West Side is ‘centre of the world’ for Tallack’s debut novel

Isles author Malachy Tallack is to release his debut novel – set on Shetland’s west coast and tackling issues of love, grief and a community on the edge of extinction.

The Valley at the Centre of the World follows Tallack’s non-fiction travel titles 60 Degrees North and The Un-Discovered Islands.

Drawing on themes of isolation and attachments to home, his latest work is to hit the shelves on 3rd May.

“I started this [book] when I finished The Un-Discovered Islands,” he said.

“…The novel took me about two years to write, so I finished it just over a year ago and I’ve been working with the publisher.”

For his first novel Tallack admits he didn’t have a plot initially, rather “I had a theme that was going to be the beginning of the novel and I had very roughly a scene I thought was going to be at the end.

“I worked my way from one to other, and it was obviously a very different experience to writing non-fiction.

“In a sense, it was a relief. With non-fiction, you’re constantly having to check sources and check facts and make sure things are right.

“Whereas with fiction they don’t have to be right, you just have to try and create a world that’s coherent to the reader.”

Tallack has enjoyed the challenge, although he said there have been times “when you feel like you’re banging your head against a laptop screen”.

A second novel is under way.

Asked whether is his mind is constantly ticking over with ideas for his books, he replied: “The solid writing [of a book] takes sitting down and doing it.

Malachy Tallack. Malachy Tallack: This award makes the task of writing feel more manageable. Photo: Rob McDougallPhoto: Rob McDougall
Malachy Tallack: Writing the novel was “a very different experience”. Photo: Rob McDougall

“But there’s a lot of work that’s going on all the time, particularly with a novel I suppose the imagining of it, the adding details to the world you’re creating, so that involves note taking at strange times of the day and night.

“The table in front of me is covered with post-it notes that have one or two lines on them.”

Questioned as to why Shetland is the backdrop for the new novel, Tallack said the setting felt right.

“I wanted to write a novel set in Shetland because Shetland is the place I know best, and it’s the place I think about the most.

“I couldn’t imagine setting my novel anywhere else to be honest. Those other elements come out in the process of writing, but the actual choice didn’t feel like a choice at all, it felt absolutely natural.”

Tallack will be speaking at Shetland Library on 27th March about The Un-Discovered Islands as well as giving a sneak preview of his new book.

Adam Guest


Add Your Comment
  • Scott Rice

    • March 14th, 2018 16:37

    I read your article and have pre-ordered the book from Amazon.com. I want to add this author to my short list of Shetland novelists, Walter Scott (“The Pirate”) and Ann Cleeves.


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