Author C. S. Farrelly
Author C. S. Farrelly (Posted by Brown, Community Contributor)

C. S. Farrelly, the bestselling author of break out thriller The Shepherd's Calculus, has weaved a tale that takes readers on a wild and thrilling ride through the dark world of politics. As the election draws closer and the stakes get higher, each choice becomes a calculation...What do you choose? Your faith, or your church? Your principles, or your candidate? The person you most respect, or the truth that could destroy their legacy? When the line between right and wrong is blurred, how do you act, and whom do you save? When journalist Peter Merrick is asked to write a eulogy for his mentor, Jesuit priest James Ingram, his biggest concern is doing right by the man. But when his routine research reveals disturbing ties to cases of abuse and clues to a shadowy deal that trades justice for power, everything he believed about his friend is called into question. What happens? You will have to read this powerful must-read novel for yourself and be warned when you reach the final page you will not only have your mind blown, you will be left wishing for more.

The Shepherd's Calculus is a thrilling and captivating ride that will take your breath away and have you on the edge of your seat until the very last page.

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Baltimore was recently the site of a US Conference of Catholic Bishops meeting on the abuse crisis. The USCCB plays a prominent role in your novel and one of the characters has a Baltimore connection. What influenced those plot choices for you and what are your thoughts on the recent USCCB meeting?

Maryland holds a unique place in the history of Catholicism in the United States, starting with Catholic colonists who settled there and the Maryland Act of Toleration. This is why I had one of my main characters move to Maryland. Of course, the USCCB headquarters are just down the road from Baltimore in Washington, DC, but I think it's really interesting and potentially symbolic that they held the conference in a city and state that played such a fundamental role in the history of American Catholicism. In choosing to have the USCCB play a prominent role in the plot of my novel, I wanted to highlight two issues. One, that the ethical transgressions of the Church aren't limited to Boston or New York or Pennsylvania. It's touched communities all over the U.S. and the world. And two, that the proximity of the USCCB to the corridors of power in Washington and its coordinated efforts to influence legislation and politics (some of which I agree with and others that I don't) can blur the line between acting in the interests of social justice versus making a power grab for personal benefit.
I'm still waiting to see what the actionable outcomes will be from the various summits the Church has been holding on this issue, including the one held by the USCCB in Baltimore. It was disappointing that they opened the assembly by saying that at the Vatican's insistence, they would not be voting on what steps to take to address the abuse crisis. Dialogue and discussion is important, but action and follow-through is even more important. When I was doing research to write The Shepherd's Calculus, what struck me most was how many times the issue of abuse had sprung up over the years - news articles in 1995 describing isolated incidences, the 2003 Spotlight exposé, and now fifteen years later, a shocking grand jury report. Despite all these revelations, the abuses and cover-ups continued. The Church has a moral obligation to take action so this doesn't happen again and we, as the community it was created to serve, can and should hold it accountable to do so.

There are so many genres today that authors write in, how did you come about writing in the Thriller and Mystery genres and why?

My brand of thriller is subdued compared to the rest of the genre. The mysteries I craft don't usually involve car chases or high body counts; they're more preoccupied with how the ordinary everyday choices people make can collectively add up to a crime and philosophical questions surrounding intention and free will. This curiosity is probably the result of reading a lot of Greek mythology as a kid. Each one told a story of cause and effect and especially the role extreme emotions play in poor choices or setting events in motion that have disastrous consequences. That's the emotional heart of a mystery for me: that people talk themselves into thinking something they've done or are about to do is somehow more acceptable than a less damaging alternative.

Mysteries fascinate me not just because I enjoy trying to figure who committed the crime, but because I want to understand why someone did it and the confluence of events, people, or thoughts that had to come together to allow something awful to happen. Crimes rarely happen in complete isolation. The crimes that occurred on the Church's watch are a prime example of what I mean. There were individual perpetrators of the assaults, but the church administrators who failed to report it to the police and the culture of obedience and subjugation the Church has long cultivated among its followers share responsibility for what happened and how.

