FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:
Q: Where do you get your ideas?
A: Target. Just kidding. From everywhere, really: I’ll pick up a newspaper and something I read jogs an idea, or I’ll see something on TV, or notice something as I’m driving down the street. Ideas are like radio signals: if you’re tuned in, you can’t help but pick them up.
Q: Are you the same Michael Mallory who writes about animation?
A: Yes. My “day job” is as an entertainment journalist, and my regular beat is animation, though I often branch out into other areas of filmmaking, such as special effects, make-up, even cinematography.
Q: Are you the same Michael Mallory who writes children’s stories?
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A: Yes. I love writing for kids. I used to write shows for Disneyland.
Q: Do you sometimes use the name Michael Allan Mallory?
A: No. Michael Allan Mallory is a different fellow altogether, though we both work in the mystery genre and have both had pieces in Mystery Scene Magazine. We’ve never actually met – he lives in Minnesota, I believe, and I’m in L.A. – but we have some mutual friends who are always amused when one of us is mistaken for the other at a conventions or a signing. And just for the record, neither of us is Max Allan Collins, who has a character named “Mallory.” While I’m on the subject, I’m not Michael Mallory the rock musician, nor the ball player, nor the art historian. A lot of us double-em types are running around out there!
Q: Are you related to the Michael Mallory who’s a character on the cult TV show “Sliders?”
A: Uh, no. As close as I get to cult TV is the dozen or so appearances I made on “Days of Our Lives” in the 1980s.
Q: Why did you turn from acting to writing?
A: A lot of reasons, but probably the best is because writing offers freedom. When you’re an actor (or a dancer or a signer or a musician), you constantly have to try and convince someone to let you ply your craft. But a writer can just sit down and write whenever and wherever he or she wants. Sure, you then have to convince somebody to publish or produce the results, but at least you’ve already created it.
Q: Why do you write in so many different areas?
A: I’m interested in each one so I write about them, as well as a few other things. I’m not much of a specialist. On any given day, if I don’t feel in the mood to tackle any particular one, I just go on to the next one.
Q: Do you have a particular working method or procedure?
A: Not really. I don’t write in the bathtub like Dalton Trumbo, or write to blaring rock music like Stephen King. I just plant myself at my desk each day and try to accomplish the rough minimum I’ve set for myself – about 1,600 words a day, which seems comfortable. I’m a very fast typist, so I usually do it in two 800-word bursts: one in the morning, the other in the afternoon.
Q: How do you handle writer’s block?
A: By not thinking about it. Charles Schulz, the creator of “Peanuts,” who wrote and drew six cartoon strips a week for fifty years, was once asked about writer’s block, and he said that in his experience only amateurs suffer from it, not professionals. On first hearing, that sounds pretty arrogant, but when you stop to think about it, he’s right. A lot of my work, even the fiction, is done on deadline, which means I can’t afford the luxury of writer’s block.
Q: Why, and how, do you write from the feminine POV for Amelia Watson?
A: Well, “why,” because she’s a woman. As for “how,” I can only say that I call upon the same insights as when I write from the POV of a serial killer, which is also something I’ve never been. In other words, I imagine it. I did not set out with the deliberate goal of writing from the point-of-view of the opposite sex, but out of all the characters I’ve written over the years, Amelia Watson is the one that has connected the most with readers, so I’ll keep writing her (and since I left home and mother in 1973, and met my wife in 1976, I’ve been under the influence of a woman for practically my entire life, which must count for something). I refer to myself as a “character writer” because, like a character actor, I seem to do best when I take on the persona of another person (my natural persona is the guy who talks about animation and special effects and make-up and cinematography). I was a professional actor from age 19 to about 33, so maybe that’s why I gravitate toward characters.
Q: Where did the idea for Amelia come from?
A: Many years ago an acquaintance of mine told me about her idea for an anthology of stories about traditional fairy tales rewritten from a feminist slant. I wasn’t sure I could contribute anything worthy to that, but it did get me thinking. Ultimately I began to wonder about the wife of Dr. Watson: what would she think about her husband and his strange friend suddenly disappearing to go arm themselves and hide in the bushes all night in pursuit of a master criminal? That seeded the idea, and then I vaguely remembered that Watson had been married twice in the original stories, though nothing was known about the second wife. I found the one reference to her existence – in “The Adventure of the Blanched Soldier” – and took it from there. Amelia, incidentally, was created out of the whole cloth. Conan Doyle never named or identified the second wife’s existence, and after her one cryptic mention, promptly forgot about her.
Q: Do you do a lot of research for your Amelia stories?
A: Yes, and I enjoy researching. I rarely “cram” for a particular story, I do ongoing research and keep files.
Q: Who are your influences?
A: A lot of old pulp guys, like Fredric Brown and Robert Bloch. Brown is amazing for his imagination and Bloch is amazing for his style and economy. I was fortunate enough to meet Bob Bloch a couple of times. I consider Walter Mosley another “textbook” writer: I read him first for pleasure and then go back and try to figure out how he can weave such magic and meaning using such simple language. My favorite writer, though, is Ray Bradbury, who is a true wizard!
Q: Okay, what’s with the fedoras that you’re rarely seen without?
A: I often tell people my mother was frightened by Bud Abbott in the third trimester. Seriously, I’ve liked hats as far back as I can remember. A lot of people look good in cowboy hats, but I’m not one of them, and ballcaps are not hats so much as marketing tools. So I’ve settled on the honorable, if slightly unfashionable, fedora. I have quite a few of them in all colors, weights and materials.