INTERVIEW – In Conversation With Michael Marshall (Author)

By Marty Mulrooney


Michael Marshall (also known as Michael Marshall Smith) is a British novelist, screenwriter and short story writer, currently living in London, UK. His groundbreaking first novel, the science fiction thriller Only Forward, won the Philip K. Dick and August Derleth awards, as well as much critical acclaim. He built on this success with two more sci-fi novels that soon followed, Spares and One Of Us, before switching genre and his writing name with the release of The Straw Men (as Michael Marshall.)

This was my first introduction to Michael’s work, and one I shall likely never forget. I was 15 years old, reading a book about child kidnappings, murder and secret societies deep in the heart of America, the summer light fading fast as I lost track of time. No doubt some extremists, who likely think the Harry Potter books promote witchcraft in children, would have balked at this series of events. Still, I was totally enthralled and I have read every book Michael Marshall has published since.

He has a strange power to take real life and twist it totally on its head, whilst still retaining a strong sense of reality. If you have never read Michael’s work, I urge you now, go and grab one of his books. His earlier sci-fi works such as Only Forward, or the later reality-based endeavours such as The Straw Men (my personal favourite) all offer a great place to start. It’s the type of storytelling that grips the reader and won’t let go, and you will not be disappointed. His fans can certainly attest to this already. So now, without further ado, it is an absolute privilege and a pleasure to be able to say that Michael Marshall (Smith) has taken some time out of his busy schedule to talk to us here today at Alternative Magazine Online…

Hi! Thank you for your time. Can you tell our readers a bit about yourself and your background?

Hi to you too! Well, I’m Michael Marshall, Michael Marshall Smith or even M. M. Smith. I’m a writer of thrillers, science fiction or horror, depending on who you talk to — also a husband, father, and sitting-place for cats. I’ve been a professional writer for about fifteen years now. Prior to that I had jobs as a graphic designer, corporate film festival organizer, and doing comedy for BBC radio. I’ve got a degree in Philosophy and Social and Political Science from Cambridge, attended school in Essex, and spent my childhood in the US, South Africa and Australia.

Had you always wanted to be a writer? Or was it more of a natural progression?

Looking back, it was probably a natural progression, though I didn’t realise it at the time. My mother taught me to read very early, and so I can’t remember a period when I wasn’t carrying a book around. I wrote a couple of short and derivative pieces of fiction in my early teens, but didn’t think much of it. The real impetus came when I was on a theatre tour with the Cambridge Footlights after college. I did a deal with a friend of mine that I’d read a certain Stephen King book if he’d read a Kingsley Amis novel which I’d been badgering him to try (LUCKY JIM, still one of my very favourite books). The King (and Straub) book I read was THE TALISMAN, and it threw a switch in my head. I spent the rest of the tour reading every King book I could lay my hands on — and there were a lot, as the Bachman books had also just come out — and by the end of it had started my first short story, THE MAN WHO DREW CATS. The tour ended with a three-week stint at the Edinburgh Fringe, and it was while wandering around there during the day that I happened to see a chalk artist working on a picture of a tiger, and the story just dropped into my head. I had been intending up until that stage to be an academic, and actually had a place to do a PhD, but (largely as a result of spending too much time on stage with the Footlights) only got a 2:1 rather than the First I needed to easily secure the grant. I decided to get a day job instead of chasing down other finance, and carry on writing. And it went on from there…

You certainly travelled plenty as a child! Florida, South Africa, Australia… why was this? I am sure it must have shaped your writing in numerous ways.

We travelled so much because my father was an academic. He couldn’t get a post in the UK at the time, and so when I was one year old the family moved to Illinois. After a couple of years there we moved down to Florida, and then when I was seven they upped sticks and we spent a year in South Africa, and then nine months in Australia, before finally making it back to the UK, by which point my father had been offered a professorship at a London University. It was a great childhood, for which I’m very grateful. It’s been pointed out to me more than once that my books usually feature outsiders — people who look at the world, or a local community, from without, and who are semi-constantly on the move — and it seems likely that this is a legacy of moving around so much as a child. It doesn’t feel as if I don’t have a home, however, more as if I feel equally at home anywhere. I love my house, but once I’ve been away from home for about 36 hours, you could ship my wife, child and cats to me and I’d never look back.

