Daniel O’Mal­ley’s de­but novel, lauded by the au­thors of True Blood and Twi­light, now has a se­quel and a screen adap­ta­tion

The Courier-Mail - QWeekend - - BOOKS - FIONA PUR­DON

You know you have writ­ten a re­mark­able de­but novel when two of the biggest­selling queens of the fan­tasy genre – Char­laine Har­ris and Stephe­nie Meyer – em­brace your work.

Such is the case for Can­berra au­thor Daniel O’Mal­ley and his 2012 novel The

Rook, which was a Time mag­a­zine book of the year, an Aus­tralian Aure­alis Award­win­ner and the eighth most bor­rowed adult fic­tion ti­tle in li­braries na­tion­ally last year. Har­ris ( True Blood) praises O’Mal­ley’s work as “sat­is­fy­ing and spell­bind­ing”, and Meyer ( Twi­light) en­joyed

The Rook so much that she bought the TV rights and now has a screen­writer work­ing on the pro­ject.

“It’s ex­cit­ing be­cause Stephe­nie has such a de­voted fol­low­ing,” O’Mal­ley says. “When I spoke to her she was very kind and en­thu­si­as­tic and has some great ideas. Her (buy­ing the rights) means the world to me.’’

O’Mal­ley says Meyer told him she en­joyed his unique com­bi­na­tion of gen­res (fan­tasy, thriller and spy spoof), as well as his strong fe­male char­ac­ters, led by chief pro­tag­o­nist, high-rank­ing Chec­quy agent Mw­fanwy Thomas. With O’Mal­ley’s long-awaited se­quel,

Stiletto, he has ex­panded both of these ar­eas as he ex­plores the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the Chec­quy, a se­cret gov­ern­ment or­gan­i­sa­tion made up of peo­ple born with spe­cial abil­i­ties to com­bat the su­per­nat­u­ral and unnatural forces that threaten Bri­tain, and their Bel­gium-based ri­val group, the Grafters.

“When you have the su­per­nat­u­ral com­bined with bu­reau­cracy it is amus­ing to treat the re­mark­able as rou­tine, such as fill­ing out forms be­cause of the were­wolf risk anal­y­sis,” says O’Mal­ley of his sto­ries, which one re­viewer la­belled “X-Men meets The X-Files”. Stiletto con­tin­ues to follow Mw­fanwy’s ad­ven­tures but the novel also in­cludes sto­ry­lines in­volv­ing a young Chec­quy mem­ber and Mw­fanwy’s pro­tegee, Pawn Felic­ity, and Odette, a de­scen­dant of Grafter loy­alty, whose al­le­giance to a merger be­tween the Chec­quy and the Grafters is not clear. “Stiletto is a sub­tle weapon and I like how it evokes a sense of fe­male power,” O’Mal­ley says.

Stiletto fol­lows the forced merger be­tween the two top-se­cret or­gan­i­sa­tions, who have had hun­dreds of years of en­mity and blood­shed. Not sur­pris­ingly, things do not go smoothly and when bizarre at­tacks sweep Lon­don, My­fanwy must ex­pose the group threat­en­ing to sab­o­tage ne­go­ti­a­tions and to un­cover the spies in both or­gan­i­sa­tions.

“We have these two or­gan­i­sa­tions who loathe each other and they both bring his­tory … the Grafters bring en­e­mies from Europe, a group called the An­tag­o­nists,” he says.

In Stiletto, O’Mal­ley ex­plores the world of the Grafters, whose bizarre surg­eries and ge­netic mod­i­fi­ca­tions are de­signed to cre­ate a su­per race, though their work “can make peo­ple feel un­com­fort­able”.

O’Mal­ley, 36, says he de­vel­oped the char­ac­ter of My­fanwy in 2003 while a stu­dent at Ohio State Uni­ver­sity in Michi­gan, in the US, where he com­pleted a master’s de­gree in me­dieval his­tory.

To dis­tract him­self dur­ing lec­tures he started imag­in­ing what it would be like to fully lose your mem­ory and “to wake up in a body you don’t know any­thing about”. He started writ­ing some of the novel when he strug­gled with mo­ti­va­tion to com­plete his uni­ver­sity as­sign­ments.

“I started to think: how much of us is made up of our mem­o­ries? Are we still the same per­son if we are not bound up by the bag­gage of our mem­o­ries?”

“I wrote The Rook for my own plea­sure. What I found most ex­cit­ing about it was that when ques­tions kept oc­cur­ring to me I had to find the an­swers, and that is how one thing led to an­other when writ­ing the book.”

O’Mal­ley, who was born to Amer­i­can par­ents and raised in Can­berra, where he is still based, wrote most of the novel be­fore start­ing his job as a me­dia com­mu­ni­ca­tions of­fi­cer with the Aus­tralian Trans­port Safety Bureau in the na­tional cap­i­tal.

He says he took longer than ex­pected to com­plete the 596-page Stiletto be­cause of his work­load, which in­cluded be­ing a me­dia spokesper­son for last year’s MH370 dis­ap­pear­ance and the on­go­ing Aus­tralian in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

O’Mal­ley says he was al­ways a strong reader from a young age, a habit en­cour­aged by his par­ents.

He plans to write more books about Mw­fanwy and the Chec­quy and hopes to set some of his fu­ture nov­els in des­ti­na­tions around the world, in­clud­ing Aus­tralia.

Daniel O’Mal­ley’s de­but novel, The Rook, has been op­tioned for a TV pro­ject.

Stiletto HarperCollins, $28

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