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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Interview with M.L. Malcolm

Today I have the great pleasure to welcome M.L. Malcolm to The Maiden's Court.  M.L. is the author of Heart of Lies and the newly released Heart of Deception.  I loved both and my review of Heart of Deception will be posted tomorrow, so stay tuned.  Let's welcome M.L. and learn the answers to some of my most pressing questions.

You stated previously in a guest post on this blog that some of the events in Heart of Lies were inspired by events that your family members had experienced. Did any of the events in Heart of Deception stem from anything your family experienced?

I was actually estranged from my own father for many years, although under very different circumstances, and my experience did not cause me to make the same kind of choices Maddy makes; but I suppose on an emotional level writing about some of what Maddy deals with provided me with a way of processing my own loss. There are also some personalities in our respective families (mine and my husband’s) that I drew upon. In particular the character of Bernice was inspired by my husband’s maternal grandmother, Edith Gulton, who earned a PhD in chemical engineering in 1922 and was a true partner in the business she and her husband built. Edith was brilliant but not terribly warm, a female “Dr. Spock,” (the Star Trek variety), at least until you got to know her very, very well. And her niece really was a piano prodigy.

The story told in Heart of Deception is mostly Maddie’s story – what led you to tell more of her story this time as opposed to Leo’s story?

I first conceptualized the story as a multi-generational saga, so I knew from the beginning that the focus was going to shift from Leo and Martha to Maddy, although in the very first draft of the book Leo was the character who died in Shanghai. My mother and sister, who were reading chapters hot off the press back then, both called me and said, “YOU KILLED THE WRONG PERSON.” Which is a little off-putting. I mean, it’s my book, I can kill whoever I want to, right? But then I realized that they had a point—Leo is more complex. In Heart of Lies Leo has to make some difficult choices in order to survive, and the second book, Heart of Deception becomes an exploration of the law of unintended consequences, especially with regard to how his choices affected his daughter’s life. However I was very pleased that, according to the reviews, I succeeded in making Heart of Deception a “stand alone” sequel, because I didn’t want readers to feel as if they can’t read it without reading Heart of Lies first.

The story in this book spans a decent amount of time, many different locales as well as following two characters very different lives. How do you keep yourself organized while writing and did you work out the two storylines first and then bring them together or did you write them simultaneously?

I did two enormous timelines, one for Leo and one for Maddy, wrote them simultaneously, and then occasionally adjusted things to be able to incorporate the historical events I wanted to write about. For example, I knew that Maddy was going get involved with someone dangerous, because I saw her as unconsciously mirroring her father’s life. Without giving away too much, the federal investigations that I talk about in the book occurred in 1962-1963, so that’s when Leo had to come home. Similarly, Leo is recruited to work as a spy in 1939. The American O.S.S. wasn’t operating in Europe until 1942, but President Roosevelt sent the diplomat, Robert Murphy, to North Africa in 1940 to keep tabs on what was happening there. Murphy recruited twelve men—nicknamed “the Apostles”—who were allegedly vice-consuls monitoring compliance with foreign trade agreements, but who were in fact serving as gatherers of intelligence for the U.S. and its allies. So I knew that’s where Leo needed to end up as well, and anything going on in Maddy’s life would have to fit into that timeframe.

Is there any chance that we will see a third book in this saga or are Maddy’s and Leo’s stories all wrapped up?

Never say never! I’d like to think that Leo has earned a happy retirement, but when the story closes Maddy is not yet thirty-five, so who knows? And aren’t you curious about whether or not she and that cute prosecutor finally get together? I am. Then there’s her daughter, Martha Anne….

Can you give us any hints of what you are working on currently?

I am writing the third book in this series, although it’s not a sequel, it’s a spinoff, like “Rhoda” or “Frasier.” Katherine O’Connor, one of my favorite characters and Maddy’s best friend, is getting her own book. She does become a foreign correspondent, and her book is very different; all the action takes place in less than three years, and much of it is written in first person. It’s set in Cuba in the early 1960s, and I have been having a blast with the research, although I have yet to get to Cuba!

M.L. has won several awards for her fiction, including special recognition in the prestigious Lorian Hemingway International Short Story Competition, and a silver medal from ForeWord Magazine for Best Historical Fiction Book of the Year 2009.

M.L. has lived in New York, Florida, Boston, Atlanta, France, and Los Angeles. She currently resides in Washington, D.C.

You can find more about her books by checking out her website.

Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court

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