Interview with Author Malcolm Dubber – Ramona Portelli Blog

Interview with Author Malcolm Dubber

Malcolm Dubber gained a Master of Philosophy (MPhil) degree in Explosives Chemistry from the City University, London. He is a Chartered Scientist (CSci), Chartered Chemist (CChem), Member of the Royal Society of Chemistry (MRSC), and a Fellow of the Emergency Planning Society (FEPS). He is a former UK Home Office Civil Defence Scientific Advisor (stood down in 1992). He has the unusual combination of working with explosives and radioactive substances that led him to work at the UK’s Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) Aldermaston. He has worked as a Local Authority Emergency Planning Officer and undertook the preparation of special emergency plans for Chernobyl, Ukraine.

Malcolm is a scientist, specialising in explosives chemistry, CBRNe (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosives incidents) and emergency planning. Although experienced in writing reports and plans, he has ventured into the world of writing fiction, mainly based on life-time experiences, characters and places visited, set against real scenarios, which were suitably fictionalised. He has written technical articles published in professional journals and lectured at the UK Cabinet Office’s Emergency Planning College (EPC), Easingwold, and at international conferences, such as the International Disaster & Emergency Resilience (IDER) conference, where he was a committee member (2005-2012). He is also a volunteer member of the British Red Cross awarded the Voluntary Medical Service Medal (for 30+ years). He is married with 4 grown-up children and 4 grandchildren.

Tell me more about your latest book

My first published book, “Return to Malta”, is set in World War 2 Malta and the North African desert in 1942. It is a romance between a nurse (Hazel) and sailor (Ewan), who survives the sinking of his motor torpedo boat. The liaison leads to a British intelligence operation to uncover axis plans to invade Malta. He poses as an Italian naval officer prisoner of war, and she a nurse who is passing his intelligence to the Malta military command. Both end up in North Africa, Ewan with the Long-Range Desert Group and Hazel captured by the Gestapo. After a harrowing ordeal they eventually return to Malta and are married but the war continues.

My latest book, “Signal from Malta”, is in process of submitting to publishers. The publisher of my first book wanted a contribution to production costs, which I have declined and, therefore, seeking other publishers. This book is again based in Malta and Italy at the end of WW2, where the complication with escaping Nazis and Russian NKVD aspirations in the Balkans. The characters from the first novel are the main feature.

I have a third book in process of writing (forms a trilogy), “Malta Method”, is set against D-Day in 1944 and subsequent coastal operations to Nazi-held territory. It joins the first and second novels albeit out of chronology.

I am serious about writing fiction and find it enjoyable using my experiences such as scuba diving in the UK and abroad, particularly Malta.

Currently, in addition to above, I have completed another four novels; a 145,000-word drama based in the world of ordnance and security and illegal arms to Iraq, two romance/dramas based on sailing (54,000 and 77,000 words) and another based in Spain (50,000 words). I have other themes for novels in progress, one of which is completed and requires editing.

What was the most challenging aspect of writing your first book?

“Return to Malta” required in depth research into events in Malta during 1942. This was challenging where I needed to separate facts from misconceptions. Applying some possible and plausible scenarios to capture the reader’s attention, such as the escapades in the North African desert prior to and during the El Alamein operation. Producing an anti-climax ending involving Hazel’s apparent demise when returning to Great Britain.

When writing a book, how do you keep things fresh, for both your reader and yourself?

Establishing a list of characters and their interaction with each other. Some scenes rely on reflections of characters, where they can return to previous events either traumatic or pleasant. Raising doubts within the characters minds and excitement of changing plots, with some imagination, particularly with central characters.

What is your normal procedure to get your books published?

Trawling Internet for publishers. Use of the “Writer’s & Artists Yearbook”. Maintaining a detailed list / data sheet of the different publisher requirements – there appears to be very little conformity. Therefore, approaching publishers of the right genre and, of course, waiting for replies. This is an irksome and can be depressing issue for a writer, especially for first-time writers or those with only 1 or 2 novels published.

Getting exposure to the publishing market is not easy. Reviews etc., by people like you, Ramona, seems a sensible route, particularly any advice.

What motivated you to become an author?

Family but mainly good friends where I have had a varied and at times exciting life. Friends have often said in the past, ‘You should write about it!’ In addition, for me, I had a bad experience in 1990, it was life-changing where I lost my job and it was evident later that it was tied into the Arms to Iraq Affair. I gave evidence to an American Grand Jury after being tracked down by UK HM Customs Investigators (Iraq and Super Gun investigation), this features in my first, as yet unpublished novel “No Defence”.

Now my motivation is I like writing fiction and aim to be the British equivalent of the world-famous author Clive Cussler. A great aspiration, but then why not?

How many books have you written so far?

I have written 9 books, as listed below, several other themes in outline only:

  1. “No Defence”: 145,000 words – Not yet published (too large for a first author?)
  2. “Return to Malta”: First published novel, 2018 Austen MacAuley (AM), 68,000 words
  3. “Signal from Malta”: completed, made one submission but I rejected their (AM) offer, 73,000 words
  4. ‘Malta Method”: in progress, estimated 65,000 words
  5. “Wrong Number”: ready to submit, 54,000 words
  6. “Not Too Late”: ready to submit, 77,000 words
  7. “Alicante Castle”: ready to submit, 50,000 words
  8. “No Epitaph”: in progress, estimated 70,000 words
  9. “No Cargo”: in progress (near completion), estimated 70,000 words

Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotion strongly?

Doubtful. Life, I believe, is about managing our emotions including learning the ability to soldier on during adversity, and conversely enjoying and sharing success with others equally. A writer must be able to have feelings and respect for their fictional characters.

How hard or easy is it to establish and maintain a career in writing?

Not easy. I am retired (or semi-retired professionally) and therefore do not rely on a career as an author and certainly not as a viable source of income. However, being prepared to learn to write, research events and characters will eventually pay-off. Help from other authors, journalists and reference sources, e.g. Internet libraries, are likely to be highly effective. Submitting one novel / book to a publisher without having further works to follow up is the best maintenance and displays determination to be a writer.

What is your advice for aspiring writers?

Go for it! Get a theme or characters or both and write your thoughts without delaying for editing. Get your ideas written with a structure or plan of what you want to produce, although this not as important as the theme / scenario and main characters. Study events / history and people behaviour, e.g. observe people traveling, at work, and in groups. Enjoy what you write; don’t let it be a burden (No fun!). The hard work is crafting your book or article for the reader and not yourself. Show a publisher you are serious by having at least another book ready.

Visit Author Malcolm Dubber book links:

Only one book published thus far.

“Return to Malta” available on Amazon by title or my author name: “Malcolm Lloyd Dubber”. Also exploring an Amazon Associate account.

Available through major book sellers: WH Smiths, Waterstones, Blackwells.

ISBN 9781788230810 (Paperback), ISBN 9781788230827 (E-Book)

Facebook Page producing now: “Malcolm Dubber Author”. Still being developed.

Malcolm Dubber, 24 May 2020.

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