A Quiet Apocalypse by Dave Jeffery Genre: Dystopian Horror
The end is hear...
A mutant strain of meningitis has wiped out most of mankind. The few who have survived the fever are now deaf.
Bitter with loss and terrified to leave the city known as Cathedral, the inhabitants rely on The Samaritans, search teams sent out into the surrounding countryside. Their purpose, to hunt down and enslave the greatest commodity on Earth, an even smaller group of people immune to the virus, people who can still hear.
People like me.
My name is Chris.
This is my story.
“A Quiet Apocalypse is told from the perspective of ex-schoolteacher Chris, a hearing survivor. He has lost everything, including his freedom, and through his eyes we learn of what it is like to live as a slave in this terrible new world of fear and loss. I was keen to write a piece that preyed upon people’s traditional misconceptions of deafness as an illness, and the imposition of ‘hearing’ norms. It is a story that has poignancy in any understanding of the struggles of minority groups.” – Author, Dave Jeffery
Sometimes I struggle to remember what it is like to have hope.
These days it's an elusive entity, like a day free from Crowley’s scowl. The
weather doesn't help. Thunderheads wheel in from the west, bringing with
them dreary light as fat raindrops fall, hitting my poncho like the bodies
of dead birds splattering the asphalt. Beneath my poncho, my arms are in
sleeves that are stitched to a belt harness giving my limbs limited
I lean forward, giving my hands a chance to pull my baseball
cap down to protect my face from the rain. A trickle of water exploits a
small gap in the collar of the poncho and begins a slow, icy descent,
causing an involuntary shudder. I shuffle on the camping chair, rubbing
my back in the upright until the raindrop is wiped dry against my shirt,
though my eyes remain fixed on the road running past the village, making
sure it is clear, safe. I chew on my gum shield, the thick plastic sticking to
my mouth. To keep it in place, a leather thong wraps about my mouth
and cheeks. I have to breathe through my nose or the gaps left available
to my lips.
Crowley is beside me, sat in his own chair, wearing his own
poncho, holding the leash of twine and strips of leather, braided and
tethering us together. He, too, is scanning the featureless countryside,
yet I know it is fear that keeps him alert, fear of losing me to the
Cathedral A Quiet Apocalypse Book 2
CATHEDRAL ... The world has changed. So have the rules.
In the silence of a quiet apocalypse, there is Cathedral. It is a city like no other, sanctuary for the survivors of a terrible plague that has deafened the world. The walls protect the small community. Rituals and laws maintain order to prevent a return to chaos.
But Cathedral is a dangerous and complex place. For citizens like Sarah and newcomer Paul it can be either home or prison.
They just have to decide where their loyalties lie…
We turn a corner, there is another half a mile of High Street until
we reach the city gates, another run of storehouses. As soon as we have
walked twenty paces, we see the group of four people sitting on the
concrete ramp leading up to a warehouse.
There are three men and one woman, of mixed ages, but united by
their shaven heads and malformed hands. The fingers appear twisted, the
palms convoluted like panels of corrugated metal. One man has support
splints on his wrists, bulky leather straps keep the haphazard bracelets in
place. The four vagabonds sit and, at our approach, hold out their ruined
hands whilst the woman types slowly on her tell-pad with a zig-zagged
finger. Good peOple! HAv meErcy at our timme of neeDD.
Alice intercedes. Her comment is brief, and I can guess it’s not
I look upon these poor souls, victims of a momentary lapse of
reason, and the long-term penalty it has incurred. It is pity that has me
pulling a wax wrapping from the folds of my gift bag and tossing it to the
woman. She has no chance of catching the alms but tries regardless, and
it hits the street, the wax paper keeping the sandwich inside it contained.
The men sit back as the woman scoops it from the concrete with the
combined mangled digits of both hands.
I feel Alice place her palm in the small of my back and urge me
along. You shouldn’t encourage them, Sarah. They get their daily rations, even though they contribute nothing.
