Friday, 16 May 2014

David J. O'Brien - Leaving the Pack

Le do thoil cabhrú liom fáilte a chur roimh, David O'Brien, leis an Chroí Ficsin.

Did I get that right, David? :-)

See what I did there? I broke out a little Irish to welcome our latest guest.

David hails from Ireland, but has spent many years teaching in Boston, MA and Madrid, Spain. He and his lovely wife now call Pamplona, Spain home, where they live with their gorgeous little daughter. Still teaching, David's passion has always been writing.

His first published works were poetry which were published in various publications in his mid to late teens. It was in his late teens he turned his hand to novel writing.

Let's back up a little. David is Irish, hailing from the oldest established town in Ireland, Dun Laoghaire (est 497AD), which was founded by Norse pirates. For the Anglophiles, that's pronounced Dun Leery. With such a rich history at his doorstep, it's no wonder David's imagination kicked off early. And being Irish, the poet in him found an easy exit. But David's interests run deep. A graduate of UCD (University College Dublin), David studied environmental biology, and later studied deer biology for his PhD. Yep, we'll call him Doctor David :-) He also holds a deep passion for wolves and predator-prey interactions.

Which brings me full circle back to Leaving the Pack. David has pulled in many of his interests in writing this story, including his love of wolves, predatory-prey interactions, biology, his poetic voice, and his genetic Irish makeup of telling a good yarn.

Leaving the Pack is Paul McHew's story. The intro to the story blurb hits the plot right on the head -- 'Nobody believes in werewolves. That's just what Paul McHew and his friends are counting on.' Blam! There it is. Paul's a werewolf, and you know his friends are part of a greater pack of werewolves living in the city. They walk among us, unknown . . . until the full moon. But their kind are racing toward extinction so they're now forced to marry outside their race if they're going to survive. When Paul meets Susan, the issue of just marrying to procreate flies out the window. His heart gets involved. But can he trust her with is secret, and will she still want him once she knows what he really is?

Leaving the Pack will appeal to a variety of readers. As a horror romance with urban-gothic undertones, David hits it on the first strike with a gritty thriller running right along side an emotional romance. This story is more than romantic suspense, more than horror with a minor love interest, more than a contemporary paranormal. It's all those things, and then some. David uses his poetic voice to pull readers into the story quickly through instant imagery which continues throughout the story. His characters are very well developed, leaving you wondering, do werewolves really walk among us? And that's the point of a really good story . . . to make you wonder, even as you close the book, right? Leaving the Pack is a fabulous start of the Silver Nights Trilogy. I can't wait to see what he has in store for us in book two.

Before we get to the blurb and excerpt, we managed to corral David for a quick chat.

Remember, we'll be giving away a copy of this book to one lucky commenter, so be sure to leave your contact email address so we can reach you if you win.

And be sure to buy a copy of this book, as David has promised 10% of the profits of this book to the World Wildlife Federation! Wolf preservation, no doubt! ;-)

• • •

Welcome, David, and thanks for taking time to chat with us today. Just reading your bio makes my head spin. You're one busy man. How do you fit all of your interests in with your busy work schedule and family life? Do you grab what you can as you can, or do you work by a set schedule? What's your daily writing routing like?
Erratic. This is the first year I haven't been working as a teacher, so I have more time now. Before, I wrote when I was done with correcting in the evening instead of watching TV. On weekends I usually tried to sit down for a couple of hours, but it was slow going. Now I only work part time, but I don't have a very disciplined routine. If I have the morning free I usually sit down once my wife goes out to work and I get myself together. I work for an hour or two and then do errands or the other way around. I collect my daughter from her creche, and go home for lunch, then back to the creche and off to work. I always have a notebook with me, so if I am in the park or wherever, I scribble away. In the evenings I sit down with the laptop and type up notes and if I have the brain power left, do some writing. On the weekends I still try to make a few hours for myself, especially if we go to my wife's family's house in a small village called Amatriain in a part of Navarra nicknamed the Tuscany of spain.
Wow, you do sound busy, but what a place to live in to write! Look at the Amatriain fields! Would it make you homesick to know the rapeseed fields are in bloom here in Ireland too?

