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Writer vs. Writer: Maltheus Broman

In this post, we will know more about our favorite Irish author, Maltheus Broman. Mal is all in one package. Good-looking... oh sorry... (cough) we were talking about writing here. He is a funeral director and a eulogist in and around Dublin but also a novelist, poet, and lyricist. He has published a novel, two short novels, and a collection of poetry. A book of song lyrics will be released in January 2022. Today we will have a chat about his recently published book.

Hello Maltheus. It’s a pleasure to have a chance to chat with you. To start, could you tell a bit about yourself?

Sure, thanks for having me! My name’s Maltheus Broman, or just Mal for short. I was born in Bray in 1991. I’m a funeral director and a eulogist in and around Dublin. Besides being a somewhat avid reader, I’ve also become a novelist, a poet, and a lyricist.

My books can’t be shelved in with specific genres, but are in a tradition of what’s usually called literary fiction for reasons of convenience. Some of the more obvious influences are the works of James Joyce, Shakespeare, and John Williams. And if Houellebecq will ever found a school, you may expect me to sit in the front row. Imagine that! Houellebecq's teaching thought-provoking satire 101…

Literary fiction is a good choice for that reason. One of your books “Globopole” which is an amazing read is full of transgressive elements such as the use of the physical violence element. However, I don’t think that’s all about this book. I would like you to tell us how do you count this book as transgressive?

Physical violence loses its shock value rather quickly, which is why it is best used with caution in story-telling. In the case of Globopole I only sprinkled a little bit of it here and there, but the real transgressions lie deeper. The main character, Merlin Lizeray, steps over ideological boundaries; he questions our morality, our political system, and all kinds of fake certainties. And then, of course, there’s also him starting World War III.

Why transgressive fiction? What about this genre attracts you?

A good part of my bookshelf and most parts of the literary canon are soaked with blood, full of transgressions and offenses. Historically speaking, the freedom to write what you want and how you want was paid with high prices. For example, there’s a scene in Ulysses when Bloom plays pocket pool. It’s funny on so many levels, but mostly because Joyce mocks cheap romance novels, and it’s about the only time his prose is both flowery and comprehensible. Anyway, at the time this scene alone was reason enough for banning even his mortal remains from entering Ireland, although the Irish government had plenty more. What I’m saying is, the artist has good reasons to transgress. It was part of Joyce’s art. It is part of my art. And we must not take a novelist’s freedom for granted.

An Absolute truth! Can you tell us about your latest book? Was there anything that you've edited out of it?

My fifth book, Exhume These Songs, is a collection of lyrics. I’ve written a ton of songs and kept about a hundred in the book. My bin is full of failed experiments, some of which are quite irritating or maddening whereas others simply not exciting enough. All the songs in the collection had to pass a row of questions: Does its sound match its lyrics? Does it have a certain wit to it? Does it fit in comfortably with the rest? And so on and so forth… The best of the best made it into the collection, and they’re my favourite songs. I hum them at work, I sing them at home. Writing your own songs is fun – and a great way to listen to what’s going on in your soul: Love songs, pub songs, anthems, and traditional story-telling with music…

Things like violence, cruelty, or dirty jokes haven’t been edited or cut out, given that they serve a good purpose. People who have read my novels know I like to put a lot of songs into my books. They’re part of life, so they should be a part of fiction as well.

Have you ever struggled with writing any specific scene? What was your hardest scene to write and in which book? Why?

When I put pen to paper the story is already within me. It’s all there, which is to say I’d been thinking and dreaming about a certain story before I let my conscious mind get in the way of it all. So, I don’t struggle with writing at all, no, but I do suffer with my characters, since as the author I’m just as helpless as they are. I remember sobbing all through the night while writing Chapter Ten in The Serenity of Death. Interestingly enough, one of my earliest readers told me this chapter could have been stronger, if it had been longer. Naturally I took her advice to heart and followed it as good as I could, but, ultimately, the same words will strike different chords in different people. I don’t expect my first novel to be a crowd-pleaser anytime soon, but I hope it will be loved dearly by a few and passed around among circles of friends.

we must not take a novelist’s freedom for granted

We're not here writing for pleasing the crowd I assume as I see that death is a very common element or theme in your writings which is not something the mass would like to follow. Is there any specific reason that you write about this topic?

Well, it’s as they say: You should write what you know… Yes, death is THE central theme of all my books, even if it might not be obvious at first. How does death appear in different stages in life? How can we understand mortality? What may death teach us? Story-telling, perhaps in some ways even better than philosophy, enables us to give the devil his due and explore what’s to find in the void.

On the other hand, Nights in the Ol’ Rusty Quill handles these questions from the other side. Instead of asking what good might dying be, it poses the question what’s there to live for in sight of death in a world where you weren’t even asked to be born. In more than one way this novella pokes fun at anti-natalism quite a bit.

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book? Do you think research is necessary to write fiction?

It’s the other way around: I don’t research, because I want to write a novel; I feel the need to write a novel, because after years of research in some fields a story emerged. In my case it’s years of academic studies or courses in philosophy, sinology, sociology and economics, and in an indirect manner also my jobs in funeral businesses. Mountains of books have been swallowed in the makings of Globopole, but years before the idea of writing a short novel even existed. Every time its protagonist rants on about the importance of taxes and stocks in global politics, he figuratively stands on the works of Marx, of Hegel, of Malthus, of Wallerstein.

As a reader I can tell whenever research is done afterwards and forced upon the writing. In such cases the prose never comes natural and usually reeks of stuffy creative writing classrooms. But there are great examples of well-researched novels in which expert knowledge has been weaved into the pages organically. Heart like a Hole by Deckard is one such example, although she’s no doctor, and despite the fact that she’s seen creative writing schools from within.

Interesting perspective toward research. May I know what inspires you to write?

Well, the life I lead, and the lives in the books I read. Just one example out of millions: I love learning everything there is to know about the Titanic. A Night To Remember is one of my favourite books about this tragedy. And her story inspired me to write a song about her sinking as a sort of eulogy by her builder, Thomas Andrews, who later knows her as his graveyard. The piece is called My Belfast Love.

In addition to this I also wrote new lyrics to Nearer My God To Thee, the last song that has been played on the Titanic allegedly, although in all likelihood they played ragtime till they drowned, because they were real good sportsmen back then.

the same words will strike different chords in different people

Thank you for sharing that with us. Lastly, is there any book you’re working on at the moment?

Yes, as a matter of fact I’ve written about sixty thousand words of my next novel. Its title is yet a secret, but I may already say the story draws some of its elements from my Parisian diaries as well as later personal writings of the past seven years or so.

Perhaps it will remind some readers of Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast. That said, I despise the term auto-fiction and I want to make clear that I myself will not be in the novel as a character, but I can’t deny that the story takes place during my own lifetime and many episodes hit very close to home.

So, if any literary agent out there wants to represent me and my second full-length novel, now is the time! And if not, I gladly continue on my own, because I’m pleased with all of my books and writing continues to be a source of profound happiness.

Wow, now that is a mystery I would like to solve. Anyhow, Mal, thank you for joining us today.

If you like to know more about Mal, check the following links:

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