What inspired you to write this book?
I’ve always read and enjoyed different genres and what you’d call “the classics” as well. That made it difficult at first. It wasn’t like I’d grown up all my life needing to write a cowboy book or anything. What drew me to write The Curse of Malenfer Manor – a gothic novel – is that it combined all those bits I liked best. A pinch of horror, a dash of supernatural, a sniff of the grisly, a stem of romance, a teaspoon of the dark soul in all of us. I wanted to keep it interesting and I wanted a plot that moved. Setting civilized people in uncivilized times lets you talk about what matters in life without boring people to tears.
Do you have a special formula for creating characters’ names? Do you try to match a name with a certain meaning to attributes of the character or do you search for names popular in certain time periods or regions?
The book is a period book – it is France just after WWI. I thought that names would be easy; after all it is not a fantasy world. I was wrong! When you write historical fiction, you should be humble. There are a lot of people out there who know a great deal more on a subject than you. I don’t think I had a character in the book who didn’t undergo a name change or two to fit with historical accuracy. That made it hard. I grew attached to certain characters and still think of them in their pre-editorial originals. Malenfer remained true throughout, however, as did Dermot Ward, my hero. I lifted the name Malenfer from a French casualty list. He was a real soldier who died in World War I. Shamefully, my French is very poor. I thought it meant ‘bad fire’ (the deficiency was not in the education system but in the student who paid scant attention). It does not mean that at all. I was later to discover, rather creepily, that a literal translation of Malenfer might be ‘evil hell’ or something of that sort. A more appropriate name I couldn’t have made up.
What is the most interesting thing you have physically done for book related research purposes?
I walled up a sibling in a deserted ruined tower and drank wine till the cries finally dwindled. I had a terrible hangover the next day. I don’t recommend it. Or if you do try it, drink lots of water and take a couple of Tylenol afterwards.
Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? How do you deal with it?
Yes, I do. Sure. Not in a big way. I’ve never had one of those epic “never wrote a word in five years” writer’s blocks that lead to madness and end up in folklore (touch wood). I benefited from a bit of research into other writers’ habits and co-opted (stole) those habits that sounded good. I had a breakthrough when I went to setting goalposts for chapters. The writing immediately got easier. What is a goalpost? Well, for any of your readers that want to give it a try, you start the chapter knowing who is in it and where they are, and you set where they must get to by the end of maybe ten pages – who they need to meet, what information must be communicated, what hints or red herrings you need to drop, who needs to die a hideous death. J Then I set out to write it. This method allows a degree of structure but also the freedom to let things flow. It works for me.
Do you have any weird writing quirks or rituals?
Oh, certainly. They even sound weird to me, so goodness knows what others think of them. One I’ll tell you about is that I find it better to write if I have something on my head. You know how they put blinkers on race horses to keep them focused? It is likely something akin to that, but it isn’t about peripheral vision. I do well with something atop my head, perhaps to keep the pixie dust from escaping? A hat – sure – I’ve got a few different ones, but a towel works, or a pillow. The cat would work if it didn’t keep moving. I told you it sounded strange.
Do you write in different genres?
I’m going to cheat and answer a slightly different question. The whole genre thing is interesting. I set out to write a gothic novel. I pretty much knew what that was. What I did not know (stupid me) was that the publishing world today doesn’t accept gothic. I could be a mystery writer, or crime, or horror, or paranormal, or historical fiction, or romance, but I couldn’t be all at once. I mean, I get it – there are only so many book shelves in a store and you have to put it somewhere – but gothic co-opts them all. So I guess the answer is yes and no.
When did you consider yourself a writer?
You know, I don’t entirely think of myself as one even now, or if I am it’s a hyphenated title. I started writing as a creative endeavour. An expression of imagination. The invention was the hit. I have a different job that pays the bills and do other creative things too. What I find bizarre, after the publication of The Curse, is that this private writing world of mine is now shared with the rest of the world. I am now a writer to other people, but I haven’t caught up. It might take some time to get used to. It isn’t an entirely unpleasant experience.
What was the last amazing book you read?
Eeee. I’ve read a few. All over the map. I can recommend Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, although Oprah beat me to it. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline will have you skipping work or school for a day or two. For gothic, read Poe, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and the weird stuff of H.P. Lovecraft. That’s enough to mess up your head for a while. Was that more than one? My apologies.
What can readers expect next from you?
I plan to kill a few interesting people off on an island in rural Scotland. Don’t worry or be too alarmed, it took place about 80 years ago. There are rumours of demonic ritual, but the witnesses are strangely silent.
Where can readers find you on the web?
I have the obligatory author site – http://iainmcchesney.com – which should be relatively up to date. There are occasional giveaways, promos, and competitions. Facebook will let you like me (why not ‘ambiguous’ or ‘hate’?) at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Iain-Mcchesney/352793594851795. Drop by and say hello.
The Curse of Malenfer Manor
Genre: historical mystery / paranormal
Publisher: Wayzgoose Press
Date of Publication: October 1
Number of pages:
Word Count: 85,000
Cover Artist: DJ Rogers
Those in line to the Malenfer estate are succumbing to terrible ends –is a supernatural legacy at work, or something entirely more human?
Young Irish mercenary Dermot Ward retreats to Paris at the close of World War I where he drinks to forget his experiences, especially the death of his comrade, Arthur Malenfer. But Arthur has not forgotten Dermot. Dead but not departed, Arthur has unfinished business and needs the help of the living.
Upon his arrival at Malenfer Manor, Dermot finds himself embroiled in a mystery of murder, succession, and ambition. Dermot falls in love with the youngest Malenfer, the beautiful fey Simonne, but in his way are Simonne’s mismatched fiancé, her own connections to the spirit world, Dermot’s guilt over the circumstances of Arthur’s death… and the curse.
About the Author:
Iain is a writer of gothic mysteries.
He was born and raised in Scotland. He studied History and Geography at the University of Glasgow.
The World Wars left Iain’s family with generations of widows. As a result, Iain has always been interested in the tangible effects of history on family dynamics and in the power of narrative to awaken those long dead. For the characters in The Curse of Malenfer Manor, he drew on childhood reminiscences and verbal family history—though he hastens to add that his family had barely a penny, far less a manor, and any ghosts dwell only in memory.
He lives in Vancouver, Canada, with his wife and two children.
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