Every book has a story about its creation, what's the story behind "The Shepherd's Calculus"?

It's the product of thoughts I've had about my own relationship with Catholicism over the years combined with behaviors and actions I've observed in my professional career working in business and government. I started with a basic question: we treat business, government, and religion as though they're vastly different entities, but what if they're more alike than we want to admit? What if the organizational psychology of a large religious sect is driven by the same greed as a Fortune 500 company or the same hunger for power as a career politician?
I moved to Ireland in 2003 just as the Boston Globe's coverage was coming out. Ireland was also dealing with fallout from abuse revelations related to Christian Brother's schools and Magdalene Laundries. It became obvious that abuse of power played a much larger role in the modern Church than I'd ever really considered before and that it reached far beyond Boston. As my career moved through large international companies and government agencies led by political appointees, I started examining how these entities and their leaders cooperate with one another in exchange for beneficial perks.

I'd been thinking about the plot for a while and doing research, but after the financial crisis of 2008 when distrust of business and government was at an all-time high, the idea really came into focus for me. I wanted to write a story to explore collusion that renders justice as a complete afterthought because a lot of us felt confused, scared and angry during that period. And I wanted to create characters who found a way to change the course of an injustice by acting on their conscience when others hadn't. It felt cathartic to me at the time.
As a society, America has prided itself on the folklore that separation of Church and State is part of what makes us unique. Yet, religion plays an enormous role in how candidates campaign and the legislation they support. On a basic physical level, the very design of the US Capitol Building was influenced by St. Paul's Cathedral in London and St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. So even one of our most iconic symbols of democracy is rooted in organized religion.
"The Shepherd's Calculus" deliberately takes a somewhat cynical look at this interplay of religion with politics and raises questions about whether any organization rooted in power and influence can remain above corruption. In particular, I ask if organized religion and politics -precisely because they trade in power and influence - fall prey to the same corruption, sin and moral depravity that they're designed to help regulate.

You wrote the novel some time ago before some of these more recent revelations. What do you think about the news that has come out over the last year and a half and of the Church's response to it?

It's been an eerie experience to follow the news this past year. Back when I first started sending the manuscript out to agents and editors, I had a tough time. I got rejections saying the topic of the Church scandal had already been exhausted because Spotlight had come out by then. Others said the cover-up plot line and the political interference storyline were "too far-fetched." Now we're seeing the extent to which church leaders all over the world actively tried to hide critical information in addition to not doing what they should have to protect children. Over the last several years, the Church has spent enormous amounts of money on lobbying efforts to prevent legislation that lifts the statute of limitation on these crimes.

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The novel really doesn't seem so far-fetched now. I don't take any pleasure in that because it's tied to the victimization of so many. But it has given me enormous insight into part of why the abuse went on for as long as it did. People are reluctant to believe that something tied to moral and religious authority could be so deliberate about behavior that damages others.

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In terms of the Church's response, while I'm encouraged that Pope Francis and others in the Church leadership are publicly addressing it and organizing conferences about it, I want more than rhetoric. I want a solid plan to change the power dynamics that allowed the secrecy to flourish, like creating a lay committee or ombudsmen in each parish that can monitor issues and take action. It's also important for people involved in these crimes to be held to the same standard of justice anyone else would be. Being a priest or working for a religious order shouldn't make you above civil law.

Is it true that Bill Clinton read your book and called you? What was that like?

Yes! His book with James Patterson was number 1 on the Amazon political fiction list when mine reached number 10, which was pretty exciting news for me, so I tweeted to them both about it. I received a lovely note from someone in his office about the book shortly after that which was completely unexpected, so I definitely didn't think I'd get a phone call. It's flattering enough to learn that someone you admire and who is so busy all the time has read something you wrote, but to get a phone call on top of that was such an honor and a surprise. I really enjoyed the chance to speak with him about some of the plot points in his book and ask questions. I was a little nervous the whole time and probably not very articulate and of course, I remembered a million more questions I wanted to ask as soon as I was off the phone with him. But it was still a really special experience and I'm grateful to him and his team for being so considerate.