I watch as the woman opens the wrappings in her lap, the white
paper stark against the grey rags of her skirt. The men sit patiently, their
eagerness betrayed by their twitching, twisted fingers, and she portions
out the sandwich, distributing each piece like a mother feeding her young.
Once this is done, she looks up at me, a crown of stubble on her
head, face etched with the deep lines of chronic pain, and she lifts her
parody of a hand to give a wave of thanks.
Alice nods as if her worst fears have come true. See? Now they’ll expect it every time. You’re just a big softy. It’s my new name for you, Sarah Soft!
I smile and turn away from the group as they take comfort from
their meagre meal. The laws of Cathedral can be harsh.
But as Chapter 9 reminds us, a life without them is worse.
Dave Jeffery is author of 15 novels, two collections, and numerous short stories. His Necropolis Rising series and yeti adventure Frostbite have both featured on the Amazon #1 bestseller list. His YA work features critically acclaimed Beatrice Beecham supernatural mystery series and Finding Jericho, a contemporary mental health novel that was featured on the BBC Health and the Independent Schools Entrance Examination Board's recommended reading lists. A third edition of this book will be released by Demain Publishing in 2020.
Jeffery is a member of the Society of Authors, British Fantasy Society (where he is a regular book reviewer), and the Horror Writers Association. He is also a registered mental health professional with a BSc (Hons) in Mental Health Studies and a Master of Science Degree in Health Studies.
Jeffery is married with two children and lives in Worcestershire, UK.
Can you, for those who don't know you already, tell something about yourself and how you became an author?
Hi, yes, I write books for both adults and Young Adults, usually in the horror and supernatural, but I also release work in other genres. My books range from straight out pulp fiction (FROSTBITE, TOOTH & CLAW) to intricate adventure mysteries (FEARSOME FEAST, CRYPTIC CRYPT, SHIP OF SHADOWS), and unsettling dystopian fiction such as the A QUIET APOCALYPSE series. Some of my other books have a contemporary mental health theme, for example FINDING JERICHO, which was on the BBC Heath Recommended Reading List.
What is something unique/quirky about you?
I’m a complete geek when it comes to collecting figurines associated with Dr WHO, TORCHWOOD, the original STAR WARS and PLANETS OF THE APES movies, and ALIEN. In my study, these figures give me creative inspiration as I’m working. They have become part of the motivation process. Always good when you’re feeling at a low ebb!
Tell us something really interesting that's happened to you!
I have Meniere’s Disease which affects the inner ear and is typified with acute vertigo, tinnitus and deafness. I have a hearing aid in my right ear and when you have an attack, vertigo is feeling like you’ve had twelve beers without enjoying the party. My last attack was at a MUSE gig in Birmingham, UK. I spent the entire evening lying on my side in the first aid suite, watching the gig via a paramedic’s Smartphone. I’m always grateful to that guy. Muse were great, by the way.
What are some of your pet peeves?
Selfish people. You know the sort, those without thought for anything other than their own needs. I believe them to be in the minority, most people are kind and considerate, but when I come across such people, I tend to steer clear of them for fear I make my thoughts known. It hasn’t always worked!
Where were you born/grew up at?
I was born in the UK, in a town called West Bromwich, and spent most of my early life living in a place called Whiteheath in what is known as The Black Country. Historically, this area got its name during the Industrial Revolution, where it was a major producer of ironwork, and its foundries pumped out coal smoke into the sky, twenty-four-seven. The dust that fell back to earth defined the area in more ways than one.
If you knew you'd die tomorrow, how would you spend your last day?
With my family. Like most, family is everything to me and there is no place else I’d want to be other than at home. There would be a ban on being miserable, and my final day would see our home as it is on any other day – filled with laughter and nonsense!
Who is your hero and why?
Barack Obama, based on his unassuming nature and ability to be assertive and erudite. He is my idea of a true statesman. Plus, he follows me on Twitter, so he clearly has good taste!!
What kind of world ruler would you be?
Kind and fair. Unfairness is the route to resentment and that ultimately leads to people being mean to each other. I believe that leaders have a responsibility to be role models for society. To this end, I would have to practice what I preach.
