Interview with an Author: Martin Malone

Martin Malone

Martin Malone is an award winning Irish novelist and short story writer. His first novel, Us (2000), won the John B Keane/Sunday Independent Award. His story, “The Mango War” won the RTE Francis MacManus Award in 2004. Malone has also won the Killarney International Short Story Prize.

Martin is a former member of the Defence Forces. He served six tours of duty abroad – five tours of duty to Lebanon and one to Iraq. In 2007 he published a memoir of his time in the army, called The Lebanon Diaries (2007).

His work has been published by Simon & Schuster, Poolbeg Press and New Island.

Hi Martin, it’s great to talk to you today.

Your new Short Story collection is called Deadly Confederacies, why did you choose that title?

A: I think it’s strong, not just because it’s the eponymous title story concerning two murderers, pals and confederates, but because this theme is sown throughout other tales – that of uneasy alliances, be it between husband and wife, brother and sister, illicit lovers, and so on.

Is there a common thread running through the collection?

A: I think I’ve answered that above, Jonathan, but maybe I should add that the characters in the short stories are searching for accommodations with each other, for a host of different reasons.

How long has this collection taken to write?

A: Five years. But I didn’t write a short story for about 18 months during that time, and I also found Most of the stories are new.

Why are you drawn to writing short stories?

A: I have no idea. Some innate sadistic desire, perhaps.

What are you trying to say about life in contemporary Ireland? If anything?

A. One of the characters in a story refers to Ireland as the ‘Ostrich Nation,’ and I think that says a lot – we have a tendency to bury our heads in the sand – we have umpteen examples: the victims of suicide caused by financial institutions flexing their might; the effects that austerity is currently wreaking on society, that won’t reflect itself in full for another decade; the growing disparity between the have’s and the have nots in society – because, you know, there is plenty of money in the country….I could go on and on…but I think you get the gist. Also, though, the tales are about all sorts of relationships – not just the relationship with truth.

Have you a favourite story from the collection? Why?

A: I can’t decide between the title story and two others: Halabjah and The Archbishop’s Daughter.
I think Deadly confederacies a chilling tale – characters without conscience and who blame their victims for bringing bad stuff onto themselves – Halabja because it brings to life an atrocity largely ignored by the West, that of a chemical weapons attack in northern Iraq; and The Archbishop’s Daughter, as it concerns a man trying to poke a certain truth from a church that turns its face from it. The stories are set in diverse locations – Ireland, Wales, Iraq, Lebanon, Israel, U.S., England, Italy…

Short stories are getting a lot of publicity recently. As a writer do you get a sense that short stories are more popular now or is it the same as always?

A: I think there’s a resurrection of sorts okay, or it may just seem that way. There are plenty of online opportunities, competitions, but when you look at the bookshelves in shops – you don’t see too many short story collections sitting there. In fact, you’ll find much less than a few. So that tells me that the market for short stories is probably akin to that for poetry, middling at best.

Have you a favourite character from the collection?

A: I like the kid in the opening story, ‘The Caulbearer’s Awakening,’ as his eyes begin to open…

Why do you think there are so many short story writers from Ireland?

A: Perhaps they appear easier to write than a novel. They’re not – but I suppose a short story is manageable for people leading lives too busy to tackle the novel. And it’s easier to get over the rejection of a work that you spent a month working on, as opposed to one that took you 18 months to complete. I am drawn to reading short work, novellas too – so for me, short is better.

You’re published by New Island, one of the most progressive publishers in Ireland, could you talk about the process of working with them? What’s it like being edited?

A. This is my fifth book by New Island and I’ve had work commissioned by three of their editors, which lifts the spirits when the wheels of imagination are grinding toward nowhere or I’ve received a rejection slip. Editing – I think you’re always surprised by what escapes your own eye, be it a typo, a grammatical error, or a sentence that has no place on a page…It’s a learning process always for me. I’ve been blessed with good editors throughout my writing career.

What’s next for Martin Malone? Are you working on a new project?

A: New Island bring out my novel ‘Us’ as a modern Irish classic next year. I’ve just completed writing the first draft of a new novel, a murder mystery, and I have work under consideration. Fingers are crossed.

What advice would you give to new writers trying to write good short stories?

A: Grab the first sentence by the neck and make it work, make it interesting – because a great beginning sets you well on track to completing the story…you’ll see the path form in the mystic alleys of your mind.

Thanks Martin and good luck with Deadly Confederacies. 

Click on photo to buy Martin’s new collection.

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