Jan Carson on the beginnings of 'Malcolm Orange Disappears'.

I have always been a prolific reader, having inherited my enthusiasm from bookish parents and a pair of English teachers, lifted straight from the set of Dead Poets.

I’d like to say that I’ve always been a writer but this would be untrue. I’ve had the ability to manipulate words since I was a small child. (My family refer to this as gross exaggeration. I prefer to think of it as creativity.) However, I only began writing seriously in 2005 after moving to Portland, Oregon.

 Prior to this I’d written nothing, but genuinely believed myself capable of writing a book. This assumption was comparable to the way couch-dwelling TV watchers often look at Jamie Oliver and think, 'I could cook like that if I wanted to.' 

Arriving in Portland, I introduced myself as that most clichéd of all things – an Irish writer in exile – and the shock of this “false” confession triggered some sort of literary reaction as I grew to inhabit my own lie. I spent three years in America and wrote for hours every night, driving the local baristas mad with my ability to stretch a single americano from tea time right through to closing.

The first stories I wrote were dreadful, as were the second, third and fourth. During the first six months of writing I binned a complete manuscript – this felt like an amputation. By the third year, I’d started to find my voice. It spoke with a Ballymena accent though on the page sounded more like the bastard child of Richard Brautigan and Flannery O’Connor.

I began to believe myself actually capable of writing a book. When I returned from America in 2008, Malcolm Orange came too, albeit in scribbly note form.

Over the next four years he grew with me as I read and wrote and allowed myself room to develop as a writer. It felt easier to write about America from the other side of the pond. I had become a strange new breed of artist – an Irish writer in exile from exile – relishing the perspective of belonging between two communities, understanding that a writer always sits slightly to the edge of things.

What's the book about? Read on...

Eleven year old Malcolm Orange has grown up in the back of an ancient Volvo station wagon, crisscrossing America with  a diminishing collection of grandparents, one good-for-nothing father, and increasingly absent mother, and an unfortunately ordinary brother. Their journey ends abruptly in a pay-by-the-week motel in Portland, Oregon when his father finally abandons the family.

Improvised and alone, the remaining Oranges find themselves living in Chalet 13 of the Baptist Retirement Village. When his mother develops her own strange means of coping with the loss, Malcolm begins to disappear, becoming more perforated each morning  - until there is little of  the original Malcolm left.

Desperate for a cure, he enlists the help of Soren James Blue, her talking cat Mr.Fluff, and the very elderly members of the people's committee for Remembering Songs. Malcolm and his friends set off on a hilarious and heartbreaking adventure to discover a cure for disappearing. On the way, they encounter the flying children of Oklahoma, the dasterdly plans of Dr Blue and all the sinister secrets hiding behind the doors of the treatment room. As Malcolm wages a youthful war on his own small losses, each of his elderly friends must learn how to accept their own peculiar disappearing act.

Malcolm Orange Disappears is story bursting with tenderness, heart, imagination, and humour.

 Jan Carson blogs on http://jancarsonwrites.wordpress.com/ and tweets at https://twitter.com/JanCarson7280

Cover design by Karen Vaughan  http://kvaughan.com/

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