Posted by Literary Titan
A Burning in the Darkness follows Father Michael serving at an airport when he becomes the prime suspect in a heinous crime. What was the inspiration to the setup to this thrilling suspense novel?
Essentially it was the opening set up/dilemma. An anonymous voice in a darkened confessional confesses a murder to Father Michael Kieh. Circumstance and evidence points to the Michael’s guilt but he remains faithful to the Seal of Confession and doesn’t betray the identity of a young witness. Michael’s dilemma is between remaining true to his ideals or saving himself from a long prison sentence.
Father Michael Kieh is an intriguing and dynamic character. What were the driving ideals behind the characters development throughout the story?
In relation to Michael, I often asked myself: Is it possible to be so good that it becomes self-destructive? Is it possible to have the same degree of love and imaginative sympathy for the entire human race as one’s family and not be overwhelmed? Even asking the question seems exhausting and tiresome but the answer is self-evident. You would be overwhelmed to the point of physical and psychological destruction. Yet Michael comes close to this form of destruction.
Michael’s childhood was forged in the horrors of the Liberian civil war, but he chose a life dedicated to the Good. Michael has the moral freedom and strength to be different to his environment. He was a child witness and was protected from harm so he knows the importance of the strong protecting the weak. But we all need a little selfishness to survive. And Michael certainly has a smattering of selfishness because he is not afraid to assert his need for love as a strong-willed lover. But the reader roots for Michael because he refuses to betray his higher ideals. I wanted the novel to justify Michael’s faith in the ideals of putting the needs of others who cannot protect themselves before your own needs. It’s easy to talk the talk on this, but entirely different to walk the walk when you have to make a big sacrifice.
I wanted to write a page-turner novel, but the action explores a deep morality without, I hope, being preachy and self-justifying. It’s also important to me that whether you’re a diehard atheist or fervent believer that you will be engaged by Michael’s character, dilemma and beliefs.
When you first sat down to write this story, did you know where you were going, or did the twists come as you were writing?
I wrote a 5 or 6 page outline which I tinkered around with for a year or so, not sure if it was working as a story. This gave me the main plot and character points. It was more like what they call in the movie/TV business ‘a treatment’. I’m a film school graduate, so it was part of my training. I spoke to a close friend of mine about the story and he encouraged me to write it. (By the way, I work as a cinematographer on TV drama.)
I find a problem in well written novels in that I always want there to be another book. Are you writing another book? If so, when will it be available?
Your kind and positive response makes me want to write another. Most of my time and effort has been spent getting A Burning in the Darkness published. Michael’s story is complete so there’s no room to revisit it. I am working on an outline for another novel. Actually, mostly researching it at this point.
A Burning in the Darkness took me a good 7 years to write. That’s too long! I’d also like to write a novella in the meantime. Maybe 80 to 100 pages. I’d like to be able to do it in about 6 months, but I’m a slow writer.
Sadly I lost my wife to breast cancer 18 months ago. I have three amazing teenage children who are the best thing about my life, but being a single dad and working to keep them fed and housed takes up a lot of time. But that’s my primary responsibility. Nevertheless, my kids are also a powerful source of moral strength and determination. And somehow writers always find the time to write.
A murder at one of the world’s busiest airports opens this simmering crime story where a good man’s loyalty is tested to its limits. Michael Kieh is a full time faith representative serving the needs of some of the 80 million passengers, but circumstance and evidence point to his guilt. His struggle to prove his innocence leads him on a charged journey that pitches love against revenge.
Michael’s loneliness was eased by a series of brief encounters with a soul mate. When she confides a dark secret, he is motivated to redress a heart-breaking injustice. Together they must battle against powerful forces as they edge dangerously close to unmasking a past crime. But Michael faces defeat when he chooses to protect a young witness, leaving him a burning spirit in the darkness.
Michael’s commitment to helping those in need was forged in the brutality of the Liberian civil war. Protected by a kind guardian, he too was a young witness to an atrocity that has left a haunting legacy of stolen justice and a lingering need for revenge. More poignantly there is a first love cruelly left behind in Africa because of the impossible choices of war. When Michael and his former lover find each other once again they become formidable allies in proving his innocence and rediscovering their lost love.
Posted in Interviews
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Posted by Literary Titan
When an alien species detects the dissolution of a planet in a neighboring solar system, they send out a group of skilled teenagers to save what they can of the planet. This is an intriguing setup to a novel that is high in social commentary. What was your moral goal when writing this novel and do you feel you’ve achieved it?
