I'm pleased to welcome Kathleen Valenti to Cozy Up With Kathy today. Kathleen writes the Maggie O’Malley Mystery Series. Today is the book birthday of PROTOCOL, the first book in the series.
Kathy: PROTOCOL is classified as a medical thriller. Why did you decide on a medical background for your debut novel?
That is an excellent question, especially since I’m not in the medical field at all. I think what drew me to this industry is the duality of pharmaceuticals. When used correctly, medicine can save and improve lives. Yet it also has the ability to sicken, disable or even kill. This contrast—and pharmaceuticals’ life-and-death power—felt like the perfect backdrop to both a thriller and the coming of age story of young woman who just landed her dream job in an industry rife with opportunity and competition.
Kathy: Maggie O’Malley is a pharmaceutical researcher. Have you ever worked in a lab?
KV: No, but I’ve worked with a Lab when coworkers brought their dogs to work. I’m guessing that doesn’t count? The closest I’ve come to lab work was during college when I helped administer psych experiments to help fulfill credit requirements. Most of those seemed to involve making notes about where participants sat when they entered the room. Not exactly cutting-edge research. Or a bona fide lab.
Kathy: What first drew you to thrillers?
KV: Nancy Drew was my gateway to the world of mysteries. After that, I graduated to Trixie Belden and Agatha Christie, then Stephen King, who opened up a whole new world of spine-tingling, mind-bending, adrenaline-pumping fiction. I love all manner of mystery, thriller and suspense. If there’s a question to be answered, a wrong to be righted or a body to be discovered, I’m in.
Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?
KV: Fiction? No. Mystery is my jam. Other kinds of writing? Yep. I’m an advertising copywriter by trade, which means I write TV commercials, magazine ads, billboards and the like. It’s a different kind of storytelling. With significantly fewer murders.
Kathy: Tell us about your series.
KV: The Maggie O’Malley Mystery Series follows Maggie from her first day of her first real job through the challenges and permutations of her career—and her life—after she’s pulled into strange circumstances courtesy of her new-to-her phone. The people in her life are along for the ride, most notably her best friend, Constantine, her father, the owner of a struggling Irish-themed pizzeria, and her motherly aunt. The books are a combination of thrilling and funny, which are my favorite kind to read.
Kathy: Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?
KV: I should say Maggie, but truthfully, I my heart belongs to Constantine. He’s such a goofball, but smart, funny and kind, as well. He’s the perfect best friend: loyal, caring, always there with a joke or a hug, depending on what you need. He keeps Maggie—and me—from getting too serious, and I love him for his sharp wit and soft heart.
Kathy: Did you have a specific inspiration for your series?
KV: No specific inspiration. Just the amazing books of my favorite authors.
Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?
KV: PROTOCOL started out as a midlife crisis. After writing ads for more than 20 years, I was curious whether I could write anything else. As an avid reader and former lit major, a book seemed like the natural choice, so I started writing. I quickly discovered that the pros make it look easy. After the book was written, I wanted to send it out into the world and began looking for agents. After countless revisions, oodles of rejections and scores of almosts, I landed a great agent and an amazing publisher, and my book-baby was born.
Kathy: If you could have a dinner party and invite four authors, living or dead, in any genre, who would you invite?
KV: My obsession with respect for Stephen King is long-standing and well-known, so I’d be thrilled out of my tiny little mind if he attended my fictional dinner soiree. Other authors include Lisa Gardner, Carl Hiaasen and Kellerman (Jonathan or Jesse—I adore them both), although to be fair, this list changes depending on whose book I most recently devoured.
Kathy: What are you currently reading?
KV: I just finished UNSUB by Meg Gardiner, which was absolutely riveting. Yesterday, I cracked the cover of Karin Slaughter’s THE KEPT WOMAN, and I already know I’m in for a treat. Reading these authors inspires me to continue to work on the craft of writing. They are such masters of plot, suspense, character and language, and I can only hope to write so compellingly.
Kathy: Will you share any of your hobbies or interests with us?
KV: Reading (obvs), but I also camp, snowmobile, run, and hang out with friends and family.
Kathy: Name four items you always have in your fridge or pantry.
KV: Wine and coffee are non-negotiable staples. I also have an unnatural love for black licorice and a problem with Doritos. (Don’t judge. I’m working on it.)
Kathy: Do you have plans for future books either in your current series or a new series?
KV: I recently completed the second book in the Maggie O’Malley series in which Constantine’s sleepwalking aunt discovers her murdered husband in their kitchen. I’m in the development phase of the third book, which is shaping up to be a page-turner!
KV: Besides everything? I love being able to create a world from whole cloth then people it with individuals who feel as real as those in our lives. I also enjoy connecting with readers and talking about our shared passion. I may have my author hat on for writing days, but I’ll always be a reader first.
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