Today I’m pleased to welcome Michael J Malone to the blog. Michael is the author of novels including Blood Tears and A Suitable Lie and his latest novel, House of Spines was published by Orenda Books on 15 September 2017.
Michael kindly answered a few of my questions.
1. Tell us a little about House of Spines.
Sure. House of Spines is a modern day take on the Gothic mystery novel. My protagonist, Ranald McGhie is a poet on his uppers, recently divorced, when he inherits a sprawling mansion from a side of the family he had no idea existed. He moves into the house and breathlessly investigates, unable to believe how much his luck has changed. At the back of the house he finds a lift. Inside the lift sits a small mirror. He picks it up – and in the mirror he sees the reflection of a young woman.
2. What inspired the book?
A note in an old notebook. In my handwriting. In an ink that kind of bled into the paper. And I have NO memory of ever writing it. How spooky is that?
3. Are you a plan, plan, plan writer or do you sit down and see where the words take you?
I’ve very much a pantser. My mind conjures a situation – in this case the note I mentioned in the old notebook was pretty much as I outlined in question 1 – and then I’m off. I like to think that if I don’t know where I’m going then the reader certainly won’t.
I do wish I was more of a plotter, it would save a lot of mistakes in the writing process, but I can’t make my mind work that way.
4. What do you do when you aren’t writing? What do you do to relax and get away from it all?
I have a yellow lab called Bob and a teenage son – I walk one and watch TV and movies with the other. When I’m not engaged with either of them I’m reading or I’m at the gym. There’s my life in a few sentences. Not very interesting is it?
I also run an author mentoring business called MJM Ink – I love helping people grow into their craft.
5. Is there anything about the process of creating a novel that surprised you?
There was a famous writer – who’s so famous I can’t remember his or her name – who said that writing was a voyage of discovery. I remember vividly writing my first two novels and finding things out about myself, how much I had observed about other human beings, and even surprised myself with the opinions I held. I can’t think of an example, but I do remember being taken aback by what was coming out of my sub-conscious.
6. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life which book would it be?
That’s tough! There’s so many books out there that have had an impact on me, and surely if I was stuck with only one for the rest of my life – no matter how great it was – it would lose some of its appeal?
It would be a huge one and I would read a page a day and I would pray that the pages would never run out before my heart did. Oh – there’s a book there!
7. I like to end my Q&A’s with the same question so here we go. During all the Q&As and interviews you’ve done what question have you not been asked that you wish had been asked – and what’s the answer?
Another tricky question. You’re good!
I’m open to everything and anything, really – happy to answer any questions, but as my career has gone on I have less and less expectation about what I might be asked. The questions, after all, are about the reader and what they want to know. My ego has nothing to do with it.
The same with the book, when the reader has it, it is no longer mine. The reader brings themselves to that bulk of paper and the shapes thereon, and it filters through their life experience, bias and expectations. How they translate my words through all of that is endlessly fascinating. People take all sorts of things from my words, much of which comes as a surprise to me. And I love that part of the process.
About the book
Ran McGhie’s world has been turned upside down. A young, lonely and frustrated writer, and suffering from mental-health problems, he discovers that his long-dead mother was related to one of Glasgow’s oldest merchant families. Not only that, but Ran has inherited Newton Hall, a vast mansion that belonged to his great-uncle, who it seems has been watching from afar as his estranged great-nephew has grown up. Entering his new-found home, it seems Great-Uncle Fitzpatrick has turned it into a temple to the written word – the perfect place for poet Ran. But everything is not as it seems. As he explores the Hall’s endless corridors, Ran’s grasp on reality appears to be loosening. And then he comes across an ancient lift; and in that lift a mirror. And in the mirror … the reflection of a woman…
A terrifying psychological thriller with more than a hint of the Gothic, House of Spines is a love letter to the power of books, and an exploration of how lust and betrayal can be deadly…
About the author
Michael Malone is a prize-winning poet and author who was born and brought up in the heart of Burns’ country, just a stone’s throw from the great man’s cottage in Ayr. Well, a stone thrown by a catapult. He has published over 200 poems in literary magazines throughout the UK, including New Writing Scotland, Poetry Scotland and Markings. His career as a poet has also included a (very) brief stint as the Poet-In-Residence for an adult gift shop. Blood Tears, his bestselling debut novel won the Pitlochry Prize (judge: Alex Gray) from the Scottish Association of Writers. Other published work includes: Carnegie’s Call (a non-fiction work about successful modern-day Scots); A Taste for Malice; The Guillotine Choice; Beyond the Rage and The Bad Samaritan. His psychological thriller, A Suitable Lie, was a number one bestseller. Michael is a regular reviewer for the hugely popular crime fiction website http://www.crimesquad.com. A former Regional Sales Manager (Faber & Faber) he has also worked as an IFA and a bookseller.