Mallory O’Connor – Alachua County Florida Author has recently published a lovely family recipe/memoir book about her and her families many years of preparing meals and enjoying wine. She is an author while her husband, John,is an painter. He created paintings of each of the meals in their new cookbook. What a lovely and unique idea for a book. Mallory and John are both retred professors from the University of Florida. Mallory participated in Jolene’s Book and Writers Talk Podcast several weeks ago and sent in the interview questions below so that we could do a featured article on her for the North Florida Writers Tour.
Mallory O’Connor is a writer, an art historian, and a musician. She holds degrees in art, art history, and American history from Ohio University. For twenty years she taught art history at the University of Florida and at Santa Fe College. During this time, she also wrote hundreds of magazie articles and critical essays, and curated numerous exhibitions for museums and galleries.
She is the author of two non-fiction books, Lost Cities of the Ancient Southeast and Florida’s American Heritage River, both published by the University Press of Florida.
American River:Tributaries is her first novel and book one of the American River Trilogy. Book two, American River: Currents was released in March 2017. Book three, American River: Confluence, was released in September 2018.
Mallory’s new series of paranormal/eco-thrillers begins with Epiphany’s Gift, published in April 2019. The series follows follows psychic-medium Epiphany Mayall as she explores paranormal phenomena, investigate art crimes and fights for environmental justice.
Born in Illinois and raised on a ranch on the American River in Northern California, Mallory now resides with her husband, artist John O’Connor, in Gainesville, Florida.
Contact the Author
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/stores/author/B073QXR5LQ
Books by the Author
Fiction / Paranormal
Fiction / Historical
1.What books did you grow up reading?
My mother was a librarian, so from a young age I had access to hundreds of books. I could pick any book off the shelf and my mom would say, “If you have any questions let me know.” She never censored anything I chose to read. I grew up on a small ranch in Northern California in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Range and I got a pony when I was six. My Dad and I trained the pony together. I later had several other horses. I loved reading stories about horses, and I also enjoyed anything about history. Dad, Mom and I liked to sit by the fire after dinner and read books aloud. We took turns reading. We read all of the “Little House oo the Prairie” books and all of Margaret Anderson’s horse books. And books about California’s history. Then we would take trips that visited some of the places mentioned in the books. It was great fun! I also loved all of the Winnie the Pooh books and others such as The Wizard of Oz and the Little Women series. Heck, I loved pretty much EVERYTHING!
2. How long have you been writing or when did you start?
I have a cedar “treasure chest” in my foyer. My parents bought it in Panama in 1940 while she and Dad were working in the Canal Zone. It’s where I keep “important things.” A couple of the things in the chest are the little “books” I wrote, and illustrated, when I was in elementary school. I would take a few sheets of paper and fold them in half to make a “booklet” and then I would write a story and illustrate it. Most of the stories are about—ta da—HORSES. But I kept on writing stories throughout my middle school and high school years. One was about a group of teenagers who had to decide whether or not to commit a crime. I got an A on that project.
3. How many books have you written and which is your favorite?
To date I’ve written and published 10 books. I also have 3 that I’ve written but are unpublished. Three of the published books are non-fiction. Two are “academic books” in my field of art history (“Lost Cities of the Ancient Southeast” and “Florida’s American Heritage River”) both published by the University Press of Florida. I’ve also published the American River Trilogy, a book of historical fiction set in California, and three books of a four book series that is “paranormal/cli-fi” about a psychic and an FBI arts crimes investigator. That series also has a cli-fi focus. My most recent book is a collaboration with my artist-husband, John O’Connor, titled “The Kitchen and the Studio: A Memoir of Food and Art.”
4. Do you have other writers in the family?
My husband has published one book, “White Lies Matter: Decoding American Deceptionalism,” and he’s working on two more books. We really enjoy working with each other to edit and revise our work. My son Chris is also working on a book of his wilderness photographs. I guess we’re a “writing family.”