My goal in writing this novel was to attempt to describe this world from the point of view of outsiders – people who had not been born and raised on Earth; people not conditioned and tainted by the absurdities of everyday life on this planet. Aliens. As a vegan, an atheist and an anarchist, I am dismayed on an, almost, hourly basis by the irrational behavior of my fellow species. We call ourselves ‘civilised’ and ‘highly evolved’ yet we participate in practices so horrific that, when committed against humans, are, quite rightly, thought of as shocking and unlawful yet, when perpetrated against non-human animals, are considered perfectly acceptable – or, usually, not considered at all. We call ourselves ‘intelligent’ yet we homo sapiens, we self-proclaimed ‘wise men’, are, not only, allowing the very environment we totally rely on for our own lives to be destroyed to slake the greed of a tiny number of other human animals but we are blissfully helping them to do so by believing their lies and consuming their unnecessary and harmful products. Some would call us ‘enlightened’ but up to 95% of all humans truly, truly believe that they will be transported to some kind of paradise after they die! Why should they care if life on the physical world were to be destroyed? I suppose that could explain why we do not care about the destruction of the rain forests, the desertification of vast swathes of the land, the befouling of the atmosphere and the creation of massive dead zones in the ocean. Also, how civilised or evolved or intelligent or enlightened can we be if we are killing and being killed by each other for nonsensical reasons such as the ancient writings of those ‘Religions of Love and Peace’ or the greed-based ideologies of power-hungry politicians? There are countless other stupidities I could mention here but the divisions based on race, colour, gender, sexuality, ability, age and, yes, even nonsensical superstitious belief, spring to mind – all of which I do discuss in the novel. Obviously, I cannot mention all of those forms of discrimination without also mentioning speciesism which plays a huge role in informing the aliens and, naturally, the book. Did I achieve my goal? From a practical angle – that is, putting myself in the minds of total outsiders and viewing the world afresh – I like to think that I did pretty well. However, in other aspects of the work, I am not so sure.
the hell world is full of detailed characters and places. How long did it take you to imagine, draft, and write this world?
The whole process took about 2 years from conception to pre-publish and then about 9 months to get the novel out. There was a lot of research involved – all of the figures I cite as being facts, to the best of my knowledge, are actual facts – the sixty-billion non-human land animals slaughtered for food every year, as just one example. I did, perhaps, use some poetic licence when detailing some of the projections of the aliens – on predicted human population levels, where, I think, I suggested that the numbers of humans alive in 2050 would far exceed the predicted eleven-billion – but I do not believe I took too many liberties on their behalf.
Their are many animals on this hell world. Were these animals allegories for humans on Earth? What was your favorite animal to create and write for?
This is an area where I obviously failed in my writing because the portrayal of the dominant animals, the Kaahu, on the hell world was not allegorical – they are humans and the hell world is Earth. There were no metaphors, no cryptic clues; the novel was set here and now on this planet with you and I as players in the story – there are many, many pointers to this fact in the book! My favourite character is Hentanayre – she’s a bubbly, intelligent young female alien (an ap Vandan) who loves all animals (except, maybe, the Kaahu) and, just like me, is terrified of heights – we have a lot in common!
What is the next book that you are working on and when is that book due out?
I am in the planning stage of a new novel – again, written from the viewpoint of aliens… mainly. I do intend to intersperse the narrative with a human voice here and there. It will also be written, again, from a vegan, atheist and anarchist perspective – so plenty of anti-carnist, anti-god and anti-hierarchical stuff. My working title is ‘It’ but I have no idea when it may be finished or published – I am in no hurry.
the hell world is a work of fiction that seeks to highlight the absurdity of the human condition as seen from the vantage point of outsiders – an alien view. It is a critique of the now in the genre of science fiction; an attack on all of the ridiculous ideologies that have retarded, and continue to retard, the evolution of those, self-proclaimed, wise men (homo sapiens) of the planet. These nonsensical philosophies, be they socio-political, economic, military or religious, have all crippled human animal evolutionary development for millennia. But not just that. Of much more importance is the impact that just this one species of animal has had, is having and will continue to have on all other lifeforms of this beautiful world and on the planet itself – though, I fear, not for too much longer. An unthinkable, unmentionable, unconscionable number of individual, sentient beings are slaughtered for human consumption in their multiple-billion every single year. Habitats essential to other lifeforms have been, and continue to be, destroyed on a regular basis, affecting the very existence of thousands of species of animal and vegetable life – in itself an act of mass suicide for human animals as all of those other lifeforms are part of the cycle of life. All are interdependent – taking away one leads to a domino-effect and, albeit at first slowly, the whole structure starts to collapses. We have passed that initial, gradual degradation stage – it has long since gone. Also an environmentalist, n o o n e cannot comprehend the idea that human animals are nonchalantly destroying the planet – an action which can be likened to people steadfastly hacking away at the foundations of a borrowed house and constantly defecating in every room whilst kidding themselves that they can pass that house on to their children. Couple those atrocities to the insane befouling of all of the water and the entire atmosphere of the planet by this species, the unconscionable weapons of mass murder they possess, then add-in the sheer number of these human animals and their determination to increase that total without limit points to just one, inevitable conclusion: The total annihilation of, not only themselves, but of life itself on this one world in a million or billion or trillion or, perhaps, the only planet like it in the entire, vastness of the universe. We will never know because, the sad truth is, it is much too late for the human animal, much too late for other species of life and much too late for the planet.
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