Mystery Books News is thrilled to welcome M. L. Malcolm as our guest blogger. M. L. is the author of Heart of Lies (Harper Paperbacks, June 2010, 978-0-06-196218-9), her debut novel of suspense.
Today, M. L. discusses how her novel came about as well as a bit about its sequel. And she's also providing our readers with an opportunity to win a copy of her book. Visit Mystery Book Contests, click on the "M. L. Malcolm: Heart of Lies" contest link, enter your name, e-mail address, and this code (2994) for a chance to win! (One entry per person; contest ends August 03, 2010.)
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Photo credit Lauren Nguyen,
courtesy of M. L. Malcolm
Your first novel took a rather unusual path to publication. Tell us about it.
“Publisher’s Weekly” compared me to, “The Little Blue Engine that Could,” and that’s pretty accurate. My first novel, Silent Lies, was published by Longstreet Press in 2005. Unfortunately after 15 years of being one of the most well-respected independent houses in the business, Longstreet went belly-up in 2006. Then, because of the vagaries of the publishing business, the distributors (who actually sell the book on behalf of the publisher) told me that because Silent Lies was actually doing pretty well, they would keep selling it if I could get the rights back, which I did. So I was in this strange situation where my book was in print after the publisher had gone under, but I really stayed with it; I visited book clubs all over the country and took pretty much any speaking engagement I was offered. At one point a friend of a friend ordered ten copies for her book club, and the owner of the store where she bought it became intrigued and read it himself. He really loved it, and when the marketing director for independent booksellers from HarperCollins just happened to pop in while he was vacationing in the area, the bookstore owner gave him a copy and said, “This is a great book. Why didn’t you guys publish it?” A few months later I had a two-book deal with HarperCollins.
Silent Lies is based on your husband’s family history. What did you find so intriguing?
Well, I like to say “inspired by” rather than “based upon,” because that’s more accurate. My mother-in-law was born in Germany. Over the years I collected many riveting anecdotes about how various members of her family had managed to escape the Nazis. One of them made it to Shanghai, a city whose history had fascinated me ever since I visited it as a tourist back in 1988. This incredible family history provided the makings of a great book, but I didn’t really want to write a WWII story, so I looked for a way to explore those experiences in a meaningful way within a different historical context. My husband’s grandfather was born in Hungary at the turn of the century, so that’s where I began my research, and I ended up learning some things about my mother-in-law’s family that she didn’t know herself.
So Heart of Lies was the original Silent Lies?
Yes, although under the guidance of my wonderful editor at Harper, Wendy Lee, I did make some substantial changes, but it’s essentially the same story.
The cover for Heart of Lies is very striking. Is that you on the cover?
You would be amazed at how often people ask me that! I guess it’s because the woman on the cover is wearing a hat, and I love hats and wear them often. But no, that’s not me, although there’s a slightly uncanny story behind that photograph. The picture came from an on-line stock photo collection, and at first I was just struck by how beautiful it was. Then I did a little digging and discovered that the photographer was none other than Lucien Aigner, the renowned Hungarian photojournalist who was arguably the world’s first paparazzi. He took some truly iconic pictures, including that famous series of a very rumpled, wild-haired Albert Einstein teaching at Princeton. Well, the photo on the cover was taken in Budapest, and the woman on that bridge was Lucien’s wife. Her name was Anne but her nickname was “Mady.” In Heart of Lies the main character, Leo Hoffman, is Hungarian, the story opens in Budapest, and Leo’s daughter’s nickname is “Maddy.” Also, like Leo, Aigner had to leave his own country to avoid persecution. I found all that to be a remarkable coincidence, so I was thrilled when Harper bought the rights the use Lucien’s “Mady” on the cover. I considered it a very good omen.
And Heart of Lies has a sequel coming out?
Yes, next spring Harper will publish Heart of Deception, which continues Leo Hoffman’s story but also focuses on his daughter, Maddy, who learns the truth behind her father’s mysterious past, and as she matures, this haunting knowledge compels her down her own dangerous path of deception and discovery. I wrote it very much as a “stand alone” sequel, and hopefully I succeeded because it did receive two national awards, but I hope that most people would read Heart of Lies first because one or two of the plot twists would be revealed if once reads them in reverse order.
You’ve worked as an attorney, a journalist, and a fiction writer. Does one type of writing help or hinder the others?
Well, it’s hard to say because I’ve done all three for so long. I wrote my first short story when I was six. Long before I became a professional journalist I worked on the school newspaper, and I was on the debate team in high school and in college. As a lawyer, I was a litigator, or trial attorney. In some ways that is similar to being a journalist, because you have to be able to marshal facts quickly, verify information, and accept criticism of your writing and meet your deadlines. So that was good training, although I enjoy life much more as a writer and “recovering attorney.”
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M.L. Malcolm began her professional career as an attorney in Atlanta, Georgia. She later worked as a reporter for The Common Denominator, an independent newspaper in the nation's capital, and now lives with her husband, two children and two dogs in Los Angeles, where, in addition to writing fiction, she is as an internet blogger for the web show "quarterlife". Visit her website at HeartOfLies.com.
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About Heart of Lies: Leo Hoffman was born with a gift for languages. When his dreams for the future are destroyed by World War I, the dashing young Hungarian attempts to use his rare talent to rebuild his life, only to find himself inadvertently embroiled in an international counterfeiting scheme. Suddenly Leo is wanted across the European continent for a host of crimes, including murder.
Left with no options, he must escape to Shanghai with his lover, carrying with him a stolen treasure that could be his salvation ... or his death warrant. But the gangsters who control the decadent Asian city have no intention of letting him outrun his past. And when the Japanese invade, one wrong move could cost Leo Hoffman everything he holds dear.
For a chance to win one of two copies of Heart of Lies, courtesy of Authors on the Web, visit Mystery Book Contests, click on the "M. L. Malcolm: Heart of Lies" contest link, and enter your name, e-mail address, and this code (2994) in the entry form. (One entry per person; contest ends August 03, 2010.)