My guest today is Russian author, Margaret Mal. She’s penned thirteen novels, although (and unfortunately for many of my readers), only her latest release, Crimson Hills, is written in English.
IDI – Good morning Margaret, thank you for joining me today.
Tell us a little about the books you’ve written.
MM – I’ve written 13 novels. The newest one, Crimson Hills, is in English; the others are in Russian. I’ve published 7 detective novels in Russia. But Crimson Hills is not a mystery. It’s an adventure dystopia about a few people who are so obsessive about their fate and future that they decide to make a really dangerous journey, which can give them all the necessary answers. I’ve self-published this novel through Kindle.
IDI – When did you realize you were born to be a writer?
MM – When I was 16, I wrote my first detective novel (this novel, by the way, 11 years later was published by the biggest Russian publishing house). Before that, I’d had several attempts to write a book, but none of them had ended. So when I finished that book, I told myself “Wow, I can do it!” That’s when I totally knew. However, some acquaintances of my family told them I was going to be a writer even earlier, when I was a little child, because of my ability to rhyme. I created my first poem when I was 5 or 6 years old. I couldn’t write then; thus, my granny wrote it down.
IDI – I hope she hung on to them!
Think back to the first book you wrote and then think to the last one you wrote. In what ways have you grown as a writer?
MM – At the age of 16, I was less wise, less smart, less tolerant and less experienced than I am at the moment. And these are the things you need to use while writing a novel. So I guess now I can write a little bit more qualitative books.
IDI – How long does it usually take you to write a book from the initial spark of an idea to the finished product?
MM – Between the spark and the start of the writing process there can be a really long time; it varies. I can tell that it takes me roughly 2 months to write the whole book, from the first word to the last one, if the idea is totally thought-out. However, this time frame only works for me when I have nothing else to do. Unfortunately, you can’t just write books and enjoy your life; very few people can do that. The most of authors are paid so badly for their writing that they have to work somewhere else. And when you have a full-time job, you can’t give enough attention to your books. That’s why the most of my books took a year to write each.
IDI – Give us a rundown of your writing process.
MM – What works for me, first of all, is silence; second of all, is music. Hard to unite those two, huh? 🙂 Well, silence is above all. When you write a scene, you have to merge yourself into this atmosphere. It’s hard, and every extraneous noises make it even harder. As to music, I use it when I can’t put myself in the right mood. For example, when I have to write a scary scene, I open my playlist and listen to some creepy music, like soundtracks from horror movies, etc.
IDI – You’ve said that due to the low earnings, like yourself most writers have to work outside jobs. What do you do for a living?
MM – I tried many jobs. I was a social worker, an accountant, a manager, a journalist, etc. Now I’m trying myself as a screenwriter. I’ve made a few episodes for a Russian TV-show Trace (something similar to American C.S.I.).
IDI – Who is your favorite author, and why?
MM – Being Russian, I’ll pick Mikhail Lermontov. I adore his poetry, and I adore his novel A Hero of Our Time. It’s deep, it has so many levels, you can reread it twelve times and never get bored. He was a great writer with such a horrible fate. As regards non-Russian writers, I choose Oscar Wilde and John Fowles. I love the way they drew their characters.
IDI – We all draw from within. How much of ‘Margaret’ will a reader find in one of your books?
MM – Much, very much. As to Crimson Hills, there are some characters (may I conceal which ones?) whose all thoughts, fears, and moral values were taken from myself. But the whole story and characters’ biographies are, certainly, just a fiction.
IDI – What is the hardest or most frustrating aspect of writing: ideas, getting started, writer’s block, editing?
MM – The last one. As English is my second language, it’s really hard for me to edit my books. I can check every sentence carefully and be still not sure if everything is fine and understandable.
IDI – I can see where that would be an issue.
What do you do when you’re not writing?
MM – I love to travel. I’ve been to France (twice), Spain, Germany, Czech Republic, Belgium, Poland, Belarus. My dream is to see the whole world! Beside traveling, I like to study and to learn. I already have two degrees (Economics and Journalism), and I’m not sure if I’m ready to stop, lol. Also, I’m into self-education. I enjoy learning something new.
IDI – Is there something you can’t live without?
MM – Chocolate! Muffins! Pies! Green tea! These are the most important things in life! (Kidding. Well… Ok, not kidding, it’s all true.)
IDI – Define a great book.
MM – There are books dedicated to entertainment. There are books that make readers think; it is clever books for intellectual process. Both are good. Well, I think that a great book is the one which contains both funny stuff and intellectual stuff. It’s certainly the most difficult to write. That’s why it is worth readers’ attention the most. In Crimson Hills I tried to combine action and philosophic, romance and religion, laugh and social drama. I don’t know if I achieved this goal; it’s up to my readers.
IDI – In the end, it’s always up to the readers. It was a pleasure talking with you Margaret and I wish you the best of luck with your writing. Hopefully, we’ll be seeing future books released in English as well.
About the author – Margaret Mal was born in Russia. Her Russian pen name is Margarita Malinina. Crimson Hills is her first book in English (dystopia). You can find it HERE. You can find Margaret on Instagram or Facebook.