Today, we have the inimitable Michael J. Malone on the blog to delve into his writing life, with special regard given to his Glasgow DI Ray McBain.
In addition to writing a successful series, Michael is responsible for assisting Graham Smith with Crime and Publishment and it was a pleasure to get an insight into Michael’s expertise at Gretna. Graham Smith sang Michael’s praises, saying: ‘Michael’s input is greatly valued and he is an integral part of the event’s burgeoning success’.
I hope you enjoy getting to know Michael as much as I have!
McBain seems very popular. Did you always intend him to be a recurring character?
I had no plan whatsoever when I started writing from his perspective. The opening for my debut crime novel, ‘Blood Tears‘ came to me in a vivid dream and it involved a man in front of a mirror, holding a white mask and a scalpel – you need to read the book to find out what happened next – and it occurred to me when I woke up that this could be a serial killer celebrating his “kill”. And if I was writing a serial killer, I needed a cop. McBain was born. And the moment he appeared on the page, he was there, fully-formed as if I’d known him all my life.
How do you find writing a series?
Being with a smaller publisher I have the luxury of being “allowed” to mix it up a little so I have been able to switch from writing about one central character to another, which I find has helped me keep things fresh. Good things about writing a series? The world you are writing about is there in your mind, you just need to jump back in and run with it – no need to set things up. And when you’ve had a break from them it feels good to encounter them again. It’s like running into a friend. Dislike? The worry that there will come a time when you have said everything that this character has to say. What do you do then?
What was your inspiration for ‘Bad Samaritan‘?
I knew that events in ‘Blood Tears‘ had to be resolved – being careful of spoilers here – and the serial killer I mentioned earlier with the mask, would need to sort things out between him and McBain once and for all.
Any advice for aspiring writers?
Learn your craft. Learn how to accept feedback. Grow a hard shell. Make resilience your middle name.
Most useful piece of writing advice? Who was it from?
You can never go wrong with the wisdom of Stephen King as evidenced in his writing memoir, ‘On Writing‘. And then there’s a very dear friend of mine – seasoned novelist with over 40 novels under her belt – Margaret Thomson Davis. After I finished my very first novel she was the first person I phoned to tell. (Most of my friends at that point were non-writers and wouldn’t have had a clue what this meant.)
The conversation went like this:
Me – “Margaret, I’ve just typed those two little words.”
Her – “WayHAY!! The End. Well done, Michael, well done.”
Then without a moment’s pause she asked: “What are you writing next?”
She was such a professional and had such a work ethic that there was little time for congratulations. There was a moment to savour the achievement – and then without allowing procrastination/ self-doubt/ a writers’ fears back in – it was straight on to the next book. I don’t always manage this, but it has resulted in a reasonable output over the years.
What’s next for you?
I have a new release in September that I am really excited about. It will be published with that force of nature, Karen Sullivan over at Orenda Books. It is an issue led domestic noir/ psych thriller called ‘A Suitable Lie‘.
Sounds great, I’m looking forward to reading it already! Thanks for being involved, Michael – it’s been great having you on Elementary V Watson.