MMS2_colourWhat prompted the move back to the UK? I know you now live in London, although your blog hints that your travels are far from over.

The move back to the UK was predicated on my father’s new job, and also my parents’ view that England would be a good place for my sister and I to live out our teenage years. We spent a lot of those years as a family travelling to other places, however, and in some ways the UK thing never really ‘took’. In all the time we lived away, the UK was presented as ‘home’ — it was only when I reached my twenties that I realised it didn’t always feel that way. But I’ve lived in London now for twenty years, and I like it here very much. I do get itchy feet, however — after a few years in the same spot I always find myself wanting to see something new. I travel as much as I can, especially to the US. A lot of my earliest childhood references — smells, tastes, television programs — are rooted there, and stepping out of the doors of an American airport always feels a bit like coming home.

You won the British Fantasy Award in 1991 for "Best Short Story." Was this when you knew you could have a career as an author?

Well, winning a single award does not a career make (or actually, now I think about it, two awards, as I was fortunate enough to get Best Newcomer for that story too).  I understood the book world well enough by that point to realise that very, very few people make careers out of short stories, so while it was a (wholly unexpected, and slightly bewildering) boost to my confidence, I knew there was a lot more to do.

Many more awards followed. This must boost the confidence of any author… what new doors did these accolades open?

The door of confidence, basically. When I won the awards in 1991 I was about two thirds of the way through writing my first novel. Full of beans after the awards, I  took the advice of my friend and mentor Nicholas Royle about which publishers might be good to send stuff to, bundled up some short stories, and dispatched a letter off to a lady called Jane Johnson at HarperCollins, asking if they’d be interested in publishing a collection of my stories. She wrote back politely pointing out that collections by unknown authors are hardly a publisher’s dream project, but saying she’d like to see a novel when I finished one. So I finished it, and sent it to her. She accepted it. Fifteen years later, she’s still my editor. I know this is annoyingly fortunate, but trust me, I’ve paid for it since.

OnlyForwardCoverSo you started off as Michael Marshall Smith (Only Forward, your debut novel in 1994, won the Philip K Dick Award in 2000). Later, The Straw Men was published under Michael Marshall, a shift in tone and name that seems to have continued ever since. Recently, your book The Servants was published as M.M.Smith and I know in the past you wrote for BBC4 as Michael Rutger. Why all the name changes?

Yi yi yi. The whole name change thing — how long have you got? Basically, this is what happened…

I initially wrote a lot of short stories as Michael Marshall Smith — most of which were kinda-horror, or at least unsettling dark fiction. No-one was more surprised than me when my first novel turned out to be kinda-science fiction. The next two books were that way too, though I continued to write a lot of the kinda-horror short stories on the side. I’d long nursed an intellectual interest in serial killers, and so then wrote THE STRAW MEN to explore the ideas I had. I decided to set this in the present day for a number of reasons, not least that I wanted to try to deal with the phenomenon fairly seriously, and so didn’t want the distancing effect that setting something in the future can have. I also dropped a lot of the comedy and zane which I’d previously been using, as it didn’t feel appropriate to the subject matter. It didn’t occur to me this would be a problem, because — apart from those two changes — I felt I was writing exactly the same kind of thing as before.

My publishers, however — and in particular my US publishers — disagreed. They felt that suddenly switching to present day crime thriller would confuse the hell out of people. There was also a weird co-incidence at the time, in that an author called Martin J. Smith had just brought out a book called something like STRAW MAN. And so it was suggested that my new book come out under the altered name of Michael Marshall. I eventually agreed, though looking back, I’m not sure it was the right thing to do. Be that as it may, THE STRAW MEN and the books that came after it were a *lot* more commercially successful than the sci-fi novels had been, and I also found that I was most interested for the time being in pursuing novels set in the present day… and so that’s what I’ve done. I’ve now had five Michael Marshall novels published, as against three as Michael Marshall Smith, so there’s an argument that’s where the bulk of my career actually lies. Though a lot of people still think of me as Michael Marshall Smith, and remain perplexed that I persist with this crime thriller stuff…