What are you passionate about these days?
Anything that involves creating something, be that writing, music, artwork. I love writing, but it is always a great joy to see something that another person has created and to which you connect. I’m an avid promotor of other people’s work, too. To be honest, I get a thrill from sharing what others do to the outside world. People are too busy leading their own lives to think of others sometimes, and I get that to a point. But only to a point.
What do you do to unwind and relax?
I read, listen to music and watch movies/TV. I’m never happier than when immersed in the creative world. It’s a great way to switch off. Outside of that, I enjoy walking with my wife, we live in rural Worcestershire in the UK, and it’s a beautiful place to unwind.
How to find time to write as a parent?
You have to be disciplined. I have been writing and publishing since 2005 and in the early days, when the wife and I had two young children, we were juggling parenting and covering full-time jobs. I had to develop workarounds so that I was still able to write. This meant getting up before the rest of the family, usually at 06:00, to write for an hour, and then staying up after they had gone to bed, sometimes for two hours. It boils down to how much passion you have for your craft, whether you can exist without ever doing it again. For me, I learned this is simply not possible very early on. Writing is who I am, and I’m worse-off for not doing it.
These days, my kids are grown up and I’m lucky enough to be in a position where I can write full time. But my advice to anyone starting out would still be the same. No matter how little you write during the day, you still have to do it.
Describe yourself in 5 words or less!
Kind. Considerate. Friendly. Forgiving. Twisted!
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I tend to consider myself as someone who writes and, in this sense, I have always done it, ever since school. The idea of being a writer is subjective and tends to be affiliated elsewhere with getting a piece of work published or by fiscal success. I cannot ever see a day when I have no story to tell. It is who I am.
Do you have a favorite movie?
I have several that have defined my creativity and they can be found in an article I did HERE.
Which of your novels can you imagine made into a movie?
I would like to see my contemporary mental health novel FINDING JERICHO turned into a feature film. I have already adapted the script and await Mr. Spielberg’s phone call! But seriously, the book is dear to my heart as it captures many of my emotional experience from a career in mental healthcare, and it is a piece of work of which I am immensely proud.
I can see A QUIET APOCALYPSE as a miniseries on a network such as Netflix or Amazon Prime. It’s too leftfield/hardcore for Disney+!
What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?
I have visited Stratford-Upon-Avon, birthplace of Shakespeare. It was a profound moment.
On my wish list is Monterey (to visit the Steinbeck Museum) and Maine (to have a photo taken outside King’s house).
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
As a writer, it would have to be an elk as this represents the ability to pace oneself to increase stamina. Outside of writing then definitely the trusting, loyal, and friendly dolphin.
What are A QUIET APOCALYPSE and CATHEDRAL about?
In A QUIET APOCALYPSE a mutant strain of meningitis has left most of the world population either dead or profoundly deaf. Those who are immune to the virus can still hear and are enslaved by the deaf populous to replace the sense they have lost. The novella is told from the perspective ex-schoolteacher Chris, a hearing survivor. He has lost everything, including his freedom, and through his eyes we learn of what it is like to live as a slave in this terrible new world of fear and loss.
In the story, those who were culturally Deaf before the virus came have survived and are now seen by those deafened by the illness as The Harbingers of the strain of meningitis that has left them incapacitated. It is thought that The Harbingers are not brought back to the city, instead they are executed as a statement. This develops into something quite different in the second book. I was able to draw upon both work and life experiences as I was keen to write a piece that preyed upon people’s traditional misconceptions of deafness as an illness, and the imposition of ‘hearing’ norms.
CATHEDRAL focuses squarely on life in the titular city alluded to in the original book. This time the narrator is Sarah, a deafened citizen of Cathedral who falls in love with a man rescued from the wilderness beyond the city walls. Cathedral has its own social order, its own laws, traditions and brutal punishments. To those inside its walls, the city represents safety, security and order. To those outside, it is a place with almost mythical prominence, a place steeped in folklore. The drama unfolds as Sarah and her new lover struggle to find common ground in their differing perspectives of the same city. We learn more about how far human beings will go in order to reduce their fears and maintain stability and, for me, it is a far more frightening book than the first.
