David’s Silver Nights Trilogy, a story that leaves readers "wondering, do werewolves really walk among us?"

10% of the author's royalties will be donated to the World Wildlife Fund.
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Welcome to The Plain, David. Tell us something about yourself. Where are you from?
I'm from Dun Laoghaire, a large suburb south of Dublin, Ireland. I left there in 2000 at the age of twenty-six, though, and moved to Madrid for a while, then Boston and back to Spain three years ago.
An interesting triangle of travel. Do you set your books/stories in your hometown, or do you prefer more exotic locations?
I think each book suggests its own location. I have never set a book in Dublin, though the kind of streetscape in Leaving the Pack is similar to Dublin's. I didn't want to be confined by a real geography, and I wanted the reader to decide what city they imagined themselves. Likewise I invented the area around the imaginary village of Ballyboy for my second book, and I set my YA novel in a fictional town in England because I felt that England was a better setting for my purpose, but didn't know enough of any particular town to be able to shape it to my story. I don't think I will ever set a story in Dublin in the way a book like Ulysses takes advantage of a real geography. There would have to be a real advantage to it, and most of the time an imagined setting suits the story better.
How much of your writing is based on people or events familiar to you?
Very little, I think, though others might disagree. I do take notes of things that happen when they are interesting, and there are bits and pieces of people's personalities mixed in some of my characters. I also like to use common names that I hear all the time, which means that I always know someone with the same name, but that doesn't mean that the character has anything to do with the real person. For example, my main character in 5 Days is called Dave, but he's only a shadow of me.
What inspired you to write Leaving the Pack?
After reading Whitley Strieber's Wolfen, I wondered about the origin of the werewolf myth that we have all heard about but know scientifically can't exist - where did these stories come from? Why did we begin to tell them? What are the facts that led to the myth? I came up with a separate race of humans that still exist, but whose survival is in peril after centuries of persecution because people always fear what is different or they don't understand, and attack what they fear. I started it when I was seventeen as a short novella describing the race and the main characters because I loved the idea, and wanted to create a new world. Over the years I extended it into a novel, because the more I thought about it, the more complex the story became.
Was there much research involved?
Not really. A lot of the science is basic physiology I learned in college with some embellishments and inventions, and the geography is imaginary.
Is there a message in your story you want readers to grasp?
The big issue behind the novel is tolerance of differences, racism, prejudice and persecution. The members of the pack and their family have seen their own race nearly exterminated like Native Americans, Australian Aborigines, Tasmanians, and of course, the Jews and Gypsies during the Second World War. While the other groups still have problems and prejudice to deal with, their existence is no longer (one hopes) actually in danger. But the pack knows such tolerance that we see today will not be extended to their race should they be discovered. They are powerful individuals, who can kill in a heartbeat, but they know that they are outnumbered by the rest of society and so must hold back their power or it will be their undoing. The fear of rejection, of being safe in your current situation and being reluctant to change, to transition to something new, despite the fact that it could be positive in the long run are also important themes.
Do you celebrate when you finish a story, and if so, how?
Not really. I do give myself a treat, like let myself watch an entire season of a TV show or start a big book (The Count of Monte Cristo is this summer's book) but that's more because I've been holding off on the treat until I get the work done, so it's more of an earned reward. I don't celebrate too much because I have found that a book is never really finished until it's printed somewhere other than on my own reused printer paper, and I no longer have control of it. Until then, I'm always going to keep revising.

Do you have a set writing routine?
I can only wish! I have discovered that I have most energy in the late afternoon, just when I am working, or collecting from school or preparing dinner or having family time - all things I can't avoid. I wish I could get up early to write, but I tend to arse around without focus for a few hours in the morning.
Do you listen to music when you write?
Yes. Usually I have my iTunes on on the computer as I type. I sometimes get to the point where the music is just background, or an album that I am listening to continues on to a new group without me even noticing. Usually, though, I am aware of the song and will sometimes replay a song a few times before I let it go on to the next. I listen to female vocalists, usually, and lyrics are really important to me. My current favorite singer is Lana Del Rey, but my go-tos are Skin/Skunk Anansie, Tori Amos, Bjork, Cardigans/Acamp, Beth Orton, Sade, and a few Irish bands - Bell X1 and The Frames among others - as well as a pile of groups from the 80s that I still listen to all the time.
What do you like least about writing?
The fact that I can't just drop everything else in my life to keep working on a story that is physically impossible to write in a short time, that I have leave a story in the middle to do other things like work, and spend time with friends and family - the normal things in life - instead of writing. At the same time I sometimes feel conflicted when it takes time away from other things I'd like to do, especially on weekends in the country when I'd otherwise go hiking or mountain biking.
If you could go back in time, what author would you most like to invite to share a chat and a bottle of wine?
I'd have wine and then something stronger with Hemingway. I'd ask him about his love affair with Agnes von Kurowsky, and what he wrote to her in his letters - which she later destroyed (I once visited the Hemingway Room in the JFK library and saw the letters she wrote him). I can't help thinking that this affair and its unhappy ending marked Hemingway for life. And I'd inquire, after I introduced him to some Irish whiskeys in return for him introducing me to absinth and a few other drinks, why he felt that he couldn't just live on his laurels and spend the rest of his days fishing and watching bullfights, and perhaps edit True at First Light, which didn't quite come out as good as it might when it was edited by his son.
What’s next for you? Can we look forward to a new story soon?
I've just finished my second novel, Five Days on Ballyboy Beach, accepted for publication by Tirgearr Publishing, and I hope we are about to start the editing process on that to have it ready for the autumn/fall. I also hope to submit a couple of other things I'm finishing up over summer. I have almost finished a novel set in the Great Glen of Scotland, and have the sequel to Leaving the Pack waiting its completion. I plan to finish that for Christmas, all going well.
Best wishes that all will go well for you, David. I’ve Thanks so much for stopping by. And now, let’s have a look at Leaving the Pack.