Then, just to complicate matters further, I wrote a short novel THE SERVANTS, which didn’t fit into Michael Marshall’s oeuvre at all. I initially wrote the novel for Earthling Publications, a small press, but then it was bought by my mass market publishers too. My UK publishers decided to publish it under a new name, M. M. Smith, to avoid confusion. Looking back, I think this was a really, really dumb idea. Meanwhile, my US publishers playfully put it out under Michael Marshall Smith, just to mix it up a little. Add all this to the fact that one of the Michael Marshall novels came out under two different titles (THE LONELY DEAD in the UK, and THE UPRIGHT MAN in the US), and you can see I’ve got a real nomenclature problem.

It is something I’m intending to sort out very, very soon.

Does having two, often separate fan bases, feel constraining or liberating as a writer?

I love the people who can straddle both sides of what I do, because that’s what I do myself — never really seeing too much difference between the types of material I write. I’m very proud of the earlier books, perhaps especially ONLY FORWARD, but it can be a little draining to be confronted with people who dismiss the last decade of your creative life and really only want you to go back to writing sci-fi again. On the other hand, I know in my heart of hearts that I did some of my most imaginative work in that genre, and I get frustrated sometimes at being stuck in the more consensual realities of my recent work. It’s my own bloody fault. I should pick a lane and stick to it. Just never been very good at that.

TheStrawMenCoverIt’s strange, because I started reading your work when I was 15, starting with The Straw Men, only later reading your earlier books as Smith. The shift in tone is immense! I am personally glad though that you didn’t just ‘pick a lane and stick to it’ as I really enjoy the diversity each style offers. Still, do you think you will ever write again as Smith, or within the sci-fi genre?

I will definitely write again as Smith. I’ve never stopped doing so, in a quiet way — I recently finished a couple of short stories as Michael Marshall Smith: but these are in the kinda-horror genre, which even some of the people who like the Michael Marshall Smith novels aren’t really aware of, or fans of. I really seem to have gone out of my way to fracture my reader base into as many shards as possible…

I’m also developing two television series as Michael Marshall Smith right now. I think I’m coming to a bit of a watershed in my career, and the name distinction is part of that. I very much enjoy writing thrillers, but I’d also like the freedom to return to the more conceptually free-wheeling stuff. The current book market doesn’t really support that kind of variety under one name, and so over the next couple of years I’m going to take steps to concretize the split, in order to be able to bring Michael Marshall Smith out of retirement as a novelist. I’m not sure this will necessarily be sci-fi, but will perhaps instead be a kind of modern fantasy offering a similar freedom.

Can we continue interviewing you today as Michael Marshall then, and perhaps at a later date interview you as Michael Marshall Smith?

Hell yes. Whatever works for you.

Thanks! The reason I picked up the Straw Men in the first place was because of the Stephen King quote on the back:

"Brilliantly written, and scary as hell. A masterpiece."

I remember thinking, if it scared HIM, it must be good! How does something like that happen, and how did it make you feel when you found out?

I’m not going to forget that moment in a hurry. Well, basically a copy of the proof of THE STRAW MEN was conveyed to Stephen King’s office, with a request that he consider reading it. This kind of thing happens all the time — I receive 10-15 books a year that way too, and I’m the tiniest of small-fry compared to him. Remarkably, he did read it, and even more remarkably, he said what he did about it. Given that I wouldn’t even *be* a novelist without King, you can imagine the effect it had when my New York agent called me one evening to tell me what King had said. I had to call my agent back immediately, as I simply didn’t believe it. In the end he had to forward me King’s email before I trusted it had happened.

The only thing that really comes close is a beautiful email Ray Bradbury sent me after I’d done the introduction to a bespoke re-issue of one of his story collections. It’s moments like that which keep you going through the long dark hours staring at the Blinking Cursor of Doom, and the Blank Page of Infinity. That, plus someone just coming up to you somewhere and saying they like what you do.

