This book really began on a coach trip through Timanfya in Lanzarote. Also known as ‘Fire Mountain,’ it is the unworldly site of several volcanoes and the surrounding volcanic mountains. Red coloured and barren, the whole area feels like taking a trip to Mars. I was there on a ‘winter sun’ family holiday. We had an incredible time and an unexpected bonus was receiving the germ for this book. As we descended the mountainside, down from the bubbling volcanoes, I noticed how desolate the hillsides were. Much of the land was uninhabited and narrow, winding roads made their way through the dark scarlet terrain. Small vineyards were scattered almost vertically down some of the hillsides. Because of the absence of rain and daily humidity, the vineyards consist of rugged stone circles with fledgling vines inside them. But there was one thing that caught my eye in particular. It was an old run down farmhouse out on a hillside by itself. ‘What a good place to be stranded,’ I thought to myself!
That location ended up becoming a key scene in the book. The rest of the ideas came quite quickly and the novel ended up nearly all being set in Lanzarote. By the time I was home again, I had much of the plot roughly outlined. There is something very striking about the island and very unique. I think that it makes a fitting backdrop for the story that I was trying to tell. Hopefully it compliments some of the mysterious atmosphere that I was going for. It was also the first time I set a book outside of Northern Ireland.
Vicki Stark is the protagonist. It was the first time I tried to write from a first person female perspective. I always like to try new things with each book. But I was pretty worried about getting it right. She is a musician and does a lot of private gigs in people’s homes. I also do this part time and I had the idea that it could be a good way for someone to sus out the security of a person’s home. (I should perhaps point out past and future clients, that I don’t do this haha!) Vicki falls into this role of passing the information on to a former boyfriend for a cut of the profits. She has her own demons, but this is the first time she had bee involved in anything criminal. While on holiday, some of these secrets and other bad decisions catch up with her and that is where it all goes wrong. I enjoyed writing this book in particular and I’m thankful to support from Arts Council NI. I liked creating the journey that Vicki went on. It’s definitely the one of mine that is most strongly in the thriller category. It’s fast paced and actually quite brutal in places. I’m not sure why- it just ended up that way.
I thought it would be great if I could release this book with a well established crime press. I approached the English publisher Close 2 The Bone and they signed me up. I was very pleased as they have published some brilliant books by the likes of Paul D. Brazill and Paul Heatley. It is strange to be releasing a book during this lock down period. I was to be involved in a number of events around this time, but of course they have all been cancelled. But reviewers have been very kind and at least there are plenty of ways to connect with people online. I’ve chatted with writer friends and I think that when all this is over we’ll be sure to organise a few joint events to belatedly celebrate new books. Party! It’s been heartening to see the writing community pull together in general. I was pleased to be part of an initiative spearheaded by Stuart Neville and No Alibis Bookstore where two hundred and fifty books were given away free to people who were sick or shielding. Independent book stores are just the coolest places and it’s been nice seeing the love to and from them. UTV asked me to film a weekly book review show and it’s been a pleasure to talk about my favourite books and give some shout-outs to our fantastic local writers. Everyone has been very supportive of each other generally in the writing world. I’ve also enjoyed being part of a few online groups of writers and musicians, working on some new stories and songs. It’s something to keep you distracted and engaged in on the darker days. At the start of all of this I definitely found it really hard to concentrate on any writing, but I’m glad to say I’ve got back in the swing again. I’ve also loved the distraction of reading some terrific books. North and South, this Island has an incredible pool of writing talent.
Take care everyone, stay safe and keep on reading and writing!
(c) Simon Maltman
About The Mark:
‘Somewhere between Belfast and Lanzarote, a little stealing becomes a lot of murder.’
When troubled covers singer Vicky Stark takes a holiday to Lanzarote, dark secrets from her past unexpectedly catch up with her. Events collide, leading to betrayal, revenge and murder.
“A terrifically gritty thriller.” Jo Spain
“Simon Maltman’s The Mark is a hardboiled neo-noir classic.” Paul D. Brazill
“Lean, mean, fast and furious.” Gerard Brennan
“A mystery noir with a twist ending worthy of Dennis Lehane.” The Big Thrill
Order your copy online here.