Brandon Daily’s debut novel A MURDER COUNTRY was recently published on September 9, 2014. Here he shares some of his inspiration and in-depth insight into why he wrote this historical thriller. Let’s welcome him!
Though my first novel, A Murder Country, is considered a thriller, I tend to think of the book as a philosophical examination of what makes us, as humans, do the things we do. I have always been fascinated by violence within the world: I don’t understand violence, nor do I understand what drives certain people to do violent things. My interest in violence and its effect on humans and society was given a direct focus when I was working on my Master’s Thesis in English Literature. In it, I examined Cormac McCarthy’s literature, studying morality and ethics within the narratives. The characters in McCarthy’s stories are all depraved people, and they give themselves over to a violence that seems more animal than human. That image of a man (or woman) who is broken down from a social individual to something animalistic and raw was and still is fascinating to me.
I had just started writing the beginnings of a novel when I was researching for my thesis. I had the basic outline of the novel in my mind; it would be about a young boy who goes out to revenge the brutal murders of his parents. I wanted the story to take place in the “Western” time period because I loved the lawlessness of the landscape—the setting itself could play into the story as a character. However, the story I had outlined was nothing more than a tale with a standard “revenge-flick” plot. The boy would go out and join the murderer’s gang (in the early drafts, my murderer had a gang and killed only for profit—completely cliché, I know), he would befriend the murderer, and finally, after so much self-questioning, the boy would kill the murderer and ride off into the sunset (a la John Wayne in The Searchers), knowing that he had done the right thing for his parents. That he had avenged their deaths and become a man in the process. There’s no spoiler alert needed for that description because A Murder Country is a completely different story.
I realized, when I was writing down the outline for my novel, that there was something missing. I was recreating a story I had seen and read over and over before. And that was depressing. I wanted something new and fresh. I wanted something original that I could lay claim to, and so I stopped writing the novel and concentrated solely on my thesis. Yet, as I was finishing my thesis, I realized that what I was studying and writing about in McCarthy’s literature was exactly what was missing from my story—I needed to question the characters and have them question their world. What is it that makes someone seek revenge? Will vengeance truly set a person free and fulfill his/her wishes and desires. What does the act of violence do to a person? These questions, along with some of the big existential questions of life, began to swirl in my mind.
After I finished my thesis, I began working on the novel again. I changed the story around so that it was no longer just a standard revenge tale but was now an exploration of human desires and the violence that exists within the world. I used the characters to examine the questions I had of the world, and from them I was able to understand myself and, in a strange way, humanity and the primal violence that drives existence.
Now, with A Murder Country nearing publication, different people come up to me and ask about the novel. They ask what it’s about, and that is a hard question to answer truthfully. I would like to tell them that the book is about us, all of us; that it’s about our world and what drives humans to do the things they do. And all of that surrounds the primary story of a boy seeking vengeance. That boy’s story is simple and straight-forward; but that boy, like all of us, must grow up and face the realities of the world and the repercussions of his actions. It is a story about what it is to be human. A thriller simply because it reflects our world: one comprised of violence and unrest, of questions that have no answers.
Through my studies of literature and the act of writing A Murder Country, I came to understand that humans have the ability to be truly good in nature, but that being good requires a great amount of strength. It is my sincerest hope that we, as a united people group, have the ability to find that strength and make our world a better place. If not, then we will simply be left in a world where violence is the way of life. If not, then we will be left in a murder country.
Brandon Daily was born and raised in Southern California. In 2012, he and his wife moved to Central Georgia, where he now teaches high school English and Literature. He holds an M.A. in American Literature and has worked as an adjunct professor and freelance editor.
Brandon’s short fiction has been published in several online and print magazines, and his one act play “South of Salvation” was performed and won first prize in the CAST Players One Act Play Festival in 2012.
A Murder Country (Knox Robinson, 2014) is his first novel, and tells the story of three violent men living in the late nineteenth century; each man is seeking an understanding of his life and his place within the larger realm of the world. The novel is inspired by Brandon’s fascination with the tension between nature and man as well as the power and fragility of belief and conviction within humans.
Brandon is currently working on his second novel and several more short stories.
About A MURDER COUNTRY: The nineteenth century looms just a few years away, bringing with it the belief in progress and a new world. But for Josiah Fuller, William Corvin, and the Rider in the Appalachian backwoods and small towns of the late nineteenth century, there is nothing but a world where bloodshed is paid for in blood, and violence is the ultimate law of the land.
When seventeen-year-old Josiah Fuller comes home to find his parents hanged and mutilated and the family house burned to the ground, he sets off to find the man responsible for their murders and avenge their deaths. His journey takes him through new towns and wildernesses he has not seen before. He meets people who show him the realities of living in a violent world, forcing Josiah to decide what is most important to him: vengeance or grace.
Years after running away from home as a young boy, William Corvin returns with his new bride to take over the family's coal mining operation. Though he is haunted by the violence of his past, he sets out to live a peaceful life and start a family there. However, Corvin's hopes of peace are challenged when a horrible act of violence causes him to revert back to the man he once was.
After being visited by an angel in a dream years earlier, the Rider has become a man with violence in his blood, believing himself to be appointed by God to collect the souls of sinners. He travels around on his horse, killing whoever he feels is deserving of God's wrath and vengeance. These three men move along their own individual paths, their stories intersecting with one another, continually searching for an understanding of the violent world in which they live and their own actions within that world.
The novel examines the power and fragility of belief and conviction within humans, showing how one small act often leads to consequences that reach far beyond anyone's imagining.
September 9, 2014 | 192 pages | Knox Robinson Publishing