5. What inspired the idea for your book?
The inspiration for American River came from my experiences growing up in a culturally and ethnically diverse neighborhood. We lived about fifteen miles from where gold was discovered on the American River and thousands of people from all over the world who had come to that region to look for gold. Our neighbors were from Italy and Greece, Ireland and Scandinavia, Mexico and Japan, China and France. I wanted to write about that mix of people from all over and about the ethnic and social justice issues that I observed when I was growing up. American River involves three families—Irish, Mexican and Japanese—who settled along the river in the 1800s and then moves to the 1960s to see what has happened to them. It’s a rich history of a place over time. My “Psychic series” is set in contemporary Florida and was inspired by the research I’ve done on the Spiritualist community of Cassadaga and the people that I’ve met there. I also wanted to write about art crime and about climate issues, so each book also looks at these topics as well. “The Kitchen and the Studio” was inspired by the love of good food and wine that I share with my soum-mate, John. We bonded over food and wine when we first met and sixty years later we’re still very involved in cooking and entertaining.
6. What is your writing process like? Are you more of a plotter or a Pantser?
I’m a bit of both. I usually start with a rough outline so I have an idea of the “arc” of the story, but I do a lot of revising as I go along mostly because my characters are “always in motion” and I have to follow their lead. They can be full of surprises, so I can’t figure everything out in advance.
7. How do you develop your plot and characters?
I usually have a pretty good idea about the plot. In American River, for example, I wanted to take the reader back to the early days of settlement and the ethnic diversity that was established and then to fast-forward to see how each of the three families had fared over a century. The Mexican family lost their land grant and had to struggle to regain their presence in the area. The Japanese family managed to build a thriving business only to have it destroyed when they were “re-located” during WWII. They had to start all over once the war ended. The Irish family was able to build a successful ranching operation, but they have problems when ambition and prejudice threaten to pull them apart.
Developing my characters is another story. It’s AMAZING how obstinate characters can be! I never know for sure what they’re going to do next! I do a lot of digging into my characters—their experiences, their preferences, their strengths and weaknesses. I usually do an astrology chart on them in order to find out things I would never otherwise know about them. They surprise me and argue with me and defy me and I love them dearly for it.
8. How much research did you need to do for your book?
I LOVE research. It’s one of the best things about writing. I get to explore a huge variety of places and experiences and relationships that I couldn’t have any other way. I guess that my academic background plays a roll here because I always want my story to be “authentic” and the best way to accomplish that is to do a ton of research. I read books and articles on a wide range of subjects that are pertinent to my character’s experiences. For example, one of my characters in American River is a classical musician, a composer, and a conductor. So I took classes in music composition and conducting so that I’d know what the character had experienced and could provide an “insider’s view” of his experiences. I interviewed musicians and conductors and used some of their personal experiences in the book. I want to go beyond just “reading about it” actually have the experiences myself so ha I can understand “first-hand” how the character is feeling.
9 Have you ever traveled as research for your book?
All the time. For example, when I was writing about my composer/conductor, I travelled to th Berkshires in Massachusetts to the Tanglewood Music Festival so I could experience firsthand what Carl had seen and done there. I attended rehearsals and hung out with the students and interviewed musicians so that I could draw on those experiences for the book. If I can’t actually travel to a place, I watch travel videos or talk to people who’ve been to a place and get first-hand information about what they saw and did.
10. Would you and your main character get along?
I think it’s a little like siblings or lovers. We can argue and get angry and tell each other off, but I the end we work it out. The only time that isn’t true is when I’m writing about a really BAD character that is a true villain. In that case, I might be fully opposed to who and what he/she is.
11. What do you do to get inside your character’s heads?
When I was growing up, I used to pretend to be characters from my favorite books. I had to get as close as possible to them, so I adopted their habits, tjeir way of speaking. I even made costumes so that I could dress like them. Either I had a great imagination or I was truly crazy, but I wanted to be as much like them as I coud. I still do something similar these days but with less “total immersion.” But I DO get to know each of them well enough to know when I’m not being authentic. If I get off course, I can be sure they will set me straight!
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