C. S. Farrelly, the bestselling author of break out thriller The Shepherd's Calculus, has weaved a tale that takes readers on a wild and thrilling ride through the dark world of politics. As the election draws closer and the stakes get higher, each choice becomes a calculation...What do you choose? Your faith, or your church? Your principles, or your candidate? The person you most respect, or the truth that could destroy their legacy? When the line between right and wrong is blurred, how do you act, and whom do you save? When journalist Peter Merrick is asked to write a eulogy for his mentor, Jesuit priest James Ingram, his biggest concern is doing right by the man. But when his routine research reveals disturbing ties to cases of abuse and clues to a shadowy deal that trades justice for power, everything he believed about his friend is called into question. What happens? You will have to read this powerful must-read novel for yourself and be warned when you reach the final page you will not only have your mind blown, you will be left wishing for more.

Baltimore was recently the site of a US Conference of Catholic Bishops meeting on the abuse crisis. The USCCB plays a prominent role in your novel and one of the characters has a Baltimore connection. What influenced those plot choices for you and what are your thoughts on the recent USCCB meeting?

Maryland holds a unique place in the history of Catholicism in the United States, starting with Catholic colonists who settled there and the Maryland Act of Toleration. This is why I had one of my main characters move to Maryland. Of course, the USCCB headquarters are just down the road from Baltimore in Washington, DC, but I think it's really interesting and potentially symbolic that they held the conference in a city and state that played such a fundamental role in the history of American Catholicism. In choosing to have the USCCB play a prominent role in the plot of my novel, I wanted to highlight two issues. One, that the ethical transgressions of the Church aren't limited to Boston or New York or Pennsylvania. It's touched communities all over the U.S. and the world. And two, that the proximity of the USCCB to the corridors of power in Washington and its coordinated efforts to influence legislation and politics (some of which I agree with and others that I don't) can blur the line between acting in the interests of social justice versus making a power grab for personal benefit.

I'm still waiting to see what the actionable outcomes will be from the various summits the Church has been holding on this issue, including the one held by the USCCB in Baltimore. It was disappointing that they opened the assembly by saying that at the Vatican's insistence, they would not be voting on what steps to take to address the abuse crisis. Dialogue and discussion is important, but action and follow-through is even more important. When I was doing research to write The Shepherd's Calculus, what struck me most was how many times the issue of abuse had sprung up over the years - news articles in 1995 describing isolated incidences, the 2003 Spotlight exposé, and now fifteen years later, a shocking grand jury report. Despite all these revelations, the abuses and cover-ups continued. The Church has a moral obligation to take action so this doesn't happen again and we, as the community it was created to serve, can and should hold it accountable to do so.

There are so many genres today that authors write in, how did you come about writing in the Thriller and Mystery genres and why?
My brand of thriller is subdued compared to the rest of the genre. The mysteries I craft don't usually involve car chases or high body counts; they're more preoccupied with how the ordinary everyday choices people make can collectively add up to a crime and philosophical questions surrounding intention and free will. This curiosity is probably the result of reading a lot of Greek mythology as a kid. Each one told a story of cause and effect and especially the role extreme emotions play in poor choices or setting events in motion that have disastrous consequences. That's the emotional heart of a mystery for me: that people talk themselves into thinking something they've done or are about to do is somehow more acceptable than a less damaging alternative.
Mysteries fascinate me not just because I enjoy trying to figure who committed the crime, but because I want to understand why someone did it and the confluence of events, people, or thoughts that had to come together to allow something awful to happen. Crimes rarely happen in complete isolation. The crimes that occurred on the Church's watch are a prime example of what I mean. There were individual perpetrators of the assaults, but the church administrators who failed to report it to the police and the culture of obedience and subjugation the Church has long cultivated among its followers share responsibility for what happened and how.

Every book has a story about its creation, what's the story behind "The Shepherd's Calculus"?