What inspired you to write this book series? The germ of the idea for the A QUIET APOCALYPSE series came when I was working as a mental healthcare worker with the Deaf Community back in the late 90s. A hearing person suggested that the thought of being deaf was scary and this is contrary to people who are culturally Deaf who consider their deafness, not as a disability, but as integral to their sense of social identity. The book explores this concept of fear and the ambiguities of disability and empowerment, but in an extreme manner. The book started out as a short piece for an anthology that never transpired. I lost the completed draft when my computer did a software update leaving me only with my outline, but I used my recollections of the final short story to develop the piece into the novella which, to be honest, exceed my expectations in terms of critical response.
What can we expect from you in the future?
THE SAMARITAN: A QUIET APOCALYPSE BOOK 3 will be out later this year. It tells the story from the perspective of one of the hunters from CATHEDRAL searching for hearing people to take back to the city. I’m currently working on two novels, THE DEVIL DEVICE (Crossroad Digital and Audio Books) which is the fifth book in my BEATRICE BEECHAM supernatural adventure mystery series, and a science fiction/horror book called HYMNS FOR DEAD STARS (Demain Publishing). I envisage both novels will be released in 2022 and may well feature another Silver Dagger Book Tour!
Can you tell us a little bit about the characters in the A QUIET APOCALYPSE series?
CHRIS is a teacher who has lost a daughter and wife to the virus known as MNG-U. He has retained his hearing which makes him a valuable commodity to the residents of CATHEDRAL. He wears a home-made caliper on his right leg after his failed bid to escape left him with a shattered kneecap. He is desperate to be free but worries about life beyond the uneasy safety of his rural prison.
CROWLEY is a deafened farmer who has enslaved Chris for his own ends. He is angry and scared and desperate not to lose his prize to The Samaritans (search squads from Cathedral looking for hearing people to capture and take back the city). He spends his time getting drunk and berating Chris via a tell pad, a device with a screen and keyboard that allows him to communicate.
SARAH is a resident of CATHEDRAL and was once a successful musician. She is now deafened and, like all in the town, subject to its laws and rituals. Music is banned and she hides sheet music which she reads in secret when at a low ebb. She is accepting of this at first, because the alternatives having to fend for herself beyond the wall in what is known as The Wilderness. She mourns her family and her best friend, and despite the sense of community is crippled with loneliness.
ALICE is Sarah’s friend in CATHEDRAL. She holds what is known as a High Role, which means she has status in the town, and influence on the council. Alice has shut out the pain of the past, where she lost her son and husband to the disease and compensates by ‘mothering’ Sarah and offering guidance. She is deeply hurt when Sarah starts to reject the rules of Cathedral, what will she do to address it?
Who designed your book covers?
My book covers for A QUIET APOCALYPSE and CATHEDRAL were designed by Adrian Baldwin and the cover art was by Roberto Segate.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
No. I think I have been able to capture what I set out to achieve and, as a piece of dystopian fiction in a very flooded market, I think its key concepts are very unique, enough for it to stand out with the right level of public support.
Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
Yes, I learned that the story is not over! About halfway through the second draft of CATHEDRAL I had already formulated the plot to another book set in the same universe. The next title is
THE SAMARITAN and it is currently with my publisher.
If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
In A QUIET APOCALYPSE I think the main character, Chris, would be ideal for David Tennant, as I had him in mind when I wrote the story. For CATHEDRAL I can see Sarah, the main protagonist, played by Emilia Clarke.
Convince us why you feel your book is a must read.
The book has a unique premise, there has never been a story that talks about an entire population having to deal with losing their hearing on a grand scale and to what lengths they will go to in order to survive and keep themselves safe. It is a story about personal and social isolation, where the only monsters are other people trying to survive. The book also explores what it means to be in a minority group, where your only perceived value is to serve others.