When you're home, wife is at work and daughter in creche, and it's your day off teaching, what inspires you to write? Do you have a dedicated space? With the image of the above field, you have a lot to live up to here. Tell us about your writing space.
Readers -- Click on the photo to enlarge to see the
clothes line next door.
I have lots, since I write on a laptop, that is never far from me. I have an office with an old desk that was taken from a closing down school. It's a cosy place in winter and evenings as it's the smallest room in the house and heats up quickly. In the spring and summer, though, the light is much nicer in the living room and kitchen. The views are nicer too! We live in the centre of the old town of Pamplona. From my office I have a view of the neighbour's balcony about 6 yards away, where they hang their clothes to dry, and boy do they do a lot of laundry (there's around 5 kids, plus grandparents living there)! 
Readers -- Click on the photo to enlarge to see
the lovely church windows. Also note the
artwork on the wall -- "food and water around
the corner, kitty." :-)
However, we have, from the back of the house, views of the refectory of the cathedral and some old buildings from the archdioceses, and beyond a large garden, the hills east of the city and the Pyrenees beyond (but you have to stand on tiptoe to see them!) Depending on the light I'll sit either by the kitchen window or the living room balcony door and in between sentences I usually gaze out there and watch the birds fly by. The walls of the city are just 100 yards away and below them is a river valley which isn't really built up too much, so in addition to the usual pigeons and sparrows in the city, we have blackbirds and titmice (chickadees) and also kestrels, and there's often some big birds like storks and vultures stuff flapping past over the valley.
Readers -- Click on the photo see the calf. Love the dairy
bell on the heifer. Very quaint!
In the village, I have another old desk in my bedroom, but I usually write in a common room with a balcony door where I can look across the valley, past the horses and cows under the house. If it's cold (and believe me, Chicago has nothing on this village for being windy) because the house is only used at weekends, I'll sit downstairs at the dining room table, with the same view but an open fire at my back (and more distraction from people coming and going, but since most of them can't read English and they're used to me correcting schoolwork, they usually ignore me!). 
If I'm writing poems, I often take a stroll to the city walls and sit there looking at the mountains. I don't spend as much time in the nice cafes around town as I think a fan of Hemingway should because I bring better tea from Ireland than they serve there! 
Hang on a second . . . Sorry, just checked Aer Lingus for flights to Pamplona. Booked out! Too bad, I was ready to pack my bags. What a wonderful location you live in, and are able to write from. So much inspiration. Seems like it would be difficult to keep you indoors for too long, even if you're writing. What do you enjoy doing when you're not writing?
I love just being out in the natural world, watching wildlife. In Ireland my hobby was deer hunting. I still hunt when I am home in season, but here I just take my camera out and try to get snaps and video of the roe deer and wild boar around the village. It takes the same skills, but it's not quite as exciting, and I miss the venison. I cycle everywhere and have a mountain bike in the village to go for long cycles around the hills, which are really picturesque. I have been doing less of that lately, though, since I am trying to be more disciplined in getting writing done. I would like to do some fishing, but again, I'm too attached to my pen right now. I read, of course, and listen to books on MP3 which saves lots of time, since I can get through much more while I do other things.
Sounds like you have the ideal life of a writer. You've really made me yearn to see an area I never knew about. But I shouldn't have been surprised. You have a way with words in your book. It had to have come from somewhere . . . the poet living deep within you!

Thank you so much for coming indoors for a while to chat with us, and for hanging out today to chat with readers who may stop by.

Readers, as a reminder, David is donating 10% of his royalties on the sale of Leaving the Pack to the World Wildlife Federation. That's 50c for every book you buy, so get ta clicking! Start here.

And don't forget that your comment could net you a free copy of this book. Be sure to leave your contact email.

• • •

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.

“God, I love this town!” Paul McHew said. He gazed from the window of his sixth-floor apartment out across the city and the foaming sea beyond. The sun was setting and the rooftops of the neighboring buildings were cast in shadow, their grime and decrepit state obscured. Farther off, the skyscrapers that housed the downtown banks and financial institutions were bathed in the last crimson rays of sunlight. Behind the city, sitting just below the eastern horizon, a pale yellow moon was slowly rising up over the sea into the darkening sky.
Unseen, between the run-down constructions that spread out from Paul’s ancient redbrick building and the better kept houses and shops a mile off, the Wilneff River ran south, narrow and fast as it rushed from the mountains far behind his loft apartment. It turned east to the sea and was now visible as a dark line devoid of street lights, widening as it flowed into the harbor. It separated the tall business district on the south bank from the lower warehouses and factories that spread out from the riverside docks on the north side. These merged with houses near the shore, a few miles north of his vantage point and closer to the river before it curved east, while south of downtown, shopping malls turned to apartment blocks and suburban housing estates nearer the coast.

