Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Death of a Cozy Writer

"Wicked, witty and full of treats, G.M. Malliet's debut novel has the sure touch of a classy crime writer. More, please!"

***Peter Lovesey

G.M. Malliet is a former journalist and copywriter. Winner of the Malice Domestic Grant for Death of a Cozy Writer, Malliet attended Oxford University and holds a graduate degree from the University of Cambridge. The second book in the St. Just mystery series is Death and the Lit Chick (April 2009). The third book is being carefully assembled from scribblings on cocktail napkins and store receipts, although irreplaceable notes for the seventh chapter, which she had penned on her wrist, did not survive the morning’s shower.

She lives in Virginia with her husband but spends as much time as possible in England, the setting for the St. Just mysteries.

(And, if you took the Jungle Red quiz, it was Gin who was a knobby-kneed cheerleader in 2nd grade. She also fell down the stairs Christmas morning in her haste to get to the tree. The cut on her chin required several stitches. "I was 4 and greedy," she admits. )

She loves James Thurber and the Beatles, Peter Lovesey and Paul Simon. A writer after our own heart.


I was recently asked by an interviewer: What is it like to read, review, or even edit another person's story?

I have to admit, the question took me aback. It’s not just because I’m a new author—I mean, who am I to review or edit anyone? It’s that I know full well I have no talent for editing, particularly fiction. What if I hated the story, thought it puerile and badly written? I could never say so, even if it might be doing the author and the world a kindness. I’m not entirely sure I could offer constructive criticism on how to fix what was wrong, either. I have enough problems fixing my own work. Editing is a job calling either for endless diplomacy or a ruthless streak. I guess I have neither.

For the same reason I’ve never joined a mystery writers critique group, although many authors seem to thrive in this cut-and-parry atmosphere. But critique groups cut both ways: Not only would my desire not to offend anyone render me useless, but would I ever be able to forgive the person who thought my Character X needed more development? The one who didn’t understand the carefully crafted transitions in Chapter 7? (No.)

As for reviewing: Reviewers take a lot of abuse from authors but a well-written review takes talent as well as that ever-handy ruthless streak. Look at any review that appears in the New Yorker for an example of clever, insightful writing. Even if you don’t agree with them (they pretty much panned Sex and the City, making me feel guilty for liking it) you have to admire their style.

If I really love something I might post a notice on Amazon, but if I can’t honestly give it five stars I don’t bother, and I can seldom think of anything clever or insightful to say.

By comparison with editing or reviewing, novel writing is easy.


JRW: Okay, Ms. Malliet, don't think you;re escaping without answering the Jungle Red Preference Test. Kind of like the Kuder, but without the little ovals you have to fill in. And we already know what your career will be. And a very successful one, too.

G.M. Malliet: Sort of a Rorshchach test for writers, right?

JRW: Only much more revealing.

Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot?
I’d take Miss Marple any day over Hercule, and I think that puts me in the minority. But even Agatha Christie got tired of Poirot and wanted to finish him off several times. The problem with Poirot is that he’s so fantastical, he couldn’t possibly exist. Miss Marple, on the other hand, lives on in every English village, at least in the minds of most Americans.

Sex or violence?
OK, this is a trick question, right? Wouldn’t any sane person choose sex over violence? If we’re talking books, I’d guess I’d choose something trashy, something with absolutely no social redeeming value, something like Peyton Place, over even the best-written but gruesome thriller.

Pizza or chocolate?
Is this related to the sex question?

Daniel Craig or Pierce Brosnan? (We won't even include Sean Connery because we know the answer. Don't we?)
Neither, really. My heart belongs to Hugh Grant. Pierce Brosnan called so often he just became a pest.

Katherine Hepburn or Audrey Hepburn?
Audrey. Not only was she the epitome of style and fashion, it’s a wonder she hasn’t been elevated to sainthood. Audrey was one class act.

First person or Third person?
Is this the sex question again?

Prologue or no prologue?
I actually like prologues, and I know that according to every agent and editor in New York, I’m not supposed to. That theory will change in five minutes, as does everything in the publishing world, so stay tuned.

