Gay, m/m, thriller, psychological thriller, mystery
Author: Dal Maclean www.dalmaclean.com
Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15408926.Dal_Maclean
Author Twitter: @MacleanDal – Dal Maclean
Author Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/people/Dal-Maclean/100010371585020
Author Insta: dalmaclean
Publisher One Block Empire (an imprint of Blind Eye Books) www.blindeyebooks.com
Publisher Twitter: @blindeyebooks
Publisher Insta: @blindeyebooks
Release date: May 22, 2018
Page count: 310
Q&A with Dianne and Dal Maclean
I recently had the pleasure of chatting with the gracious and clever Dal MacLean, author of Bitter Legacy, a 2017 Lambda Literary Award Finalist for Best Gay Mystery. Dal’s highly anticipated new novel, Object of Desire, is due out next week. Readers far and wide – including myself! – have raved over Dal’s brilliant work in Bitter Legacy. I have had the delight of reading Object of Desire and assure you I found it every bit as captivating, surprising, and stunning as Bitter Legacy. Read on to discover more about Dal, her writing process, her stories, and more! ~ Dianne
Welcome Dal! Would you give us some basic background on yourself? You were born in Scotland and currently reside there I believe. I’m wondering if you’ve spent time in London as Bitter Legacy and Object of Desire both feature London as a character in her own right.
I was born and grew up on a Scottish island (hence the glancing knowledge of Gaelic) but I’ve been all over the place. Including London – I’ve spent quite a bit of time there and it’s probably my favourite city anywhere. There are just so many aspects to it; it’s like a book character in its own right.
How long have you been writing? Object of Desire is your second published book, correct?
I’ve written for a long time for work (journalism) but I didn’t try writing creatively until I dabbled in fanfic. Then finally after much cajoling and browbeating I tried my hand at a book for publication. ‘Object of Desire’ is indeed my second published book.
It’s actually the third book I’ve written though using my own characters. My first was a ghost story that I thought in my innocence was also an MM romance but it doesn’t fit Romance structure. So strictly speaking I suppose I’ve written three books! That’s better than two. Oh well. I admit it. I’m not prolific. You may have noticed.
What went through your mind when you heard your debut novel, Bitter Legacy, had made it to the LAMBDA finals for Gay Mystery?
At first I think I was just stunned Bitter Legacy was up for any award at all. Truthfully, I don’t think I understood how prestigious the Lambdas are, until I saw other people’s reactions. ‘Very, very grateful’ sums it up.
Early in 2016 I saw accomplished author/editor Nicole Kimberling of Blind Eye Books promoting Bitter Legacy and that Josh Lanyon had written a rousing recommendation for the book. Based on those connections as well as the book synopsis, I immediately knew I NEEDED that book. How did you come to work with Nicole Kimberling and BEB?
Well (I hope you brought a packed lunch) I met Josh through my fanfic writing and she urged me to try writing for publication. And though it took me a while to do it, when I got started she was hugely generous as always and gave me brilliant advice all the way. One of the brilliant pieces of advice she gave me was to send the manuscript of BL (though it didn’t have that title then) to Nicole, as one of the best editors and writers out there, to get her advice. It wasn’t exactly a traditional MM romance after all—more a hybrid.
To my astonishment Nicole decided that she wanted to publish it, provided I was prepared to do a developmental edit. And since that was what I’d desperately wanted – to learn from a good editor who could show me what book writing was all about – I jumped at the chance. I never studied creative writing (my degree was in History) so everything Nicole could teach me about traditional Romance structures and tropes, and Mystery structures and tropes was invaluable.
Plus she really is brilliant fun to work with. I learned a lot through Bitter Legacy. It was a much more leisurely and stately process than Object of Desire.
Bitter Legacy and the upcoming Object of Desire are both meaty mystery/thrillers which feature complex characters. How did you choose to write mystery as a subgenre?
I think… it chose me really. As the ghost story will testify. :p I love reading and watching mysteries, so I find writing them can be great fun. Ironically I used to tell Josh when she was trying to persuade me to try writing original fiction, that while I could do emotion and character I wouldn’t be able to write a proper book because I couldn’t do plot. So its been a surprise to realize that I can produce some twisty stuff.
‘Object’ is actually a psychological thriller, as well as a mystery and a romance which I had no clue about until Nicole broke it to me. ‘Bitter Legacy’ is a police procedural. OOD is faster paced, not as slow build as BL. The core story plays out over a matter o days rather than months as in BL.I wanted to write OOD from the perspective of ‘the hunted’ rather than ‘the hunter’. I actually used one character that straddles both books, to try to point that up. He’s seen from the perspective of hindering the hunter in one book, and helping the hunted in the other. Did you notice?
What other subgenre would you be most likely to explore as a writer?
I love reading Fantasy and Historical, but they feel like much harder work. As it is, trying to marry my current two genres (Romance and Mystery) with something approaching equality, is tough enough.
I understand the research needed for historical is daunting, especially for someone as meticulous about it as you are. How about fantasy though, your rules would rule! There would merely be that “invent an entire world and keep it all sorted” stuff to deal with. LOL
Merely! Yeah. You think I’m not prolific now?
