Sirens Call Publications recently released Nora’s Wish, a novella by author John Mc Caffrey. As we like to do with all of our authors, we took a few months to probe his grey matter in search of some tasty tidbits and tempting morsels to entice readers. The following interview speaks to the fun that transpired…
Sirens Call Publications: Welcome John! Why don’t you take a moment to tell our captive audience about yourself.
John Mc Caffrey: I grew up in and around Chicago, and currently live in northern Indiana with my wife and two dogs. I began writing seriously about five years ago and since then have appeared in various anthologies and magazines. Nora’s Wish is my first novella released through the fine folks at Sirens Call Publications.
SCP: What made you decide to become a writer?
John: I’ve been an avid reader since the second grade. Books and those who write them, have always held a fascination for me. I would spend hours not only reading, but mentally taking apart what the author did with the words in the book. The phraseology, the mood, the characters. I knew even at a young age, that one day, I would sit down and try and write myself. I considered seriously pursuing writing while I was in college, but there always seemed to be a distraction that kept me from actually sitting down and doing it. It wasn’t until I got older when I realized the only thing holding me back was the resolve to make the time required that I actually began.
SCP: What is Nora’s Wish about?
John: The inspiration for the novella came from my late father. Although his life was nothing like the lead character’s, being a widower for more than twenty years, I saw how lonely he was regardless of how often his children visited him. When we were together talking over coffee, he often shared with me his many regrets, and how he wished he was able to do certain things over. The decisions he would have made, the paths he might have taken, made me think of how we all would like to do certain things differently if we were given the ability. I took that notion and expanded upon it. Nora’s Wish is about the second chances he wished he had, and the belief in hope.
SCP: What is your writing process? Do you consider yourself to be a planner or a pantser?
John: I’m more of a planner. For short stories, when I get an idea, I immediately jot down a few key lines in a notebook I carry with me. Later, I transfer that to a larger notebook, adding to it as the idea evolves. It is during this time that I flesh out the characters, breathing life into them. I then allow a good deal of time to pass before I actually take my notes, and write my first draft. I allow enough time to pass to distance myself from what I’ve written before I begin initial edits. I employ the same process for a novel, but rather than a first draft, I write an outline. When I feel I’m done, my wife then pulls out her yellow highlighter, a cup of tea, and proves me wrong. Her input and support has been enormous in my writing.
SCP: If you could cast your story, who would you choose to play your main characters?
John: That’s a tough one. For the part of Ben, I would have to go with Robert Duvall. I feel he would be able to convey the wide range of emotions Ben goes through as the story evolves. For Nora, I would say Helen Mirren would be perfect. She has poise and a certain dignity that is appealing.
SCP: What is the hardest challenge that you have faced as a writer?
John: Self-doubt, self-doubt, self-doubt. No greater demon exists when it comes to any form of creativity. I finally decided I would write for myself and ignore the self-doubt that still comes to call. It’s an emotion I’m sure all writers face, and only when you push it aside can you begin the process. I decided that if people enjoyed what I wrote, good. If they didn’t, perhaps not as good, but I had to write for myself first and foremost When you write what you feel and to hell with self-doubt, you come to realize that there within resides the muse.
SCP: Are you reading anything right now, or have you read anything recently that is worth mentioning?
John: I’ve recently finished reading NOS4A2 by Joe Hill, as well as Hell House by Richard Matheson. Since I’m currently working on another novel, I don’t have time to get involved in anything long, so I read various anthologies when I need a break.
SCP: Who are some of your favorite authors? Favorite novels?
John: Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, The Stand by Stephen King, Ghost Story by Peter Straub, would be at the top of my list. Also, pretty much everything from Dean Koontz, James Herbert, Lovecraft, H.G. Wells and Matheson.
SCP: How do you define success as a writer? Have you been successful?
John: When I’m reading something, I feel the author is successful if they bring me into the world they’ve created. If they make me care about the characters, the situations, and the eventual outcome, then they are successful. I strive to do the same, and whether or not I’m successful, well, that’s up to the reader.
SCP: Do you have words of wisdom about writing that you want to pass on to novelists and writers out there who are just starting out?
John: Read, and read a lot. Read what interests you, because that is more than likely what you will want to write about. Then start writing. I equate learning to write like learning to play a musical instrument. When you first start out at either one, you are a novice, the more time you dedicate, the better you become. Very few musicians put out a record after just learning to play. It requires practice, patience and dedication. Don’t be discouraged by initial rejections, because all writers receive them. Put time aside, with no distractions and write whatever comes to you. You also will want to learn the art of editing with a vengeance—that was probably the hardest part for me when I began. And most importantly, enjoy what you’re doing. If you don’t enjoy it, chances are, you will never be good at it.