Making dinner or making reservations? Actually, I am so lazy when it comes to things culinary I try to get someone else to make the reservations.

And now the readers’ turn: Three of these things are true about Gin. Which one is false?
My name is pronounced Mallet, as in "If I Had a Mallet."
My favorite sport is rowing.
I'm a descendant of Ulysses S. Grant.
I'm a baroness.

JRW: Oh, we hope you're really a baroness. That would make Jungle Red so cool. How 'bout the rest of you out there?
Note: I am trying, truly trying, to add a picture of the cover of Gin's book, Death of A Cozy Writer. Blogger simply will not let me do it. Please go to the website of your choice, and look at the very lovely cover. I will keep trying.
Note 2: We still want to hear about your summer jobs. See Below.
Note 3: If we were on TV, this would be the tease: Come back tomorrow to meet another wonderful writer. Hint: He has a dog named after a character in Lord of the Rings. Okay, we'll bite. Frodo? Sam? Bilbo? Ringy?


  1. Welcome to Jungle Red, Gin!

    My question: What does the "M." stand for, and what made you decide to write under "G. M." (my earlier pen name was "G. H. Ephron").

    This a technique they don't teach you in any how-to books I've seen: scribblings on cocktail napkins and store receipts, notes penned on.

    BTW you had me until you picked Audrey over Kate...

  2. Yes, but you do have to write the thing down. On whatever is available. Especially at my age.

    Once I had a great idea at the Symphony. I was in the audience, listening to whatver, and suddenly this great idea occured to me.

    I sneeeeeaked a pencil from my purse. I sloooowly started writing my idea on my program.

    A guy lashed around from the seat in front of me, hissing: I can hear your pencil. Stop it!!

    He made more noise than the pencil did, you've got to think.

    I then sat there, chanting my idea silently to myself. Because when you first think of the line, it's perfect. Later, remembered differently, it's never as good.

    So, quiz-wise, Gin--I can imagine you're a rower. So I bet that's true. Hmmm...

  3. Hi Gin, welcome to our gang! I'm sorry to hear you talk about critique groups as cut and parry because I rely on mine--and a few other trusted buddies too. This is not to say that I love hearing what they say about my deathless prose, but if I can force myself to shut up and go home to think about it, I usually find something in the feedback that makes the story stronger.

    And Hank, wow, I hope you put that annoying man at the symphony in one of your books!

  4. Hallie - The "M" stands for Mary. I went with initials from the beginning because I had some vague idea I'd get a completely balanced reading from agents and editors if I submitted under a gender-neutral name. I still wonder if I fooled anybody.

    Hank - I would have had to race from the symphony hall to write down whatever. Which would have created even more noise. Which would have served the guy right, don't you think?

    Roberta - I only wish I could submit myself to a critique group. But I suspect I would be too easily swayed by the last opinion I heard, or I'd spend way too much time trying to decide if they were right or I were!

  5. I'm guessing it's the Mallet pronunciation thing.It's probably so seemingly true and is where it fools us. I'll bet for whatever reason the rest are all true. LOLOL I'm probably over thinking this. : )

    Glenda S.

  6. Hmmm..Gin, I think it's time to reveal the truth. We've had a huge number of visitors today...thanks so much! But they're apparently too chicken to guess at the quiz.

    So--shall we tell 'em the answer?

  7. Glenda got it right...my name is pronounced (roughly) Ma-yay.

  8. Hello all--I'm making sure that I can connect up to the site. I didn't realize I had earlier selected a google name so hello from Elizabeth Lyon, aka quazy qeditor.

    I enjoyed the discussion of ancestors, famous and notorious. On my father's side of the family--Redditt--we're supposed to be related to Davey Crocket. The rumor was we had Daniel Boone, too, but that seemed like really, too much. Someone checked the research and we're related to his wife--was it Rachel or Rebecca?

    My favorite relative is my alter ego, whom I dubbed Running Behind.