We are delighted to welcome author M.L. Malcolm to CrimeFiction.FM’s digital interview booth today.
M.L.’s new novel is THE CUBAN CONNECTION (Good Reads Publishing, February 2015 softcover and ebook formats). This book introduces ace reporter Katherine O’Connor, who has a nose for news and an inclination to use it in very dangerous places.
THE CUBAN CONNECTION incorporates actual historical events into a page-turning tale that is by turns riveting, poignant, and hilarious—not unlike Katherine O’Connor herself.
We recently had the opportunity to spend some time with M.L. to talk more about the book, her research process and her interesting life.
CFFM: Please tell us a little about your latest book, The Cuban Connection.
M.L. Malcolm: The Cuban Connection incorporates real historical events into a page-turning novel that sheds light on how Castro’s takeover of Cuba evolved from a promise of peace and democracy to a tyrannical dictatorship. The main character, ace reporter Katherine O’Connor, has a nose for news and a tendency to use it in very dangerous places. She goes undercover to report what’s really going on as Castro consolidates his power, and ends up running some errands for the CIA, which unfortunately brings her to the attention of Castro’s secret police. At the same time, she’s trying to save the life of a little boy whose parents are fighting against Castro, and she falls for a guy who may be a Soviet spy. It’s an espionage thriller, but also a very human story about what was happening in Cuba in 1960.
CFFM: Wow – that sounds marvelous, and 1960 Cuba, what a great setting. What’s your process for researching the settings for your books?
M.L. Malcolm: The heart of my research is always focused on personal stories, written during the time period about which I’m writing. I go to original sources, and read many out-of-print memoirs. For The Cuban Connection, I spent a lot of time at the National Archives reading recently declassified documents, and at the Cuban Heritage Library at the University of Miami. If I can, I visit the location. My first novel, Heart of Lies, evolved from a visit I made to Shanghai. I went to Cuba (legally!) in 2012. My next book is set in Paris during the Belle Époque, and I’ve spent quite a bit of time in France.
CFFM: What’s the best advice you’ve received about writing?
M.L. Malcolm: There’s no such thing as good writing, only good re-writing, so just get started and don’t worry about how the first draft turns out. It’s only the beginning of your journey. Accept criticism gracefully.
CFFM: That’s great advice for any writer. What hobbies do you have that might surprise your readers?
M.L. Malcolm: I scuba dive, and have done so in some pretty amazing places, such as the Galapagos Islands, Croatia, and Costa Rica—where I came face to face with a bull shark. Luckily he wasn’t hungry when we met.
M.L. Malcolm: Well, this is going to date me, but it was a Nancy Drew mystery I read when I was nine years old, The Secret of the Old Clock. I grew up in a very small town on the west coast of Florida. The biggest industry was a guava jelly factory. There was no movie theater, no shopping mall, not even a McDonald’s. However, there was a library, and although there was a five-book limit, the librarians let me check out as many books as my bicycle basket would hold because I was such a voracious reader (and very good about getting the books back on time). After reading my first Nancy Drew, I became completely hooked on mysteries. I loved the excitement, and the challenge of figuring out would turn out to be the criminal. So I went from Nancy Drew, to Trixie Belden, the Hardy Boys—and then on to Gothic mysteries, and I’ve never stopped. I’m still more of a “cozy” reader, though, because gory details give me nightmares.
CFFM: That actually dates you about where I am. My first was The Tower Treasure, Hardy Boys mystery #1. What’s next for you, M.L.?
M.L. Malcolm: I’m stepping away from thrillers for the first time. My next novel, Jane Avril: Muse of the Moulin Rouge is based on the life of a famous dancer at the Moulin Rouge in the 1890’s. She was also a close friend of the painter, Toulouse Lautrec. While not a “crime story,” Jane did lead a very exciting life, and it’s the first book I’ve written completely in first person. On the back burner of my brain, I’m already thinking about another book starring Katherine O’Connor; this one is set in Brazil. History is my biggest muse.
CFFM: The new book sounds like fun, even though it’s not a crime novel. 1890’s Paris was such an interesting time and place. Thanks so much for being here today, and let me tell you how happy I am to learn that you’re already thinking of the next Katherine O’Connor book, she’s an excellent character.
M.L. Malcolm’s previous historical thrillers, Heart of Lies (2010) and Heart of Deception (2011), are available from HarperCollins. Heart of Lies was selected as a “Next Great Read” by the American Booksellers Association, and chosen as a “Recommended Book Club Read.” M.L. Malcolm was also selected as an “Author to Watch” by Target Stores’ “Emerging Authors” program. A Good Read Publishing released the original editions.
A “recovering lawyer,” M.L. has lived in New York, Florida, Boston, Atlanta, France, and Los Angeles. She currently resides in Washington, D.C. with her husband, John, and their two adorable King Charles Cavaliers. Over the years she’s collected an impressive number of hats (some might say an excessive number) and yes, she does wear them.
Author Website: www.mlmalcolm.com