December 11, 2014

Go West: an interview with Maxine O'Callaghan, author of "Delilah West"

Maxine O’Callaghan was born in Tennessee in 1937 and grew up in the boot heel of Missouri as a sharecropper’s child.  She was the first in her large extended family to finish high school and left a few days after graduation with ten dollars and a bus ticket for Memphis.  She went from there to Miami where she joined the Marine Corp Reserve and then to Chicago where she went on active duty for a while and got her first taste of California during basic training at the Recruit Depot in San Diego.

In 1972 she moved with her husband and two children to Orange County, CA, a long way from the cotton fields of her childhood.  As a stay-at-home mom she began her writing career with short stories, including one to Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine about a private detective named Delilah West, which predates both Marcia Muller and Sue Grafton’s entry into the female PI genre. She published thirteen novels and a collection of short stories.  She has been nominated for both the Anthony and Bram Stoker award.  Her novels and short fiction featuring Delilah West were honored by the Private Eye Writers of America with their lifetime achievement award, The Eye, for her contribution to the field. (source:

Maxine's Delilah West series is coming back thanks to Brash Books, and I had the chance to ask her a few questions about the books and writing in general. Enjoy.

Gef: Where did you get the inspiration for Delilah West?

Maxine: As we've come to know, eye witness accounts are often unreliable.  I thought it would be interesting if my PI witnessed a hit and run, then was challenged to prove she was wrong about what she saw.  This premise turned into Hit and Run.  Of course, there's lots of complications for Delilah West along the way.

Gef: How intensive does the research process get for you? What little tricks have you picked up with approaching the research phase of writing?

Maxine: Depends on the subject matter. I've had the good luck to belong to a writer's workshop that included a cop and a real live PI, both with lots of connections. I'm also brash and bold--lol--and cold call whoever can provide the info I need.

Gef: What do you consider to be the strength or saving grace of the crime genre?

Maxine: I believe mysteries are all-time favorites because the reader can vicariously face the worst evils and situations and triumph in the end.  Well, usually.

Gef: What's the worst piece of writing advice you ever received? Or what piece of writing advice do you wish would just go away?

Maxine: Write what you know.  I mean, what does a stay-at-home mother of two know about chasing down bad guys?

Gef: What kind of guilty pleasures do you have when it comes to books or movies or whatnot?

Maxine: I'm a sucker for a well-written serial killer novel and movies about aliens.

Gef: We're coming up to the end of the year, which means everyone and their mama is writing a year-end lists. So what book, movie, game, show, song, or dirty limerick has found its way to the tippy-top of your favorites this year?

Maxine: Not a fan of animated movies, but after having to watch Frozen with my four-year-old granddaughter at least 100 times, I have to confess I love it and might even watch it on my own.

Gef: What projects are you cooking up that folks can expect in the near future, and how can folks keep up with your shenanigans?

Maxine: I'm writing a new Delilah West novel, as yet untitled.  Long time since the last one.  I've had some major health problems to deal with.  I blame Lee Goldberg and Joel Goldman of Brash books for firing up the creative juices!

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