Wednesday, August 16, 2017

CHARACTER INTERVIEW: Captain Mallory "Mal" Mu, USAF



Tell me a little about yourself:

So very nice to meet you, Ms. Jones. My name is Mal Mu. Captain Mu, I guess I should say since I’m active duty U.S. Air Force, attached to the National Air & Space Intelligence Center (NASIC).

I’m American. So were my parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. Their parents, though, were immigrants from China. Can you tell it really bugs me when someone calls me “Chinese-American” as if Chinese is the first and dominating part of my identity? It’s not. I’m an American.

My family didn’t even speak Mandarin in the home. I learned it in school, winding up with a master’s degree in Mandarin Studies. I’m a linguist. And that’s how I came to the attention of NASIC: they recruited me to help translate Chinese space program intercepts. And that’s where all the trouble began that Mr. Tarbet writes about in his book, Dragon Moon.

Other than being ethnically Chinese, I’m just a normal American. I’m 5’2”, usually right at 100 lbs. I stay pretty fit, running and training in Wing Chun martial arts. I specialize in my own variation of the butterfly swords, using two-ended Philippino karambits that I designed myself.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

Right now, after all the stuff that happened with Dragon Moon, I have a lot of time on my hands, and I’m using it to complete my doctoral studies. I’m still active duty, but I’m not much use to NASIC anymore, now that my face and story have become so well known.

What is your favorite color and why?

Ooo! Great question! I’m sure for a lot of your readers that might seem almost innocent, but in traditional Chinese thought, it is a profound one. According to the Theory of Five Elements, my color is yellow. And that is especially meaningful since it means my element is Earth, my development is Ripening, my phase is Yin/Yang balance, and my Heavenly Creature is Yellow Dragon. Pretty cool, when you think about all the crap I’ve been through and the cover of the book.

What is your favorite food? Why is it your favorite?

I’m really partial to Texas-style barbeque, especially baby back ribs. I grew up with my dad doing them for special occasions like the 4th of July and Labor Day. There’s just nothing quite like them.

What would you say is your biggest quirk?

It’s embarrassing to say, but enclosed spaces really drive me nuts. That’s pretty ironic, right? I mean, with all the stuff the guys and I went through on the Dragon Moon mission? It got really bad at times—so bad I thought I was going to lose my mind.

What is it about your antagonist that irks you the most, and why? Share a line in the book where this irk is manifested.

Oh man! You really hit a nerve there! For me, the worst part about my antagonist, Colonel Yang Liwei, is how attractive he is, despite the fact that he was just 100% wrong for me. And for my country. For the entire world, as a matter of fact. Here’s Mr. Tarbet’s description of him, from early in the book:

“Guiying [that’s me—that’s what they called me in Beijing during the first part of my mission] removed her hat, stepped into the back of the limo, and sat facing Yang.

“She kept her face impassive. She did not return his smile, which was warm, and twinkled with their secret game. This game of cat and mouse—hiding their relationship from everyone around them—had its own little thrills. But the furtive thrill of dodging the military space program’s strict anti-fraternization rules paled in the deadly light of the bigger stakes.

“Quite the inviting picture, this colonel. Her attraction to him was undeniable, and would have been overwhelming if the stars had aligned differently. Despite her caution, she found herself leaning into his clean, musky scent.

“She allowed her eyes to roam over him, the carefully-maintained appearance of the ideal modern senior officer, the tailored uniform that accentuated his athletic frame. His hair, just beginning to gray at the temples, kept to military standards, but not by any on-base barber. She had been with him more than once on his frequent visits to a Hong Kong esthetician.

“Everything about him, including his closely guarded love life, was orchestrated to fit the subtle but unmistakable impression of a man on the rise, a man with a bright future in the top echelons of power.

“His mirror-polished shoe slid forward until his instep cradled hers, innocent to any observer, a clear message for her alone. Without taking overt notice, she tucked her feet together and pulled them beneath her, the reply deliberate: wrong time, wrong place. Much as she wished it could be different.”


What or who means the most to you in your life? What, if anything, would you do to keep him/her/it in your life?

I’m very much a mission-oriented person. Whether it’s Wing Chun, mastering a language that isn’t my own, or surviving under cover, I will do whatever it takes to overcome any challenge. That trait has come close to killing me more than once, but it’s something I just can’t let go.

What one thing would you like readers to know about you that may not be spelled out in the book in which you inhabit?

I expected to be finished with my doctorate by now, and be in some quiet teaching job at a prestigious university, writing learned articles about classic Mandarin literature. I expected by now I would be settled down, playing tennis on the weekend with my perfect, blond, Ivy League, hedge fund manager husband, summering in the south of France. And maybe even thinking about a child of our own.

But no. Instead of my idyllic imagined life, I still put on the blue uniform every day, work on my thesis at my Pentagon desk, and wait for the phone to ring with questions from NASIC, NASA, or the White House. And at the end of the day, I go home alone, to a quiet little apartment in the Georgetown neighborhood of D.C. I’m a long way from where I thought I’d be.

If you could tell your writer (creator) anything about yourself that might turn the direction of the plot, what would it be?

Hah! Scott is an older guy, older than my dad, in fact. He looks after me and cares for me, and my sisters who are the main characters in so many of his other novels and stories as if he were my dad. He twists himself up in knots describing the bad things that seem to happen to all of us at one time or another.

If I could tell him one thing to ease his mind, to make the plot twists any more comfortable for him, it would be to thank him for letting us change and grow, for helping us mature through all the stuff he shoves on us. And I would thank him for loving me—for loving all of us, his daughters—so much. It comes through in the stories.

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A Question for Kathryn:


I am intrigued by one of your titles, Conquering Your Goliaths. I would like to know what are the five Goliaths you have conquered, and how.

Wow, what a question. The book is fiction, but I think I can still answer your question. First, you need to know what the five stones represent that the main character, a Ms. Virginia Bean. gathered to defeat her personal goliath. The five stones, in this order, are Listening, Trust, Optimism, Tenacity, and Constancy. Ms. Bean's struggle? She is single, has just lost her only real job, and doesn't know how she can continue to move forward in life. And then she meets God. And God has five stones for her. 

The five stones that David gathered before he met Goliath could have represented just these five things. Because David had these five qualities, he was able to defeat Goliath.

I have had my own share of goliaths that I've had to conquer through the years - and these five stones - even before I realized they were five stones - have helped me to overcome struggles in my marriage, in raising kids, in my work, in my life's choices, and even when I've had to do something difficult like speaking in front of a crowd.

Thanks for the question.

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Learn more about Captian Mallory and her author at the following sites:



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