MSU alumnus’ novel ‘The Rook’ receives top recommendations
MSU alumna Jeanne O’Malley made sure to instill the importance of reading in her son, Daniel O’Malley, from an early age.
“We would read when we were bored or to celebrate or whatever,” she said in an email. “Reading was always the answer and always an option, and I don’t remember ever refusing to read a story.”
Daniel O’Malley, who is also an MSU alumnus, soon acquired a passion for writing, finally publishing his first novel, “The Rook,” in January. Since its release, O’Malley’s novel has been at the top of CNN’s “Hot Reads for January” list and has been recommended by TIME Magazine and Publishers Weekly.
The novel tells the story of Myfanwy Thomas, who wakes up one night in a London park with no memory of who she is and later learns she has been “dropped” into another person’s life. She discovers her supposed connection with the supernatural forces in Britain and spends the novel escaping the peril of those who oppose her.
Justin Levine, O’Malley’s publicity assistant at New York City’s Little, Brown and Company Publishing, said the novel provides a new experience for readers.
“It’s a lot different than the novels you typically see,” he said. “It’s not quite sci-fi, but it’s the merging of different genres. It’s something not a lot of readers have experienced before.”
O’Malley said he took most of his inspiration from uncertainty he felt in leaving his childhood home in Australia to attend school at MSU.
“For me, there were two sorts of occurrences that formed this idea at the heart of ‘The Rook,’” he said in an email. “The first is that feeling of mild but continuous unease you get on your first day at somewhere new. Second, I took to entertaining myself by wondering how well someone could fake being me if they were suddenly dropped into my body.”
Despite the anxiety that once surrounded O’Malley’s big move, he said he came up with many of his ideas for “The Rook” and other novels-in-progress in his MSU classes with the help of his professors, particularly in history professor Alan Fisher’s class on Ottoman History.
“It was an early morning class, and he was talking about the administration of the empire, and I was so excited by what he was saying that in my lecture notes I kept putting frantic asterisks next to the points I wanted to include in the novel,” he said.
Although O’Malley does not have plans to release another novel in the immediate future, he is currently on tour for “The Rook” and is in the process of writing other works, including a sequel to his first novel.
Even though she has kept all of her son’s work he wrote as a child, Jeanne O’Malley said she is still amazed with every read of his writing.
“For all his wit and insight, I have never seen him do a cruel thing,” she said. “And he can write fiction. To me, that is magic.”