Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Malcolm Rose: Forbidden Island

At the moment you can't stand at a bus stop, open a newspaper or turn on the news without encountering the topic of germs! Our blog is no exception - Malcolm Rose drops by to tell us how his career in chemistry, fascination with government secrets and love of British islands inspired his latest novel Forbidden Island.

Favourite British mountain: Ben Nevis (climbed four times). Favourite British city: Edinburgh (visited lots). Favourite British view: Edale in Derbyshire (sorry about that). Favourite British wilderness: Glencoe area (scene of several holidays). Favourite British islands: western Scottish (apart from the fictional one I invented for my new thriller, Forbidden Island).

You get the idea. As a writer, I’m inspired by highlands and islands. And secret Government experiments into germ warfare conducted on Gruinard Island, near Ullapool.

I first heard about Gruinard Island – where the British government experimented with germ warfare in the 1940s – about thirty years ago. I was a chemistry lecturer then and I was shocked that this country might have used my favourite topic to kill people. Ever since, I’ve had it in mind to base a novel on this event. It’s taken a wee while!

Forbidden Island is about a group of children who get stranded on a secret island like Gruinard. I didn’t visit Gruinard for research because the island in my novel is fictitious. Most of my research was about the scientific experiments. Having been a chemist, I know where to look for information and I can understand the jargon.

Science is all about inventing and discovering new and often controversial things, so it provides a steady stream of new ideas and conflict for a thriller and crime writer like me. I think my thrillers like Forbidden Island are about the corrupting effect of politics and money on science. In other words, the conflict doesn’t come from iffy science but its misuse by iffy people.

I have one simple method of writing. I have the basic idea, the main characters and an exciting opening scene in my mind. Then I start to write and see what happens. The plot is totally flexible. I didn’t know who would survive the exploration of the forbidden island and who would not, whether it would be happy or sad. That way, it’s great fun for me, like the reader, to find out what’s going to happen. It encourages me to keep thinking and writing because I really want to know the ending.
Malcolm Rose above

Other news:

Are you a poet aged 11-14? The John Betjeman Young People's Poetry Competition is now open to you! Budding poets are asked to write a poem about their local surroundings. The prize of £1,000 is up for grabs. The deadline is 31st August. Find out more information here.

Director Spike Jonze has turned Maurice Sendak's classic, Where The Wild Things Are into a film. It is released in the UK in December. Check out the trailer here.

Have you tried the new Scottish Book Trust book quiz? No?! Well try it now!! A new one will be added weekly.


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