When it comes to one-night stands, Malachi Bishop has “rules”. No pillow talk. No sleeping over. No planning a future hook-up. First names only. It’s just sex, not a prelude to love. But when Cole Malcolm, a smooth-talking management consultant, woos Malachi into bed, the rulebook is tossed out the window. The one-time fling leaves Cole reeling: Malachi is his first real shot at happiness, his “forever” man, and he’s determined to show Malachi just how good they could be together. But Malachi doesn’t believe in happily-ever-after, and dodges Cole’s play for his heart. After all, Malachi is still mourning the loss of Taylor Blanchard, whom he hoped to love forever. Then there’s Zach Brennan, a handsome twenty-five-year-old and student at the college where Malachi teaches. Falling for Zach could destroy everything he’s worked for, but Malachi can’t help himself.
Caught by love and in its betrayal, it’s a later affair with a beautiful stranger that changes Malachi’s life most dramatically. Now Malachi must confront his present and his past that bring into question the larger fantasies of home and his place in the world.
Where were you born and where do you call home?
I was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and grew up in a suburb called Lower Sackville. Nowadays, home is Sherbrooke, Québec, where my heart is.
What or who inspired you to write? And how long have you been writing?
I can’t say that it was any one thing, or person, that inspired me to write. I’m somewhat timid, and an introvert, so it has always been easier for me to write about what I feel that to speak it. So perhaps after all it was my shyness that pushed me into writing. And when I was in high school, I won a couple of writing competitions, which helped to spur on my writing.
I’ve been writing since the fifth grade. I wrote my “first” novel then, a murder-mystery, that I hid from the world. During my youth, I hid most of my writing and didn’t share it with anyone. I lacked the confidence to give myself fully over to writing.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I considered myself a writer around age twenty-five. That’s when I made writing a daily part of my routine. I wrote faithfully first thing in the morning. I would spend my lunch hour writing. I would go to a coffee shop and writing before heading hope after a day at the office.
What is the name of your most recent book and if you had to sum it up in 30 or less words, what would you say?
My most recent book is Freestyle Love. In 30 words or less? A one-night stand, two loves and an impossible choice that forces Malachi Bishop to confront his past and his present, and his place in the world.
Have you based any of your characters on someone you know, or real events in your own life?
I’ve had some of my friends say to me that they recognize certain people in the book. However, the characters aren’t based on anyone I know personally. There is, perhaps, some truth in what Malachi experiences in terms of love and some of my own experiences when it comes to one-night stands. That is, the awkward and silent expectations that follow. Was it in fact just sex? Do we exchange phone numbers? Do we try to get to know each other better?
There is also Malachi’s relationship with his parents. My relationship with my parents was much better than Malachi’s. My mother, a very religious woman, had a lot of difficulty accepting the fact that I’m gay, but we still managed to hang on to each other. And like Malachi, I have a good relationship with my sister, to whom the book is dedicated.
Like Zach Brennan, I’ve had to deal with depression. I’ve had three serious depressive episodes in my life where I was sent tumbling. I was coping with depression head-on when Freestyle Love was accepted for publication.
How did you come up with the title?
Freestyle Love wasn’t the title of the manuscript that I had submitted to my publisher. The working title of the novel was “Caught,” but my editor suggested changing the title because Caught was too “common” a term that would get lost in an Amazon search. In a way, I saw Malachi (the protagonist) trying to love freestyle. He has rules, but he ignores his rules. He tries to set boundaries, but he can’t respect them. He’s all over the map, freestyle.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I’d hope that readers would see just how “imperfect” love can be. Malachi is not a Hollywood character. He’s not someone the reader is necessary going to like and cheer on. He’s actually someone readers will, most likely, grow to hate because of the decisions he makes. Love is powerful, and we don’t always act rationally when we’re in love. And I think the reader will see, with Malachi, how he is trying to cope with being in love, and how that makes him unsure of who he is and what he really wants.
Do you have plans for a new book? Is this book part of a series?
I’m currently trying to find a publisher for my second novel. It’s not part of a series.
What was your favourite chapter (or part) to write and why?
