New Release Interview: The Rook by Daniel O’Malley


omalley-rookEvery January, I take a look at what books we have publishing over the next twelve months and see what I’m excited about.

The moment I heard about The Rook by Daniel O’Malley, I was excited. Then I began to read it, and I knew I had picked one of the Best in 2012. It is original with a fantastic premise. It has a wonderful lead character who has wit and charm. There are books you pick up and start to read—and suddenly five hours have passed and your morning alarm will be going off in three hours. With The Rook, I decided to use the three hours more wisely and keep reading until the sun came up.

Then I cancelled my early morning appointment. Took a nap. And kept reading through the afternoon. Ha!

Honestly, there is something magical about The Rook. Here is a bit more about it:

“The body you are wearing used to be mine.” So begins the letter Myfanwy Thomas is holding when she awakes in a London park surrounded by bodies all wearing latex gloves. With no recollection of who she is, Myfanwy must follow the instructions her former self left behind to discover her identity and track down the agents who want to destroy her.

She soon learns that she is a Rook, a high-ranking member of a secret organization called the Chequy that battles the many supernatural forces at work in Britain. She also discovers that she possesses a rare, potentially deadly supernatural ability of her own.

In her quest to uncover which member of the Chequy betrayed her and why, Myfanwy encounters a person with four bodies, an aristocratic woman who can enter her dreams, a secret training facility where children are transformed into deadly fighters, and a conspiracy more vast than she ever could have imagined.

Filled with characters both fascinating and fantastical, THE ROOK is a richly inventive, suspenseful, and often wry thriller that marks an ambitious debut from a promising young writer.

I’m not the only one loving it. The reviews online from early readers have all been stellar. Even the highly intelligent and hard-to-win-over Time Magazine book critic Lev Grossman loved it and blurbed it. More on that in the interview below.


Shawn Speakman: Hi Daniel! Tell Unbound Worlds readers about your newly-released debut novel, THE ROOK????

Daniel O’Malley: Hi! The Rook is a supernatural thriller, set in the British Public Service. It’s about a woman who wakes up in a park in central London, and she doesn’t know who she is. All she knows is that she’s in the park at night, and it’s raining, and there’s a ring of corpses around her. And then, in her pocket, she finds a letter from herself – her old self – who knew that she was going to lose her memory, and has made preparations. And she has the choice of starting her own new life, or going back and assuming her predecessor’s life. And figuring out who stole her memories. And why. And what to do about it.

SS: The opening of the book is quite unique, in that its main character Myfanwy Thomas is without memory and her body’s previous owner leaves her notes along the way. How did that idea come to be, that you would have a new Myfanwy that is our narrator and an old Myfanwy that is guiding her????

DO: I liked the idea of trying to assume someone else’s life – I sometimes wonder how well someone could fake being me, and what kind of preparations would be needed. I think that it would probably be pretty difficult, and you’d need quite a bit of information to keep up the charade. But if you’re trying to take the place of Myfanwy Thomas, who is a commander in a secret Government organization that deals with the supernatural, then you’re going to need a huge amount of information. You’d need instructions, and it wouldn’t just be a matter of knowing how to summon the invisible commandos or arranging a diplomatic meeting with an immortal sorceress. You also need to know how she takes her coffee, and whether there’s any private jokes with her secretary. So, all throughout the book are letters from ‘old Myfanwy’, explaining everything to ‘new Myfanwy.’ I had thought the letters were mostly going to be instructions and dossiers, but ‘old Myfanwy’ turned out to be such an interesting character, and so different from her new self, that I kept giving her more and more adventures.

SS: Myfanwy Thomas is often quite humorous in how she observes the world. Do your friends and family find you funny? Or does it appear only when you enter Myfanwy’s perspective????

DO: A lot of people who know me, and who have read the book, said that they could tell I had written it. Whether or not that means I’m funny is unclear. But they seem to find me amusing much of the time. Or at least they conceal their horror and their disgust effectively. My family doesn’t think I’m particularly funny or particularly strange. But that may tell you more about them than about me.

SS: Time Magazine‘s book critic Lev Grossman loved THE ROOK, blurbing, “Utterly convincing and engrossing—totally thought-through and frequently hilarious. The writing is confident and fully fledged. Even this aging, jaded, attention-deficit-disordered critic was blown away.” Based upon early reader reviews, they loved THE ROOK too. As a new writer, what is it like to have early praise like this? Does it help or hinder your future writing??

DO: Well, when it’s someone like Lev Grossman, or Katherine Neville, or Jaye Wells – all of them authors whose works have brought me so much pleasure and whom I regard so highly — then you don’t think of the greater implications. I just tended to wander around in a haze of delight, looking with happily glazed eyes at my workmates in the office (much to their wary confusion). And then, when readers say that they’ve enjoyed it, that’s marvelous to hear, but different people always say they enjoyed different things. There’s no one thing or scene or line that I can look at sagely and say, ‘Ah yes, I must make certain to do that sort of thing again.’ So it’s all just exploring randomly, putting in the sort of things that I like, and staring at the screen, completely uncertain as to whether the page I just wrote is any good at all. But, you know, I think that, for all writers, approval and delight from all readers, professional and real, are far more encouraging than the alternative.

SS: Fans are already clamoring for a sequel to THE ROOK. What are you currently working on and will that sequel ever happen??

DO: Oh, there’s definitely gonna be a sequel. There was just so much that I didn’t get to cram into The Rook, and questions keep occurring to me about how the world of The Rook would work. I’ve plunged into the sequel, but there’s a few other projects on the boil as well. I like being able to switch when I hit a sticking point, to go away and work on another piece. And it’s useful to have some completely different things to think about, so there’s a novel about assassins that doesn’t have any supernatural elements at all, and a young adult novel set in the Ottoman Empire. But The Rook sequel is the main project.

There you have it. From Daniel O’Malley himself! If any of this sounds like something you’d like, try The Rook. It is in fine bookstores now!

Discover more at!