Today I’m pleased to welcome Michael J Malone to the blog. Michael is the author of Blood Tears, A Taste for Malice and Bad Samaritan and his latest novel, A Suitable Lie was published by Orenda Books on 30 July 2016 in ebook and on 15 September 2016 in paperback.
Here Michael talks about research.
It’s that moment at the end of a book talk and you ask for questions.
Cue the sound of wind and the sight of tumbleweed. (I can never think of a question either, to be honest.)
Then a tentative hand goes up. Then another. And another. And one of the most asked questions concerns research. How much do I do? The flip answer is, as little as possible.
Of course, I’m selling myself short when I say that. I’m a go for the cheap laugh kinda guy, because the truth is a good deal more complicated than that.
The first time I learned the importance of getting the research right was in a review for my debut novel, Blood Tears. Someone complained in their review that I’d referred to the after death medical exam as an autopsy, when in Scotland we call it a Post-Mortem. (Or is it the other way round?)
My initial reaction was: wow, get the pedant. They even reduced my review from a 5 star to a 4 star on the back of this mistake.
However, on reflection I had to admit they were right. When you write a novel you are asking your readers to suspend their disbelief and to go with you in your fictive dream. You’re writing about made up people, doing made up stuff, so the least you can do is ground them in the story by getting the details right. Right? And you crime readers are an intelligent bunch. You guys really know what’s what, so the risk of getting called out is fairly high.
For me getting the detail right is never more important than when I am writing about emotional subjects. A Suitable Lie centres on the experiences of an abused husband and in researching this book I encountered (surprisingly easily) a number of people who bravely told me about their experience or recounted the experiences of friends, brothers, fathers, and in a couple of instances, grandad was the aggrieved individual.
When I take a topic like this that gets little airspace, and weave real life accounts of it into the narrative of a novel I have a responsibility to these people to tell it honestly, accurately, and with respect, or it becomes hollow; an exercise in exploitation. And more to the point, you the reader will sit back in judgement and be unconvinced. Surely, the worst sin a writer can commit?
About the book:
“Some secrets should never be kept…
Andy Boyd thinks he is the luckiest man alive. Widowed with a young child, after his wife dies in childbirth, he is certain that he will never again experience true love. Then he meets Anna. Feisty, fun and beautiful, she’s his perfect match … and she loves his son like he is her own. When Andy ends up in the hospital on his wedding night, he receives his first clue that Anna is not all that she seems. Desperate for that happy-ever-after, he ignores it. A dangerous mistake that could cost him everything.
A brave, deeply moving, page-turning psychological thriller, A Suitable Lie marks a stunning departure for one of Scotland’s finest crime writers, exploring the lengths people will go to hide their deepest secrets, even if it kills them…”