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Interview with Heather O’Malley

By Cynthia Ryan

The reporter nervously walked into the meditation hall. She knew that this appointment had been made to talk to the elusive writer but she had heard terrible stories of journalists who had intruded on her and had paid a price. A few of them were lucky enough to only limp out of the place. That certainly did not appeal to her.

The room she was led to was quiet and it was a bit unnerving to her. The smell of incense was heavy, with visible clouds of it moving around, drifting on the slight breeze. She reached the main room and there, seated in meditation, was the writer. The woman was sitting there calmly, hands folded into her lap, unmoving. There was a strange aura surrounding her that almost defied the woman’s desire to disturb her.

Brown eyes opened and appraised the reporter. “Can I help you?”

The reporter swallowed heavily. “I… I am sorry for disturbing you ma’am but I am a reporter for the Canon Cabal Gazette. We… we have an appointment?”

The woman unfolded her legs and rose in one fluid motion. She gestured for the reporter to follow her, “Come let us walk the garden.”

The reporter followed a step or two behind as the woman walked through another door and into a garden clearly based on Asian designs. There were numerous exotic plants, carefully controlled sections of rock, water, and greenery. The trails were of light colored packed sand. Without looking back, the author asked, “Your questions?”

“Uh… yes. Why did you decide to take an East Asian theme with Chou, rather than another culture? Was it influenced by Firefly, the magical half-Chinese universe without any Asians?”

The woman smiled and replied, “I have been training in Martial Arts since was seven years old, so roughly thirty-five years. In that time I have studied the differing combat styles as well as culture, mythology and religion. It is a part of who I am at this point in my life and it did make sense to tap into that knowledge for the character. Besides, given the make up of the original characters, I figured that someone culturally Asian would be an interesting contrast to Jade.

“As for Firefly, while I love the show I wasn’t exposed to it until early 2005 after I had already written the first two stories. Jiang Hu movies have a bit more influence than Firefly.”

“So why the whole Tao concept?”

“The Tao is the progenitor of the Force. In Jiang Hu literature, in fact in a lot of Chinese stories, the Tao is this mystical power that can enable the person attuned to it to achieve all sorts of amazing things. Being Taoist, I am familiar with differing facets of the Tao and thought it might be a fun source for Chou’s power.”

“I know that Chou practices Wudan Tai Chi. Do you practice Tai Chi yourself, and if so, how long have you been practicing (and which style)?”

“I have done Tai Chi for over a decade, first learning in the late 80’s. I learned Yang style, but have branched out a good deal since then, learning various weapons forms and Chen and a little Wudan. I am working on learning the 24 Simplified right now.”

“Have you ever or would you ever consider training someone in Martial Arts?”

The woman laughed, which surprised the reporter. “I began teaching in the late 80’s and have been doing it off and on since. I have taught several different styles and weapons and worked at a Dojo for a while in Southern California.”

“So… how many untrained people can you fight at once and how many can you fight that are trained in the art”

“Fighting multiple opponents is simply a matter of training and practice. I have fought up to eight opponents in hand to hand and more than that with weapons, especially when in the SCA. Eight untrained opponents are easier than four trained, that is for sure, because the trained fighters actually think about it more and plan more efficiently. There is a trick to it, but that comes with practice.” She paused and looked over a small pond at the koi swimming around inside. The silence stretched a while before the reporter realized that there were no more words forth coming.

“Why a talking sword?”

“Why not a talking sword? Part of the idea for Destiny’s Wave came to me as a mix of the Green Destiny sword from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and the sword Need from the Valdemar stories of Mercedes Lackey. I thought it would be an interesting mix of Chinese and Western.”

“Uhm… one of our readers asked, on the order of magnitude, how many mortal and how many immortal enemies does the Handmaid have?”

She laughed again, clearly amused. “More than two. The Handmaid does have a number of enemies some that have already been introduced and others that have not been revealed.”

“What made you decide to go with the 'soulmates' method of hooking Molly and Chou up, and has this made writing them harder or easier?”

The woman looked at the koi swimming for a little bit, quiet as if pondering her answer. “This is one of those instances where the story took me places I was not planning to go. All of a sudden, Molly and Chou are a couple and I have no idea why. It took me a while to figure out a way to make their relationship work and now it seems to be working out fine. At first writing them was harder, now it is easier.”

“Okay. Do you plan to add more Knoxvillisms to Chou? After all she has to balance male and female, why not Chinese and Knox?”