Nobody believes in werewolves.
That's just what Paul McHew and his friends are counting on.

They and their kind roam our city streets: a race of people from whom the terrible legend stems; now living among us invisibly after centuries of persecution through fear and ignorance. Superficially Caucasian but physiologically very different, with lunar rhythms so strong that during the three days of the full moon they are almost completely controlled by their hormonal instincts, you might have cursed them as just another group of brawling youths or drunken gang-bangers. Now at the point of extinction, if they are to survive their existence must remain restricted to mere stories and legend, but, paradoxically, they also must marry outside their society in order to persist.

The responsibility for negotiating this knife-edge is given to Paul, who runs the streets with his friends during the full moon, keeping them out of real trouble and its resultant difficult questions. Having succeeded for years, he finds his real test of leadership comes when he meets Susan, a potential life-mate, to whom he will have to reveal his true identity if he is ever to leave his pack.

Suddenly he asked her the time. It was half-past one. His eyes scanned the crowd quickly and came to rest on the face of one of his friends, who had apparently been watching them. Paul nodded to him and then turned back to Susan.

"Where do you live Susan?" he asked, his tone conveying much more than curiosity.

She stared at him for a few seconds, spellbound, and then replied, gaze still holding his. "Not very far."

"OK," he said simply. "I just have to say goodbye to my friends."

"I'll get my coat."

She went back to where she’d been sitting, said a quick goodbye to her wide-eyed workmates and picked up her jacket, then followed Paul down towards the dance-floor, at the edge of which his friends were assembling. After saying something Susan didn’t catch above the strains of Duran Duran’s Wild Boys, he clasped hands with a few of them before grinning broadly and letting out a long guffaw, though Susan didn’t notice that anyone had told a joke. They smirked back, ignoring her completely until Paul turned away from them and took her arm to lead her to the door.

Outside, a bank of clouds had descended over the city, reflecting back down upon it the dull orange glow of the streets. A splattering of heavy drops fell as they stood on the pavement, Paul glancing up and down to spot the next taxi that came along. Susan was wearing a cotton jacket which wouldn’t withstand much rain and she hoped that more than one taxi came quickly, as there were some other people nearby who were already waiting. When the drops became more frequent, Paul offered her his leather jacket. She declined, since it would have left him with just his silk shirt, but looked up at the almost lurid clouds anxiously. A lone taxi came along and pulled up nearby. Paul strode towards it and the two guys who were just about to open its door hesitated at his approach. He grabbed the handle and they backed away. Susan also scrupled, thinking it impolite to jump the queue. But the sudden drumming of the opening sky upon the dusty street convinced her and she skipped over to the car when Paul beckoned.

"What was that about in the club?" she asked as they jumped in.

"What? Oh, the boys? They're going off to another place now. I was just laughing at what I imagine they'll get up to there."

"And what exactly do you imagine they will do?"

"Pretty much what they were doing there, but a bit more boisterous."

"What? They're going to trash the place?"

"No. No. They'd never do that. Not while they're restrained."

"Restrained? What is that supposed to mean? Like, locked up?"

"No. It's quite simple really. One of them will simply not go wild and he will kind of look after them, make sure that they don't go too far. And if anything happens that shouldn't, then he’ll be answerable to me."

"What? You're the leader?"


This settled in her mind like a sunken galleon in a sandbar. Of course, she told herself, the most perfect man you’ve ever met is a gang leader. Now I know why things are going so well – because they are undoubtedly going to go extremely bad sometime very soon.

She swallowed hard and asked, "And what would you do if this gang - it is a gang, isn't it?"

"Yeah, you could call it that."

"Well, what would you do if they did get into trouble?"

"It won’t happen."

"But if it did?"

"They would be reprimanded."

"What do you mean by that?"

"I don't know. It would have to happen first."

"And wouldn't they just replace you as leader if you did something that they didn't agree with?"

"No. They respect that I’m the leader and that’s the way it’s supposed to be."


"Look, can we leave this? I'll tell you all about it some other time."

The mention of another time snapped Susan out of it a little. She was really engrossed in this gang thing, wanting to find out more about it both to satisfy herself that it was not dangerous to be with this gang leader and because, as she thought about it, she had to admit to herself that she was excited by that very possibility of danger. His mention of another time almost prompted her to ask if there was to be one, but she stopped herself and concentrated on the present situation.

"OK. Here's my place now, anyway."
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Leaving the Pack / eBook Available from


  1. Thanks a million, Pat, for hosting me on your blog today. It was a pleasure to answer your questions!

    1. A pleasure having you, David. Best of the best to you and your wonderfully imaginative writing.