I’m a huge fan of Nick’s (aka Craig Davidson) work, so I’m thrilled to have him back on the blog to talk about his new book, The Acolyte. Please welcome him back!
Yeah, it was kind of a scary thing for me, too. Most of my horror stuff involves impossible scenarios where you’re dealing with primitive fears, essential human fears. I’m not saying The Acolyte’s world could ever occur, almost certainly not, but there was a distinct fear during the time I wrote it. Worries about the dangers of religion. Inherently, I don’t have a problem with religion and what it offers people at its best: hope, togetherness, community. At its worst, when its tenets are twisted by those who wish to profit by them—yeah, that scares me.
Will you tell us more about Jonah Murtag and what you think makes him a compelling character? He has a crisis of faith, and in a world like the one you created in The Acolyte, that can be a deadly thing.
Well, Jonah’s name is an homage to Guy Montag, the de facto hero of Fahrenheit 451. I think the characters are similar in a lot of ways: men who are part of the system of oppression who, as the narrative progresses, become aware of all the ways the system they uphold is corrupt and dangerous. Then they have a choice: accept that corruption or fight against it.
Will you tell us a bit more about the “world” you created in The Acolyte?
Well, yeah, it’s a world where the outdated, batshit crazy edicts of the Old Testament are followed. Not to a “T,” mind you. But a world where, as I wrote, there is no longer a separation between church and state—because the church IS the state.
What kind of research did you do for the book?
Oh, not as much as some might think! It was more looking around at the world and extrapolating a lot of worst-case scenarios. I read the bible cover to cover. That was probably the most arduous research I’ve ever done. What a slog!
You’re not afraid to go to very dark places in your books. Is there any subject that you’d consider off limits?
Huh. That’s a good question. I don’t think so. I wouldn’t want it to be gratuitous. If it served the narrative, I might. Stuff involving child abuse might be a dealbreaker. But I don’t want to say I’d ever say any topic is verboten. I think it’s about trying to make the horrors conjured in the book highlight some of the same horrors that occur everyday—even if we purposefully try not to pay attention to them.
At this point, you’ve got more than a few novels under your belt. How has your writing process changed since you started writing?
I think I’m a little more disciplined. I’ve always worked hard, but hopefully I’m working a little smarter. I listen more to my editors, the people who read and have an opinion on the book before we slap it between two covers and stick it on the shelf at the store—because, as I now know, you can’t retroactively pull that book down and write a better one!
It’s been a while since we caught up. Have you read any good books lately?
Knucklehead, by Canadian writer Matt Lennox was great. The Winter Family by Clifford Jackman. Crazy, kickass western.
What’s next for you?
Oh, there’s a few coming down the pipe. Precious Cargo, a nonfiction book based on my year driving a school bus. A memoir. And the next Cutter book is Little Heaven, which will be out from Gallery next year.
About The Acolyte:
Jonah Murtag is an Acolyte on the New Bethlehem police force. His job: eradicate all heretical religious faiths, their practitioners, and artefacts. Murtag’s got problems – one of his partners is a zealot, and he’s in love with the other one. Trouble at work, trouble at home. Murtag realizes that you can rob a citizenry of almost anything, but you can’t take away its faith. When a string of bombings paralyzes the city, religious fanatics are initially suspected, but startling clues point to a far more ominous perpetrator. If Murtag doesn’t get things sorted out, the Divine Council will dispatch The Quints, aka: Heaven’s Own Bagmen. The clock is ticking towards doomsday for the Chosen of New Bethlehem. And Jonah Murtag’s got another problem. The biggest and most worrisome… Jonah isn’t a believer anymore.