My “favourite” part of Freestyle Love to write about was Zach Brennan. He’s a young writing student with a lot of promise, but he suffers from depression. While I loved his idealism, it was his depression that I wanted to tackle because I have experienced three devastating depressive episodes in my life. By including that theme in the novel, I wanted to draw attention to mental illness, and hopefully encourage people to talk about mental illness and stop treating it as taboo.
What do you do to unwind and relax? To unwind and relax, I run. I started running in 2008 because I had gain weight and realized I wasn’t active enough. Now running has become a form of meditation for me. I also cook. I love ending a day of writing and painting in the kitchen, where I move into a different mode of creativity.
Have you ever read a book more than once?
Yes. I’ve read Maya Angelou’s Even the Stars Look Lonesome and Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now several times. At least once a year I reread Julia Cameron’s Finding Water: The Art of Perseverance.
What book are you currently reading and in what format (ebook/ paperback/ hardcover)?
I am currently reading three books, all in paperback format: Julia Cameron’s Faith and Will: Weathering the Storms in Our Spiritual Lives, Brenda Ueland’s If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit, and Iris Murdoch’s Existentialists and Mystics: Writings on Philosophy and Literature.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Discernment. When I first started out writing, I wanted to see my work published that I often sent my short stories or essays out too soon. They weren’t “ready” for publication, but I couldn’t see that. I’ve been fortunate enough over the years to receive great feedback from editors on the pieces that I’ve submitted that weren’t accepted for publication, and that has allowed me to step back from my writing and ask, “Is this good enough?” If I can say, yes, then I’ll submit the piece. If not, I’ll either go back to work on it or let it rest before working on it again.
Do you write under a pen name?
No, I do not write under a pen name. I’m proud of what I’ve written. No reason to hide.
Cats or dogs?
White wine or red?
Coffee or tea?
Where and when do you prefer to do your writing?
I prefer to write in the morning, at home or in a coffee shop. But I’ve learned to write any time during the day, anywhere.
One of your favourite quotes –
"You cannot dream yourself into a character; you must hammer and forge yourself one." –James A. Froude
List 3 of your all time favourite books?
- Iris Murdoch’s The Book and the Brotherhood
- Julia Cameron’s Finding Water: The Art of Perseverance
- Jean-Paul Sartre’s No Exit
As Cole Malcolm asked the server for his bill, Malachi Bishop was across town, alone in his condo, pouring himself a stif
f drink. Malachi picked up the crystal tumbler and moved into the living room, standing in front of the floor-to-ceiling windows and watching as the dark storm clouds edged their way eastward, dulling the bright sky. His unit, located just below the penthouse level, offered a view of the west side of Claredon, including the college. And Malachi was right, as he had explained to Shane Martin, that on a clear day he could see to Chemong Lake.
Malachi sat down on the worn brown leather sofa and stared blankly at the TV. Am I unreal? Malachi lifted his glass to his mouth and held it there. Tuesdays, when he taught three of his four classes, left him drained. Today he was exhausted. Malachi’s day started off with the advanced writing workshop, and Zach Brennan had not shown up again. Malachi had taught the ninety-minute English literature course that started right after the lunch break pausing often, as if he were unable to weave together, and hold, a train of thought. One of his students asked if he was okay, to which he replied, “I’m fine,” with great defence, and then dismissed the class — forty minutes early. When all of the students had left the classroom, Malachi sat down at his desk and wrote out a notice cancelling the creative writing class he was to teach later that afternoon. He posted the notice to his classroom door and then made for home.
Beyond the usually long day of teaching, beyond the ordinariness of his life, Malachi was caught up in the paralyzing, awful, blackly saddening events of the day. In the aftermath of the day’s events, his perception of his life in Claredon had shifted, seen now as imaginary and formless, indeed a fabrication. There remained a contradiction because he knew that there was an inescapable realness to Claredon where he had, over the past five years, carved out a home. And in that realness there was Zach Brennan.
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Marcus Lopés is originally from Lower Sackville, Nova Scotia. His writing has appeared in Canadian and international literary magazines. Freestyle Love is his first novel. A novelist, essayist, poet, painter and singer-songwriter, Lopés lives in Sherbrooke, Québec.
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