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“What if they were serial killers?”

Mike Mallow Author Interview

Burning Without Knowing follows a journalist that falls into a world of corruption, secrets, and ties to the mafia. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

Burning Without Knowing is a follow-up to In the Country Dark (Literary Titan Review Here). I wrote In the Country Dark to be a deconstruction of small town Appalachian life. The reviews came back describing it as a thriller, which I had not given much consideration to while writing it. For Burning Without Knowing, I wanted to tell a similar story in the same world based on the consequences of the first novel, but this story was written firmly with the thriller elements in mind. The spark of the story came from three Mennonite women whom I observed crammed in the front seat of a van, utilizing the wifi in the front row of a Virginia grocery store. Something about the scene made me wonder what they could be researching on their devices. Then part of me asked the question, “What if they were serial killers?” The story idea unfolded from there.

Shawna grows a lot through this novel in order to survive. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?

I struggled with nailing down Shawna’s personality. She had to be resourceful but make mistakes, calm but with rage bubbling under the surface, witty but unsure of herself. It wasn’t until I started writing practice dialogue between her and Cabel (the protagonist from In the Country Dark) that I began to see her arc. She was like a bone that needed to be broken in order to heal back stronger, and her development was based around that idea.

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

“In the Country Dark” dealt with the theme of losing friends in your 20s. Because Cabel is older now, I wanted the theme to be a trauma you would experience more frequently in your 30s. That theme became losing children. In this novel every supporting character has lost a child. Shawna is a lost child herself, and Cabel is going to extremes to safeguard his daughters’ futures.

The series as a whole has always had a theme of darkness and light. This novel’s theme is an eclipse, where light is flushed out temporarily; but if one stares at the light too long, blindness, and permanent darkness, can ensue.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

The next novel I am working on is called “The Ghost Circuit,” which follows four characters in four different time periods of a historic (and supposedly haunted) mental hospital. There is currently no release date.

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Innocence is lost early and only its illusion masks the darkness burning deep within, ensured to rage on by the sins of our fathers. For Shawna, the untimely demise of a southern West Virginia copper thief spirals her life out of control. The death forces her into a world of corrupt officials, psychotic criminals, and vindictive women blazing a trail of violence. Will the price of her father’s sins force Shawna to make new ones of her own? Sins that will pull her deeper into the bottomless chasm of her own darkness.
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