Discussing #Isolate with Chris Malone on Publication Day

It’s an absolute pleasure to welcome back Chris Malone to Linda’s Book Bag today. We stayed in together exactly a year ago when Chris’s first book in her #Glitch series, #stoptheglitch was published and you’ll find that post here. Chris has a brand new book out today and I’m delighted she’s agreed to return to tell me all about it.

Staying in with Chris Malone

Welcome back to Linda’s Book Bag Chris and thank you for agreeing to stay in with me again. Tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?

Hi Linda, it is such a pleasure to spend some time with you exactly a year after we first met. On that occasion, I brought a copy of #stoptheglitch, and today the next thriller in the Glitch series is published, #isolate.

Oo. Happy publication day Chris. What can we expect from an evening in with #isolate?

#isolate is not what you might expect from the title. It refers to a proliferation of off-grid eco-communities, called earths, enabling 21st century dissenters to ‘isolate’ themselves from mainstream society, which they see as having become unethical.

It is also an anti-tech thriller: ‘A vision of our digital dependency and how to subvert it.’

I think #isolate sounds perfect for our current world Chris. Tell me more.

Miranda, the narrator, describes earths as, ‘Alternative communities, created by stealth, down muddy paths, taking advantage of relaxed planning restrictions.’ She says, ‘Attempts at self-sufficiency are gaining ground alongside a counter-culture of urban homeworking. People are sticking two fingers up at the life which let them down, and joining #isolate. Isolate from society. Isolate from the power games which use loaded dice. Isolate with people who they trust. Hide and thrive. Protect and survive.’

That sounds an appealing proposition to me!

These communities are connected by a nationwide band of ‘runners’ who communicate through alternative-tech ‘okes’. One of my pre-publication readers said: ‘Against the backdrop of 18 months of an unprecedented worldwide pandemic, the concepts of earths, okes and runners are a convincing glimpse into a possible future.’

I have a horrible feeling that future is possibly already here Chris.

#isolate explores the challenges thrown up by ‘growing tensions between the desire to live off-grid, and the need to be connected to others, between wealth and poverty, between localised autonomy and centralised control.’

‘A thoughtful take on post-pandemic society: a challenge to the old order, with new priorities ahead,’ #isolate is, as one reader put it, ‘Uncomfortably close to home, just a couple of steps beyond where we are as a society today: the corruption within parliament; technological glitches; the desire to lead a simpler life are all so current.’

But the two main characters, Robin and Miranda, are each isolated too. Robin, who narrated #stoptheglitch, is a figurehead for the dissenters. She has unwillingly become a celebrity, championing the ethical life, but all she really wants is obscurity, and isolation out in her clifftop home. Robin is, ‘the unassuming seeker of solitude.’

I rather like the sound of Robin.

At the start of the book, Miranda is the flip-side. She is driven, intent on success. This is how she describes herself: ‘Tougher than the best boots you can buy. Quicker than Usain Bolt. Sharper than a scalpel. I want to be able to attack a problem, find an out-of-the-box solution and enact it before anyone else has even guessed step one.’

‘Miranda keeps turning her back, to us the reader, to her friends, to the system, even to safety, so we never quite know what she’s going to do next, or where her true allegiances lie.. The faceless person – a spy – possibly one of the most isolated people in the world – in a different way, to Robin in Caernef.’

Another reader said: ‘I love the precarious and symbiotic nature of the relationship between Miranda and Robin.’

Although this isn’t my usual genre Chris, I think #isolate sounds fascinating. Who do you see as your readership?

I think that the eco-conscious will enjoy reading #isolate. One reader says: ‘I work in climate and energy, and in the push to reach net zero by 2050, then some of the things advocated in the earths – recycling, reuse, extended product lifespans, integration of digital tech, active travel (walking/cycling), using local networks/skills/services – would be useful pathways to lower carbon emissions.  But difficult to say if society is ready to make this kind of shift.  But then again, that’s something fiction can deal with!’

Let’s hope fiction can show us the way then! What else have you brought along and why have you brought it?

When we met before, I was struggling with a coeliac diet, and failed to bring any food to share, but I think you will be pleased to hear that today I bring with me the aroma of home baking. Like many others, my prowess with a bread-maker has improved. My husband and I have been perfecting recipes for (gluten, lactose and sugar-free) cake. I am hoping you will enjoy a ‘dicky-bird’s piece’ of fresh homemade bread with lashings of butter, and a slice of carrot cake, with a pot of good strong breakfast tea. From a real teapot.

That sounds like my ideal food experience Chris. You can come back again!

We have to listen to ‘Mars’ from Holst’s Planets because it is Miranda’s ringtone. I once took my class on a school trip to Gustav Holst’s birthplace in Cheltenham, followed by a picnic in the park. I was listening to this music while writing several passages in #isolate.

That kind of atmospheric music must have really helped with your concept.

I have also brought with me a copy of #stoptheglitch, to remind us of our conversation a year ago, and a small silver bee, Arcadian Bee, with unusual powers.

Wonderful. And will there be another Glitch book?

Now well-into writing the third and final book in the Glitch series, #FutureProof, I am focusing on the blurred boundaries between actual and digital realities. #FutureProof is narrated by Poppy. Three books, three interwoven stories, shared with the reader by three very different strong but imperfect women.

I always love strong female characters Chris.

Me too. One reader said, ‘It’s refreshing to have female leading characters who do not rely on their appearance or hide behind a man in order to succeed.’

Quite right. Thanks so much for staying in with me on #isolate publication day Chris. I love the sound of this book and I’m sure readers will want a few more details so you pour that strong tea and I’ll tell them more:

#isolate

‘We have gone so far down the slippery slope of progress, that we all now need to call a halt.

We are slaves to technology, we are polluting our planet at an alarming rate, and too many of our leaders are concerned with lining their own pockets rather than enabling hardworking citizens to thrive.

Even more astounding is the emerging evidence that responsibility for the glitch lay, not with cyber-terrorists, not with the #isolators, but with our own government.

Friends, there is a way forward …’ Robin FitzWilliam, summer 2025

Set after the events of the glitch, Miranda investigates who is behind the series of attacks on national infrastructure in a race against time to prevent a total lockdown of technology. Her arch enemy, Robin, a misfit who is bold enough to speak out, and who lures mavericks into making an ethical stand to challenge the status quo, might be her only hope.

Now, framed with murder and on the run from the authorities, Miranda is determined to get as deep into Robin’s campaigns as she can, to live and breathe Robin, not only to be her shadow, but to be her. Meanwhile, #isolate is gaining momentum, playing out in the countryside and the cities against the backdrop of a looming general election.

An ingenious algorithm is used to promote #Spoiler: ‘Legitimately spoil your ballot paper and be counted.

Make a difference!’ How is it all linked? But more importantly, who can she trust?

Published by Burton Mayers today, 15th October 2021, #isolate is available for purchase in all the usual places including Blackwell’s and Hive.

About Chris Malone

Following retirement from a busy education career, Chris’s first two novels, Zade and #stoptheglitch were published in 2020. Chris was the first female thriller author to join Burton Mayers Books. The second novel in the Glitch series, #isolate, is released a year after publication of #stoptheglitch.

Having returned, with her husband, to live in Herefordshire, Chris is now enjoying a quieter pace of life, renovating the house, rewilding the garden, reading, writing and campaigning. She has willingly swapped her smart black heels for sturdy boots.

For more information about Chris, visit her website and follow her on Twitter @CMoiraM.

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