INTERVIEW: Mallory O’Meara
Author of The Lady from the Black Lagoon
Mallory O’Meara is an author and filmmaker. She has been a producer for the independent film company Dark Dunes Productions since 2013. Her latest film, the live-action puppet feature Yamasong: March of the Hollows, starring Whoopi Goldberg, Nathan Fillion and Abigail Breslin, was released in spring of 2019.
Her first book is bestselling nonfiction work The Lady from the Black Lagoon: Hollywood Monsters and the Lost Legacy of Milicent Patrick.
Whether it’s for the screen or the page, Mallory seeks creative projects filled with horror and monsters. A New England native, she now lives in Los Angeles with her two cats.
Every week, Mallory hosts the literary podcast Reading Glasses alongside filmmaker and writer Brea Grant. Reading Glasses is part of the Maximum Fun podcast network.
As a teenager, Mallory O’Meara was thrilled to discover that one of her favorite movies, Creature from the Black Lagoon, featured a monster designed by a woman, Milicent Patrick. But for someone who should have been hailed as a pioneer in the genre there was little information available. For, as O’Meara soon discovered, Patrick’s contribution had been claimed by a jealous male colleague, her career had been cut short and she soon after had disappeared from film history. No one even knew if she was still alive.
As a young woman working in the horror film industry, O’Meara set out to right the wrong, and in the process discovered the full, fascinating story of an ambitious, artistic woman ahead of her time. Patrick’s contribution to special effects proved to be just the latest chapter in a remarkable, unconventional life, from her youth growing up in the shadow of Hearst Castle, to her career as one of Disney’s first female animators. And at last, O’Meara discovered what really had happened to Patrick after The Creature’s success, and where she went.
A true-life detective story and a celebration of a forgotten feminist trailblazer, Mallory O’Meara’s The Lady from the Black Lagoon establishes Patrick in her rightful place in film history while calling out a Hollywood culture where little has changed since.
WD: Congratulations on your new book! It’s quite an amazing story. How long did it take you to write — from concept to completion?
This book took about three years, from first getting the idea to handing off the final draft.
WD: When writing a book or script, what is your typical routine for the day?
I don’t have a day routine at all! I’m a night writer. I can only work creatively when the sun is down. I spend the day doing administrative work with my film company and working on my podcast, Reading Glasses. Then, I write for 3-4 hours in the evening, as soon as the sun sets.
WD: Where do you usually write?
I write at my desk at home in my little office. If I have to write in public, I prefer going to a library.
WD: Describe your work space, and the tools you use?
All of my projects start out in notebooks. My work space is filled with notebooks, outlines, highlighters and index cards. All of these eventually coalesce into what gets typed into my laptop.
WD: Bela Lugosi lived in the Valley, lots of famous people did. I always find it interesting to see the homes celebrities lived in. Is Milicent Patrick’s home in Sherman Oaks still there?
It is, but it is no longer in the family.
WD: What was your best research find/person, besides her family?
There were so many great research finds on this project! One of the best was getting access to all the production materials for CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON in the University of Southern California’s Cinematic Arts Library.
WD: What was the most difficult part of writing your book?
Tracking down all the different parts of Milicent’s life was the most difficult part. The actual writing of the book was a breeze compared to the years of research and detective work.
WD: What are you working on now?
I am working on several new books, hopefully which I’ll be able to announce soon!
WD: What music do you listen to? Do you listen to music when you write?
I listen to a wide variety of music, but my favorites are metal, 50s doo wop and Tom Waits. I always listen to music when I write and I try to match the feel of what I’m writing to the music I’m listening to.
WD: Are there any other stories about unheralded/unsung/unknown women you would like to tell?
There are, but I unfortunately can’t talk about them yet!
WD: Name your favorite writers and filmmakers—past or present?
My favorite writer is Shirley Jackson, the queen of American Horror. I have many favorite filmmakers, but the two at the top of the list are David Lynch and Guillermo del Toro.
WD: Any advice for writers or filmmakers starting out today?
Don’t be afraid to make bad art! It’s much easier to fix a bad piece of writing than it is to fix a piece of writing that doesn’t exist yet.
WD: Thank you for participating. We appreciate your time.
FOR MORE INFORMATION: malloryomeara.com