It's the product of thoughts I've had about my own relationship with Catholicism over the years combined with behaviors and actions I've observed in my professional career working in business and government. I started with a basic question: we treat business, government, and religion as though they're vastly different entities, but what if they're more alike than we want to admit? What if the organizational psychology of a large religious sect is driven by the same greed as a Fortune 500 company or the same hunger for power as a career politician?
I moved to Ireland in 2003 just as the Boston Globe's coverage was coming out. Ireland was also dealing with fallout from abuse revelations related to Christian Brother's schools and Magdalene Laundries. It became obvious that abuse of power played a much larger role in the modern Church than I'd ever really considered before and that it reached far beyond Boston. As my career moved through large international companies and government agencies led by political appointees, I started examining how these entities and their leaders cooperate with one another in exchange for beneficial perks.

Advertisement

I'd been thinking about the plot for a while and doing research, but after the financial crisis of 2008 when distrust of business and government was at an all-time high, the idea really came into focus for me. I wanted to write a story to explore collusion that renders justice as a complete afterthought because a lot of us felt confused, scared and angry during that period. And I wanted to create characters who found a way to change the course of an injustice by acting on their conscience when others hadn't. It felt cathartic to me at the time.
As a society, America has prided itself on the folklore that separation of Church and State is part of what makes us unique. Yet, religion plays an enormous role in how candidates campaign and the legislation they support. On a basic physical level, the very design of the US Capitol Building was influenced by St. Paul's Cathedral in London and St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. So even one of our most iconic symbols of democracy is rooted in organized religion.
"The Shepherd's Calculus" deliberately takes a somewhat cynical look at this interplay of religion with politics and raises questions about whether any organization rooted in power and influence can remain above corruption. In particular, I ask if organized religion and politics -precisely because they trade in power and influence - fall prey to the same corruption, sin and moral depravity that they're designed to help regulate.

You wrote the novel some time ago before some of these more recent revelations. What do you think about the news that has come out over the last year and a half and of the Church's response to it?

It's been an eerie experience to follow the news this past year. Back when I first started sending the manuscript out to agents and editors, I had a tough time. I got rejections saying the topic of the Church scandal had already been exhausted because Spotlight had come out by then. Others said the cover-up plot line and the political interference storyline were "too far-fetched." Now we're seeing the extent to which church leaders all over the world actively tried to hide critical information in addition to not doing what they should have to protect children. Over the last several years, the Church has spent enormous amounts of money on lobbying efforts to prevent legislation that lifts the statute of limitation on these crimes.
The novel really doesn't seem so far-fetched now. I don't take any pleasure in that because it's tied to the victimization of so many. But it has given me enormous insight into part of why the abuse went on for as long as it did. People are reluctant to believe that something tied to moral and religious authority could be so deliberate about behavior that damages others.
In terms of the Church's response, while I'm encouraged that Pope Francis and others in the Church leadership are publicly addressing it and organizing conferences about it, I want more than rhetoric. I want a solid plan to change the power dynamics that allowed the secrecy to flourish, like creating a lay committee or ombudsmen in each parish that can monitor issues and take action. It's also important for people involved in these crimes to be held to the same standard of justice anyone else would be. Being a priest or working for a religious order shouldn't make you above civil law.

Is it true that Bill Clinton read your book and called you? What was that like?

Yes! His book with James Patterson was number 1 on the Amazon political fiction list when mine reached number 10, which was pretty exciting news for me, so I tweeted to them both about it. I received a lovely note from someone in his office about the book shortly after that which was completely unexpected, so I definitely didn't think I'd get a phone call. It's flattering enough to learn that someone you admire and who is so busy all the time has read something you wrote, but to get a phone call on top of that was such an honor and a surprise. I really enjoyed the chance to speak with him about some of the plot points in his book and ask questions. I was a little nervous the whole time and probably not very articulate and of course, I remembered a million more questions I wanted to ask as soon as I was off the phone with him. But it was still a really special experience and I'm grateful to him and his team for being so considerate.

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