BL and OOD feature characters that, shall we say, experienced less than nurturing and wholesome childhoods. How did this aspect come about and in what ways in general does it help build intrigue and character depth?
In BL, the story almost hinges on that exact issue. The idea first came from a real life criminal case which made me think…what about the kids? In OOD it’s obviously far less extreme.
I want to try to give my characters logical and believable reasons to be as they are. But also to show that the adults they’ve become, were only partly created by childhood experience. Their own character traits also cause them to respond to things that happened in their pasts, in certain ways. They’re– part nature, part nurture.
I don’t think characters have to have had seriously dodgy childhoods to be flawed or insecure though. We all have things in our pasts that moulded us, and those may even seem quite trivial things to other people.
Continuing the characterization theme…you’ve written leading men in each book who exhibit behavior that is somewhat unconventional in romance and even venture into antihero territory. These characters are everything to me, as they are a huge force in keeping the reader guessing, conflicted, engaged and ultimately cheering as these characters evolve.
Its lovely to hear you say that! I do realize my main characters can be challenging as romance heroes in some ways and some readers may react less favourably to them because of that. But I personally prefer genuine character flaws in my heroes (as opposed to being ‘just too self sacrificial’) – both reading and writing. For me personally, that makes characters more 3D and real, and it makes the route to a happy ending more of a challenge. I hope my heroes still scrape under the wire to make it as Romance heroes by the end of each book though.
Your secondary characters are vivid, memorable and crucial. Something I find hugely important as a reader and I feel many authors miss the boat on. How much of yourself did you put into your characters? Are any of them based on real people?
Oh thank you! I haven’t based them on particular individuals, no, but maybe they’re composites of the people I’ve met. They seem become themselves as individuals and increasingly pushy as I write them. I’m not sure why. Two characters inspired by people I’ve met though were Magnus and James Henderson in Bitter Legacy – British public school (that’s fee-paying in the UK), stiff upper lip, essentially very honorable, emotionally inexperienced in James’ case; emotionally constipated in Magnus’.
Your books feature great detail about British Murder Investigation Teams, law enforcement in general, and legal issues. What kind of research do you do, and how much time do you devote to researching before and during the process of writing a book?
Too much. I research a lot. Everything. Things that don’t matter, like the furnishings in a particular pub. I can take months doing it, which doesn’t help my productivity at all. And timelines – I do timelines for the story, and before the story, for any character that looks at me the wrong way. I’m incredibly anal about it. Which is why I don’t dare to try a seriously research-heavy genre like Historical.
Object of Desire takes place in the same “world” as Bitter Legacy – readers will be pleased to get some glimpses of familiar characters. However, OOD is not really a spinoff of any characters we met in BL. Why choose to create new characters and not pick a secondary from BL to flesh out? What led to you deciding for your protagonist, Tom, to be a professional model?
Well at first BL was intended as a standalone and it was structured that way. But the response to James In particular as a character, made me wonder if I should write more with him as the central figure. If it had been a mystery book alone, I think I’d probably have gone that way. But these are romances too, and truthfully I put Jamie and Ben through so much in the course of Bitter Legacy, and Ben in particular was so vulnerable, that I don’t think I could challenge their relationship again in any serious way in a full length book and have their happy ever after be believable. Yet I needed some romantic challenge in book 2.
I’d read a couple of things that intrigued me – the peculiar position and psychology of male modeling (as opposed to female modeling) and an article by the victim of psychological manipulation. I considered one of Ben’s circle in BL as the main character, but I knew I needed someone… remarkable. Someone out of the ordinary, hence Tom Gray. Who I now love to bits by the way, awkward, stubborn sod that he is.
Readers love codas. You gave us a Christmas coda as a follow up to Bitter Legacy. Will you be granting us more from either book?
In future yes, I’d love to. I’m trying to plan out book three though and I think it’ll take place quite soon after ‘Object’. So I’m having to hold back on codas for now in case I fall over my own plot.
If not codas, maybe consider taking a scene from BL or OOD where we only got one character’s POV, and write a coda featuring the other main character’s POV?
Funnily enough someone told me they’d seen speculation that Book 3 might be exactly that…. OOD but from Wills POV and I was horrified! LOL
I think the reason I love tight third and its close friend unreliable narration so much is because they’re close to…real life? We can’t see into other peoples’ minds to understand what they really think or feel or why they’ve done something, so we all judge other people’s behavior and feelings through the prisms of our own insecurities and experiences.
I feel sometimes like dual POV is sort of cheating?? Giving the reader the easy way out. Though as a reader I admit there are times easy’s lovely! :p But let’s face it, it takes away the challenge and uncertainty and tension if you KNOW both characters are feeling the same and struggling too so it’s just a matter of getting over any misunderstandings.
So I’d find it hard to do that because it kind of strips away any mystery or ambiguity left in my books and you know I live for mystery and ambiguity.
What are your plans for future projects?