My personal collection of hardback Michael Marshall Novels (Including a signed copy of The Intruders)

Another Straw Men related question now. Was the first book always planned as the first in a trilogy? I remember the ending could have gone either way.

Well, it’s a funny thing. The first draft of THE STRAW MEN was quite different from the one that was eventually published. I had originally intended the book to have something of a dark modern fantasy feel about it. It didn’t really work, however, so I did a big re-write, moving it more firmly to consensual reality. At the time, I just saw it as a one-off. It was only as I was editing the book that I realised I didn’t want to leave the characters behind yet… and started thinking about a follow-up. From that point on, I started to conceive of it as a kinda-trilogy.

The following is an excerpt from The Straw Men, featuring John Zandt:

"He could see the waiter, standing behind the counter in the next section of the bar, pouring out his beer. It was a Budweiser.

Same as he’d had last time. That was to be expected. The previous waiter would have left a chit showing how much he owed, what he had been served so far.

An indication of what he wanted, in other words.

Of what his preferences were.

When the waiter arrived with the beer, he found an empty seat and a ten-dollar bill."

John Zandt is perhaps my favourite of all of your characters, and I felt this small section really drove home the essence of what he had become. Do you think society as a whole can relate to some of the paranoia your characters display? The Straw Men, The Upright Man, The Intruders… non of these entities seems that far fetched if you take a quick glance at what people believe on the internet!

I really enjoyed writing John Zandt — he and Bobby in the same book (who I’ve taken an ASTONISHING amount of flak for killing off ) are two of my favorites . I do think that part of the appeal of the STRAW MEN books was the way they were rooted in paranoia, and I don’t believe that the ideas in those books — or in THE INTRUDERS — are actually *too* far fetched. It’s a problem I have, though — I tend to believe what it pleases me to believe, or what I’d like to be true, rather than what’s actually likely to be the case. But I suspect I’m not too different to everyone else. Science can rant on all it likes about lack of double-blind control experimental evidence, but people believe in ghosts. That’s that. And you know what? They may be right, too.

The other side of this is that I find it quite disturbing what people evidently are prepared to believe, judging by the internet. It’s one thing to enjoy playing with ideas, mixing reality around like a DJ. But there’s an awful lot of basic ignorance and prejudice out there, too, and a huge tendency toward ill-informed knee-jerk reactions. The lack of mediation on the Internet is, in many ways, a very liberating thing… but sometimes reality, and people, need mediation. And lots of it.

TheLonelyDeadCoverThe Lonely Dead brought some elements to the table that were more imaginative, such as bigfoot and indeed ghosts as you just mentioned. Was this to tie in to another theme present in your novels, that the world we live in is in so many ways illusive and secretive to the masses?

I just think we live in such a weird and interesting world, and one of the most challenging and fun things to do as a writer is to try to pull some of the strange ideas out there into line with reality, to bring oddness into the fold. It occurred to me that Bigfoot and allied creatures might be remnants of Neanderthal populations, and then how they might still be protecting their communities within the Homo Sapiens world, and from there the ideas started melding with the Straw Men and their conspiracy… Everyone I know has some off-kilter belief, from believing in ghosts to astrology to superstitions to thinking they’ve known who was about to call before the phone rang. We believe in this stuff, and some of it may even be true. So let’s say it is, and see what happens to the world we’re describing as a result.

THE LONELY DEAD ended up being the least commercially successful of the STRAW MEN books, probably because of this broadening of what’s considered ‘natural’. A lot of thriller readers, it appeared, didn’t want reality broadened. That’s fine, but I do  — which is why I went on to write THE INTRUDERS and BAD THINGS, where I take this style of thing a few steps further. It remains to be seen whether this is a popular route… but I believe I owe it to my readers to keep myself excited and engaged, or else the books will start to feel dusty and repetitive. Of course, I understand that it annoys the crap out of some people that I won’t just stick to one thing, too. It’s how I roll, sadly. My life would be a lot easier if it wasn’t.