Clad only in black jeans, he’d opened the chipped and rotting wooden window frame to feel the warm wind rush across the skin of his muscular torso and dry the last of the water droplets from the shower he’d just taken, which clung to the thick mat of coarse hair that covered his body. The gusting air played with his damp, shoulder-length hair as it forced its way into the loft, but it showed little tendency to take up much more moisture. It was already almost saturated. Paul could smell the rain that was on its way. The clouds were quickly building up as the air temperature dropped after a sultry day.

On the brick windowsill, a few white flakes of paint had fallen from the frame, as they did every time he slid up the window. As he deeply inhaled the humid breeze, the bits were blown onto the corrugated iron roof of a dilapidated lean-to in the dingy back yard five floors below.

The sight of the rising moon exhilarated him. As he put his head and torso outside the window and let out a long, ear-piercing howl, he felt his heartbeat begin to quicken, ever so slightly. When he could exhale no more, he banged the glass above his head and grinned.

He gulped another lungful of air, sucking in the feeling of the coming night, and reveled in the excitement of what would happen when the sun died completely.

It had been many years since his first foray into the silver light that would soon bathe the streets before him. Uncountable nights under the full moon, striding up and down each street and thoroughfare, exploring every alley and back parking lot, he’d spent the hours of darkness searching out sensations. He’d seen so many sights, snatches of lives, experienced a host of situations, heard unutterable whispers, caught looks and felt touches from a multitude of inhabitants and new arrivals to the city, that some would have forgotten most of them. Paul kept them all within easy reach of his memory, catalogued chronologically, as if his strolls through the city were a story – one which kept him orientated within its walls. Some things had changed over time, as even in eternal cities they are wont to.

• • •

David J O'Brien was born and raised in Dun Laoghaire, Ireland. He studied environmental biology and later studied deer biology for his PhD, at University College Dublin. Instead of pursuing his life-long interest in wolves and predator-prey interactions, after completing his doctorate, he taught English in Madrid, Spain, for four years while his girlfriend finished her doctorate in molecular biology. They married and moved to Boston, where they both worked for a time. A short time before their daughter was born, they moved to Pamplona, his wife's hometown, so she could set up her new research group.

David has loved writing since his teens. He began with poetry and had one of his first poems published in Cadenza, a small Dublin poetry magazine at the age of fourteen, and others followed. He began writing fiction in his late teens. While living in Madrid, he wrote some non-fiction articles for the magazine Hot English, and while in Boston for the newspaper, Dig. There, too, he took a feature-writing class in Emmanuel College. Though his academic writing has taken precedence, David continues writing fiction in his spare time.

An avid wildlife enthusiast and ecologist, much of David's non-academic writing, especially poetry, is inspired by wildlife and science, and he sometimes seeks to describe the science behind the supernatural. He has written a little bit of everything: to date a four-act play, a six-episode sit-com, various short stories and four more novels.

David is currently working on a long novel set in the pre-Columbian Caribbean, and a non-fiction book about the sociology of hunting. At the same time he is looking for outlets for his other works: two contemporary adult novels -- one set in the west of Ireland and the other set in Madrid -- as well as a young adult ghost story set in a town outside London, and a children's novel about a boy who can see leprechauns.

Find David online --

Website -
Facebook -
Google+ -
Tirgearr Publishing -


  1. Welcome to Heart of Fiction, David, and congrats on the debut of Leaving the Pack. What a great story!

    I'm curious why you never pursued wolves for your PhD. Do you think that underlying passion for the species drew you to writing a werewolf trilogy? What was your inspiration behind the series?

  2. Thanks a million Kem! That makes my life sound so cool - I'll have to try live up to it now! Pamplona is a great place and I am truly lucky. As someone told me when he came out here for our wedding, I landed on my feet here!
    As to why I never studied wolves for my PhD. well, there are a few reasons - one of which the unfortunate fact that there are no wolves in Ireland anymore. And where they are, there are a lot of others who want to study them! I did study deer and hunter interactions in a way, but wolves were always a big fascination and I did mean to go on at some stage. But life is life. I fell in love during my PhD with a girl in Ireland for an Erasmus year and I decided to come to Spain instead of go to Alaska or somewhere where I could have studied them. There are wolves in Spain, but there are a LOT of biologists here, too! As you say I have a wide range in interests, and I was happy teaching and reading the scientific literature about wolves and becoming as much of an expert as I could without going out in the field. And I had poetry and books to write. My wife is a lab-based biologist, so we stuck to cities and she's not a cold weather person either!
    I do think that my underlying passion for wolves had a part in making me start writing the story. I'd just started college and was learning about ecology and physiology and animal behaviour, and I saw, then read Whitley Striber's great thriller Wolfen, which was about a race of what seemed like wolves but were really much more astute beings (not saying that wolves are not astute, and I do think they have a culture in that they teach what they know to their young like elephants do, and when packs are hunted knowledge is lost forever) which were preying on the homeless of New York. That book made me think about the opposite side of the coin - why do we have these werewolf stories to begin with?

