Monday, April 23, 2012

Dan O’Malley & Sally

Who is in the photo at right?

The one with the brown fur and white shirt is me, Dan O’Malley. I’m a novelist, my first book, The Rook, was released in January (he says shamelessly). It’s a supernatural thriller set in the public service. My day job is with the Australian Transport Safety Bureau – I’m a media guy there. The one with the white fur is Sally, West Highland White Terrorist Terrier extraordinaire. She’s about seven months old. Her day job is being a dog.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

It’s Sunday, and the only day where, for long periods of time, I can sit in the good armchair and slowly come to terms with the fact that I am awake.

What's brewing?

Robert Timms coffee, prepared for me by my Dad, using a French press. He prepares it in some fiendish way that alters the basic properties of the coffee (and possibly the universe.) As a result, it melts the top layers of your tongue, and you can actually feel it eating its way into your brain. I dilute it with milk and sugar, in order not to die.

Any treats for you or your dog on this occasion?

You didn’t hear about the coffee? When Sally is good, she gets a liver treat.

How did Sally get her name? Any aliases?

Sally got her name because the last name is O’Malley, and I am a cruel, cruel person.

How were you and Sally united?

The O’Malleys are big on Westies. They are our kind of dog. Different branches of the O’Malley family, on different continents, have, without consultation, all acquired Westies. So, it had to be a Westie. Finally, there was one available at a breeder down on the coast. So, my Dad and I went on a man trip, driving for hours down steeply switch-backing roads, through rainforest, passing through tiny, strange hamlets, to get our little white girl puppy.

What role has your dog played in your writing?

Generally she serves as a welcome distraction. If the words aren’t coming, it’s generally time to take the puppy for a perambulation. Because she’s not yet trained to be off-lead, it means I can’t read while I’m walking, which leaves my brain to run wild and free.

Does Sally have a favorite place to go for an outing?

She likes to go to the local puppy park. Very sensibly, they have an enclosure for big dogs, and an enclosure for little or elderly dogs. Sally goes into the little dog enclosure, and is extremely self-effacing and submissive to all the other dogs. It’s a little startling, since she’s not at all that way with people. She assumes that all humans worship her.

Rabbit, postman, cat...?

She likes to chase birds, especially magpies. On our walks, we will often pass kangaroos (we back onto a nature reserve), but she affects not to notice them. Probably a wise decision, since she is exactly the right size for getting trampled, or stuffed into a pouch.

What is Sally's best quality?

Her skepticism. There is nothing like having a small dog regard you with a steady gaze and a mildly incredulous expression. If she could raise one eyebrow, she would be the ruler of the household. Oh, and her friendliness. This dog loves everyone.

If Sally could change one thing about Minnesotans, what would it be?

Well, obviously, she would change the proximity. It is 14,758 kilometres from Canberra, Australia to St. Paul. This is extremely inconvenient. However, once this problem has been remedied (and efforts are underway at this very minute to bring the two cities closer together,) then one other thing needs to be changed. Their state mushroom. The fact that the morel must be cooked before it can be safely eaten does not mesh at all with Sally’s approach towards fungi.

What is Sally's proudest moment?

She treed a possum the other day. She has been insufferable ever since.

If Hollywood made a movie about your life in which Sally could speak, which actor would you suggest for her voice?

She’d need to have a Scots accent, and sound quite young, so I think Shirley Henderson would do a good job (she’s the actress who played Moaning Myrtle in the Harry Potter movies.) Or maybe Katie Leung, who played Cho Chang.

Visit Daniel O'Malley's website and blog.

Writers Read: Daniel O'Malley.

The Page 69 Test: The Rook.

--Marshal Zeringue


  1. Great Q&A!! This was a hilarious one!! ;-}
    "Writers work when they walk." --John-Boy Walton. I know exactly what you (And John-Boy!!) mean. As an amateur "author" myself, I often take our BEAUTIFULLY UNIQUE Beagle/German Shepherd cross, Rose, for her afternoon walk during bouts of writer's block. Up and down the cul-de-sac. When we return, my "brain juices", as I call them start flowing again!! ;-D

  2. I love Sally O'Malley. She looks just like Missy Paulette did when she was a wee one.

  3. Loved The Rook and your dog is so cool. I also love how you let her be a dog. Instead of many people I know who have small dogs that they treat like babies and never let their feet touch the ground. I personally have a now 12 year old Keeshond named Leo that I've had since he was 6 weeks old. He is the absolute joy of my life.

  4. Hey Dan you are John Spillanes double, well maybe a double of a younger John Spillane.