(This article comes from The Book Room - The Christian Post's new section for book enthusiasts and authors.)
Billy Coffey’s new book The Devil Walks in Mattingly is a tale of guilt, secrets, redemption and forgiveness. Drawing on his own experience living in a small town, the novel takes the readers to Mattingly where Sherriff Jake Barnett and his wife Kate struggle with the death of a high school boy in their past. When the past invades the future, Jake and Kate must face their fears and walk into the darkness.
In this interview with The Book Room, Coffey discusses his inspiration for the novel as well as lessons readers can learn from the characters.
TBR: What inspired this story?
Coffey: Our town is a small place. Growing up, the kids you walk in with on the first day of kindergarten are in large part the kids you walk out with on your last day of high school. It was the same with me. We were all safely entrenched in our own cliques by the time we were freshmen. All but Ed. There’s always an Ed, unfortunately. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you grew up. The kid who’s different, who’s always picked on, always bullied. I never bullied him, though I always ignored him. I somehow thought that made me better than most until I realized years later that perhaps I’d done Ed more harm than anyone else. They tore him down, and yet I did nothing to lift him up. That notion of guilt has remained with me ever since, so much so that it became the genesis of this novel.
TBR: In the novel the whole town, Jake and Kate Barnett especially struggle with guilt over their past. What advice do you have for a person who struggles with a shameful past?
Coffey: I’ve always found it interesting that the advice we’re likely to give others about what’s been done is the advice we’d never take ourselves. We tell others to move on, the past is the past, you can’t let what you can’t change ruin you. Then you find yourself in that very situation, and you realize that sometimes you really can’t move on, that the past sometimes becomes so great that it invades the present and even the future, and you’ve just screwed up so bad that nothing will ever be the same. I think we all reach that point sometime in our lives, and we have to make one of three choices: We can simply give up, we can do our best to make amends both with ourselves and those we’ve hurt, or we can realize that nothing will ever be truly healed without God’s grace and forgiveness. I’m a firm believer that it’s never any one particular act that defines us, but the moments after that act is done.
The rest of the interview is available here.