    1. I must admit, when you talked about the city as being so intimate (everything so close) I got on Google Earth and looked at the virtual city. Looks more like a large town than a small city, with so much history around, and scenic beauty. Lucky you!

      Regarding wolves, there are a couple places in the US worth looking at, even if just for wolfy vacation spots -- Yellowstone National Park where wolves were reintroduced, and in South Dakota in the Badlands is the Institute for Range and the American Mustang. Naturalist and author Dayton Hyde runs a mustang wildlife sanctuary where herds or mustangs are left in the wild and nature takes its course. Wolves are a distinct part of that natural course. He also does horse treks on tamed mustangs...several programs that all revolve around the breed. Few places in the world for truly wild wolves, but those are two of them. Wild coyotes are also endangered. We saw one in Yosemite last summer that was very interesting. It was very hot that week and it was going up to cars with people in them, assuming looking for water.

      Were you a fan of wolf-man books and movies as a kid? There are several classic tales out there from DC comics to B movies.

      Have you ever been to sheep dog trials? I only ask because the Border Collie/Irish Collie is much like the wolf in its attempt to move the flock around the field . . . the crouch, 'the eye', every body movement. I've read a lot on the breed and find they're often compared to wolves in many behaviors. I studied canine behavior for a long while when I was getting my diploma in canine and feline nutrition, so 'dog' studies have always interested me. If you haven't been to a herding trial, find one in your area where they have sheep, or hit YouTube. I'm curious to hear what you think.

  3. David, I wondered about your interest in wolves also, but you answered my question quite eloquently. One of Walter Macken's books, set in the 1700s, featured a wolf threat to a band of refugees fleeing from Cromwell. I liked that story, and I suspect I'll like yours. Best to you and your writing.

  4. It appears you're a nomadic writer, David. Me as well. I have everything portable so I can dig in wherever the mood strikes. All the best on your release!!

  5. Looks interesting, David! Welcome! I envy your nomadic lifestyle. My husband keeps me more rooted than I want to be :)

    1. Hi David. The only piece of Kemberlee's Irish introduction I recognised
      from my school days in Ireland, was the word Failte.
      This is a great post and I'd like to wish you lots of luck with your debut novel, Leaving the Pack. It sound like a wonderful read.

    2. thanks! and I'd forgotten to compliment Kemberlee on the Irish. It looks kosher to me - but I was never very good in the first place and I forgot a lot since school, too - though learning spanish did spark a few memories.

    3. I no good at Irish either. I asked Google Translate, then confirmed with the hubs. LOL

      I have a friend on Inis Oir who does the Irish for me in my novels though. How can you not trust an island woman who still has her great grandfather's pampooties?! ;-)

  6. thanks everyone. I don't know if I'd consider myself all that nomadic. A stint in Madrid, a stint in boston and back to near madrid which is my wife's home town. Pamplona has 250-300k people, so ti's as big as Galway. The old town is very manageable. and it's what most people see when they visit.
    Wasn't really a fan of wolf-man comics or anything like that, Kem. I loved an American Werewolf in London, though it did border on the silly in spots. There are some good shifting novels out there, the names of which mostly escape me. But the fact that the man can't remember when he was the beast in most movies, and the beast acts with less intelligence, to use a word, than your average iguana, was off-putting.
    I"ve seen lots of sheepdog trials on tv, but never went to one. I remember writing an essay on domestication in 4th year that I'd to do some very interesting research for. Sheepdogs and greyhounds are supposedly the most intelligent breeds, since they're doing what wolves do: controlled killing (unless they lose the run of themselves which happens with livestock being penned around running around helterskelter)
    I think there are wild wolves left in lots of places, but they're hard to see. I was in Yellowstone back in ... 1994? just before they brought back the wolves. We did see a coyote, though. The wolves have thinned their population though now! I saw a couple in Boston, though, in Stonybrook reservation, which Pat might be familiar with. There are white-tailed deer there and I've snapped a few now and then. Unfortunately, though I've lived away from home for a long time I've not seen as much of the US and Spain as I'd like. I have a guidebook to Glacier NP that I haven't ever used! I've been to wolf country in Asturias, but you really have to get up into the mountains and stay there for a while to have a chance, unless you're just lucky.
    That mustang place sounds a bit like the rewilding movement that's taking root around the world, especially in Europe, with reintroductions of euroean bison and bears and wolves, etc. including beaver in Scotland. It's something that I am really interested in, and I talk about it now and then on my blog. As a deer biologist involved in management issues in Ireland, I'd love to see a reintroduction of the wolf into small isolated parts of Ireland - like Achill island. It'll be a long time in coming, but there was a time when deer biologists would have been laughed at for even suggesting it to the hunting fraternity. I dunno - perhaps I am being laughed at! But the IWT are helping to change minds. We have to if we are going to get through the human population bottleneck with the wildlife we all like to think about and imagine are out there in the mountains, even if we can't get there to see ourselves.
    The Leprechauns in my children's story Peter and the Little People lament that they've not seen wolves and bears around for many a long year, and Peter has to explain to them that they've been exterminated from all of Ireland. Needless to say, their view of humans slides a little further when they hear that. I don't think that wolves would have posed much of a threat to humans, but perhaps they'd tag along after some starving refugees to pick up a victim of circumstance that the rest didn't have time or energy to bury.

