Today it’s my great pleasure to welcome Maria Malone to my site. Maria is an established author, who has ghost-written biographies for lots of big celebrities such as Cheryl Cole. But she is also a fiction writer and her first book When Harry Met Rose is just out. It’s a fascinating sounding novel and very timely with the Mr Selfridge TV series showing at the moment.
I grew up in Whitley Bay on the North East coast and love to be close to the sea. Walking on the beach in Northumberland is my idea of heaven. These days I live in Suffolk and do a lot of walking and thinking, and writing in my head, on the meadows close to home, where I am on excellent terms with the local swan population. Recently, I rediscovered the joys of dominoes. Doms, I now call them. Fives and threes is a brilliant game. I am getting better at it but my poor maths does tend to let me down.
I know you have written lots of non-fiction books as a ghost-writer, including biographies of celebrities – can you tell me a little about some of those and what the process is like?
Ghosting is a funny business. You work so intensively with a person, really getting under their skin, until you know them inside out. I’ve worked with some brilliant subjects – Tony Hadley, Girls Aloud, Mica Paris, Shameless actress Tina Malone (no relation). Each book is a completely different experience but basically, the process involves hours and hours of talking and listening to start with. All the interviews I do are recorded, then I transcribe them.
There’s always a lot of research to do, where dates are hazy and so on. When it comes to the writing it’s vital to capture the voice of the subject so it sounds like them, not you. It’s always best to keep an element of professional distance, I’d say. Under no circumstances stay with your subject, however tempting it may be. Keep in mind Robert Harris’s novel, The Ghost. His ghostwriter had a strict rule about never staying in the home of the person he was working with. When he was forced to do so the outcome was not good …
What made you want to try your hand at writing a novel having been so successful in another field as a writer, is it something you always wanted and intended to move into?
I’ve been writing fiction for many years. Always, even as a little girl, I wanted to write novels. It’s such a different process from the ghosting side of things. With fiction, I can be myself and write in my own voice. There is something magical about escaping into a made-up world.
How would you describe your fiction – its themes and the important things about it?
Most of what I’ve written falls within the crime/psychological thriller genre. I love the work of Henning Mankell and Nicci French – not that I’m comparing myself to them. In terms of themes, I am fascinated with relationships, people not being who they seem to be and having deep, dark secrets. I like to play with identity in my novels, that sense of never quite knowing who a person really is. Usually, at least one of my characters is seriously disturbed!
The current book is a complete departure from the crime novels. I am a huge fan of the TV series, Mr Selfridge. Before I started writing full-time I was a producer at ITV, filming behind-the-scenes packages on dramas like Poirot and Prime Suspect. I filmed on the set of Mr Selfridge, series 2, in 2013, and interviewed the cast.
The love story between Harry and Rose Selfridge made a big impact and got me thinking about how they might have met and fallen for each other in the first place. Rose had to have been a special woman to win over a man like Harry – and stick with him. The series only takes up their story when they arrive in London prior to opening Selfridges, which left plenty for me to explore around the early stages of their relationship. What emerged was When Harry Met Rose: Mr Selfridge and the Search for Love. The story is set in 1890 in Chicago and is, in essence, about love in all its wonder and uncertainty – themes familiar to all of us.
Do you intend to write more novels and what direction would you anticipate going in?
Definitely. Another two books in the When Harry Met Rose series, for starters! There is so much more to say and I have grown deeply attached to the pair of them.
Where can I buy a copy of your book?
Where can we find out more about you?