BloodOfAngelsCoverBlood Of Angels ended the trilogy, but there are still many unanswered questions. Do you think the impact of these unanswered questions is more effective if the story is not continued? Or can you see yourself revisiting Nina, Ward and perhaps even John Zandt again in the future?

Both are true. So long as a novel is resolved emotionally, I have no problem with lingering questions with regard to story. That’s how real life works, after all: at no point in anyone’s existence is the whole thing tied up with a bow, confined to an instant of narrative stability. It is also possible, however, that I may return to the world of the Straw Men at some point. I enjoyed writing those books, and loved spending time with those characters.

Is it safe to say that your latest novels The Intruders and Bad Things are based within the same creative universe as The Straw Men trilogy? I noticed several hints along the way, as well as noting that all your Michael Marshall novels are in 3 parts.

Both THE INTRUDERS and BAD THINGS contain small references to events that happened in THE STRAW MEN books. There’s no reason why all these events shouldn’t be happening in the same world — so long as you’re prepared to have a lot of ontological leaking around the sides. I guess there becomes a question of credibility somewhere along the line, though: “So… this is a world in which not only is there a ten-thousand year conspiracy of serial killers, but also a much *older* conspiracy of [spoiler deleted!] and also a bunch of [more spoilers deleted!] running around the woods? This is one crazy, fucked-up world, dude.” It wouldn’t bother me, but it might some people — so I didn’t make the joins too explicit.

The three part thing is simple — I just find the stories fold out that way. With the exception of THE SERVANTS, *every* novel I’ve written has been in three parts. There’s something very resonant about that structure, which is probably why it’s used as the template for most screenplays, too — not to mention a lot of jokes (thing happens; thing happens again; then there’s an unexpected subversion). But I think it’s probably even more fundamental than that, a code that’s hot-wired into the human brain’s modes of perception. I noticed when my son was very young that the first time something new happened, he’d be very cautious of it. The second time, less so — and then on the third occasion he’d enjoy it. The mind just works that way, I think (surprise, accommodation, enjoyment) which is why the 1-2-3 structure works so well in storytelling, too. It’s how we incorporate the world into our minds.


Cool! I also really liked how Jack Whalen (The Intruders) refers to The God Of Bad Things, leading on to your next book… was this something you had planned in advance? Or just a link that made sense?

That was just one of those things that just occur to you as you’re writing. I like there to be links between the books, and between the ideas at their core. When I came up with Jack Whalen’s idea of the God of Bad Things, it stuck in the back of my head, and doubtless was one of the inspirations for the next novel (which I actually wanted to call THE GOD OF BAD THINGS, but settled for BAD THINGS in the end), though not in a deterministic way. I’d love to be that organized about my creative life… but I’m not. No book is an island, and ideas flow from one project to the next like blood in water.

Many of your stories feature children. Is it difficult to write from their point of view? The Servants is notable in this case, as the main character is an 11 year old boy.

It’s not especially difficult to write from a child’s point of view, though of course you have to be aware that you’re doing it through the filter of adulthood. I tried to be true to the child-like mind, but I’d be very surprised if I’d got it absolutely right, and the mental processes I presented weren’t pretty compromised by adult editorializing. But that’s okay with me: these are characters in an adult novel, after all. I also believe that there remains a very, very strong grain of child-ness in every adult: however hard to try to present as grown-ups, the core emotional responses don’t change — and capturing that is, I believe, essential to describing credible people.

TheServantsCoverTHE SERVANTS was different, in that it was seen through the perspective of an 11 year old, and the reality of the world had to be shaped by this. So I hope that I got him more-or-less right.

Talking of point of views, you often switch between 1st and 3rd person, rather than just sticking to one viewpoint, as many other authors do. Why is this, and what are the benefits of either perspective?

Up until THE STRAW MEN, I’d done my novels in the first person — and a lot of my short stories had been framed that way too. The first person perspective is great for writing in a very open, frank way, and for revealing (and sometimes obfuscating) character. It’s a very vibrant, personal method of telling a story. Then when I was starting THE STRAW MEN I suddenly found myself introducing a third person voice, too. It felt a bit odd —it’s not a common way of writing books — but it does have the advantage of allowing you to skip out of the first person voice, both to introduce other characters which are unknown to the hero, to easily switch to other geographical locations (or even time periods, and moods) and also to deploy a ‘God POV’ if you fancy it. There are strengths and limitations to both approaches, and so I rather cavalierly decided to work around this… by using both. That’s the great thing about writing prose. So long as you bring the reader along with you, you can do what the hell you like.