“Knoxvillisms? You mean more references to her being from the south and from home to the UT Volunteers and their obnoxious Orange? Maybe.”

“I have some questions that move away from Chou to some of your other characters. Is there going to be anything more for Miyet? Or will she just be relegated to cameo appearances.”

“I have more Miyet planned but part of the problem is that the Muse tends to lead a lot of my writing in different directions. Right now, there is just no drive to more Miyet despite having a story already partially started. It is kind of irritating, as there as some screwed up stories about her that I have no real urge to get back to right now, probably because Molly and Chou are on such a groove.”

The writer scribbled all that down as best she could, wanting to give her readers their money’s worth. “Oh, and on the topic of characters with only one story, have you ever considered writing another Adriane story? I really enjoyed "A Problem with Power".”

“Like with Miyet, I do have a follow up story in the works for Adriane. He heads out to San Francisco with Kaylee and stuff happens. It is pretty cute if I could actually get around to writing it.”

“Are we going to see more of your lit chick as written by you?”

“Possibly.”

“Speaking of Selkie, how come we've never seen her around in Poe from any other character's perspective? Shouldn't she have at least been in the TG Remembrance Day ceremony?

“She should have but I don’t remember the timeline of making the character as opposed to the TDOR ceremony being written. Yeah, she should be mentioned but she isn’t all that often. Part of that is that she leaves early to do laps for about an hour or so and showers in the locker room. She also hangs out with the other Lit Chix to the point that she basically uses Poe to sleep.”

The writer referred to her notes and said, “I only have a few more questions. Did you want to be a writer growing up?”

“Yes I did. I first really started writing when I was in a hospital in Landsthul Germany. I was 12 years old and had fallen on a foot in a terrible goofing off accident. Well, I had broken the floor of my right optic and that required surgery to fix so my muscles would stop falling into my sinus cavity. As I came out of the anesthesia, I got a story idea and wrote it. I have been writing pretty much consistently since then.”

“What first attracted you to writing, in general?”

“I love fiction and this was a chance to tell the stories that were making themselves in my head.”

“Define the term 'Story'?”

The woman led the reporter around the garden a little more, talking as she walked, “Story is used to describe any narrative sequence. They can be in many different formats but it is still a narration of events.”

“Uhm…” It was clear that the reporter had not been expecting such a short answer. “What kind of author are you? Do you have everything planned out seven story years in advance or do you know nothing of what's happening before you put your words to it? Do you drive a plot and make the characters conform to it or do you let the characters do what would be in character for them to do and adjust the plot to fit it in?”

“I have a rough idea of a plan and I see where the characters take me. Very rarely do I have to force them back along the main plot line or lines as the plot is also very character driven. But right now, in story I have things plotted out until sometime in the Spring semester. There are events I know out until Graduation but those are mostly end states that I am heading towards and not major story plots.”

“What makes a character or plot interesting to write about for you?”

The author seemed to ponder this for a moment, leading them down to where there was a collection of aromatic flowers. As she breathed in the fragrant air, she sighed and replied, “Honestly… I am not sure. I have written so many things and so many different characters that the only thing I can see that they have in common is that there is always a degree of Transformation or Revelation or both.”

“Which character do you enjoy writing about the most and why?”

“I really like writing about Chou and Molly. They both have some pretty fun points of view and the way they approach problems are different. Their challenges are also both pretty different as well. Winnie is fun to write for as well, as she is really a fish out of water at Whateley. I am also having a lot of fun writing Kim Possible, as she is kind of fun in her intensity.”

“So, which other author's character do you enjoy reading about the most and why?”

“I do enjoy Caitlin as she is really intense and is trying so hard to make her life work. Ayla is great as well partially because of the hyperdetailed story telling format. Then I guess I would go with Fey, because there are some really intriguing plot points discussed in those stories.”

“I see. Well, thank you for your time Mrs. O’Malley. I have just one last question if I may?”

“Certainly, go right ahead?”

“Should the subtitle of this not be "Where philosophy and combat make sweet, Monkey (King) love"?”

Heather’s eye began to twitch and then the reporter vanished in a poof, leaving Sun Wu Kong standing there wearing a t-shirt that read, ‘You’re with Awesome!’. He grabbed Heather by the shoulders and kissed her soundly. Once he released her, her ran off yelling, “Good night everybody!!”