    1. It's amazing what a little land preservation can do for the wild life. We have land down in West Cork that was cleared of most gorse about 12 years ago. It was 10-12 feet high in places and blanketed 5 acres. Discovered we had four fields, not just a hillside! About a year later, we started seeing deer, rabbit, mink, fox, pheasant, etc. And the Irish Birdwatchers Society was doing a survey along the road one day and was staring into our massive beech trees. A bit weird so we went out and chatted with him and he told us there were two species in the trees just then that hadn't been on record in the region in probably 50 years. We invited him to visit the back acres which he did and came back an hour later with the discovery of more species had returned, plus two others which had never been recorded in the region before. I asked to come back and we said sure. Really interesting stuff.

      Dayton has been running the IRAN for probably 40-50 years. I met him at a writers retreat in upstate NY in 89 and he was already older than dirt (still alive BTW ;-) ) We had a mutual friend who made me promise to meet him. When I did, he exclaimed, "That old bitch?" LOL (he was talking about Kim Novak, and of course he was kidding) Really lovely man. We had great chats about his conservation work, and of course the books he'd written based on his research. One book you might like if you can find it is called Don Coyote, and is about a coyote who lived on his property.

      Anyway, the Badlands in South Dakota have always been pretty wild. He just bought a huge parcel of it and kept adding to it until he had a big enough spread that he could bring a couple pairs of wolves in. Again, this is going back years before I met him in 89.

      If you're interested --

      There's a great video here. You can see the coyote in one of the shots --!runningwild/c1l2s

      Dayton, you can say, is the last real American cowboy.

      Anyway, that gets away from your book and werewolves. What can you tell us about book two, without giving away the plot? :-)

    2. I'll have to look up all that now! Sounds cool.
      book two is set in 2008, twenty years after Leaving the Pack. Some things have changed but some have stayed the same. There is a new generation ready to start roaming the city, now, one that has it's own set of problems and obstacles.There is an obvious choice of who is to lead this new pack, but not everyone is convinced of his ability to do so. I don't want to say more, because it might prove a spoiler for those reading the first book. I hope to finish the first draft by christmas. I have about 1/4 done, but I have another book that I have to finish first. That's going to be set in Scotland, but other than that, I am keeping the plot to myself - and some key helpers!

    3. The new book sounds fabulous. I love the idea of a new generation in focus. Best of luck. Let us know when you have a working title.

  7. Hi David - well done on publication and I hope you're having a great day!

    1. thanks Jennifer. Yes I am having a great day. Got a babysitter for the first time in a month or so and off to celebrate for the evening!

  8. Kaitlyn Mikalaitis16 May 2014 at 19:30

    Again, congratulations!
    I still have a laugh: "So is it a true story?" "Jeff, it's about werewolves."

    1. thanks a mill, Kaitlyn. I am going to send some postcards to you at the school. It's a true story, Kait. Leave Jeff alone!

  9. Congratulations David!!
    The book seems to be interesting. I hope a great success.

    1. thank you! I hope it is interesting to everyone

  10. All the best with your novel, David - sounds intriguing!

  11. Congratulations to Kaitlyn Mikalaitis for winning a copy or David's book, Leaving the Pack! Please email me off the blog at info at so we can email you a copy today!