BEHIND THE BOOK by Gary McPherson

Starting my writing career later in my life, I could easily point to a plethora of influences throughout my past that ultimately helped mold me into the writer I am today. However, I can point to five musical influences that motivated me to write JOSHUA AND THE SHADOW OF DEATH as well as the Berserker Series.

The song “Monster,” by Skillet on the “Awake” album, has always been a favorite of mine. The song is such a metaphor for many internal and external struggles. It represents internal conflict and our desire to overcome the worst of our desires that lay hidden inside. As I came up with the Berserker Series, and as I worked to view Harold from Joshua’s point of view, I would often listen to this song for inspiration. There is a frustration expressed in the verse, “I feel like a monster.” Whether the monster is Joshua’s crushed pride or Harold’s berserk nature, both men desire to overcome something inside of themselves that seems to surface over and over.

Admittedly, Skillet is one of my favorite bands. Another song I would listen to when looking for inspiration for my book was “Circus for a Psycho” on their “Rise” album. The song has a Rage-against-the -machine feel to it. When I was writing the antagonists, I often would listen to this track and picture these men with their anger and bitterness at the perceived wrongs they had experienced. John Richmond embodies the idea of taking back something you think is torn from you.

If we may move away from specific bands for a moment, I drastically shifted gears in my listening genre when writing the suicide in Chapter 1. I usually listened to jazz piano while writing and editing Richard’s suicide. That chapter was the most stressful piece of writing in the book. Many writers told me to always pull your readers in within the first few paragraphs, especially if you are a new writer. I chose to grab the reader, slap them on the cheek, and yank them into the pages. I’m very happy with the result, but trust me, there were many images in my head that I left off the page. Mellowing those images with some jazz helped to keep me focused and push forward through Chapter 1.

During the writing of the Prologue, and some of the lighter California scenes I enjoyed listening to 80’s music. That may sound funny since the book does not take place then. However, I lived in California through mid-1982. Frankly, many of the “hits” of the 80’s decade were played on local California radio stations in 1980, ‘81 and ‘82.  Long before the internet, pop and rock music would originate out of New York and California and eventually spread around the country. So, listening to these hits brought back those good feelings of home which I would then convey on the page.

Last, and certainly not least, I would have to point back to a specific band and song. “Already Over,” by Red on their “End the Silence” album was my go to track when writing Joshua’s character. It’s a haunting song about losing everything you thought was important and reaching up, hoping to give yourself over to someone bigger than yourself. For Joshua, it is his return to beliefs he once held. Much like the song, the moment of surrender comes near the end, and although it does not seem to change his circumstances, it changes the man.