SCP: What should readers walk away from your book knowing? How should they feel?
John: That love is a powerful magic, and doesn’t only exist for the young.
Thank you John for taking the time to answer our questions!
Here’s a little information about Nora’s Wish…
Ben Jameson is a bitter retiree residing at Willow Manor, a home for the aged or those in need of care, and has nothing more to do than await the inevitable conclusion of a life wasted. Forgotten by his family, his days are marked by the solitary existence of books, loneliness, and regret.
A chance meeting with a terminally ill resident named Nora, and her unshakeable optimism in the face of her eventual demise, rekindles emotions he was certain were gone forever. Nora reawakens his ability to love, and with her compassion and her companionship, he comes to realize that even a life as wasted as his own can be salvaged and, given the right incentive, is still worth living.
As Nora’s health declines, they both dare to hope that the magic of a strange pendant Ben purchased from an antique shop as a gift for Nora will overcome the odds, offering them more time with one another.
Nora’s Wish is available on:
Barnes & Noble (Print & eBook)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR — John Mc Caffrey writes tales of horror, the supernatural, science fiction, and fantasy. He was born in Illinois and grew up on the south side of Chicago. While still in grade school, he developed a passion for reading through the works of Tolkien, Poe, and Lovecraft as well as being addicted to watching Hammer Film’s at the local Saturday matinee. Today he lives in Northern Indiana with his wife where he writes in his spare time.
And now an Excerpt from Nora’s Wish by John Mc Caffrey…
The night noises on the ward never fully receded to a level that allowed fitful sleep, Ben decided as he looked toward the clock on the nightstand. The bright L.E.D. read four-thirty A.M. The day nurses would arrive soon to make sure the residents of the ward were awake, and that none had passed away in their sleep during the hours of darkness. The former would receive their daily medications and breakfast, the latter would be whisked away like the leaves of autumn. At seventy-five years old, Ben sometimes watched the sheet-covered gurney that occasionally trundled down the hallways with more than a bit of envy. This fact he never shared with the nurses or the young social worker at his weekly appointment. They already thought he was depressed and angry. He didn’t want to be under constant watch and medication like Mr. Chaise who lived a few rooms down. His soporific plodding pace down the hallway holding onto the safety rails seemed to Ben to be the most pathetic existence imaginable. Better the gurney ride to Shady Valley Cemetery than the slow shuffling death of semi-consciousness afforded by the staff of Willow Manor Retirement and Convalescence Home.
Ben listened to the crepe soled shoes of the day shift echoing dull squeaks in the hallway as they arrived for work. The ticking of the baseboard heater behind him seemed to mark time on some mysterious genealogical clock, reminding him he didn’t have much left. He pulled the thin covers up to his neck. He always felt cold, unable to stay warm regardless how many shirts and sweaters he wore. He felt especially cold at night, as if the darkness brought its own special chill in remembrance of those who passed. He rolled over and looked out the window into the lightening sky. There was a time before ‘The Home’ when he’d liked sunrises. He’d looked forward to each day’s beginning, but that seemed so long ago now that it may as well have belonged to someone else’s life. Now, each new day did little more than shed the grayish light of commemoration on an existence of regret.
He watched the skeletal branches of the small tree outside his window rustle in the cold October wind. He hated the fall, it heralded the coming of winter which he despised even more than fall. The festivities and silly holidays so many looked forward to were little more than an irritation to him. The nurses had decorated the ward with cardboard pumpkins and scarecrows, as well as a banner announcing the end of month Halloween Dance that would be held in the day room. That was going to be one grand old time, he thought. A community of somatically fossilized and unwanted people shuffling around the day room in their slippers and housecoats. He’d made a note on his calendar for that date; he sure didn’t want to miss it.
The soft snores of his roommate, Mr. Curtis, deepened to a baritone rumble, and not for the first time since they began sharing a room did Ben consider a pillow-over-the-face nightcap as a good idea.
“Turn over William,” he said loudly.
Mr. Curtis snorted once, then did as requested, the quiet of the room resuming as the ticking heater finally clicked on. Ben’s stomach grumbled its agitation at being empty as he lay in the semi-dark waiting for the day to begin. He passed a hand over his head, pushing back the few strands of white hair that still covered the top of it. He gripped the blanket tight as he closed his eyes and tried to doze. Another new day struggled to arrive outside Ben’s window as the small tree waved its limbs around in a parody of the Halloween dance The Home had scheduled. Ben drifted off into a light but troubled sleep, dreaming of his dead wife.