Over time, I’ve become very comfortable working this way — though right at the moment, I’m toying with the idea of challenging myself by working in another. Too much freedom can be limiting, paradoxically.

How do you write such authentic American-based narratives? Are the street names and buildings you describe always accurate, or do you take artistic license? Every bar and sidewalk feels like somewhere you have actually been. The Servants was a pleasant surprise, being based entirely in Brighton in the UK, rather than the US.

The American narratives are a combination. Sometimes I *have* been in a bar just like that, or walked the very sidewalk I’m describing. Before writing THE INTRUDERS I spent a week in Seattle by myself, walking randomly around from eight in the morning until six at night, in near-constant movement — hitting the streets always seems to me to be the best way to get to know a place. I’ve just done the same in New York. But I make up a lot of stuff too, to be honest. The small towns in which some parts of the books are set are often amalgams, a bit taken from one place, another from another, and a lot of it just completely made up. Geography and place is very important to me. I think you have to really feel the environment in which a story is set, that it should effectively function as another character. I try not to write about a place until I can see it so clearly in my head that I could draw a map — even if the place never actually existed anywhere but in my own head.

Brighton is somewhere I know well, as my wife and I have had an apartment there for the last decade. It was a very pleasant change to be setting somewhere in a real locale, and which I could just go visit if I wanted, to check details. Setting novels in the deep dark heart of America — when I’m sitting in a study in North London — can feel like making things needlessly difficult for yourself. For some reason, however, all my novel ideas come to me pre-set in the US. Ain’t nothing I can do about it.

You are also a screenwriter. Is it easy to move from one form of writing to the other?

There’s that old joke about England and America being two countries divided by a common language, and the prose/screenplay distinction is similar. It seems like there shouldn’t be that big a difference — they’re both about plot, dialogue and description, after all, and involve a lot of typing — but actually it’s huge. The key difference, of course, is that screenplay should be largely about *showing* people things, rather than *telling* them. But I’ve found that spending some time writing screenplays has been very helpful both in keeping me concise in description when it comes to prose, and also encouraging me to let my character sometimes simply act, and do things, rather than forever editorializing about their internal workings.

I could probably stand to do that a little more, in fact, as could a lot of other prose writers. We just go on and on, sometimes.

MMS3_colourMac or PC? Do you write with any particular software, or just simple word-processing programs?

I am a long-term and near-fundamentalist Mac-user. I started on PCs back in the days of DOS but migrated to Macs as soon as I had the chance — back on System 4.6, when things like Word and Quark and Photoshop didn’t have a number after them, or even exist, in some cases — and now I just won’t deal with any other system. There’s enough unhappiness in the world without tangling with Windows on a day-to-day basis.

I basically use two pieces of software. I deploy something called Scrivener for planning and note-keeping — it’s a stunning piece of software for those purposes, the best thing I’ve ever seen to supporting a writer in the process. I could use it for the actual prose-writing too — and in fact recently wrote a short story in it, as an experiment — but I find that when it comes to novels, I still want to use Word. Word does far more than I need in some ways, and not enough in others (my copy won’t keep an accurate word count at the moment, for example)  but it’s just a psychological thing with me. When I’m writing a novel, I don’t like being too planned, or having too many notes. It actually mitigates against creativity for me: I become tangled in the planning, and even though I can choose to hide everything but the current page, just knowing that the notes are there in the document clouds my mind. There’s something about the purity of having a single word-processing page to fill that drives me forward.

So that’s what I try to do when it comes to actually writing a novel. I open a new Word document and try to fill it with words that make some kind of sense. I can’t defend the above as a mental process — it’s just the way it works with me.

I always read on your book jackets that some of your work has been optioned by major Hollywood studios. Will this ever come to fruition? Would you want to lend a hand in things, or distance yourself from it all?