There is a wonderful review from The British Fantasy Society that sums up how this has been achieved, and it can be found HERE.
What did you edit out of this book?
CATHEDRAL contains several brutal scenes, but I kept them in place yet toned down the horrors by giving differing viewpoints. One was from that of the main protagonist, Sarah who lives in the town of CATHEDRAL and accepts its laws, as vile as they might be. The second viewpoint was from newcomer Paul who is witnessing the rituals for the first time, and how he reacted to them. This allowed a balance between the justification for what is ritualized murder, and the rejection of it for those who do not understand its relevance in that particular society. Paul, in effect, becomes the reader, the social conscience in the event.
Is there a writer which brain you would love to pick for advice? Who would that be and why?
Steinbeck because his writing style seems so effortless, but I accept it probably wasn’t at the time of putting the MS together. He is such a master of characterization and I would love to share some of his insights.
What are your top 10 favorite books/authors?
Cannery Row/Grapes of Wrath/Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Walking on Glass by Iain Banks
1984/Animal Farm by George Orwell
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
The Dregs Trilogy by Chris Kelso
I Am Legend by Richard Matheson
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien
The Dead Zone by Stephen King
Pontypool Changes Everything by Tony Burgess
What book do you think everyone should read?
The Road by Cormac McCarthy – Its bleakness is a backdrop against which the tiniest glimmer of humanity shines like a star. As a book it is written in a deliberately provocative manner, without formatting. From narrative to characters, everything is stripped down and laid bare. But, oh, my – the narrative is just breathtakingly beautiful. A true master of his craft, for sure.
How long have you been writing?
I’ve always been a storyteller of sorts. When I was 7-8 years old, I used to write and illustrate my own comic books, usually science fiction and fantasy tales. At the age of 11 I’d discovered horror through British writers such as James Herbert and Guy N Smith. By my early teens I had written two horror novellas, THE BOX and STAG BEETLE, and a science fiction adventure called BADLANDS. They’re all stowed in the loft and they’re all pretty terrible!
Do the characters all come to you at the same time or do some of them come to you as you write?
I have an idea of most characters from the get-go, but sometimes others appear as the story progresses. The important thing is to make these emergent characters as relevant as those integral to the plot, otherwise they become disposable, one-dimensional entities that exist only to serve the storyline.
What kind of research do you do before you begin writing a book?
Research is extremely important as it allows you to get things right. When you do this, it makes your imaginary world more authentic. When you get it wrong, readers feel frustrated and short-changed that you have not put as much time into the background material – especially if they have affinity with the topic you are including in the story. There does need to be some suspension of belief in, say, something like my FROSTBITE series, where yetis and aliens battle it out on the slopes of the Himalayas, but the geography has to be accurate in order to foster this mindset. People tend to be comfortable allowing for poetic license if they know you’ve taken the time and care to make the rest of the story as believable as possible.
My research process tends to align with my story development. As I outline the plot, I tend to highlight areas of research needed. I have a background in health science (I have a BSc (Hons) in Mental Health Studies, and an MSc in Health Studies) so I’m familiar with the research process and apply this wherever possible.
Do you see writing as a career?
For me, writing in itself is not about making money, it is about the innate desire to create and tell stories. I am a better person when I can fulfill this need and it is therefore part of who I am. To get paid for it is the icing on the cake but I can just as easily eat cake without the icing, if you see what I mean?
Do you read yourself and if so what is your favorite genre?
I read two hours a day, every day. I struggle to see how a writer can write without reading. By osmosis, this is how you learn your craft, so reading is a significant part of the writing process. I tend to read a lot of independent horror, supernatural and science fiction, and classical literature, but I’m easily at home in a good crime novel, for example LEE CHILD, or an adventure book such as DAN BROWN. I don’t get bogged down with trends that dismiss some writers over others, a good story is a good story as far as I’m concerned.
Do you prefer to write in silence or with noise? Why?
