Monday, 18 September 2017

Michael J Malone's Writing Toolkit

I am delighted to be today's stop on the blog tour for House of Spines by Michael J Malone. Michael is taking part in my new blog feature, sharing his essential writing toolkit. House of Spines was published by Orenda Books on 15 September 2017.

I am delighted to welcome 




Background TV
When I moved in to my current home the floored attic space was a big draw. The plan was to get a nice desk, line the walls with bookcases – and have a comfy armchair for writing breaks, or for reading my research. It would be quiet and peaceful and without distractions. I did all that, but I’ve never actually written there, Instead, I write at my dining room table with the telly on in the background.

Laptop stand
That initially caused me neck and shoulder pain. Not sure why. A combination of the table height and my chair perhaps. A quick question to my friends on Facebook and someone recommended a stand for my laptop to lift the top of the screen to eye level. This necessitated a free sitting keyboard and mouse (you try typing into a laptop keyboard that’s sitting at an angle.) From the very first writing session, the pain vanished.

Coffee is a must, to get me going in the morning. I use an espresso pot and it has to be my favourite thing in the house.

It turns out I need some noise in the background while I’m writing. Hence the neglect of my noise- free zone in the attic. I’ll either have the TV on a low volume – without choosing any programme in particular. Or I bring up YouTube and select a musical backdrop. The last one I worked to was a two hour long selection of Mozart. Apparently listening to him increases your I.Q. I have no idea if it worked or not. My son gave me a strange look when I told him why I had chosen that. As if to say, yeah, right.

I use a notebook for each book I’m writing. I’ll take notes for research purposes and also jot down ideas for plot and character development as they occur. I can’t be arsed with the time it takes to set up any writing apps  – some writers swear by them – but I do need to keep track of the book as I write. So, I write up a very short breakdown of each chapter as I finish it, which means it’s less likely that I forget what the hell I’m banging on about.

Gym (& paper towel & pen)
I need to exercise to help keep me sane, so I always make sure I take a break to hit the gym. And often that break works well to help me winkle out plot problems as I often come up with solutions while sweating over a piece of exercise equipment. Cue me tearing off a piece of paper towel and borrowing a pen from a passing gym instructor.

A famous author said (I’m paraphrasing) that no writer could work with a functional WIFI signal. Don’t you love a generalisation? It’s crucial for me. A quick search on Google – other search engines are available – often gets me out of a bind. I also take regular breaks online. A quick scan of FB or twitter – it’s like I need to temporarily connect with the world beyond my writing space - and I’m good to go again.

Despite my willingness to allow a social media distraction, I can’t be doing with the disruption of having to make myself a meal when I’m in the zone. So I found this stuff called Huel. Perfect nutrition apparently. I just add a few scoops to 500ml of water with some frozen fruit and Bob’s your whatsit.


About Michael J Malone

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 A former Regional Sales Manager (Faber & Faber) he has also worked as an IFA and a bookseller.

Find Michael on his website and on Twitter - @MichaelJMalone

About House of Spines

Published by Orenda Books (15 September 2017)

Publisher's description
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...

Here's a snippet of my review
In House of Spines, I felt like I was living the story with Ran - seeing what he saw, feeling what he felt. The pictures the author paints within his prose, of the smells, sounds and sights of old Newton Hall, are as chilling and disturbing as the story itself.

To read the rest of my review of House of Spines, click here.

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