There have been quite a few options over the years. DreamWorks optioned SPARES for a while, and Warner Brothers had ONE OF US. A number of scripts were produced for both projects, but neither got any further. With DreamWorks I had no involvement apart from eventually being shown the (dreadful) scripts; with Warner Brothers I was involved in giving notes. It’s a tricky process. You think you want to be involved, to ‘protect’ your novel, but I’ve done enough adaptation myself to know that turning a book into a movie is a difficult and sometimes brutal process, and the last thing you need is the original author’s preconceptions cluttering up the place. The reality of the system is that for a script to stand any chance of being made, it has to stand up as a screenplay — and that’s the screenwriter’s job, not yours.

The most hands-on I’ve been is with a short story of mine called HELL HATH ENLARGED HERSELF, which has been adapted as a feature film, initially under the aegis of the UK Film Council. I’m co-writer on the script, and also a producer.

The BBC plans to make The Intruders into a TV drama, continuing on past the events of the book. Do you feel this will work effectively, and how involved are you personally?

I’m very excited by the prospect. I think there’s definitely the potential to continue the story and ideas further from the events in the book, and I’m delighted the BBC are interested in doing so.  Right at the beginning I was taking a very active part in the process of adaptation, but I soon realised that, having spent nine months of my life writing the story one way, I was not the person to reconfigure it and tell it in another. An ongoing television series is a very different conceptual entity from a stand-alone novel. I handed it up to another writer, who did a good job of an initial adaptation, but we all felt that the key job of working out how a one-off story could be turned into a continuing drama hadn’t quite been cracked. The project is proceeding slowly at the moment — they generally do — but some new writers are about to come onto the scene, and (having met them) I think they’ll bring a great new energy and a commercial perspective to the material.

MMS1_colourWhat can we expect from you in the next 12 months?

I’m just starting another Michael Marshall novel, which will be the sixth. I’m toying with an idea for another M. M. Smith, which I’ll write when I’ve got the chance, and I owe quite a few Michael Marshall Smith short stories to various lovely people who will hopefully not kill me when they’re late. I’m part of the committee organizing the World Horror Convention 2010, which is going to take place off the North American continent for the very first time — in Brighton, England. I’ve gained a lot of enjoyment and support from attending conventions as a writer over the years, and I really want to give something back. Under the agile and masterful hands of Stephen Jones and Amanda Foubister I genuinely think we’re going to provide the horror and dark fantasy community with an event to remember, and it’s fun being a part of it. Finally, I’m developing a couple of television series— or trying to, the contracts process is making me lose the will to live — and quietly letting some ideas for a Michael Marshall Smith novel simmer in the back of my head.

Other than that, well, I’ll probably just lurk about the place, trying not to get in the way!

Thanks Michael for your time! I shall look forward to interviewing you again (this time as Michael Marshall Smith!) in the future.

More information on Michael and any of his upcoming projects can be found at his official website here.

All pictures of Michael are taken from his official site, and are to be credited to the photographer, Steve Double (copyright 2006)


Filed under Alternative Musings, Books

8 responses to “INTERVIEW – In Conversation With Michael Marshall (Author)

  1. Ladybird77

    Great interview! I always wondered about the different names he writes under so it’s nice to now know. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this interview – you asked some really interesting questions…its always good to read interviews where it is obvious the interviewer is a fan as it always makes good reading!

  2. Pingback: Writer’s Working Process « IDeary

  3. becky

    so many names… kinda makes locating him in a library part of your exercise routine 🙂

    • Marty Mulrooney

      Haha well Becky, I just glanced at my bookshelf, and I have even kept the Michael Marshall and the Michael Marshall Smith books seperate myself! As I said in the interview, I am probably the reverse of a lot of fans, because I started with his later stuff first. It was always a really pleasant surprise to find that his back catalogue was so completely different in style, tone… and even name!

  4. Starburn

    Great interview 🙂

  5. Pingback: Site Update – A Word From Site Creator And Founder Martin Mulrooney « Alternative Magazine Online

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