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Dan Malakin: 'You're in this character's mind as she spirals in to a terrible nightmare'

PUBLISHED: 15:31 29 August 2019 | UPDATED: 15:49 29 August 2019

Dan Malakin. Picture: levililyphotography.com.

Dan Malakin. Picture: levililyphotography.com.

Archant

Dan Malakin recently dug out the first short story he wrote back in January 2005. He doesn't think too highly of it - "eye-wateringly bad" - were his exact comments, in fact. But the act of creating this story has changed his life all the same.

Front cover of Malakin's novel, The Regret, which is out now. Picture: Dan Malakin.Front cover of Malakin's novel, The Regret, which is out now. Picture: Dan Malakin.

Over the next nine years, Malakin "churned out over 400 short stories." In one particular moment of madness, the Islington resident penned 18 of them in 24 hours, as he committed to the Children in Need write-a-thon quite spectacularly.

Malakin's spare time since then has been devoted to tweaking narratives and building character identities, adapting his style and experimenting with genres. It's resulted in his first full-length novel - The Regret - being published by Bloodhound Books on Tuesday of last week (August 20).

"The Regret is very tight and intense, you're in this character's mind for the whole book as she spirals in to a terrible nightmare," explains Malakin.

"[It's about] how hacking affects you as a person. The main character, Rachel, has a history of mental illness - anorexia almost destroyed her life - and this creeping terror brings back previous health issues and forces her in to a downward spiral.

"The book at its heart is a thriller, with a fast-paced, page-turner feel to it, but it's also got this extra layer of how these modern technological advances are affecting us."

The response to Malakin's first novel has been encouraging, with The Regret breaking in to Amazon's Top 100 books as more and more readers discover his tale of a young mother who goes after her cyber stalker. Malakin is, quite naturally, thrilled with the initial pick-up.

"The publisher was very happy with that for a debut," he beams. "The important thing was that I had written something that people were responding to. When you're stuck there every day, and people are going out at the weekend and I've got editing to do, it kind of validated it in a way; I wasn't just some crazy guy locked in a room writing!"

Originally from Manchester, Malakin relocated to London around 20 years ago and lives close to Holloway Road with his wife, daughter and "very, very hairy" dog. The 44-year-old has signed a two book deal with his publisher, which is all the more impressive considering he also works full-time as a data security consultant.

"I get up in the morning and write for a couple of hours, do a full days work, then come back and write some more," he adds. "The two have dovetailed quite nicely in fact, a lot of my writing has this cyber element. One of the main aspects of The Regret deals with social media stalking, some degree of hacking is in there, but it's mainstream and accessible - it's not technical in any way."

Issues of mental health are important in The Regret, too. "The irony is that like a lot of writers, I'm quite a private person." Malakin is understandably reluctant to go into too much detail, but he says he has "drawn from my own experiences" with this novel.

"I really tried to put my own experiences of dealing with mental health issues in to Rachel's character. Even though I'm not anorexic, I live every moment that she goes through."

Now all of the promo for The Regret is out of the way, Malakin's focus switches to his follow-up book, which shares a similar genre. "It's about a man whose daughter has gone missing," he explains. "It deals with other very pertinent issues; the rise of the alt-right, anti-liberalism, one thing I'd say is that it's a bit broader."

For now though, Malakin can take stock on a period of his life where he has developed his rough around the edges short stories fluently in to a published novel. As his recent blog post attests, "This should give hope to all writers just starting out on their journey: there's no such thing as 'too shit.' I like to think I've come a long way…"

The Regret by Dan Malakin is out now. For more information, visit his website.

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