I always write in silence as I don’t want to get yanked out of the world I’m creating. In a houseful of people, you’re going to get background noise, that’s all part of being in a family home. But I make the choice not to put music on, mainly because someone has dedicated time and energy into creating that piece of music and it is made to be heard, not slip into the background where it becomes redundant. To me, this is the greatest form of disrespect you can give to a musician.
Do you write one book at a time or do you have several going at a time?
I tend to have multiple writing projects on the go at any one time. At the moment I’m working on two novels and a series of magazine articles. I think this helps keep everything fresh and when you hit a wall in one project, you move to another and return later. So, the process continues and the concept of ‘writer’s block’ is a term I understand but have never particularly experienced.
If you could have been the author of any book ever written, which book would you choose?
Anything by Steinbeck. His writing is sparse yet poetic, and he has an ability to place a scene or a character in a reader’s mind with so few words, it’s a sign of someone in total control of what they do. Cannery row is my all-time favorite book so, if you were to insist that I chose one, it would be that book.
Pen or typewriter or computer?
These days I use my iPhone to make notes and transfer these to my MacBook. This is for convenience as I can now write anywhere at any time. Sometimes the story won’t wait for you to get home and dig out your notebook!
What makes a good story?
Memorable characters. I say this because without them, the story is merely a clinical process of getting from point A to point B. The story only becomes memorable because of how it affects the characters, those we care about and want to succeed, or those devilish villains who we want to see get their comeuppance. Imagine The Handmaid’s Tale without Ofred or the malignant Aunt Lydia.
What is your writing process? For instance do you do an outline first? Do you do the chapters first? What are common traps for aspiring writers?
Thinking it is easy to write and sell a book. First of all, writers who think it is easy don’t tend to be good writers! The ability to tell a story is something that takes time, the skills need to be honed so that your reader stays engaged, caring for the characters enough to want to know what happens to them on their journey from the first page to the last. Not even the greatest writers think writing is easy, and aspiring writers would do well to dispel that myth from the outset.
Despite being a solitary pursuit, the whole process of creating a book actually involves collaborative working, if you want it to succeed, that is. It starts with the beta-readers and, if you’re VERY lucky, a publisher and editor. You need to have a thick skin because beta-readers will tell you if what you’ve written makes sense and is good enough to fix and continue with, and editors pull no punches when it comes to getting the best out of you and your work.
Then you have to promote your book. Don’t think people will help you, writing is competitive, and the marketplace crammed with existing material. Don’t allow your frustrations to overspill on to social media, readers and publishers judge you on behavior and on what you write in posts. Do not, under any circumstances and despite what you may have read online, be tempted to friend people on various platforms for the sole purpose of sending them a link to your book. This is not only very rude and disrespectful, but also ineffective as a marketing strategy. You need to engage with people about writing and reading, see them as kindred not customers. In terms of social media, NEVER suggest your own book if people in a thread as for recommendations. I see this happen all the time and it comes across as both cynical and desperate. People will simply not buy it and fail to engage with you from that point on. Bottom line is - write as though your book is never going to be published. That will give you a good indicator as to the fundamental reason you want to write. It’s not a get rich quick scheme. Even successful writers have had to balance writing with a day job for most of their careers.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
Tiredness, which is why I make sure I get plenty of rest if I have a major project on the go.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
I always try to be original, and sometimes this has been to my own detriment. I wanted to write books in popular genres but not at the risk of covering old ground. This is a good way of sucking the life out of a project and this will ultimately show in the final draft. My yeti books have a science-fiction premise, my werewolf and zombie books have a crime slant. I would rather be criticized for being different than being bland or predictable.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Believe in yourself.
What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
Not to write in cliché. One of the things I found out very early on is the importance of beta-readers. I have several and they will give instant feedback on whether a character rings true or not. The same can be said for other gender issues, it is vital that you garner a good pool of beta-readers representative of society.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
When I was working full time, it tended to be around six months for a first draft, depending on book length. These days it averages out at about three months from start to a good third draft. I’m very lucky to be in this position.
Do you believe in writer’s block?
No, but I understand the concept of hitting a wall on a work in progress. This is why I always have several projects on the go at any one time, so that I can move between them.