Ha. See immediately above. I’m plotting out book 3 in the BL universe, which as of now will feature Will Foster from OOD as the main character. So it’ll be back to the hunter’s POV, as in Bitter Legacy.
I love that we’ll get to see more of Will in action. Are you able to say if we’ll see James popping up in this third book again, and if so, how prominently?
At the moment that’s the plan – to give Jamie quite a prominent role. But I’m hoping it’s going to emerge very much Will’s book
Who are some of your favorite authors and in what aspects have they been influential in your writing?
In mystery, I admire Agatha Christie for all kinds of reasons, not least because she was always ready unexpectedly, to make her culprit the person the reader didn’t want it to be, as opposed to an easy option, leaving the reader with no emotional price to pay. I also love that she gave her heroes and heroines real flaws. I think in those aspects – her willingness to do difficult things with her characters and plots for the good of the book – I think that edge of unpredictability has kept her work relevant decades on.
I think something similar could be said of Jane Austen. Her heroines and heroes are still compelling because they’re flawed and vulnerable and make huge mistakes. They’re 3D and recognizably human, across centuries and now-largely-alien cultural values.
Otherwise, in romance, I suspect that fanfic has influenced me more than modern M/F books. Fanfic is definitely more red in tooth and claw emotionally. I’m not sure why. That fanfic inheritance could be why I’ve been told I still don’t really write Romance per se (sniff). Maybe I write a hybrid kind of Mystery/Romance thing that could be a less comfortable read? I saw a lady on twitter describe BL as having ‘fanfic levels of angst’ and I think she was onto something. 😀
I have to ask for myself and for a large amount of fellow readers: any plans for Bitter Legacy to be produced in audio form?
I very much want it to be. I want both books to be. But at this stage I’m not quite sure how to make it happen. I’ll keep trying though, I promise.
Just for fun questions:
Is it true you sing along with dirges? It’s all I do in my spare time.
What is something you never leave home without? Clothes
Loki or Thor? Loki probably, though he’s an annoying bastard. There I go with the flawed characters again.
Who among your characters do you see yourself being besties with? Argh… After every book I write, I end up in love with my main characters. At the moment its Tom and Will. But, though dare I say, if we’re talking besties to gossip and get pissed with – maybe Steggie from Bitter Legacy? Do I detect hisses of outrage?
Steggie huh? Actually I can see the appeal… to a point!
Aw – he was lovely. Up to a point. 😀 Seriously you’re quite rare as a BL reader. So many people hated my guts over Steggie. They far preferred him to Ben because what Ben did was harder to forgive to many romance readers. (True story!)
Maybe *Pez then. A lot more edge/bitchiness than Stegs, but still – fun to go on the tear with.
*Note to readers: Pez appears in OOD!
Are you at liberty to reveal the present location of Dal Carrington Colby Dexter?
Liberty is the operative word. I have grave tidings from Equatorial Guinea. DCCD has taken cunning advantage of the absence of her ineffectual carer (that’s me) and engineered yet another breakout from her padded cell using a lion, several tons of jewel encrusted high explosive and an egg spoon. She is once again pursuing her plans for galactic domination, beginning with the immediate overthrow of the mighty Lanyon Empire. So. I’ll just dig out the dart gun and the butterfly net. Again.
DCCD is on the loose?!! What type of ruse could we devise to best draw her in?
Diamonds usually work. They work for me too. Just saying.
Blurb: Tom Gray is one of the world’s top models–an effortless object of desire. Self-contained, elusive and always in control, he’s accustomed to living life entirely on his own terms. But when Tom comes under suspicion in the gory death of his employer, his world spirals into chaos.
Someone’s framing him. Someone’s stalking him. And as old secrets come to light, Tom finds his adversary always one step ahead.
Will Foster is the only man Tom trusts to help. But Tom brutally burned all bridges between them two years before, and Will paid a bitter price. If he wants to survive, Tom must prove his innocence to Will–and to the world.
Praise for Object of Desire
“Another twisty, densely plotted, utterly satisfying thriller/romance. Highly recommended.” Elin Gregory, author of Eleventh Hour
Praise for Dal Maclean’s debut novel, Bitter Legacy.
“This is a superbly plotted crime novel where the romance is cleverly integrated rather than an obvious add-on and both elements have equal importance and are written with equal intensity. I could hardly put the book down… I award it my highest recommendation…” Desert Island Keeper, BJ Jansen, All About Romance
Bio: Dal Maclean comes from Scotland. Her background is in journalism, and she has an undying passion for history, the more gossipy and scandalous the better. Dal has lived in Asia and worked all over the world, but home is now the UK. She dislikes the Tragic Gay trope, but loves imperfect characters and genuine emotional conflict in romantic fiction. As an author, and a reader, she believes it’s worth a bit of work to reach a happy ending. Agatha Christie, English gardens and ill-advised cocktails are three fatal weaknesses, though not usually at the same time.
Her first book, “Bitter Legacy”, was a 2017 Lambda Literary Award Finalist for best Gay Mystery and was chosen by the American Libraries Association for their 2018 Over The Rainbow Recommended Books List.