Book Talk: Carol O'Connell on life with Mallory

Thu Feb 16, 2012 8:17am EST
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By Elaine Lies

TOKYO (Reuters) - Green-eyed, blonde and tall, Kathy Mallory is respected and feared by the cops who work with her, described sometimes as a cat playing with a mouse and nicknamed "Mallory the Machine."

Even her creator, author Carol O'Connell, says she's not entirely sure how much she might actually like her own heroine in real life. Mallory, the star of a series of bestselling novels, now returns in "The Chalk Girl," her ninth adventure, after a multi-year wait.

Mallory is being punished with desk duty after an extended leave when rats start falling from the sky in New York's Central Park and a mysterious red-haired child appears in a t-shirt with blood on her shoulders, leading Mallory into a labyrinth of crimes and murders stretching back years.

The soft-spoken O'Connell talked about her book, which she said was inspired partly by a newspaper story on William's Syndrome, a genetic condition, and Central Park's notorious Ramble, a wooded area once the lair of muggers and addicts.

Q: Do you get inspiration from bits and pieces like that a lot, putting them together and letting them grow?

A: "I think things kind of simmer in the back of your mind, and then at some point they're going to kind of come together. I'm going to be the last person to explain the creative process to anyone, but I think the only people who really examine it are people with writer's block, and I never seem to have that."

Q: So you have these, and then you have your characters. Do you just put them together, set your characters loose and see what happens?

A: "I've seen all those author interviews where the author will say to the interviewer, 'oh, my characters have lives of their own, I just let them...' If I had characters like that, I'd fire them immediately. I need people to do the work that I need done to get this book from cover to cover ... They have to work really hard, and if there's a problem with something being out of character, that's massive re-writes or get rid of the character."   Continued...